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"Work makes free."

Vichy France, the short lived French State, printed its own money during the second world war.  I bought some (along with a few other French coins) when I was 13, though I had forgotten all about it by the time it fell out of a box of papers I was carrying to recycle.   I picked the coin up, took it out of its protective packaging, put it my jacket pocket, hurried off to work, and forgot about it again until a couple weeks ago.

Not much call for jackets in the summer, even in Seattle, but it was threatening to rain, so I found myself wearing this old leather number.  This time, when I fingered the coin, I noticed how oddly light it was.  Taking a look, I found myself holding an aluminum* two Franc piece from 1943.  On its face, there is a two headed ax towering above split wheat and the words 'Etat Francais'.  On the back, the bold number '2' stands between sets of leaves and beneath the slogan 'Travail, Famille, Patrie' (or 'work, family, fatherland').

When I tell people about this, they ask me if it's worth anything.  I reply, 'I don't know', but I do.  It is a rather common coin.  If I said so, they mightn't care about the motto which replaced, 'Liberty, equality, freedom'; they might give no thought to this telling contrast, nor to what it might say about men's values in general.  Leaving the one thing they do care about a mystery makes the coin, still in my pocket, of interest.

*The other metals being busy killing people.


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