I'm not a collector — I've never had enough — but I do have a few French franc notes left over from the earlier days when I lived in Paris. Or when I lived in California and came to France every year on vacation. They are just souvenirs.
One bill that I saved is a five-franc note. It was in circulation from 1966 until 1970, the year I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence as a student. I turned 21 there. And talk about a starving student; I was. Somehow I managed to get back to the U.S. that summer with a five-franc note — the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.
This paper note was replaced by a 5 FF coin about 40 years ago.
I've had that five-franc note ever since. The man on it is Louis Pasteur, and the building is the Institut Pasteur in Paris. I have a friend whose apartment is very near there. There's also a Pasteur museum there, which I only recently heard of for the first time.
Another franc note I saved somewhere along the way is a billet worth 100 FF. It was the equivalent of our $20 bill in the U.S. I always liked the fact that French bank notes were different sizes — they got larger as their denomination went up. The 100 FF note is a lot bigger than the 5 FF note was, or the 10 FF note.
A Corneille/Rouen-themed French franc note from the 1970s
Sometime in the 1990s I was in a café in Paris with Walt and I pulled this bill out to pay for what we had consumed. I had found it in a drawer at home in San Francisco. The waiter looked at it wide-eyed. He was a young guy, and he said he didn't think he'd ever seen this particular bill before. In other words, it had gone out of circulation 20 years earlier. The waiter called it « un monument historique ». I don't know how it was that I ended up saving it all those years.
The man on the 100 FF note is the 17th century playwright Pierre Corneille. He was born and lived in Rouen in Normandy, where I lived for a year in 1972-73. I actually taught at the Lycée Corneille as an assistant d'anglais. The other images on the bill show the Rouen cathedral, the Seine river, and some other buildings.