“What is essential is invisible to the eyes”: The Little Prince on French Coins

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July 23, 2015 – Monnaie de Paris has issued a new series with gold and silver coins for one of the most famous French comics in the world: “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: From aviation to writing
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) is a French poet-airman. In 1912, he made his first flight that gave birth to his passion for planes. He started studying architecture until he entered his military service in Strasbourg in the air force.
He was demobilised after a plane accident in 1923. Few years later, he was hired by a transport and postal aviation company and joined Air France where he did study tours and conferences.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, May 1942. Source: Wikipedia.

In 1940, he was mobilised in the air force and was affected in a squadron of air reconnaissance. In 1944 he joined a unit in charge of reconnaissance in Sardinia and then to Corsica, preparing the landings in Provence.
He died at sea with his plane on the 31st of July 1944. His plane was only found in 2000.
He is the writer of “Vol de Nuit” (1931), “Terre des homes” (1939), “Pilote de guerre” (1942), and of ”Petit Prince” that was first published in the United States in 1943 and then in France in 1946.

The Little Prince Edition
Saint-Exupéry worked on the little prince all summer and a part of the autumn. At the end of 1942, he entrusted the manuscript to his publisher. Eugene Reynal translated the text and simultaneously published the original version and the English translation on the 6th of April 1943, when saint-Exupéry left the United States to join in Algeria the free French forces. The first French edition of the little prince will be published by editions Gallimard after liberation and the death of the author in 1946.

The Story
With the impression of talking to children, the author of the little prince speaks to all of us and the text offers various levels and surprising reading.

Cover of “The Little Prince”. Source: Wikipedia.

According Saint-Exupéry, the little prince is a children book written for grownups. His reading levels offer fun and reflection for the readers of all ages. The author, aviator, fell with his plane in the Sahara desert. While he tries to repair his unit, appears a little boy who asks him to draw a mutton. The author also teaches that “this little prince” comes from asteroid B-612 where he left three volcanoes and a rose. Before arriving on earth, he visited other planets and met strange people: a king, a vain, a drinker, a lamplighter, a geographer … on earth, he was able to speak with a fox who taught him to know that he must “tame”, and it makes things and men unique. “The essential is invisible to the eyes,” he said.

The Book
With 400 million readers, The Little Prince has become an icon. It is above all in library he meets his greatest hits 2 million books sold per year, including 350,000 in France. In Gallimard, each album is a phenomenon: 600 000 comics by Joann Sfar sold worldwide, 500 000 Pop-Up books. In France since September, Fleurus offers a wide range with books for children, picture books, etc…
Germany is the largest market in the license, with 350 000 books sold each year. In Japan, The Little Prince is a real phenomenon, with one million books sold in 2007, a museum in Hokone since 1999 and a rest area in Yorii with The Little Prince colors in 2009 and finally dozens of local licenses (Sekigushi , Toshiba …). South Korea is also one of the favorite places of The Little Prince, with 100 editions for sale, a theme park “La Petite France” and dozens of local licenses (stationery). Finally, huge exhibitions are held in Brazil since 2008 with hundreds of thousands spectators.

The Coins
The 10€ Silver coins and the 50€ Gold coins work as trios. The obverses’ drawings are structured around 3 famous quotes from Saint Exupéry’s work. The reverse is common to all the coins of the series, it carries the face value of the coin and a drawing from the Little Prince’s profile with a graphical and modern look.

“Draw me a mutton”

France / 2015 / 10 euros / Ag 900 / 22.2 g / 37 mm / Mintage: 5,000.

This quote is probably the most famous one from the tale. It is illustrated on the obverse of this first coin: we can see the Little Prince presented with the fox, the rose and the mutton. The airman starts his story with its meeting with the Little Prince and his surprising request: “draw me a mutton”.

“What is essential is invisible to the eyes”

France / 2015 / 50 euros / Au 920 / 8.45 g / 22 mm / Mintage: 2,000.

This coin presents the Little Prince, sitting on his planet, facing a sunset. This scene is an illustration of the principle that the fox mentioned: “What is essential is invisible to the eyes”.

“Stars are guides”

France / 2015 / 50 euros / Au 920 / 8.45 g / 22 mm / Mintage: 2,000.

This last coin presents the Little Prince in the desert, we can distinguish the plane’s shadow on the ground, very close to him. This drawing evokes the first time the airman met the Little Prince and illustrates the quote “Stars are guides”.

France / 2015 / 200 euros / Au 999 / 31.104 g / 37 mm / Mintage: 1,000.

On the obverse of this 200€ Gold coin, we can see a famous scene from the Little Prince, when the writer wrote “I believe that for his escape he took advantage of the migration of a flock of wild birds”. One can distinguish the Little Prince that is flying away, he is surrounded by stars. The Little Prince signature is located on the right-hand side of the coin. The “RF” mention is situated in the left hand of the obverse.
The reverse is common to all the series’ coins. It carries the face value of the coin and presents a drawing of the Little Prince’s profile, with a graphical and modern look.
This signature reminds us that Saint-Exupéry’s story is still very contemporary, it teaches us to look at the world through the eyes we had when we were children.
The book’s title is written all around the coin in several languages, a nod to the international reputation of this work.

To visit the website of the French mint please click here.

For more information on the life and work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry you may got to this website (in French) …

… or take a look at these cute pictures and videos with the Little Prince here.