French Guiana (Guyane)

                  Jan 1500  Coastline sighted by Spanish Capt. Vicente Yáñez de Pinzón.    
                      1604  French expedition under Daniel de La Ravardière.
                      1624  French establish Sinnemary as a trading post.
                      1637  French establish Cayenne as a trading post.
 27 Nov 1643 - 1654         French settlement at Cayenne (under the Compagnie de Rouen)
        1654 - 15 May 1664  Dutch occupation.
               15 May 1664  Re-occupied by France (Guyane Français); under the Compagnie
                             de la France Équinoxiale to 1674).
                      1674  French Colony.
 05 May 1676 - Dec 1676     Dutch occupation of Cayenne.
 25 Oct 1797 - 1801         Organized as département of France; from 1801 a colony
 12 Jan 1809 - 08 Nov 1817  Portuguese/Brazilian occupation.
               08 Nov 1817  Restored to France.
               10 Jun 1848  Slavery Abolition Day.
        1852 - 1946         Penal colony on Devil's Island.
 14 Sep 1939 - 16 May 1943  Subordinated to High Commissioner and Commander of the
                             Theater Atlantic West (under Martinique).
 16 Jun 1940 - 18 Mar 1943  Administration loyal to Vichy France
                            (from 18 Mar 1943, under Free French).
 06 Jul 1930 - 19 Mar 1946  French Guiana divided into two territories; French Guiana
                             (Cayenne and the Atlantic coast) and Inini (inland area).
               19 Mar 1946  French overseas département (previously colony).
               28 Mar 2003  French overseas region.
               10 Jan 2010  Referendum votes 69.8% against increased autonomy.
French Guiana (French: Guyane Française; officially just Guyane) is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west. Its 83,534 km2 have a very low population density of less than three inhabitants per kilometre squared, with almost half of its living in the urban area of Cayenne (formerly known as La Ravardiere 1643-1664), its capital. Defense is the responsibility of France.

The addition of the adjective "French" in English comes from colonial times when five such colonies existed (The Guianas), namely from west to east: Spanish Guiana (now Guayana Region in Venezuela), British Guiana (now Guyana), Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), French Guiana, and Portuguese Guiana (now Amapá, a state in far northern Brazil). French Guiana and the two larger countries to the north and west, Guyana and Suriname, are still often collectively referred to as the Guianas and comprise one large shield landmass.

French Guiana was originally inhabited by a number of indigenous American people. It was settled by the French during the 18th century. According to Bill Marshall, "The first French effort to colonize Guiana, in 1763, failed utterly when tropical diseases and climate killed all but 2,000 of the initial 12,000 settlers. During its existence, France transported approximately 56,000 prisoners to Devil's Island. Fewer than 10 percent survived their sentence. The coast of Guiana was sighted by Columbus in 1498 and explored by Amerigo Vespucci in 1499. The French established the first successful trading stations and settlements, and placed the area under direct control of the French Crown in 1674. Portuguese and British forces occupied French Guiana for five years during the Napoleonic Wars. Devil's Island, the notorious penal colony in French Guiana where Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was imprisoned, was established in 1852 and finally closed in 1947. Therefore its infamous known as Île du Diable (Devil's Island), the site of penal settlements from 1852 until 1951.  When France adopted a new constitution in 1946, French Guiana voted to remain within the French Union as an Overseas Department.

In 1809, a Portuguese-British naval squadron took French Guiana for the Portuguese Empire. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1814 the region was handed back to the French, though a Portuguese presence remained until 1817.

A border dispute with Brazil arose in the late 19th century over a vast area of jungle, leading to the short-lived pro-French independent state of Counani in the disputed territory and some fighting between settlers, before the dispute was resolved largely in favour of Brazil by the arbitration of the Swiss government.
Counani [Republic of Independent Guyana (French: La République de la Guyane indépendante)] was created in the area that was disputed by France (as part of French Guyana) and Brazil in the late nineteenth century. The state was founded by French settlers and existed from 1886 to 1891. The territory of the former state of Counani is now located in the Brazilian state of Amapá. Some pattern coins of 10 centimes (bronze), 20 centimes (Copper-Nickel-Zinc) and 5 Francs (.900 silver and White metal), all dated 1887 are well known.

In 1946, French Guiana became an overseas department of France. The 1970s saw the settlement of Hmong refugees from Laos.

In 1964 the French president, Charles de Gaulle, decided to construct a space-travel base in French Guiana. This would replace the existing Sahara base in Algeria and stimulate economic growth in French Guiana. A large part of the department's economy derives from the presence of the near-equatorial Guiana Space Centre, the European Space Agency's primary launch site. The department is particularly suitable for the purpose both because it is near to the equator and because of the extensive access to a large ocean. The Guiana Space Centre a short distance along the coast from Kourou has grown considerably since the initial launches of the “Véronique” rockets, and has brought commercial success to the European space industry with launchers such as the Ariane 4 and Ariane 5.

A movement for increased autonomy from France gained some momentum in the 1970s and 1980s, but has since abated.

Currency: Euro = 100 euro cents

In the late 18th century, a series of 2 sous coins was struck for the colony as Colony of Cayenne, mainly dated 1789. It is probable that contemporary imitations of these issues, many emanating from Birmingham, England, outnumber the originals. These, both genuine and bogus, host coins for many West Indies counterstamps, Livre = 20 Sols (Sous) = 80 Liards. Notable coin of Colony of Cayenne are: 2 Sous 1789A and 2 Sous 1816A billion. French Francs = 100 centimes were used till 31st Dec 2001.


2 Sous. Year: 1789. Weight: 1.02g. Metal: Billion. Diameter: 21.75 mm. Edge: Plain. Alignment: Coin. Mint: Paris. Obverse: "2 SOUS 1789 A" written within the circle. "COLONIE DE CAYENNE" written clockwise outside the circle. Reverse: "LOUIS XVI . R . DE FR . ET DE NAV." written clockwise with French Empire logo and crown in center. Mintage: N/A. Minted Years: Only 1789A and 1816A are well known. Governor: Jacques Martin de Bourgon (1789 - 05 Jan 1791).

Note: Very thin coin.

Note: Louis XVI was King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1791, after which he was subsequently King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before his deposition and execution during the French Revolution.


In 1794, as an Overseas Department, Guiana used the coins of France, Franc = 100 centimes. However, the Franc used in the former colony was always distinct in value from that of the homeland as well as that used in the islands of the French West Indies. Later on 01st January 2002, Euro was introduced.


KM#A2 10 centimes. Year: 1846. Weight: 3.22g [3.50g]. Metal: Billion. Diameter: 21.50 mm. Edge: Plain. Alignment: Coin. Mint: Paris. Obverse: 10 CENT. in center lowered circle with "A" mintmark and BARRE (engraver´s signature) written below. "GUYANE FRANÇAISE 1846" written outside the circle. Reverse: "LOUIS PHILIPPE I ROI DES FRANÇAIS" with crowned monogram of Louis-Philippe in center. Mintage: 1,400,000. Minted Years: One year type. Governor: André Aimé Pariset (18 Feb 1846 - 16 May 1850).

Note: KM#A1 also exists as 10 centimes 1818A billion 2.50g.

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