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Medallion with SNCF above and TGV below, with image of the train heading left across the medallion with an overhead wire above.

SNCF TGV Medallion

One of the pin-up “supertrains” from my youth

Medallion with SNCF above and TGV below, with image of the train heading left across the medallion with an overhead wire above.

Ok, excuse me while I take a high-speed trip down memory lane tonight. I had a book featuring the French TGV train as a youngster, and it’s always been one of those dream trains for me.

TGV stands for Train à Grande Vitesse, which translates as “High speed train”. Originally conceived in the 1960s (Railfan Europe has a good history) the first prototype was powered by a gas turbine. With the oil crisis of 1973, the prototypes evolved to use electricity, which is what the train still runs on today.

But of course, one of the main things everyone knows about the TGV is that it is fast. The TGV has set a range of land speed records throughout its life:

  • TGV 001, the first prototype, achieved 318 kilometres per hour (198 mph) in 1972
  • TGV Sud-Est #16 aimed to set a record of 100 metres per second (360kmh, 224mph). It actually reached 380kmh, 236mph in February 1981.
  • In May 1990, set #325 set a new record of 515.3kmh, 320.3mph.
  • In April 2007, TGV #4402 set a new record of 574.8kmh, 357.2mph. A record which still stands.

The first TGV entered public revenue service on the 22nd of September 1981, between Paris and Lyon. At the time, the Guardian said: “Within two years, when trains will leave city centre stations every half hour, the 250-mile Paris-Lyon journey will take two hours, less than half the present time. By then, it is expected that the air link between the cities will be obsolete.”

Wikipedia has a photo of the oldest and newest TGV sets side by side:

Being such an iconic train, the TGV has featured on numerous medallions and non-circulating coins. Here is a medallion from the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 featuring a TGV seeming to burst through the medallion:

Slightly brass coloured Medallion in holder with ELIZABETH II above and FRANCOIS MITTERAND below with an image of the TGV in the center

Back to my original medallion, and I actually don’t know a lot about when or why it was made. The reverse is blank, as is the edge. The little tiny mintmark at the very bottom does give us a clue where it was made:

Mintmark of the Monnaie de Paris, Pessac, France

That is the mintmark of the Paris mint of Pessac, France. The other mark at the lower-left, I am less sure of:

Unknown privy mark on the TGV medallion

If anyone knows that one, please do let me know!

And finally, we do have the engravers name on the right, immediately under the right side of the train:

C. GONDARD signature on TGV medal (Just under the right side of the train)

It reads “C. Gondard”. Claude Gondard has been an engraver with the Paris mint and created over 300 medals. Most references I have found agree on that, and I can find he was born in 1944. Both of those sites include pictures of some of his medals. The first one includes another nice railway medallion I will have to keep an eye out for!

And a little information on SNCF, mentioned at the top of the medallion. It stands for Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF). The French National Railways. In 1814, the French engineer Pierre Michel Moisson-Desroches proposed to Emperor Napoleon to build seven national railways from Paris, in order to travel “short distances within the Empire”. French railway history begins in 1827 when the first French railway line, the Saint-Étienne to Andrézieux Railway opened to goods, taking passengers 8 years later. Skip ahead to the early 1900s and many of the private railway operating companies began to face financial difficulties. In 1938 the socialist government fully nationalised the railway system and formed the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF).

Ok one last picutre. That book I mentioned at the start of the post? I still have it:

Supertrains by Aaron E. Klein.  Front cover with the title and author up the top, and an original orange TGV heading right underneath.  A price sticker is still up the top right - it cost $7.99 at Target.

Supertrains by Aaron E. Klein. I remember seeing this book in the shops for ages and wanting it. I finally got it, possibly for a birthday, I can’t recall now. But evidently it came from Target, as it still has a price sticker on it – it cost $7.99. The book was printed in 1985 (and my version was a reprint from 1987). Over 40 years later, the TGV is still going strong, albeit well advanced from the train pictured in my book.

What non-numismatic related book has inspired you to a numismatic purchase?

Medallion with SNCF above and TGV below, with image of the train heading left across the medallion with an overhead wire above.






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