Canadian Colonial Token Presentation
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(Note: the following material was a script and slides that I used in a presentation to the Glendale Coin Club on 3/11/94. As you might expect, because the script was only for my own "memory-jogging" as I spoke, it perhaps isn't very well suited for reading material. Plus, the presentation was WAY too long -- I'm afraid I nearly put everyone to sleep. But I'll provide it here for you to peruse or ignore as you wish. The photos (42 of them) are all scanned from the original 35mm slides I used that evening, and represent my first attempts at photographing items for a presentation -- I'd be grateful if you'd overlook their amateurish quality. I've put all of the slides into thumbnails -- click on any that you'd like to see larger...Greg, 12/30/01)

Presentation to Glendale Coin Club on Canadian Colonial Tokens -- 3/11/94

Some History

After the withdrawal of the glaciers 25,000 years ago, what is now Canada was originally populated only by Indians and Eskimos through great migrations.

The European presence started with the Viking visit to Canada in 985 (by Eric the Red), but they established no long-term colonies.  The major colonization of Canada by Europeans began in 1497 (Cabot - England), Cartier (1534 - France), and Champlain (1603 - also France).  The French were the first to gain prominence.  Primarily fueled by financiers, the fur trade was the primary motive for colonization, and the beaver was the staple of the trade.  The beaver pelt was an important ingredient in the 17th century felting industry.  The agricultural and fishing industries so important in later 19th century Canada were not initially well developed nor appreciated.

The French-British rivalry began in earnest in 1689, and by 1710 the British had gained a stronghold in Nova Scotia and through various wars and military actions, gained total dominance by 1760 (ratified in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris).  Thus was born the French-British cultural conflicts that continues today to plague Canada.

New France -- the French Regime

Almost every type of French coin minted between 1600 and 1759 sooner or later found its way into New France, as Canada was then called, even though they were not specifically minted for use there.  Coins also trickled in from the other minting countries of the world as a consequence of the conduct of trade.

There were three main issues of the French regime:

1)  French Colonial coinage of 1670 for New France, Acadia, Newfoundland settlements and the French West Indies.  Silver 5 and 15 sols.  Not popular... overvalued.

2)  French Colonial coinage of 1717-1720.  Extremely rare (only a few pieces remain), the original issuance failed possibly because the supply of copper was too brassy.

3)  French Colonial coinage of 1721-1722.  Nine deniers of both dates from Swedish copper struck at the French mints of Souen and La Rochelle. Of over half a million pieces received for New France, only about 8000 were put into circulation with the balance returned to France in 1726.  The colonists supposedly disliked copper.

The French also issued Playing Card Money of 1685 to 1760 (22 issues)... very rare and protected from export from Canada.  Common denominations: four livres (equal to four English Pounds) on one card, two livres on half of a card, 15 sols or sous (equivalent to 15 English shillings) on a quarter card.  Rare because most were redeemed and then burned by the issuers.  In fact, there’s no surviving specimens of the first eight issues.

British Rule

There’s likewise three main categories of coins used under British rule:

1)  Pre-Confederation Tokens: the balance of trade and valuation of the coins of the various minting countries (principal among them the Spanish milled dollar) caused a continuing export of coins from Canada.  This resulted in a lack of coinage for making change and small transactions.  To counteract this, some merchants started to import tokens from England about the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Originally of good weight (comparable to regal standards), the potential for profit soon proved too much of an attraction for some, and the issuance of light-weight pieces soon prevailed.  Merchants made money through token issuance both by encouraging trade at their establishment and by profit on the cost of the tokens themselves.  In 1817 and 1825 various government bodies passed laws and ordinances inhibiting the issuance and circulation of these tokens.  Through the 1830’s, 1840’s and 1850’s other steps were taken by Provincial governments in an attempt to restrict the need for spurious tokens.

2)  Provincial Decimal Issues: Province of Canada started with a cent piece in 1858 quickly followed by issuances from provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (1861), Newfoundland (1865), and Prince Edward Island (1871).

3)  Confederation in 1867: formed the Dominion of Canada which started issuing decimal coins in 1870.

Indian Trade

In addition to the engines of commerce used by the European inhabitants of Canada, primarily French and English, the indigenous peoples continued to use some of their historically favored means of exchange... pelts, beads, tools, and other artifacts typically referred to as primitive monies.

What I like

For the last three or so years the bulk of my coin collecting interest has been focused on the pre-confederation tokens of Canada.  The reasons for this include:

Cherry Picking -- Picked up a junk box coin marked for $2. Dealer sold for about a buck because he felt bad that “it’s so worn”. Was a “Blacksmith Token” worth perhaps $40/50 retail.

Hole Filling (by Breton) -- the “fill a hole” sensation has a grand panorama when looking at the 500+ types that Breton cataloged.

Inexpensive -- most tokens can be had in presentable condition (fine or better) for a couple of dollars.  Few cost more than $10 or $20.

Many Varieties -- especially as cataloged by Courteau.  You can get into many miniscule differences if that’s the type of thing you like.

Something just plain neat about old worn copper coins.

The Mints

The Royal Mint, Boulton & Watt, Ralph Heaton & Co., Thomas Halliday, William Mossop, Wright & Bale, Belleville Mint (New Jersey), Jean Marie Arnault, and various Blacksmith Mints.


Title -- Slide01.jpg (159883 bytes)
Slide02.jpg (152017 bytes) Trade Beads -- the red beads are known as “white heart trade beads” and were manufactured in Europe for 19th century trading with North American Indians as well as Africans and Central Americans.  The blue are “Russian trade beads”, also 19th century, manufactured in Venice and used by Russian companies for the North American fur trade.
French Card Money -- Slide03.jpg (194333 bytes)
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French Regime 1722 9 Deniers -- intended for use in all of France’s colonies in the new world.  This piece was struck at the mint at LaRochelle.  Not many circulated and the majority were returned to France in 1726.

French Jeton (obverse) -- first issued as “counters” these pieces were used with a tray with three compartments, one for each of the denominations of Livres, Sols, and Deniers.  When there were 12 jetons in the denier compartment, they were removed and a jeton added to the sol compartment; when there were 20 sols they were replaced by a jeton in the livre compartment.  Ostensibly circulated in Canada, but not much confirming information.

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(reverse) -- the legend translates to “they grow under every constellation” alluding to France’s colonies.

The Holey Dollar and Plug -- a popular means for provincial governors to provide coinage for their people (West Indies, Australia, and elsewhere), the governor of Prince Edward Island in 1813 directed that 1000 Spanish-American dollars be mutilated by cutting a plug out of the center.  Thus the plug passed for 1 shilling and the ring for 5 shillings.  Easily forged, these rare specimens catalog at about 2 or 3 thousand for the ring, and about double that for the plug.

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Newfoundland -- though not listed as especially scarce nor priced very high, examples of tokens from this province are not easily found.  This one is an example of a merchant’s storecard and was struck by the mint of Boulton & Watt.  The Rutherford brothers, who owned the establishment, emigrated from England and set up shops in St. John’s and Harbour Grace.

Ships, Colonies & Commerce -- one of the tokens most readily recognized as Canadian, the legend reflects a remark made by Napoleon about the basis of the British empire’s strength. Different varieties (over 25) were struck by Halliday, Heaton, and others.  There is a variety that shows an American flag on the ship; it was struck by the New York mint of Wright & Bale.

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Nova Scotia Thistle Token -- another very recognizable Canadian token, this one has the Nova Scotia thistle on the reverse.  There are rare varieties that include a 1382 counterfeit which later had the die overstamped to correct it to 1832; the later/corrected die is recognizable because of a large drip of “something” hanging from poor King George’s nose.

Nova Scotia “Mayflower” coinage -- Pictured is a halfpenny and a penny often referred to as the most beautiful of the pieces of this time period.  These were true coins as they had been officially approved by the British Government.  They were struck at Heaton’s mint in Birmingham, though the dies were made at the Royal Mint.

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New Brunswick -- a token of 1843 and a coin of 1854.  The token was struck and circulated even against the explicit orders of the British Government.  Still, in accordance with a Parliamentary Act, the province was provided with an almost identical coin eleven years later.  The token was struck by Boulton & Watt and the coin by Ralph Heaton.  There are many varieties based on the rigging of the ship, which because of the seafaring nature of many of the provinces, was a favored design element.

Brock Token of 1816 -- there’s seven varieties of this token which commemorates General Sir Isaac Brock, Commander of the British forces in Upper Canada.  During July, 1812, Brock captured Detroit, but on October 13th of that year died in battle defending Queenstown Heights in Upper Canada.  The best means of attributing these are by the use of McLachlan’s book on Upper Canada.

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A Photo of Brock and Broke -- Captain Broke was Commander of the H.M.S. Shannon and captured the U.S.S. Chesapeake in 1813 in the first British naval victory of the War of 1812.  He towed the Chesapeake to Halifax where it was sold.  There’s a couple of varieties of Broke tokens.

Sloop Tokens -- Issued for use in Upper Canada, there are seven or so major types with various sub-varieties and mulings.  These were believed produced by John Sheriff in Liverpool.  Again note the water transportation theme supplemented by the agricultural implements -- both key industries in colonial Canada.

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Bank of Upper Canada Token -- the most common token of colonial Canada, the halfpenny and penny from the province of Canada are readily found in many dealer junk boxes for a dollar or so -- oftimes less.  Couteau listed some 300 minor varieties.  The dramatic portrayal of St. George killing the dragon is it’s most recognizable feature.

Quebec Bank Tokens -- again, a halfpenny and a penny were struck for the province of Canada by Ralph Heaton.  A fairly common token.

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Bank of Montreal (front view) -- another common token, this one shows the front of the Bank of Montreal and was issued in two years, 1842 and 1844.  There is a similar token, very rare, showing a three-quarters side view of the bank that was struck in 1838 and 1839; however, both issues were refused by the bank, returned to England and melted because it was felt that the workmanship was inferior.  The side view tokens are consequently very rare and sell for many hundreds of dollars.

The Rebellion Sou -- the first issuance of La Banque Du Peuple in 1837.  The bank was formed by French reformists who were excluded by the conservatives who controlled the Bank of Montreal.  The star and liberty cap were allegedly added due to suspected sympathy of the bank directors with the rebels who started the 1837 rebellion.  In fact, the directors were all rebels themselves and warrants were issued for their arrests late in 1837.

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A Habitant Token -- another token with strong symbolism for French-Canadians, this token portrays a Canadian habitant in traditional winter clothing.  The reverse showed the arms of the city of Montreal with the name of one of the four participating banks on the ribbon (City Bank, Quebec Bank, La Banque du Peuple, and Bank of Montreal).

A Photo of a Habitant --

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Merchant Tokens -- examples of Lower Canada merchant storecards: T.S. Brown (hardware), Francis Mullins (ships goods), and Joseph Roy (dry goods).  The Joseph Roy is fairly scarce.

Bouquet Sou -- probably the epitome of Canadian tokens, this series is also the most widely collected.  There are about 30 major varieties that had been struck in various mints in Belleville (New Jersey), Birmingham, Montreal, and elsewhere.  The legend “agriculture & commerce” was popular because it is spelled the same for both French and English, thereby offending no one.  Eventually, about 1837, the tokens were so numerous (and light weight) that they were eventually refused by the Banks.  These are primarily attributed according to the number of leaves on the wreath and the position of the bow tying it.

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T.Duseaman Token (obverse) -- the dies for this token supposedly originally read as T. D. Seaman as a storecard for Tobias Seaman, but because the Belleville, New Jersey butcher (and hotelier) rejected them it seems the  diesinker added a “U” between the “D” and the “S” thereby altering the name.

(reverse) -- the reverse shows the characteristic heavy die crack.  This token was evidently struck on cheap copper planchets that were poorly prepared as evidenced by many specimens having striations and other copper flaws.

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Spread Eagle Tokens -- this is a series that began with an 1813 original that was struck by a Boston merchant who settled in Montreal, and were struck over the tokens of Bristol merchant Samuel Guppy. The originals were not at first well received because of the use of the eagle, an American symbol; remember that the War of 1812 had just concluded.  Light weight imitations appeared about 1825 or later and were dated 1813, 1814, and 1815.

Bust & Harp Token -- one of my two favorite series, Courteau lists about 25 or so varieties.  The originals were struck in 1825 and later issues were antedated to evade colonial regulations against the importation of tokens.  The imitations range from very crude workmanship to a moderately high quality on both brass and copper alloys.  The attribution scheme centers on the number of strings in the harp.

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Tiffin Tokens -- the other of my favorite series.  Available are both the original issue struck by Halliday for Joseph Tiffin, a Montreal merchant in 1832, and the many imitations in both brass and copper.  In total Courteau lists about 25 or so varieties.  Again, notice the antedating to 1812 in order to evade anti-importation regulations.

Blacksmith Tokens -- a funny series, the story relayed by McLachlan is that many of these were struck by a Montreal blacksmith who, whenever he felt the need for imbibing at the local tavern, would make up whatever change would satisfy his appetite’s needs.  The designs and lettering on the dies were purposely left only half finished so that the resulting token would appear to be well worn with only a little of the original detail left.  These extremely crude tokens were sometimes struck with the image and wording backwards as the diesinkers were evidently so dimwitted as not to realize that the die needed to be made in reverse.

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Anticosti Island Token (obverse) -- a helmeted roman bust appears on this token which is of doubtful Canadian pedigree.  Recent research in the past 30 years or so indicates that this specimen was most likely struck by New York minter Lovett from pattern dies produced in Paris around 1870 for trial strikings for coinage for the Honduras.  Because of the attribution to Anticosti Island by Scott Stamp and Coin Company in an 1890 listing (perhaps because of the “A”), this token is often found in Canadian colonial collections and listings.

(reverse) -- shows the Paris “A” mintmark that perhaps was once thought to indicate Anticosti.

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Civil War Token -- I included this in my collection only because the diesinker used the Nova Scotia thistle as a device.

Devins & Bolton -- Montreal merchants in the later 19th century who, for a time, had much of the small change passing through their establishment counterstamped with their store name.  One of the most common counterstamps, it’s found on Canadian tokens, U.S. large cents, and many other copper pieces.  The piece on the right only weighs 4.31 grams -- one of the lightest copper pieces in my collection.

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W&J Bell 7-1/2 Pence -- the only paper money in my collection, this particular specimen (circa 1837) was from merchants in Upper Canada, but was never issued

Photo of Joseph LeRoux -- one of the major cataloguers of the late 19th century, this French-Canadian also issued his own token as a storecard to invite subscriptions to his publications on Canadian tokens.  His parents had their own prolific issuance: 29 children.

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Photo of Robert McLachlan -- a well-published Canadian numismatist, he was also one of the early presidents of the ANA -- an organization once heavily represented by Canadians due to having no national organizations of their own at the time.

Photo of Napoleon Breton -- the best known cataloguer of Canadian tokens, even today his numbering system developed late in the 19th century is the most widely used.  He, like LeRoux, was a professional who made his living in the trade of coins and tokens.

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Photo of Eugene Courteau -- my favorite early numismatist because of his careful and complete descriptions of the extensive varieties of many of the series.

Photo of Listing: includes the Charlton attribution number, a unique serial number, Breton’s attribution number, description, alloy, weight in grams, size in millimeters, year minted, mint, denomination, grade, acquisition date, cost, and value.  I use it to keep track of what I have which is currently close to 400 Canadian colonials.

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Photo of Canadian Coin News: Canada’s counterpart to Coin World, I use this to keep up with the latest news and to make contact with various dealer and collectors who advertise in the classified section.

Photo of References: the three best books for these series are the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Colonial Tokens (2nd edition), Breton’s Popular Illustrated Guide to Canadian Coins, Medals, etc. etc. (1894 and 1912 editions -- reprint is cheap), and Quarterman Publishings anthology Canadian Tokens and Medals -- a compilation of articles from The Numismatist.

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Photo of Other Resources: The CNJ from the CNA and all of Courteau’s monographs as well as others by McLachlan, Howland Wood, Lees, and others.


Question and Answer Period

That was all that there was, folks. Hope you found something useful or interesting...GB


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