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Colonial tokens a fascinating period in Canadian history

Brian Cornwell (Canadian Coin News)

The fourth edition of the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Colonial Tokens has just been released. This reference and pricing catalogue sells for $24.95 and is published by the Charlton Press (2010 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4S 1Z9). The editor is William K. Cross. While Charlton coin catalogues have included pre-Confederation token listings in the past (last issue was in 1977), the current token format was introduced in 1988 as a standalone token catalogue (first edition). This was followed by the second and third editions in 1990 and 1995 respectively.

As with the second and third editions this new release provides technical information updates plus prices to reflect the current marketplace. Generally, since the last update in 1995, token prices have been rising, particularly in higher grades of Extra Fine and up. Whenever Mint State examples are sold by publication (most notably that of Jeffrey Hoare Auctions of London, Ontario), particularly if they have substantial lustre, the prices have been aggressively higher than might be expected.

Furthermore, acknowledged rare items (in any grade) such as the Owen Ropery token are breaking into five figure dollar values. An example of this token sold by auction in 1999 for $11,000 including the 10 per cent buyer's fee. All of this auction and marketplace activity is reflected in the fourth edition. Clearly this catalogue is the most authoritative pre-Con-federation token attribution and pricing guide available to collectors today.

The new format of this catalogue was specifically designed to cover a period of Canadian numismatic history from 1794 through 1867. This was a time in Canadian history that the shortage of official government issued coinage seemed more the rule than occasional exception.

The catalogue therefore focuses on the many coins (i.e. half pennies) that were issued by private issuers during this period to help alleviate some of this money shortage. These were first catalogued and organized by Breton at the turn of the last century and subsequently referred to by collectors by their individual Breton numbers.

Beginning with the Charlton catalogue's current format in 1988, a new cataloguing scheme has been introduced. Generally all pre-Confederation tokens are presented according to the issuing colony (i.e. of the time. Examples include Upper and Lower Canada, the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The catalogue presents all of these issues east before west and then within each of these groups according to whether they be semi-regal, private or anonymous issues in nature. One of the advantages of this new cataloguing scheme is that it allows for the recognition of many varieties of a given token that might previously have been labeled by the same Breton number. One of the other handy features of the catalogue is a detailed cross-referencing system that lets the reader convert from Breton number to Charlton number and vice versa. The catalogue also provides a legend attribution guide, that is, if you know the legend of a particular token but there is no indication of where is was issued, you can easily determine its Charlton and Breton numbers.

If you are a token collector you will want this new edition to get a feel for the pricing of better quality items. Prices are clearly higher than five years ago. If you are a traditional coin collector either having finished all your coin collecting objectives or simply one looking for an interesting change of focus, you might start by acquiring a copy of this new catalogue. Token collecting is steeped in history, is very affordable and offers all the challenges one might face with post-Confederation decimal coins.

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