History of the Coins and Tokens of Canada - 1894


When in 1890, my first work was issued, I had no expectation that it, a small pamphlet giving engraving only, would have run through two editions numbering 5,000 in all. This success has encouraged me to write the "HISTORY OF THE COINS AND TOKENS OF CANADA," Which cannot help but be useful to all classes, for, as has been said, "The money of a people is its history," all the people should become acquainted with this history.

My work will also give 1,028 engravings. For a number of years the taste for Numismatic study in Canada has made such rapid progress, that there are now thousands of collectors to be found in all grades of society, and if all have not the same means, yet all have the same desire, that is, to own the greatest number of varieties. As coins have heretofore been known mainly by engravings, their history remaining unknown, this work is intended to supply this want.

It is a matter for regret that in our country few collections of Canadian coins are found in museums and educational and other institutions. With two or three exceptions, none of these institutions contain anything to indicate the existence of our coins, each one of which has its own history. Silver coins, bearing the portraits of historic personages, have circulated amongst us for over two centuries. One is considered a spendthrift who spends his money on a collection which is open to all and may be easily shown and described, while still higher prices are given for rare editions of books which are placed in a bookcase out of sight.

Among these exceptional public collections let me mention that belonging the Deaf and Dumb Institute of Montreal, very fine one, formed by the Rev. Father J. Michaud, whose biography appears in this work. Those who have visited foreign cities and have had the advantage of admiring in their museums and other institutions, cannot have helped remarking on their splendid collections of coins. But when strangers come here, what is open to them in the shape of Numismatics? Literally nothing.

Those who have been to the Columbian Exposition at Chicago could not help but admire the collection of the United States Government under charge of Col. McClure. Can we imagine the trouble taken by such a government to show its coins; and not expect that, Canadian celebrities who have visited Chicago filled with the importance of a similar exhibit for Canada? I doubt.

Everywhere our coins, which, for a long time were hardly known, are now in great demand, often selling for higher prices than at home.

This fact is not astonishing when we take into consideration the few examples known and the number of collectors seeking after them.

Already some of these rarities have sold from one hundred to two hundred dollars. Such rarities are to be found in the McLachlan-Michaud-Hart-Wilson and other collections.

In the supplement of the "Canadian Coin Collector" published in 1892, I called the attention of collectors in general to the continued issue of bar checks and business cards, and since then, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto have rivaled each other in the issue of pieces which have no Numismatic purpose but to throw discredit on the past time of collecting. The best thing that can be done is for the government to stop the issue of these pieces, of which the number will soon exceed that of our regular coins.

There are two classes of these checks, the first of which are struck from dies, while the second are simple inscriptions set up as type which can be re-set when desired. In this volume these pieces are described as struck from composite or type-set dies. Such pieces can never have the same importance as those struck from ordinary dies.

The history of the coins and jetons issued under the French Regime is taken from l'Histoire Monetaire des Colonies Francaises by E. Zay, member of La Societe Francaise de Numismatique, published in Paris in 1892: In giving credit to Mr. Zay for the interesting notes brought together in his work, I am happy to here state that this work is a treasure to French-Canadians, for, but per through it these pieces would have not been known amongst them. I have also found many interesting facts in "Canadian Numismatics," by Mr. Robert W. McLachlan. This gentleman has further helped me by much personal information and advice and by placing his collection at my disposal while writing this work.

Mr. McLachlan is an authority on Canadian Numismatic subjects and he has materially aided me in my work by undertaking its translation into English. I have also to mention my obligation to Mr. Gerald E. Hart, another indefatigable collector who opened up his treasures in coins and paper money for my inspection. I owe my thanks also to Mr. Chas. T. Hart, of Montreal, and to those who have so kindly responded to my calls for information, and as such notes can only be collected from a very wide circle, I am under obligations to a large number of collectors. I would ask the indulgence of my readers for the mistakes that may have slipped into this book, a not unlikely thing for a work of the kind. I would like to be informed of any omissions from the list of coins or paper money.

This work cancels the former one, as the degrees of rarity and approximate value are corrected to date.


Montreal, January 15, 1894.



Indicating the degree of rarity and approximate value of the different coins figured in this book. 1894.

	R0	worth				face value
	R1		from   $0.05	to	$0.25
	Rl.5			0.25		0.75
	R2			0.75		1.50
	R2.5			1.50		3.00
	R3			3.00		5.00
	R3.5			5.00		10.00
	R4			10.00		25.00
	R4.5			25.00		50.00
	R5			50.00		100.00
	R6			100.00		300.00



Commerce was long carried on among the Indians by means of Wampum, a form of money that at an early date, on account of the absence of a sufficient supply of coins; as declared to be legal tender among the British American colonies. Although it ceased to be legal currency in 1670 it continued to circulate among the colonists until 1704 and among the Indians until about 1825. Its value was early reduced and finally destroyed by cheap imitations imported from Europe. Wampum consists of small cylinders or tubes about three­ quarters of an inch long made from sea-shells. It is in two colors, White and Blue, the latter from shells brought from the Gulf of Mexico. These cylinders were either strung or worked up into wampum belts. The value before it was broken by the glass counterfeits was "one sou" or a half-penny for the white and "two sous" or a penny for the blue.

 From the second part of I'Histoire Monetaire
des Colonies Francaises by E. Zay, (Paris, 1892)


The beginnings of Canadian Colonization were fraught with great difficulty. The country produced little, commercial transactions were rare, exports next to nothing and to crown all, of money the sinews of trade as well as of war there was none.

The occasional supplies of money sent out by the king, as well as such as were brought in for their own use by traders or immigrants, were at once lost to the colony, for as the imports exceeded the exports there was always a deficit and the difference having to be made up in coin, all ready money was passed to the other countries.

To overcome the tendency of the money to leave the country, nothing better than to raise its current value was attempted. Thus, the coins imported from France had their value raised by one-third; as were also the special coins with the legend Gloriam Regni Dicent, (See illustrations 501 and 502). These thus come to be adopted a money of account for the country, one-third higher in standard than that of France. These illusive measures, far from remedying matters, had no other effects than to shackle commerce in its painful birth.

The payment of the troops also be-came another periodical course of trouble to the administrators of the colony. It was customary to pay the soldiers in January, but as the money for that purpose did not arrive from France until much later, the intendant was under the necessity of trying all sorts of expedients to satisfy the garrison. It was in this painful situation at the end of his resources that Jacques de Meulles, Chevalier Councellor to the King in Councils, Seigneur de la Source, Grand Bailly d'Orleans, intendant of Justice, Police and Finance in Canada, Acadia, Newfoundland and other countries in French North America, conceived the idea of circulating bills or card money.

Here is the letter which he wrote on the 24th of September, 1685, to Count de Toulouse, Minister Secretary of State for the Department of Marine, to inform him of the results of this first trial:


 "I find myself in great straits regarding the sustenance of the soldiers; you have not ordered the funds; now, My Lord, from January until September, eight whole months, I have not ceased from my efforts to furnish them with sufficient to keep them alive. I have drawn from my own chest and from those of my friends all that I could, but at length seeing them in such a plight without power to render them proper service and not knowing to what saint to make my vow, money being extremely scarce having been distributed at all costs in considerable sums for the payment of the soldiers, the idea occurred to me of putting into circulation in place of money, card notes which I caused to be cut in four; I send you, My Lord, a sample of the three values, one is four francs, another forty sols and the third fifteen sols, because with these values I can make the right change for a soldier's monthly pay. I used an ordinance commanding the people to accept this money when tendered and to give it currency, at the same time obliging myself to redeem the said notes; no one refused them, which had such a good effect that the troops have been able to subsist as usual."


This letter is very important, as it fixes the year 1685 as that of the first issue of card money, which seems to have been overlooked in their searches by most writers on this subject. 

The cards of de Meulles enclosed in his letter to the minister have been lost, not a single specimen can be found in the public archives of France or Canada.

We know nothing of these cards except their value and size. George Heriot, General Post-master of British-America in his Travels in Canada in 1805, as quoted by Alfred Sandham in The Coins, Medals and Tokens of the Dominion of Canada, (Montreal, 1869), states that each card bore an impression of the arms of France in wax, its nominal value and the signatures of the Treasurer and the Governor General and the Intendant. It seems difficult to believe that there could have been so much writing on a quartered playing card, and the eminent American historian, Francis Parkman, in The old Regime in Canada in referring for the description of these cards to a memorial addressed to the Regent in 1713 does not seem to have noticed that the author indicates other values than those of the first issue and that a revised issue appeared later. There is therefore, good ground to believe that Meulle's cards bore only an impression of a crowned fleur de lis in wax, their value and the signatures of the Clerk of the Treasury and the Intendant.

M. de Champigny, the successor of de Meulles, found the financial position of affairs in the colony as embarrassing as his predecessor. On the 19th of November, 1690, he informs the minister that being out of funds he was under the necessity of issuing card money. On the 10th of May, 1691, he again writes;


"Although we, M. le Comte de Frontenac (Governor General) and myself have caused to be drawn by the clerk of M. de Lubert, (treasurer), last November, bills of exchange on France for 87,377 livres, that we might have funds in this country; we have not been able to do without a new issue of card money that all expenses might be met, part of the funds which were in munitions did not come to hand last year and we had to redeem the cards issued in 1690. It is highly necessary My Lord, that some other expedient be tried to raise funds in this country each year, which may he sufficient for the first five or six months of the following year. If you will give an order to pay in France two or three months after sight, the bills of exchange which we will cause to be drawn here by Mr. de Lubert's clerk, on the departure of the last vessels, we could borrow from our merchants up to fifty thousand ecues in cash, we pray you My Lord, to think and consider the harm this causes our troops, who buy a great deal for cash, and who are often in great straits to obtain sufficient supplies."


In 1696 the colony having a large expenditure on account of the war, de Champigny renews his demand:


"We hope you will have the goodness to replace them, that we may be in a position to pay our debts, which we have had to undertake on account of having the cards to redeem."


 And again on the 20th of October, 1699:


"The provision which I have had to make each year, the sending to France of a good part of the soldiers' pay in flour or pork which are not turned into money in that country until long afterwards, the extraordinary expenses from the funds each year, that of 39,033 livres, 6 sols, 1 denier in 1693 with the want of funds caused by losses at sea in 1690, 1691 and 1692 has led to the making of card money, there being no other means to meet all these expenses or to make good these losses. I believe My Lord, I should not be blamed for making use of these means, nothing else could be done except that the king should have ordered sufficient funds for the extraordinary expenses and for the losses."


The funds so impatiently awaited arrived at length. He acknowledged their reception to the Minister on the 15th of October, 1700:


"All the colony and myself in particular is greatly obliged to His Majesty the King because he has placed us in a position to liquidate the old debts contracted during the war and to replace the losses by sea in 1690, 1691 and 1692."


But the good intentions of the King's Government cooled during the following years; funds were no longer regularly sent and the Intendants who succeeded found themselves without ceasing under the necessity of issuing from time to time card money with which to meet their expenses. Raudot father and son, Intendants, wrote to the Minister on the 23rd of October, 1708:


"We cannot get on My Lord, without making from time to time small cards which passing through many hands are sooner spoiled than the large ones. This is the only money in the country, there is not a single small French coin that was formerly brought here such as the pieces of 4s and sols marques, they have been returned with all the silver money that existed in the country. The Sieurs Raudot would like to be relieved from having to make any more and from this cause of pain and perplexity, because it is necessary they should sign and stamp all the cards, because the need is a public one, commerce among the inhabitants ceasing when money is wanting makes it necessary that they should take all care. They can assure you My Lord, that when they make small cards they burn the same amount of those of de Champigny and de Beauharnois that are most spoiled that there be no increase in the issue of cards."


The cards issued by de Champigny, de Beauharnois and Raudot as in the case of these issued by de Meulles are extant. They were burned in their redemption and no stray specimen has turned up. An anonymous memoire on the present state of Canada (1712) states that these cards bore two impressions: the value of the card or its price above, the seal of the Governor and the signatures of the Intendant and the Treasurer in charge. But the author in stating that the cards were commenced under the Intendancy of Champigny had, without doubt, no knowledge of those issued by his predecessor.

The memorial of 1715 to the Regent quoted above, says that they had impressions of a fleur de lis crowned, the arms or paraphs of Messrs. the Governor and Intendant and the signature of the Clerk of the Treasurer of Marine at Quebec, under the inscription one livre, two livres, four livres, sixteen livres and thirty-two livres.

A third memorial to the Council of Marine sent in 1717 giving a description of the cards, especially those of 1714 which we reproduce, also attributes the first issue to Champigny who left the colony in 1702.

We perceive that the authors of these memoires did not agree in their descriptions of the first cards, and in fact the issue of cards by de Meulles was so transient that they have left no trace except in his letter to the Minister.

We find an early description of the cards in the resolution entered into on the 1st of October, 1711, by Messrs. de Vaudreuil, Governor; Raudot, Intendant; and de Monseignat, Minister of Marine, but only on the subject of the making of 3,000 cards of 100 livres and 3,000 cards of 50 livres.

The writing on the cards of too livres to be transverse altogether on black cards (that is, cards with black figures.)

The writing on the cards of 50 livres, from top to bottom, on red cards (that is, with red spots or figures.)


The stamps impressed at each corner to be:


1st. That in which a fleur de lis on a pedestal is surrounded by a string or wreath of small fleur de lis on the upper right hand corner.

2nd. The same design on the lower left hand corner.

3rd. That of M. de Vaudreuil represented by three shields facing, two in chief and one pointed, surmounted by the coronet of a marquis, and surrounds a band in the lower right hand corner.

4th. That of the Intendant represented by a crescent surmounted with an ear of wheat crowned with four stars within a wreath of two palm branches, in the upper left hand corner.


These cards bore above, the signature of the Clerk of the Treasurer, in the centre, the nominal value and the year of issue, and below on the same line, the signatures of the Governor and the Intendant.

It is the Clerk of the Treasurer who is to prepare the cards and himself write the two last signatures.

On the whole cards of 32 livres of the preceding issue (1708) the stamps were impressed on the same line at the top of the card.

This card money was abolished in 1717 and coins with the intrinsic value raised by one third above circulated. The exclusive use of coined money did not long continue.

Commerce was the first to ask for the reinstatement of paper money, so much easier to carry. They returned then to the cards with the same multiples and subdivisions, leaving to the local authorities the discussion to make them current at half their value. (Royal Declaration of March 21st, 1718.)

An ordinance of the King dated March 2nd, 1729, orders the making of 400,000 livres of card money of 24, 12, 6 and 3 livres; 1 livre 10 sols; 15 sols and 7 sols 6 deniers; which will be stamped with the arms of His Majesty and written and signed by Comptroller of Marine at Quebec. The cards of 24, 12, 6 and 3 livres will also be signed by the Governor Lieutenant-General and by the Intendant or commissaire ordonnateur. Those of 1 livre 10 sols, 15 sols and 7 sols 6 deniers will only be paraphed by the Governor Lieutenant-General and the Intendant or commissaire ordonnateur.

In 1733 a royal edict orders the making of 200,000 livres as increase in the issue of this money, and two years later another royal ordinance enacts that an equal amount of 200,000 livres be made to circulate in Louisiana. These cards were 20, 15, 10 and 5 livres; 2 liv. 10 sols; 1 liv. 5 sols; 12 sols 6 den. and 6 sols 3 den. In 1741 M. de Beauharnois asked the pardon of the Minister for having issued 60,000 livres of cards without authority, and gave an account shortly afterwards of how well the credit of these cards had been established in commercial transactions.

As the amount of the card money was insufficient for the public wants it was supplemented by ordinances (warrants) signed by the Intendant alone and unlimited as to number, a proceeding which took away all control. The lowest value was 20 sols and the highest 10 livres.

They were thus:





SOMME  DE......................................................





A QUEBEC, LE...................................................


This was a form of 4 by 6 inches, printed in France.

This card money and warrants or ordinances circulated in the colony and filled all the requirements of money until the month of October. This was the latest month of the season in which the vessels could leave Canada. Then all this paper money was turned into bills of exchange which were to be met by the General Treasurer of Marine at Paris.

In 1734 the Intendant, Hocquart, acknowledges receipt of 6,000 livres in sols marques. On the 28th October, 1738, he writes again;


"to order that in the funds that are to be sent the next year 6,000 livres of sols marques will be included. This money will be highly useful in the country to help the circulation. The values of the cards 7 sols 6 deniers are too high for the ordinary use of the people and to make change at the Treasurer's office."


 On the 28th of February, 1742, the King ordered a new issue of 120,000 livres and the Royal order of April 18th, 1749, which authorized the issue of 180,000 livres additional to those authorized by ordinance of March 2nd, 1729, raised the total to a million livres.

The war that followed in Canada brought deep troubles to the metropolis finances already depleted by the seven years' war. The payment of the expenses of the colony was stopped by decree of October 15th, 1759, and the bills of exchange drawn on the Treasury remained unpaid. Canada left to its own feeble resources soon saw its paper money fall into complete discredit and lose all its commercial value.

After peace was concluded, the Council of State by decree dated June 29th, 1764, decided to suppress and definitely liquidate the card money.

They had circulated for eighty years.

In recapitulation, the values issued at different dates are: 7 sols 6 den.; 10 and 15 sols; 1 livre; 1 livre 10 sols or 30 sols; 2, 3, 4, 12, 24, 32, 50 and 100 livres, differing in the shape and size of the cards, and by the red or black color of the figures or spots. No cards were issued of a lower denomination than 7 sols 6 den. although there is a statement to the contrary by Raynal (Histoire philosophique et politique des etahlissements des Europeens dons les deux Indes) quoted by Garneau. Le marque, billon coins of 2 sols were sufficient for small change.

The cards which are found in public archives are as follows:



ISSUE OF 1714.

100 LIVRES. Whole card size 2 ¼ x 3 3/8 inches, written longitudinally.

50 LIVRES. Whole card, written transversely.

40 LIVRES. Whole card, cut corners, written longitudinally.

20 LIVRES. Whole card; cut corners, written transversely.

12 LIVRES. Cut card, size 2 ¼ inches square.

6 LIVRES. Cut card, size 1 ¾ x 2 ¼ inches, cut corners, written transversely.

4 LIVRES. Cut card, size 1 1/8 x 2 inches, written transversely.

2 LIVRES. Cut card, size 1 ¼ x 2 inches, written transversely.

20 SOLS. Cut card, size 1 ¼ x 1 ¾ inches, written longitudinally.

15 SOLS. Cut card, size 1 ¼ X 1 5/8 inches, written transversely.

10 SOLS. Cut card, size 1 1/8 x 1 5/8 inches, written transversely.


The cards from 12 to 100 livres are signed above by Duplessis, (Clerk of the Treasurer), and below by Vaudreuil, (Governor-General), and Begon (Intendant).

Those of 6 livres, 4 livres and 2 livres are signed above by Duplessis and below by Begon.

Those of 1 livre, 15 sols and 10 sols, are signed above by Duplessis and below by B.

They are all stamped dry with a round die of the size of a quarter inch (defaced altogether). Those of the 100 and 50 livres in the four corners; those of 40 and 20 livres on the centres of the four sides; those of 12, 6 and 4 livres have one stamp above and two below; those of 2 livres, a stamp above; those of 20, 15 and 10 sols, a stamp above and another below.

The stamps on the whole cards represented above, to the right a fleur de lis on a pedestal within a wreath of small fleur de lis; the same stamp below to the left. On the same line the arms of M. de Vaudreuil, and above to the left, the arms of M. Begon; Azure a chevron, or two roses in chief and in chevron a lion.


The 10 sol cut card as here reproduced does not belong to this issue; it bears the same date but belongs to another series. It is distinguished by the stamp above, an old style V surmounted by a marquis coronet, and below with three fleur de lis in a heart, and inscribed dix sols in place of pour la somme de dix sols. It is on cardboard, 1 1/8 x 1 3/4 inches.



Issue of 1729.

(ord. of March 2nd.)

24 LIVRES. Whole card, written longitudinally.

12 LIVRES. Whole card, cut corners, written longitudinally.

6 LIVRES. Cut card, square shape.

3 LIVRES. Cut card, square shape, cut corners.

30 Sols. Cut card, written transversely.

15 Sols. Cut card, cut corners, written longitudinally.

7 SOLS 6 DENIERS. Cut card, written transversely.


These cards are about the same in sizes as the last issue. They are stamped moist with two dies with Arms of France, one crowned, the other enclosed within a wreath of laurels. They are all signed above by Varin, (Clerk of the Treasurer); those of 24, 12, 6 and 3 livres also bear the signatures of Beauharnois, (Governor) and Hocquart, (Intendant) below and those of 30 sols, 15 sols and 7 sols 6 deniers a B and the paraph of Hocquart.



ISSUE OF 1749, (ord. of April 18th.) 7 SOLS 6 DENIERS. Cut card, size 1 1/8 x 2 1/8 inches, written transversely, stamped dry with two oval dies with the Arms of France and of Navarre, signed above Varin, and below H and B.


Issue of 1757 15 Sols. Cut card size 1 5/8 x 2 ¼ inches, cut corners, written longitudinally, same stamps as the last, signed above Devilliers and below V and B.


Contents & Directory

All images are illustrated approximately 1.5 X.


Includes - Table of rarities, Wampum & Card Money.

French Regime

Breton 501 to 519.


Breton 520 to 533.


L'Isle and Repentigny tokens.
Breton 534 to 557.


Breton 558 to 669.


The Bouquet Series.
Breton 670 to 716.


Breton 717 to 856.

Colonies in general

Province of Canada, Nova Scotia,

New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island.

Breton 857 to 924.


British Columbia, Dominion of Canada, 
Newfoundland, Anonymous and Miscellaneous
Breton 925 to 924.


Of the Principal Canadian Collectors.

Paper money


Back to Coinscan Main Directory

Page created by: muckwa
Changes last made on: 04/11/15

Please direct all comments to: Patrick

The entire contents of cnpi.ca are ©Copyright 1997-2015. Permission is granted to non-profit organizations and to individuals for their personal use, to copy any of the material contained herein, on the condition that such copies are not to be sold or otherwise used for profit, and that Patrick Glassford is shown as the source of such information or material. The Canadian Error Coins website (est. in 1997 by Patrick Glassford) is a division of the Canadian Numismatic Publishing Institute, established in 1958 by Somer James, publisher of many fine Canadian numismatic publications such as "A GUIDE BOOK OF CANADIAN COINS, CURRENCY & TOKENS" and "CANADIAN SILVER DOLLARS" by Starr Gilmore. The Canadian Numismatic Publishing Institute (CNPI), and all its existing copyrights, are the sole property of Patrick Glassford.