Pre-Confederation Canada Bank Tokens

Numismatic, Historical Information and Images


Bank of Upper Canada Token 1854Under the British rule, Pre-Confederation tokens, Bouquet Sous, Habitant Sous, half penny and penny tokens, served as coins until 1867 when Confederation formed the Dominion of Canada which started issuing decimal coins in 1870. About the beginning of the 19th century, 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 small common transactions. To counteract this, extensive quantities of low-denomination tokens were imported from England by merchants. By issuing tokens and encouraging trade at their establishments, they made profits on the cost of the tokens themselves.

In 1837, Hard Times brough discontent. The French had never been happy with English rule in Lower Canada, the Lawrentian plain to about Lake Erie. Upper Canada, the lands along Great Lakes, was 80% American or mostly non-English. A small number of powerful families controlled Canada, much to the dislike of the hardy pioneering types. Rebellions broke out in both Upper and Lower Canada. They were crushed.

The government authorized 4 banks, the Bank of Montreal, the Quebec Bank, the City Bank and La Banque du Peuple, to issue copper pennies and halfpennies with the arms of Montréal on one side and a standing habitant on the other. These coins arrived in Canada just as the Rebellion of 1837 began and were issued in 1838.

Canada Bank Token 1852 Un Sou

When Upper and Lower Canada were reunited into the Province of Canada in 1841, the Bank of Montreal was allowed to coin copper; pennies and halfpennies appeared in 1842. Halfpennies were issued again in 1844. After 1849 the Bank Of Upper Canada received the right to coin copper and large issues of pennies and halfpennies appeared in 1850, 1852, 1854 and 1857. The Quebec Bank was allowed to issue pennies and halfpennies in 1852.

1857 prince Edward Island TokenUnder the Province of Canada only bank tokens were issued and no merchant or private tokens were allowed. No Province of Canada tokens were issued after 1857, as the British government introduced 1, 5, 10 and 20 cent pieces in 1858 quickly followed by issuances from provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (1861), Newfoundland (1865), and Prince Edward Island (1871).




The Pre-Confederation tokens were struck at the folloing 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.

1854 Half Penny Canada Bank Token


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Source: The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Colonial Tokens