It’s easy to take our modern money system for granted. Imagine taking English and American money to the store and attempting to buy a car from a local merchant. Prior to Confederation, this was the situation in much of what is now Canada. New Brunswick Canadian tokens are part of the history of our nation. Learn more about the early economy of New Brunswick and how the coin token evolved into what we know today.
Early European Settlers
Indigenous peoples inhabited New Brunswick dating to 7000 BC. The first Europeans who visited New Brunswick were documented in 1534. Eventually, the French settled in the area, followed by the British. Once the American Revolution was over, British colonists moved north to settle among like-minded individuals. During the 1800s, immigrants from Ireland and Scotland settled in the community. New Brunswick was officially established in 1784 as a British colony. Shipbuilding and lumbering were the main economies in the 19th century.
By the late 1830s, New Brunswick had a shortage of small change for transactions. There were many different coins and tokens circulating in the system. British and U.S. coins were common, but there were also foreign coins from immigrants and private tokens from businesses in the community. The Hudson’s Bay Company and many other trading companies produced tokens for trade among the First Nations and settlers. French coins were issued using sols as the base. Other coins and tokens used cents and dollars. It was chaos until the government acted to standardize coins and began to produce enough coins to meet the needs of the community, in both private and commercial ventures.
To begin with, the New Brunswick government ordered the production of copper penny and halfpenny tokens. The British government told them to stop, but these 1843 tokens ended up in circulation anyway, with the British government none the wiser. A decade later, New Brunswick obtained permission for a new set of copper tokens, issued in 1854 (and Britain found out about the 1843 strikes!).
In 1860, New Brunswick further reined in the chaos by requiring all accounts paid to the government to be in dollars and cents. Although New Brunswick did not become part of Canada until 1867, the Province of Canada issued decimal coinage in 1858, unifying the economy with a new currency. New Brunswick imported about 500,000 Canadian cents. New Brunswick then issued new copper cents and silver coins with 5-, 10- and 20-cent values. These coins featured Queen Victoria facing left on the obverse, and beautiful crown-and-wreath designs on the other side.
With decimalization, the New Brunswick tokens of the 1840s and 1850s became obsolete. After Confederation, Canada would issue coins struck at the Royal Mint in London, which unified the economy even more. The Canadian tokens would become collector items if they survived the war efforts of WWI and WWII when many metallic items were melted down to produce bullets and other necessities.
Why Collect Canada Tokens?
The value of Canadian tokens is more historical than monetary, but these coins can be a nice addition to any coin collection. The money we use today is simply part of our regular routine, but these Canadian tokens represent a different time. The coins of the past give us a glimpse into history. Through Canadian tokens, we can see what was important to the designers and producers of coins. The maple leaf had been a symbol of Canada long before the Confederation. St. Edward’s Crown, even though it had not been used to crown Queen Victoria, was still one of the key emblems of England. Both are depicted on New Brunswick’s coins from the early 1860s.
Canadian tokens can be hard to find. Some have been counterfeited. Others have been shaved down to get the metal from the token. It can be hard to authenticate some of the privately minted tokens. Colonial Acres has a selection of tokens minted by the early New Brunswick government that can be included in your collection. Shop now to find coins and tokens from the history of early Canada.