Hornby Island trade token marks final year in 2020

For the third and final year, a municipal trade token has been issued in Hornby Island, B.C., a Salish Sea island located east of Vancouver’s Comox Valley and known as the “Hawaii of the north.”

This year’s issue – released in spring – took aim at food security on Hornby Island in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each token could be used for purchases at participating businesses on the island through this October.

“Though they carry a face value of $20, this year, they are worthless,” Jim Bulmer, the project’s creator, told the Comox Valley Record, a local newspaper based in Courtenay, B.C., northwest of Hornby Island.

The reason this year’s tokens are “worthless,” Bulmer added, is because “most trade venues are closed and tourism is expected to be at a minimum, so they are really not spendable.”

Designed by local artist Michele Papp, the 2020 trade token features a sea eagle at rest in a tree on the obverse, which also includes “HORNBY ISLAND BC” along the top rim and “JEWEL OF THE SALISH SEA” at the bottom. The reverse depicts an orca swimming with her calf above the word “Pristine.” Along the top rim of the reverse are the words “GOOD FOR $20 ON JA-DAI-AICH,” which refers to the K’ómoks First Nation’s name for Hornby Island, meaning “outer island.” Along the bottom is the phrase “EXPIRES OCTOBER 31, 2020.” On both the obverse and reverse, two herrings are also shown swimming along the left- and right-side edges.

“They are called ‘Grant’s herrings’ because he’s where I got the idea,” Bulmer told the Comox Valley Record, of the small forage fish that spawn in the waters around Hornby Island each spring.

Herrings are also featured on last year’s issue.

Long-time collector and part-time dealer Jim Bulmer mans a booth at Hornby Island’s Ringside Market his wife Dr. Barbara Froehner during Canada Day weekend in 2018.


Bulmer began his project by publishing an article about the history and use of municipal trade tokens in Hornby Island’s monthly paper, First Edition.

He then talked to Hornby’s economic council and community fund managers to determine profit allocation and how to market that information. After that, he created a design, sent it to Awards Canada in Winnipeg for preparation, and began advertising.

“After a couple more newspaper articles, the municipal trade tokens arrived and I started introducing them in earnest, going to public meetings and local businesses,” he told CCN in 2018. “Most had an inkling of what I was talking about from the newspaper articles, but seeing them, holding them and the small pins that are with them, the interest and energy began to grow.”

While the island is “a very accepting place” and its residents and businesses have “been very positive” about Bulmer’s project, he said some are “a wee bit perplexed.”

“More than anything, it is a souvenir to take home, your $20 has gone to support a worthy cause and all money stays on the island,” he said.

“The token is for – and about – the entire island, and so anticipates co-operation and acceptance by the whole island, but there are some, who for many reasons, are uncomfortable with strange money ideas, and I am thrusting it upon them.”

The project’s first mission, he added, “is to cause no one harm.”

“This has to be cost- and hassle-free for all involved, so if a customer decides to spend a token at a local vendor, that vendor will be reimbursed immediately, then the token goes for resale. For those who live here, the tokens are always redeemable and no one will lose money—except me, if it doesn’t work.”

The 2019 Hornby Island municipal trade token depicts a scene of the Salish Sea island alongside a swimming orca on its obverse (left) and the new K’ómoks First Nation totem pole on its reverse (right).

2018-2020 TOKENS

Struck in Winnipeg by Awards Canada, the 2020 Hornby Island trade token measures 50.8 millimetres in diameter and are made of brass with inlaid enamel.

With a mintage of 300 (down from 500 last year and 1,000 in 2018), each token also includes a serial number.

A total of 500 brass-and-enamel pins measuring 25.4 millimetres in diameter and featuring the token’s obverse design were also produced.

Hornby Island token and pin sets were also issued by Bulmer in 2018, the initiative’s inaugural year, and 2019. Both issues were designed by Bulmer.

In 2019, Bulmer issued 500 tokens and 800 pins. The obverse of the tokens depicts a silhouette of Hornby Island alongside a swimming orca, which recognizes the importance of the local orca population. The reverse features Hornby Island’s new K’ómoks First Nation totem pole, which was carved by artist Karver Everson and depicts Thunderbird and Sisiutl—lords of the upper and lower worlds. Also shown is a herring, signifying the yearly herring spawn, which vitalizes local sea life, including orcas, sea lions, salmon and countless other varieties of fish and sea birds.

In 2018, Bulmer issued 1,000 tokens and 2,000 pins. The obverse of the tokens features Hornby Island superimposed on a Canadian maple leaf resting atop blue waves from the flag of British Columbia. The words “HORNBY ISLAND BRITISH COLUMBIA” are also engraved around the top of the rim, and a serial number is included at the bottom. The reverse depicts a forester planting a tree alongside a breaching orca. The words “GOOD FOR $20 MAY 1 – OCTOBER 31 2018” are shown along the theme of that year’s tokens, “CONSERVATION.”

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