By Jesse Robitaille
With the help of Ontario-based collector John Masterson, Canadian Coin News will issue a special, limited-edition silver rounder in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Masterson, who’s the owner of Canada’s only hand-poured silver company, Beaver Bullion, was approached by CCN Publisher Mike Walsh this summer in regards to the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration.
“For me personally, I’ve been a member of the Canadian Centennial Collectors’ Club [CCCC] since about the time it was founded, and I’m big fan of the centennial medals, so I wanted to produce something for the sesquicentennial,” said Masterson, who’s also a member of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA); Ontario Numismatic Association; Canadian Association of Token Collectors (CATC); and Toronto Coin Club.
“Also, as a long-time subscriber of Canadian Coin News, I thought it would be fun to participate in a project with you guys.”
A long-time collector, Masterson has about 30 years of collecting experience.
“I was sorting pennies when I was 10-years-old,” he said, adding he now specializes in exonumia, trade dollars, 20th century Canadian medallions and silver bars.
“I like collecting silver bars, and that’s how I actually got into pouring silver,” he said. “I wanted to figure out if I could actually do it for myself because it’s fun to collect, but sometimes it’s also fun to get your hands dirty and make something.”
In producing a token for Canada’s 150th anniversary, Masterson wanted to use a technique that harkened back to the token producers who operated around the time of Canada’s founding in 1867.
“With all the things coming out for the sesquicentennial, and with everybody making coins using modern techniques – fancy machines, high-tonnage presses and other sorts of things – I wanted to make something that was more old-school and similar to what people might have been making 150 years ago, using more hand-made techniques.”
Masterson said his inspiration for these pieces was 19th century collector and token producer Thomas Church.
“I’m trying to give something that has a fun, hand-made feel to it, and I thought it would appeal to Canadian Coin News subscribers,” he said. “They’re made with a combination of hand stamps and four different types of hand-made chisels that I make. They very much have an old-school technique that dates back well over 1,000 years in coin making.”
Walsh said he’s pleased with the outcome.
“It’s very different than most commemoratives which I believe our collectors will find very appealing,” he said.
In honour of Canada’s sequential, only 150 of the one-troy ounce silver rounders have been minted. Each coin is individually numbered, and are only available to CCN subscribers. They are available for $49 each, which includes standard shipping. Only phone orders are being accepted; please call 1-800-408-0352 to place an order.
Church was born in Ireland in 1843. Eight years later, his family relocated to Ottawa, where he found work as a lumberman and eventually became the manager of a lumber mill.
A few months before the “Great Fire of 1900,” which destroyed most of Ottawa as well as nearby Hull, Que., Church lost his left hand in an industrial accident.
About 25 years before the fire – around the mid-1870s – Church had become an active collector of Canadian coins and tokens. By the following decade he was cutting his own dies, many of which were made using a process similar to the tokens catalogued by Pierre Napoleon Breton in his 1894 book, Illustrated History of the Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada. Church eventually built a workshop and a forge near his Ottawa home and began producing steel dies. The quality of his work would improve until it was nearly indistinguishable from the work of a professional die cutter.
In 1891, Church was among the renowned numismatic pioneers that founded the Société numismatique d’Ottawa (Ottawa Numismatic Society).
Throughout the following decade, Church began using different metals for his planchets, the dimensions of which varied from piece to piece, inspiring a cohort of collectors over the next century; however, for Church, this venture proved to be immediately successful. He struck tokens for G. W. Barrett, a shop owner in Leitrim, Ont., who was also his second wife’s brother-in-law (Church was married three times).
At the April 2016 Toronto Coin Expo Sale, a lot of six tokens struck by Church for Barrett’s shop was sold for $130 at Lot 24.
Church also struck tokens for the 1896 Central Canada Exhibition as well as tokens for Louis Laurin, the owner of a general store in Quebec and an active collector.
Following the Great Fire of 1900, which destroyed Church’s home and workshop, Church stopped producing tokens. He eventually died at age 74 on March 7, 1917.
Masterson said the CCN Canada 150 token will appeal to a variety of collectors.
“As a collector myself, I like things that are interesting and different,” he said. “I guess that’s the exonumia collector in me; I like something with a different appeal to it.”
Masterson said he hopes his fellow collectors – whether it be collectors of bullion, centennial medals, or advertising tokens – find this piece interesting.
A total mintage of 150 tokens will be struck. Each piece is struck in .999 silver; weighs at least one troy ounce (31.1035 grams); and has a diameter of about 31.75 mm.
“Give or take a mm or so because they’re not collared or meant to be perfect and uniform, but they’ll all be around that size,” he said, adding each token will also be stamped with a unique serial number.
“People have been making tokens for a couple hundred years, and they were able to do all this stuff by hand. It’s amazing how much we’ve forgotten and how hard it is to relearn stuff that used to be fairly commonplace,” he said, adding he’s happy to carry on the tradition.
For more information, visit beaverbullion.com.