OTD: King Louis orders Canada’s first coinage

On today’s date in 1670, France’s King Louis XIV modified an edict from a month earlier to order 100,000 livres of coinage for New France, a French colony consisting of much of eastern Canada and the United States.

Nearly three and a half centuries ago – about 250 years before Canadian Confederation – the first coins used in what would later become Canada were minted and issued. With New France’s humble beginnings came the need for a local currency, which was met halfway by the use of French coins; however, in 1670, King Louis XIV issued new coinage for use in his North American colonies.

The king minted the new coinage “to facilitate commerce in Canada,” according to Alfred Sandham in his 1869 book Coins, Tokens and Medals of the Dominion of Canada: Supplement.

“This money was to be of the same weight as that of France.”

Denominations of five sols and 15 sols were struck in silver while a two-deniers piece was struck in copper.

A lot description for a five-sol example offered in 2018 by Stack’s Bowers Galleries explains: “Using his considerable influence with King Louis XIV in his capacity as Controller, (Jean Baptiste) Colbert was successful in having a decree issued on February 19, 1670, for a special coinage to be minted under royal authority for use in the territories controlled by the French West India Company. This decree, and a modifying one dated March 24, 1670, authorized mintages for three different denominations: 40,000 examples of the silver 15 sols; 200,000 examples of the silver 5 sols; and 2,400,000 examples of the copper double. Coinage began on July 7, 1670, at the Paris Mint and continued through September 9, by which time 41,569 and 202,453 pieces were struck for the 15 sols and 5 sols, respectively. Only a single copper double is known to exist, and it is believed that only a few examples of that denomination were struck due to problems encountered in the die preparation process. The dies for the silver denominations are attributed to Jean Warin, engraver of the mint.”

The coins’ Latin inscription refers to the king, whose bust is depicted on the obverse: “They shall speak of thy glory of thy kingdom.” Beneath the inscription is an “A,” which is the Paris Mint mark.

A 1670-A 15-sol coin graded Very Fine-35 brought $129,250 US at a 2015 sale in Baltimore.

15-SOL AUCTION RESULTS

A 1670-A 15-sols piece was offered as Lot 2494 in the March 2015 Baltimore sale by Stack’s Bowers.

Described as “extremely rare” and one of only six examples in private hands, this piece brought $129,250 US. It was graded Very Fine-35 by Professional Coin Grading Service.

Only 14 examples are thought to exist, and eight pieces are permanently held in major institutions in Canada, France, England and the United States.

In March 2021, another 15-sol example sold for $60,000 US (about $74,700 Cdn.) at an auction by Heritage Auctions. To read CCN’s review of that sale, click here.

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