Molsons Bank grouping ignites pre-auction attention

By Jesse Robitaille

Nearly two dozen notes from a long-running chartered bank founded in Montréal by the sons of an iconic brewing magnate have drawn the attention of notaphilists as they prepare to cross the auction block this April.

In business as a note-issuing bank for 88 years, including seven decades operating under a charter, the Molsons Bank formed in 1837 amid widespread financial panic and the beginning of a six-year global depression. The bank’s origins also tie into the armed rebellions first orchestrated that year by insurgents opposed to Britain’s colonial government in Upper Canada and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Québec, respectively). Against the backdrop of about a dozen battles and skirmishes plus regular civil disobedience and protests, the Lower Canadian government suspended payments in specie (coins, including bullion, and not banknotes), which proved to be a boon to the Molson family’s early banking endeavours.

During its April 14-15 Premier Auction, Colonial Acres will offer an unprecedented 22-note grouping of 1837-1922 Molsons Bank notes, most of them certified by Banknote Certification Service (BCS). The auction will be held during the National Postage Stamp and Coin Show, hosted by Trajan Publishing.

“I was quite impressed at the quantity and quality of these pieces,” said BCS owner and grader Steven Bell, who added it’s “the largest batch of Molsons Bank pieces I’ve handled at any given time.”

“The quality of the notes also struck me as impressive. For many of these pieces, if you actually find one up for bids, it is usually in a very far-gone condition. This lot offers the opportunity to own a good number of Molsons Bank notes in a very respectable mid-range.”

To be offered as Lots 980-1001, the notes will re-enter the market at a time when banknote realizations regularly hit record highs.

“I find the market to be quite robust – more so than we have seen in years,” said Bell, who has certified more than 100,000 notes since forming BCS in January 2008. “Record prices are being realized left, right and centre, and I don’t see anything signalizing a decline in interest in the hobby.”

Among the Molsons Bank highlights are two 1871 issues in unusual denominations of $6 and $7.

“These were issued so that vendors could make change in Molsons Bank notes rather than with smaller Dominion of Canada issues,” according to auctioneers. “As such, Molsons’ notes would keep circulating without being redeemed and denting the bank’s currency holdings.”

The 1871 $6 note, one of only five known examples, including two in institutional collections, will be offered as Lot 983. The only Molsons lot graded by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), it’s certified as Fine-15 with a “NET” designation, which refers to “problems that are more severe than can be reflected by the note’s assigned numeric grade” (in this case, a “minor restoration”). Despite the designation, it’s the highest-graded example in private hands.

“Even tones and a lack of noticeable blemishes make this lightly restored note a beauty to behold, worthy of the highest prominence in one’s own personal museum,” according to auctioneers, who estimate the note at $60,000-$100,000.

The following lot offers the 1871 $7 note, one of nine known examples, including six in private hands.

“Tiny spots, minor missing pieces, and other issues do not detract from the note’s fine details and exceeding collectability,” according to auctioneers.

In Fine-12 from BCS, it’s tied as the highest-grade example and carries an estimate of $40,000-$80,000.

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