By Jesse Robitaille
Realizations include buyer’s premium.
A circa 1817 Beaver Club of Montréal medal named to David David, the first Canadian-born Jew, sold for $84,000 US (about $106,000 Cdn.) as part of the Donald Partrick Collection this April.
The extremely rare engraved gold medal crossed the block as Lot 3060 of Heritage Auctions’ April 22-25 Central States sale, where it was tucked among a 28-lot offering of mostly U.S. medals and tokens. It last sold more than three decades ago – in a June 1990 Jeffrey Hoare Auctions sale – at Toronto’s Torex show, where it brought $51,700 as Lot 1206.
Fewer than 25 examples are believed to exist, according to Heritage auctioneers, who found only eight appearances of four different Beaver Club medals – the David David example among them – over the past 150 years. Two of those medals have since found their way into institutional collections.
“These medals are extremely important as all the men that were in that club were great men,” said Canadian dealer Clément Chapados-Girard, of Lévis, Qué., who has closely watched the Partrick Collection cross the block since the first sale in 2015. “Many of them helped build the Canada that we know today.”
THE CLUB & ITS MEMBERS
An exclusive organization for adventurers who had wintered in Canada’s interior, the Beaver Club was formed in 1785 by 19 French, English and Scottish fur traders aligned with the North West Company, then a rival of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Their goal was “to bring together … a set of men highly respectable in society, who had passed their best days in a savage country and had encountered the difficulties and dangers incident to a pursuit of the fur trade of Canada.”
In 1979, Manitoba Museum assistant curator Philip Eyler called the Beaver Club “probably one of the most exclusive and powerful social clubs the world has ever known.”
“Membership was by invitation only, and while wealth was a primary consideration, only those who had actually spent a winter in the interior were admitted,” he wrote in the November 1979 issue of the Numismatics International Bulletin. “Over the ensuing years, some members – mainly French-Canadian – dropped out while the membership expanded among English-speaking fur traders. The requirement for wintering in the interior was relaxed, and a supplementary role of honorary members was established. During the forty-two years in which the Beaver Club existed, close to a hundred members were admitted.”
Scottish merchant James McGill was among the club’s 19 original members. McGill’s 1813 bequest formed the University of McGill College, the precursor to Montréal’s McGill University, which officially earned that name in 1885.