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Q: Magdalen Islands' Half Pence Tokens ( No Answer,   4 Comments )
Subject: Magdalen Islands' Half Pence Tokens
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: brudenell-ga
List Price: $100.01
Posted: 26 Aug 2006 15:23 PDT
Expires: 25 Sep 2006 15:23 PDT
Question ID: 759796
I would like to see proof & an image (jpeg) confirming the reported
existance of a halfpence token from the Magdalen Islands (Iles de la

Reference to these mysterious tokens is made at this

This is the second time that I have heard of these "half pence" coins. A coin
collector (lobster fisherman by trade) on the islands was told this
summer that such a coin existed and was in the possesion of an unnamed
person in Alberta, Canada.

Here is a reply to an email that I had sent to the individual enquiring in:

"The Magdalen Island halfpence tokens are a genuine enigma.  They are
reported in at least two places... the first being an autobiography by Sir
Edward Thomason who claims to have struck the halfpence tokens as well as
the well-known and well-executed penny tokens... and the second being an
appearance in an auction sale conducted by William Harvey Strobridge in Dec.

I too have 'heard' of the coin's existence in modern times but believe it to
be an urban legend which I would dearly love to be true."

Request for Question Clarification by crabcakes-ga on 26 Aug 2006 17:53 PDT
Hello Brudenell,

   Because I am unable to say with certitude that a half-penny did NOT
exist in the Magdalen Islands, I am posting this as a clarification
only. I also think that some of the books at the end of my
clarification may prove to be useful, as well as contacting Galata
(more below).

  Perhaps another researcher can find the exact answer for you!

    ?McLachlan(18) argues that all copper tokens circulated for
halfpence in Canada. He therefore takes all pennies and farthings to
be British, rather than Canadian. He bases his conclusion on a
statement made on the 10th of March 1817 from one John Reinhardt,
tobacconist, to a special committee of the House of Commons(19) that
for two years past a considerable quantity of Pieces of Copper ... has
circulated in the Country ... as Copper Coin or Halfpence. These
pieces have been in part clandestinely introduced into the Country as
merchandise. I have for nearly two years past received and paid them
as Copper Coin ... About the month of December last they suddenly fell
into discredit and no one would take them as Coin. The chief reason is
that they abound too much ... Most of these pieces were inscribed
"Wellington" ... some of them have been imported among cargoes by

If one takes Mr Reinhardt's statement literally, it would indeed
indicate that "Copper Coin" and "Halfpence" are synonyms. There are
arguments against such an assumption. These rest on the series with
the RH monogram on the obverse and a ship on the reverse (Breton 989
to 991). This series consist of a penny, halfpenny and farthing. The
halfpenny is generally accepted as Canadian, even by McLachlan(20). It
seems highly unlikely that the halfpennies were produced only for
Canada and the other two tokens were made exclusively for circulation
in Britain, especially because the halfpennies and pennies are about
equally common.?

   ?However, when the British authorities learned that Coffin had
ordered a private coinage, he was duly informed that the right of
coinage was vested only in the Crown. Following this, it appears that
halfpennies were never produced.?

   According to this web site, taken from Wikipedia: ?The Magdalen
Islands had only one coin - a 1 Penny token issued in 1815 by Sir
Isaac Coffin.
   The obverse of the coin depicts a seal on an ice floe. It is
inscribed 'MAGDALEN ISLAND TOKEN 1815'. The reverse of the coin
depicts two gutted fish similar to that depicted on 1/2d. tokens from
Prince Edward Island. The reverse inscription is 'SUCCESS TO THE
FISHERIES', which refers the fishing industry essential to the
islands' economy.

This coin is very sought after by collectors of British Empire coins,
not just those of Canada, as this piece is very rare.

Reference -Coins of Canada by J.A. Haxby and R.C. Willey.? Note the
caveat ?This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed
encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors?.
However, the source,  Coins of Canada by J.A. Haxby and R.C. Willey,
is stated.

There were other halfpennies from the same time period in Canada:

A forged Brittania halfpenny:

I found a similar page to the one you posted!


Darryl Atchison writes: "I was hoping that one of the E-Sylum
readers would be able to provide me with the lot description,
price realized and buyer of lot no. 44 in the William Harvey
Strobridge auction sale conducted on Dec. 5 - 7, 1871.

This lot was comprised of two 'mysterious' halfpence tokens from
Magdalen Island.  Most of our readers will be familiar with the
large, attractive copper penny token issued c1815 which depicts
a seal on one side and some dried cod on the other.

However, the present whereabouts of any halfpence tokens is unknown
despite the fact that Sir Edward Thomason records their manufacture
in his autobiography entitled, Memoirs During Half A Century, which
was published in 1845.

I would also be extremely interested in hearing from anyone who may
have heard any 'rumours' concerning the whereabouts of the two
pieces sold in the Strobridge sale or otherwise.?  

On the (whole)penny:

   ?One of the first tokens to reach Canada was the penny of the
Island-of-the-Madeleine (Br520). This token, one of heaviest to have
circulated in Canada was introduced by Sir Isaac Coffin, when he
visited his North-American possessions in 1815 (11). Between 1813 and
1816, anonymous light tokens started to appear in the area of
Montreal. The first show a boat (Br 965 and Br 966), then came a type
with an officer (12) and the text ?Victoria Nobis Is? (the victory is
ours, Br 982). These parts were much lighter than the governmental
parts, lighter still than the contemporary British tokens. Their
successes paved the way with an invasion of very light parts showing
Wellington and Britannia or a toothing-stone crowned with reverse (Br
969, 971, 972, 979, 980, 981). Similar tokens showed a boat (Br 989,
990, 995, 996, 1003, 1005 and 1005) or the bust of civil (13) (Br
1006). Majority, if not all, were manufactured in England (14).?

I?m providing the French version, in case the English is not properly
translated. (I don?t speak French!)

Un des premiers jetons à atteindre le Canada fut le penny de
l?Île-de-la-Madeleine (Br520). Ce jeton, l?un des plus pesants à avoir
circulé au Canada fut introduit par Sir Isaac Coffin, quand il a
visité ses possessions nord-américaines en 1815(11). Entre 1813 et
1816, des jetons légers anonymes ont commencé à apparaître dans la
région de Montréal. Les premiers montrent un bateau (Br 965 et Br
966), puis vint un type avec un officier(12) et le texte «Victoria
Nobis Est» (La victoire est nôtre, Br 982). Ces pièces étaient bien
plus légères que les pièces gouvernementales, plus légères encore que
les jetons britanniques contemporains. Leurs succès a pavé la voie à
une invasion de pièces très légères montrant Wellington et Britannia
ou une harpe couronnée au revers (Br 969, 971, 972, 979, 980, 981).
Des jetons semblables montraient un bateau (Br 989, 990, 995, 996,
1003, 1005 et 1005) ou le buste d?un civil(13) (Br 1006). La plupart,
sinon tous, furent fabriquées en Angleterre(14).

This eBay site has some images of the penny, not the half-penny.
The seller posts ?The Magdalen Islands, a group of 16 islands situated
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, were discovered by Jacques Cartier during
his voyage to the Gaspe in 1534. The islands were granted to Sir Isaac
Coffin in 1787 in recognition of the Boston-born Admiral's loyal
service to Britain during the American War of Independence. Fancying
himself somewhat of a feudal lord, Sir Isaac decided to introduce his
own coinage of pure copper penny and halfpenny tokens to his North
American possessions. In 1815 an issue of penny tokens produced in
Birmingham, England, was sent out to the Magdalens and distributed to
the local fishermen. However, when the British authorities learned
that Coffin had ordered a private coinage, he was duly informed that
the right of coinage was vested only in the Crown. Following this, it
appears that halfpennies were never produced. The choice of subjects
depicted on Coffin's penny token was, and indeed still is,
appropriate. The obverse shows a fur seal, while the reverse features
a split codfish - thus denoting the main resources of the islands. The
reverse also bears the inscription "SUCCESS TO THE FISHERY" and the
denomination "ONE PENNY." It is interesting to note that although
these tokens did not receive royal approval they apparently did
circulate extensively and, as a result, few examples are found in mint
Description from Bank of Canada.?:

Here is another image of the copper penny:

Have you checked these books?

Canada's Money, John M. Kleeberg, Ed.
Coinage of the Americas Conference
Proceedings No. 8 (New York, The American Numismatic Society 1994) illus. 
ISBN 0-89722-252-0
KATEN, FRANK and TAYMAN, BARRY. The Magdalen Island Token.

   ATKINS, JAMES. The Coins and Tokens of The Possessions and Colonies
of The British Empire. Contents: I. Europe: The channel islands, The
isle of man, Gibraltar, Malta, The Ionian islands and Cyprus. And
including the Anglo-Hanoverian coinage of Hanover with Brunswick
Luneburg, east Friesland, and Brunswick Wolfenbuttel. II. Asia: 1.
Embracing the presidencies of Bombay, Bengal and Madras. The Indian
empire, Ceylon, Sumatra, Malacca, Pulu-Penang and the straits
settlements, together with Java, Hong-Kong, Labuan, Borneo, Sarawak
and Mauritius. III. Africa: Consisting of the Gold Coast, Sierra
Leone, St. Helena, The Cape Colony, Griqua town and Natal. IV.
America: Comprising the early American coinages and Newfoundland. The
dominion of Canada, which includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince
Edward's Island, Magdalen island, British Columbia and Upper and Lower
Canada. Together with the West Indies, British Honduras, and British
Guiana. V. Australasia: Embracing in Australia the provinces of New
South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western
Australia. And including the islands of Van Dieman's Land or Tasmania,
and New Zealand. Index.
 London, Reprint. First published in 1888. 1993.

Interesting information, but not useful! (LOL)
?Another fascinating exhibit is a token from the 1800s when Issac
Coffin tried to run the Islands like a feudal dynasty. Unbelievable as
it sounds today, as recently as 1895 Islanders could not own land and
were often forced to leave the Islands, setting up Acadian settlements
in such outposts as Havre St-Pierre, Blanc Sablon and Natashquan on
Quebec's North Shore.?

?After Canada was ceded to Great Britain in 1763, the British made
little effort to supply official currency for their North American
holdings. In 1815, Sir Isaac Coffin became possibly the first one to
rectify this by issueing an unofficial copper penny for the Magdalen
Islands. The coin had the image of a seal on it with the
words,"Magdelan Island Token", on one side and "Success to the
Fisheries", on the other. However, the residents, mainly french
fishermen, disliked Coffin and showed him little respect. It has been
said that Coffin, once tried to expel his tenants on the Island but
the British government frowned on the idea. After his death, the
control of the Islands went to his nephews, the sons of his brother
John and sister Ann.?

This site may be a good resource:

Try contacting the publisher for a copy of this article:

It may be that the token did not exist, or it may be that in common
usage the copper token was called a halfpenny (halfpence). I'm not
able to prove it one way or antother!

Sincerely, Crabcakes

Request for Question Clarification by crabcakes-ga on 26 Aug 2006 17:57 PDT
HEllo again,

  I just saw that you had directed this question previously to
Bobbie7. If she can't find anything proving this token existed, and I
can't find anything...

Regards, Crabcakes

Clarification of Question by brudenell-ga on 27 Aug 2006 04:15 PDT
Hello again crabcakes!

Nice to hear from you again. I appreciate that you have taken a stab
at solving this mystery.

Long ago I searched the web for any sign of the half pence rumoured
coin with no luck. This question was posted because twice in the last
few months I have heard or seen reference to it.

Emails have also been sent to coin dealers on this subject and to date
I have received no reply.

Having searched the web prior to posting this question & I realized
that this was going to be tough. Expert assistance was required.

I am grateful to all Researchers who attempt to find the proof I seek.

Thank you

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Magdalen Islands' Half Pence Tokens
From: myoarin-ga on 27 Aug 2006 05:33 PDT
Hi Brudenell,
What an intriguing problem.  I really know nothing about the subject
except what I have read here.  Two things have occurred to me,

1)  A single query somewhere could lead to a flurry of mentions that
appear to be unrelated.

2)  Apparently Coffin's pence token was heavier than most, a bit
generous and wasteful.  If Gresham's Law applied to the circulation of
pence tokens, his would have been hoarded, so that coins on the
islands were still insufficient for trade.
Thus he may have later ordered the halfpence tokens.  But this could
have occurred about the time he was ordered to stop issuing coins, so
that perhaps Thomason only struck a couple of proofs but never
produced the coins ordered, or they were melted down.
Sir Edward was actively internationally (Eire Canal medal, one
celebrating the 1813 Battle near Leipzig and Congress of Vienna).  He
would have been careful to avoid activity that would be contrary to
the authorities.

His memoirs are two volumes of 481 and 364 pages.  Perhaps there is a
rather encyclopedic listing of everything in his order books, whereby
die-cutting would have been more important to him than what happen to
Here is a site with his memoirs.  They are listed alphabetically, his
quite near the bottom:
25192 Thomason, Edward Sir Edward Thomason's Memoirs During Half A Century

See Item 9573 on this site for this reference to an interesting catalogue:

""Batty's Catalogue of the Copper Coinage of Great Britain, Ireland,
British Isles and Colonies, Local and Private Tokens, Jetons, etc."
published in Manchester between 1868 and 1898. It was the first
general catalog of British tokens, but very hard to use as the tokens
were not listed in any particular order, but randomly as Batty came
upon newly discovered items."

Hope this if of some interest.
Subject: Thanks Myoarin
From: brudenell-ga on 27 Aug 2006 08:34 PDT
Interesting comment. I agree: "A single query somewhere could lead to
a flurry of mentions that appear to be unrelated."

It would be very interesting to go through (slowly...): Batty's
Catalogue of the Copper Coinage of Great Britain, Ireland,British
Isles and Colonies, Local and Private Tokens, Jetons, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to post.


Subject: Re: Magdalen Islands' Half Pence Tokens
From: myoarin-ga on 27 Aug 2006 09:50 PDT
But find an edition ...?  Maybe the National Trust has an index of
books in its estates, but I doubt it.
The quest for the possible (!) answer to the quest could be almost as difficult.
But it was fun discovering something that maybe could help, even if it
adds to the frustration.

CHeers, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Magdalen Islands' Half Pence Tokens
From: uzzz-ga on 28 Aug 2006 03:40 PDT
The editor and member of the Review Committee of the exhaustive
Canadian Numismatic Bibliography Project (
) - has researched Batty's Catalogue and found it extremely difficult
to use. Canadian Numismatic Bibliography has been worked on for the
past 11 years. The Bibliography is due to go to the printers in
approximately five-six weeks.  It will be a two-volume, 1200+ page,
hardbound, signature-sewn publication with an approximately 120 page
index (in three columns).  The text covers every conceivable field of
Canadian numismatics from the period of the FrenchRegime to the
present day.

He also has tried numerous times to purchase a set of Batty's at
various auctions but has never been successful.

Even with all of his numismatic experience and contacts, he too is
part of the ongoing search for this reported half pence coin.

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