When the Suez and Panama canals were built, local systems of money
were necessary to pay the workers in the remote areas where
construction was taking place.
Examples of that token coinage – issued by the firms hired to work
on the canals – are offered in Dix Noonan Webb’s April 2 and 3 auction
One lot is a copper 5-franc piece issued by Ch. & A. Bazin Co.,
dated 1865 and featuring a charming obverse scene of a ship presumably
sailing through the canal after it is finished. Tiny anchors flank the
date below. The reverse shows a wreath of grain and oak leaves, with
the legend indicating the token is “good for” 5 francs.
In Very Fine condition, the Suez token is estimated at £350 to £450
(about $579 to $745 U.S.).
Five tokens from the Panama Canal are offered in another lot. The
collection includes a copper-nickel 5-centavo piece from Alexander
Hoskins; a brass 10-centavo token from NCO Club; a copper-nickel
5-centavo piece from Zubieta & Pasos; a uniface copper-nickel
5-centavo token from Roncallo y Ca.; and a red vulcanite 5-cantine
token from the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique de Panama.
That latter organization was infamously led by the charismatic
Ferdinand de Lesseps, who led the unsuccessful initial French effort
to build the canal. The company was forced to file bankruptcy in 1889,
so the token was in use some time between late 1879 and early 1889.
The denomination and name of issuer appear on this token, which is
dominated on each side by a numeral 5.
The vulcanite token is perhaps the rarest Panama Canal token. All
five pieces in the lot are VF and the lot is estimated to realize £200
to £300 (about $331 to $496 U.S.).
To find out more about the auction or the lot, telephone the firm at
(011) 44 20 7016 1700, email it at email@example.com or visit its website, www.dnw.co.uk.