World Coins

Coppers of Upper Canada are subject of new book

Author Christopher Faulkner has published a book exploring the copper tokens of Upper Canada from 1815 to 1841.

Images courtesy of Christopher Faulkner.

A variety of coins passed as hard money in Upper Canada prior to the formation of the Province of Canada.

These issues of 1815 to 1841 are the subject of a new book by Christopher Faulkner, titled Coins Are Like Songs: The Upper Canada Coppers, 1815-1841.

Though it is an exploration of the monetary history of Upper Canada; the book is only a partial history, since its focus is only with copper tokens, the basest form of currency. 

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The book is in two parts. Much of the general introduction is devoted to establishing some of the historical context in which the Upper Canada coppers were issued and circulated. 

To that end, it is important to understand the growth and size of settlements in Upper Canada, of whom their populations consisted, in what occupations and leisure activities those populations were engaged, the economic foundations of the Province which led to trade and commerce and created the conditions necessary for copper tokens, along with the social changes across 50 years. 

The second part of the book is a descriptive catalog of the copper tokens issued for use in Upper Canada, examining by whom and where these tokens were struck, by whom and when they were issued, and where exactly and for what period of time they circulated. Every token is illustrated and its specifications provided.

The title of this book comes from a remark by John MacTaggart, who spent three years in Upper Canada between 1826 and 1828 working with John By on the Rideau Canal. MacTaggart observed that “the very coins of a realm, like the songs, affect its character. The emblems on the current coins of Canada help to make Yankees of the Colonists.” 

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His complaint was directed at “silver coins having eagles, stars, and emblems of liberty stamped upon them.” MacTaggart seems to have equated the ubiquity of American coins in Upper Canada with republican propaganda against the British Crown. 

Unlike MacTaggart, Faulkner takes the claim that “coins are like songs” to convey something more and something larger than the narrowest propaganda. 

Faulkner said: “Copper tokens are like popular songs because they sing their meaning everywhere and to all who hold them in their hands. They evoke a whole world, a world of farmers and merchants, artisans and labourers, which was particular to Upper Canada.”

Dealer Kolbe & Fanning is offering the book to collectors, for $95 plus shipping and handling, at its website.

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