World Coins

French Colonial coin from Canada highlights Gadoury Monaco auction

One of perhaps 14 examples known of a 1670-A silver 15-sol coin for French colonies is set for a November auction.

Coin images courtesy of Editions Victor Gadoury.

France’s colonization of the Americas began to hit its stride in the mid-1600s, with significant claims in what is modern-day Canada joined by several places in the Caribbean and Louisiana.

Though the reasons aren’t entirely clear, France decided to issue coins in 1670 for use in its colonial territories. This episode resulted in some of the great rarities of colonial numismatics, the 1670-A silver 15-sol coin.

The coin is “an icon of early Canadian numismatics,” according to auction house Editions V. Gadoury, which offers what it suggests is the finest known piece of this coin during its Nov. 15 sale in Monaco. 

In 1670, Jean-Baptiste Colbert founded the French West India Company, which also conducted trade with Canada. 

To facilitate monetary transactions in Canada, Colbert was granted permission to mint three different coin types for the colonies: silver 15- and 5-sol coins  and copper coins. 

Some 41,569 examples of the 15-sol pieces featuring the portrait of Louis XIV were minted at the Monnaie de Paris

They were delivered to the West India Company on Sept. 13, 1670, and the dies were destroyed afterward. Then, Colbert suffered a setback. Canadian merchants preferred barter. 

They melted the silver coins instead of accepting them at the official rate of 20 sols, 1 livre. 

That is why only 14 examples of these 15-sol pieces are known today. 

That tally includes a piece sold in the 2006 auction of the John J. Ford Jr. Collection (Part XIII). That piece, graded Extremely Fine by the auction house Stack’s, realized $149,500, including the 15 percent buyer’s fee.

Ford believed his coin was the second finest after a Fleur-de-Coin example in the Bibliotheque Nationale collection. 

According to Federico Pastrone, owner of the Gadoury firm, the example offered in the present auction “is better than the Ford one.”

The present example is graded Extremely Fine 45 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and has an opening bid of €60,000 ($66,461 U.S.). 


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