NGC Certifies Finest Known 1820 North West Company Token

Posted on 10/10/2017

This rare unholed example issued by the fur trading business will go to auction in 2018.

NGC recently certified the finest known 1820 North West Company Token. Graded NGC MS 61, it is remarkable in its detail and surface quality for the issue.

This example first appeared in public auction in 1952 during New Netherlands' section of the ANA auction, described as: “Absolutely the finest specimen of this rarity we have ever seen.” It was acquired by legendary dealer Wayte Raymond and sold as part of his estate. It next appeared at auction on May 11, 2004, in the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, Part 2 sale. Described again as “one of the finest seen,” it realized a record price for the issue, $48,300.

1820 North West Company Token, graded NGC MS 61,
Click images to enlarge.

The North West Company was established by Montreal fur traders in 1779 and rapidly expanded across North America and into Oregon Country. With great success, North West’s agents bought animal furs and beaver pelts from trappers and natives. Gradually, competition and territorial disputes with its rival, Hudson’s Bay Company, wore on North West, forcing the two companies to merge in 1821. To satisfy the requirements of its Royal Charter, Hudson’s name was retained.

Perhaps prompted by its financial position, in its final year of operation under its name, North West Company issued tokens redeemable in trade goods with the value of one beaver pelt. They were struck in England in both brass and copper and issued with holes for suspension. Their obverse shows a draped laureate bust of King George IV of England and the date 1820. On the reverse, a well-rendered beaver is surrounded by the company’s name.

From the late 19th Century, these tokens have been highly sought after by collectors in Canada and the United States. Several buried caches of coins were recovered from the Umpqua and Columbia River valleys in Oregon and Washington, respectively. It has been included in the Redbook as a Post-Colonial Issue since the 12th edition (1959). Most examples encountered show moderate wear and have corrosion spots or areas of porosity. They are very rare, with well fewer than 100 examples known in all grades, the majority in brass; only six are said to be unholed.

The token graded NGC MS 61 now forms part of the Doug Robins Collection and is scheduled to be sold by Heritage Auctions in early Spring 2018. Interested parties should check Heritage Auctions' website, for updates.

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