(c. 1824) R.W. Owen Ropery Token, Breton-564. MS63 Brown PCGS.

Currency:CAD Category:Coins & Paper Money Start Price:75,000.00 CAD Estimated At:75,000.00 - 95,000.00 CAD
(c. 1824) R.W. Owen Ropery Token, Breton-564. MS63 Brown PCGS.

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27.8mm. The R.W. Owen Ropery token is one of the monumental rarities in Canadian numismatics. Writing in Imperial Designs (2019), Christopher Faulkner describes the Owen Ropery token as “extremely rare and thus beyond the means of all but a very few collectors.” Earlier, R.W. McLachlan, commenting in “Our Rarest Canadian Coins,” published in the July 1882 issue of the Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal, called the token “a great rarity” that “has always been esteemed by Canadian collectors one of the gems of their collections.”
The Ropery tokens were issued by R.W. Owen of Montreal, who started a rope-making business in or just before 1824. According to McLachlan, “It was a small affair situated in Gain street in the eastern part of the city, and consisted of an open shed by the side of a fence, under which was wheel turned by hand. The quantity of hemp used was less than four tons per annum, and a small supply of lines rather than ropes, the product.” Owen sold his ropery to Mr. J.A. Converse in 1825 and subsequently moved to Kingston, Ontario. McLachlan, who gleaned his information from Mr. Converse’s reminiscences (he was still alive at the time the article was published), claims Owen’s tokens were struck in Birmingham and issued about 1824. The short amount of time between the tokens’ issuance and Mr. Owen selling his business may explain the token’s rarity today.
We estimate 15 to 25 examples of the Owen Ropery token are known. The Charlton guide claims that “very few of these tokens circulated.” However, most of the pieces known today are well-worn, typically ranging from Fine to Very Fine and seldom problem-free (corrosion, scratches, digs, lacquer, etc). This example is simply exceptional. It is one of just two Mint State pieces we are aware of. Although the other is graded MS64 Brown by PCGS, this MS63 Brown representative maintains considerable original red colour and may be unique as such. It was described in its last appearance as follows:

“Faded mint color dominates the obverse, mellowing more further from the still-red center. The reverse is frosty medium brown with faded mint color remaining around the rope and periphery. Superb cartwheel luster on both sides, positively no wear, outstanding eye appeal for any early token, let alone an Owen Ropery. A minuscule patch of verdigris is present below 9 o'clock inside the obverse rim, another smaller patch in the obverse exergue, a few microscopic specks elsewhere. A very tiny rim nick is visible just left of 6 o'clock on the obverse, and a pinpoint of red paint is on the rope link just left of R to begin the reverse legend. A glass detects a few subtle hairlines. A simply outstanding example of one of the great Canadian rarities, the King of Pre-Confederation tokens.”

We have nothing further to add, save to say that beyond its exemplary condition, this Choice Uncirculated offering boasts an impeccable pedigree. It can be traced back to the collection of Count Ferrari, Philippe de Ferrari (1850-1917), who owned many other incredible rarities, including fabulous patterns and a 1670-A 15 sols. This token was later placed in the collection of W.W.C. Wilson, of Montreal. It was sold as part of that collection for $210, an incredible amount of money at the time. (By contrast, an 1845 Bank of Montreal halfpenny brought $145.) It was purchased by L.A. Renaud and eventually passed through the hands of unknown intermediaries before ending up with John J. Ford, Jr. Since 2013, it has resided in the collection of Michael Joffre. The token served as the cover coin for the 9th edition of Charlton’s Canadian Colonial Tokens (2015).
Ex: Count Ferrari Collection (Catalogue of the Famous and Remarkable Collection of British and Colonial Coins, Patterns & Proofs From George III to the Present Day, Formed by A Nobleman, Recently Deceased) (Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge, 3/1922), lot 666 as part of a group of three tokens, including a Lauzon Ferry token and 1820 North West Company token; W.W.C. Wilson Collection (Wayte Raymond, 11/1926), lot 50; L.A. Renaud; unknown intermediaries; John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, Part 23 (Stack’s Bowers, 8/2013), lot 21127; Michael Joffre Collection.