AE Penny Token
Seal r., on ice floe.
MAGDALEN ISLAND TOKEN
SUCCESS TO THE FISHERY
LC-1; Breton-520; KM Tn1
MS-64+ RB   PCGS   Ex F.S. Cokayne Collection; Ex Randy Weir; Ex Adam Biagi (The majority of the Cokayne collection was formed prior to 1901. Prior to acquisition by Weir, the last recorded sale date for this piece was in 1930.)
The Magdalen Islands are an archipelago of 13 islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They lie north of Prince Edward Island and west of Newfoundland. The islands were originally settled by the French and later ceded to Great Britain. Following the American Revolution, they were given to Sir Isaac Coffin in 1798 as gratitude for his loyalty and service to King George III during the war.
In 1815, under the belief that he had the right to coin money, Coffin commissioned the minting of penny tokens by the medallist Sir Edward Thomason of Birmingham, from dies engraved by Thomas Halliday. Coffin planned to set up a feudal system on the Magdalen Islands. He distributed the coins during his only visit to the islands. In his memoirs, Thomason described Coffin and his tokens as follows:
"1815. I had manufactured this year a large quantity of tokens for Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin, Bart., who is the sole possessor and king, as he calls himself, of the Magdalen Islands, situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in North America. They were principally of copper, pence and half-pence. The obverse was a seal, and the legend round the edge, ‘Magdalen Island Token 18I5’ The reverse a split codfish the legend ‘Success to the Fishery One Penny.’ As soon as a large quantity of these were struck off Sir Isaac sailed off with them, packed up in casks, and took with him a powerful coining press and machinery, and dies ready engraved, to establish what he called a little mint for his subjects to manufacture their coin for the future, on receiving the rolled copper from England and disposing of the scrap part to the Americans. All this I arranged for him agreeable to his wishes. On Sir Isaac’s return to England he informed me that the inhabitants paid him every attention and courtesy and were much delighted with the new coin he advanced by way of loan to some of the superiors, at a fair interest and for the expence that he had been at for their well-doing. They allowed him to institute a kind of poll tax, a trifle for each to pay annually to the committee of management, but no sooner had he left the Island but they broke faith and at the waters edge shouted out ‘Fouettez (Whip) King George, and King Coffin ! ’ I have reason to believe that the Admiral never again went to visit his subjects."
R.W. McLachlan noted in his article "The Magdalen Islands Coinage" published in "The Canadian Anqituarian and Numismatic Journal" that no specimen of the halfpenny token described by Thomason has been seen. He writes: "It may have been that Sir Edward in writing from memory took it for granted that there was, as naturally there should have been, a coinage of half pence. He may probably have prepared the dies for such a coinage and, as Sir Isaac, in his hurry, could not wait until any were struck, sent them to the Islands with the coining press. It seems, that from the reception his proposed poll tax received with which the running expences of his little mint was to be defrayed, that this mint never went into operation."