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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 9, March 2, 2008, Article 4

BOOK REVIEW: THE 1858 CENTS OF PROVINCIAL CANADA BY ROB TURNER

David W. Lange writes: "I finally got around to doing
something I've wanted to do for months - I've written a
review of Rob Turner's book on the Canadian cents of 1858.
I hope your readers will find this useful."

[Many thanks to Dave for penning his thoughtful review.
I've been curious about this book myself, and Dave's painted
a very detailed picture for potential buyers and readers.
-Editor]

Though Iím not a collector of Canadian coins, aside from
a few type pieces acquired here and there, Iíve belonged
to the Canadian Numismatic Association for the past ten
years. I joined because of a particular article in its CN
Journal that was of interest to collectors of United States
coins, but Iíve since come to enjoy the blend of serious
numismatics and chatty news reminiscent of The Numismatist
in simpler times.

One of the additional benefits of membership is learning
of new publications that might otherwise fly beneath my
radar. Such a book is Rob Turnerís recent epic, The 1858
Cents of Provincial Canada. Rob is American, and his book
was published in the USA, but it does not seem to have been
well publicized here. I was drawn to this book after seeing
a series of half-page ads in The CN Journal describing its
features. Beyond the specific subject matter of the bookís
title, these ads promised a thorough history of the inception
of Canadaís decimal coinage. This is the sort of detailed
reference that has become fairly commonplace for USA coins
in the past 20 years but which remains a rare treat for
modern world coins. I was intrigued enough to order the
book almost immediately, anticipating that a work this
detailed would someday be out of print and impossible
to find.

I was certainly not disappointed. Of general interest to
numismatists is the bookís historical background on the
monetary system of pre-decimal Canada, with its conflicting
legal tender rates between Upper Canada and Lower Canada.
Both belonged to the British Empire and utilized the UKís
sterling coinage, but the coinage of the USA was so
prevalent that it tended to dominate commerce in Canada.

The USAís devaluation of gold in 1834 further confused
matters by disturbing the value of American coins relative
to British coins, both of which were valued locally in terms
of a Canadian pound of account. With no coinage of their
own to represent such a pound, attempts by the Canadians
to standardize exchange rates were often resisted by the
British government, which continued to impose legal values
that resulted in very awkward conversions. In his book
Turner explains these developments fully in both narrative
and tabular forms that make it simple to understand this
seemingly complex situation.

The long evolution of the legislation that ultimately
resulted in the decimal coinage of 1858 to date is detailed
in full. This history is richly documented with quotations
from contemporary accounts and includes complete source
citations for the researcher. Also featured are excellent
photographs of the persons who played key roles in the
advocacy and creation of the decimal coinage. In this respect,
Rob Turner has done for the Canadian coinage of 1858 what
Roger Burdette has done for the USA coinage of 1905-21.
In relating some of the technical details of this historic
coinage, Turner has included data on the number of dies
utilized, as well as the dates on which they were prepared
and destroyed.

Another table relates the recoining of the obsolete 20-cent
pieces, which were discontinued when the Confederation
coinage began in 1870. These recoining figures tell in which
specific years the 20-cent pieces were destroyed and into
which denominations they were recoined during those years.
Of course, this information may be found in the Royal Mint
Reports for the various years involved, but Turner has
performed the tedious research required to obtain it and
has presented the facts in an entertaining narrative that
reads easily.

Also found in this book is a brief but quite interesting
history of the New Tower Mint in London, which began operations
in 1810 and produced the majority of Canadian decimal coins
until Canada received its own mint in 1908. This history is
accompanied by beautiful color illustrations of the historic
building, which ceased coining operations 30 years ago. Also
detailed is the Royal Mintís subcontracting of Canadian
coinage to the privately owned Heaton Mint in Birmingham.
The book includes both numismatic and financial data relating
to this partnership.

As the main theme of Turnerís book is the bronze cent coinage
of 1858, there is much information relating to the adoption
of bronze coinage that year for use in Canada and for Britainís
domestic coinage two years later. Technical aspects of refining
and coining bronze are provided in detail, and this will be
useful to anyone collecting and studying bronze coinage in
general. This chapter is accompanied by charming period
illustrations of the coining process from beginning to end.
Some of these engravings are already familiar, but they are
herein reproduced in greater sharpness and with an attractive
color tint lacking in some older references.

The second half of Rob Turnerís book is a dedicated study of
the dies used specifically for 1858 cent coinage. Every die
known to him is featured in large and very sharp color photos
in a catalog that covers 153 pages! There are more than 400
color photos in all. Since Iím not a collector of this series,
I found the catalog portion to be of less interest than the
historical material, but this book will be essential for
anyone cataloging or collecting 1858 Canadian cents.

At $100, ordering this hardcover book sight-unseen was a leap
of faith for me, but I was more than pleased with what I
received for my money. From beginning to end this book is a
quality production that will be a handsome addition to any
numismatic library. It is available directly from the author
at 8821 La Zana Court, Fountain Valley, CA  92708. It may
also be purchased via PayPal by directing payment to his
email address: rob1953@cox.net. The shipping cost to USA
addresses is $15, to Canada $20. All amounts are in USA
dollars, and California deliveries must include 8% sales tax.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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