The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 27, July 8, 2007, Article 26


[Last week's discussion of the Canadian Numismatic Bibliography
illustrates the vast number of topics under that umbrella.  One
interesting Canadian item that I learned about from my friend Larry
Dziubek are the privately-made tokens of Thomas Church.  He gave a
presentation on the topic at a local Pittsburgh club meeting one
month, based on a Canadian Numismatic Journal article by Fred Bowman.
Larry gave me permission to republish the text of his presentation
for the benefit of E-Sylum readers. -Editor]

Thomas Church was born in 1843 in Ireland. His father was an artist
that painted murals, some of which are in the Canadian Parliament.
The family lived in Ottawa since 1851 and Tom got in his career field
as a lumberman by 1860. He eventually became the manager of the mill.
He lost his left hand in an industrial accident a few months before
the entire lumber yard and town was destroyed by fire in 1900.

Mr. Church had no children by his first two marriages, but had seven
with Margaret Spratt his third wife. In his mid-thirties he became a
serious collector of Canadian coins and tokens. He began to experiment
in cutting his own dies in the 1880’s. Many of the dies had the style
of early Canadian tokens found in the Breton series. He built a forge
and workshop near his home and began to cut and harden steel dies.
This hobby and his love for growing roses seemed to consume all of
his spare time.

Some of the talent needed for this task was inherited from his father,
the artist.  Although his first attempts were on the crude side, the
quality of his workmanship continually improved until it was near the
level of a professional die cutter. Most of his early issues were in
soft metals that were melted, and used later to make bullets. A few
strikes were done over existing coins or tokens. Some small mintages
were due to the short life of inferior dies when striking harder metals.

Later Thomas began to roll sheets of different metals for his
planchets. These were not always made in a uniform thickness and add
to the variety and weight of his products. His personal amusement
and recreation turned into a minor business. He made milk check tokens
for C. W. Barrett of Leitrium, Ontario, the brother-in-law of his
second wife. These were the only issues struck in quantity. He also
made several personal tokens for himself, as well as some for the
Central Canada Exhibition in 1896.

He made tokens for Louis Laurin who owned and operated a general
store and was also a serious collector. When a fire destroyed Laurin’s
collection in 1899 he began to specialize in collecting Communion
Tokens. Early articles (1903) on the subject of Thomas Church listed
only twenty eight varieties in all metals, using some twenty of his
dies. Now the thinking is that there are some fifty-five combinations
or mulings from fifty-eight different dies. There would be another
fifty-two varieties if you counted all the pieces struck in various
metals. Many of these would be LEAD strikes that were only intended
to be “die trials” that got into some early collections.

Leading Canadian collectors of the day such as F.R.E. Campeau, R.W.
McLachlan, Joseph Leroux, and F.X. Paquet had standing orders to
purchase Church issues as soon as they were made. After the great
fire of April 1900 that destroyed all of Ottawa and Church’s home
on Victoria Island, he never resumed any efforts to make tokens. He
died on March 7, 1917 at age 74. The most definitive report on
Church’s output was the October 1959 Fred Bowman article in The
Canadian Numismatic Journal.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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