Nelson and Rossland tokens fetch crazy prices

Three brass trade tokens from Rossland sold last week for prices that were, in our estimation, crazy.

Nelson and Rossland tokens

Latest in a series about transactions on eBay involving Kootenay collectibles.

Three brass trade tokens from Rossland sold last week for prices that were, in our estimation, crazy. They weren’t especially rare and in previous auctions didn’t command anywhere near as much.

Chief among them was one from tobacconist S.B. Shaw that went for $146.50 US. At least seven others from this business have sold online since 2004 for $17 to $53.

The front says “S.B. Shaw/Smokers’ Supplies/Rossland, BC” and the back “6¼,” as in cents.

According to Leslie C. Hill’s British Columbia Numismatica, the bible of BC trade tokens, Stephen Brown Shaw was listed as a tobacconist at 2 East Columbia Avenue in 1899-1900.

Meanwhile, a token from the Queen Cigar Store sold for $122. On the front is “Queen Cigar Store/Columbia Ave” and on the back “Crow & Morris/Rossland, BC”

At least 23 of these tokens in several variations have appeared since 2001, and sold for up to $76.50. A few however, failed to sell at all, even when bundled with a couple of other Rossland tokens.

As of 1903, Max Crow and Joe Morris ran the Queen Cigar Store at 13 East Columbia, which was part of the Clarendon Hotel. Speaking of which, a Clarendon token, “Good for 6¼¢ in trade at bar,” also sold for $122. This one has popped up four times since 2002, but never netted more than $26.

According to Hill’s book, Gus Wassholm was the hotel’s proprietor in 1897. The following year, the David Morgan Co. managed the Clarendon Hotels in both Greenwood and Rossland.

Separate tokens exist for both towns, and there’s also one that was likely good at either establishment.

Three Nelson tokens that have never before appeared on eBay nabbed high prices last week as well. One from A.G. Gelinas, “Good for 5¢ in trade,” went for $132.50 Cdn.

According to Hill, Gelinas took over the Semaphore cigar store sometime prior to 1918 and was still in business in 1959 with a billiard parlour and confectionary.

As of 1980, only six to ten of these tokens were known to exist.

An equally rare token from the Silver King Hotel went for $114 Cdn. Built for Johnson and Mahoney at 488 Baker Street, it was apparently the site of Nelson’s first wedding: on November 5, 1891, Angus McIntyre married Ida Johnson. The Silver King was torn down in 1944.

Touchstones Nelson has a photo of the saloon on its Flickr stream.

Finally, a brass token from Frank A. Tamblyn, “Good for 5¢ in trade,” went for $66 Cdn. According to Hill, Tamblyn was manager of the Nelson Wine Co. until 1904 and also operated the Nelson Cafe, which is where the tokens were likely used. He later tended bar aboard the SS Moyie.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on August 2.

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