World of Coins

Other tokens and medals => Advertising, propaganda and numismatic artefacts => Private countermarks => Topic started by: brandm24 on January 21, 2020, 06:03:08 PM

Title: A Quebec merchant
Post by: brandm24 on January 21, 2020, 06:03:08 PM
I was recently given this heavily worn Canadian dime with a small, neatly executed counterstamp struck on it. While the date is missing the portrait of Queen Victoria suggests it dates in the 1860's or 1870's. Someone who has more knowledge than I about these portrait coins could date it more accurately I'm sure. Help on that score would be appreciated.

In any case, I searched for the identity of A.B. Foster for some time before a stroke of luck led me to an attribution. At some point I realized that Greg Brunk had known of this issue but had never discovered who Foster was. The one example he knew was on an undated Canadian Quarter of Edward Vll (1901-1912). This, along with my Victoria, led me to believe both were probably struck in the late 1800's or early 1900's. I also surmised that the issuer was likely a fine metal craftsman such as a silversmith, watch or clock maker, jeweler or something similar. The size and style of the stamp suggested that.

I finally came across a reference to an A.B. Foster in the May 4, 1898 issue of "The Jewelers' Circular and Historical Review" (Vol. 36). He was listed as a retail jeweler in Bedford, Quebec. I suspected this was the man I was looking for but wasn't able to confirm it until I stumbled across an online auction in 2016 that offered a Waltham 17 jewel pocket watch. The porcelain dial was marked "A.B. Foster / Bedford, Que." The style of the markings matched the counterstamp exactly. Not only did this discovery prove the identity of Foster, but also confirmed the description in the 1898 publication. Foster was a retailer, not a manufacturing jeweler.

This investigation was a lot of fun for me. Although this effort ended in success, many don't. Even unsuccessful  outcomes are
worth the time spent. I see them as learning experiences. Learning about history...people, concepts, attitudes, and a general sense of reconnecting to the past. The past teaches lessons that can be applied by us today. It's important to heed them.

Title: Re: A Quebec merchant
Post by: Figleaf on January 22, 2020, 08:38:21 AM
Totally agreed with your conclusions, just want to add that by probing, you get better at guessing which resource to use first in another search.

I am wondering why Mr. Foster thought it necessary to apply his name to these coins. AFAIK, there was no shortage of coins in this period. On the contrary, the Victorian issues had driven out the last of the tokens of the preceding period and banknotes were available and accepted.

Some form of advertising comes to mind, but why advertise on silver, when copper can do just as well? Or did Mr. Foster think silver reflected his job better? In that case, I suppose he took his coins from circulation and re-issued them at face, rather than gratis, running the risk that banks would withdraw them from circulation as well as risking the ire of the powers that be.

Title: Re: A Quebec merchant
Post by: brandm24 on January 22, 2020, 11:10:22 AM
You're right, Peter, I've discovered many avenues of research over the years by trial and error. I've had some pretty good teachers too, Greg Brunk being one of them.

Greg is a somewhat low tech type of researcher, but he's very clever and has discovered many backdoor methods of obtaining information that otherwise wouldn't be available. His body of work in this genre is impressive. When he was a young researcher, he actually met with the famous numismatist Q. David Bowers who had a fabulous collection of counterstamped coins. Greg was given access to his collection which he studied over a period of time. This, along with Bower's knowledge on the subject, was the basis for his early work. It's been a pleasure knowing him for so many years.

It's always a guessing game in trying to determine why people stamp coins. Advertising is a major reason to be sure, but vanity, punch testing, and any number of personal reasons play a part. In the case of Foster I think it was advertising.

 You guessed the correct reason for stamping silver coins over copper. While there are examples of this type of stamp on copper coins, silver is the predominant choice. It's a mark of excellence just as Foster...use pseudo hallmarks or metal workers use phrases such as "German Steel", "Warranted", etc., phrases that imply quality and authenticity. It's all merchandising.