Author Topic: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995  (Read 247 times)

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Offline Vincent

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The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« on: August 18, 2019, 09:12:41 PM »
A series of tokens, denominated in both francs and riksdaler, have been issued in the name of the Caribbean island of St. Barthélemy in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1994. St. Barthélemy is today a French territory, but the island has the particular feature in its history of being the only Caribbean island with a Swedish colonial history – the island was Swedish from 1784 to 1878. The design is the same on all of the tokens from 1988 to 1994: on one side the arms of St. Barthélemy and on the other a crown in a rather simplistic design, copied from the countermarks applied to coins on the island during the Swedish era. They are bilingual (French and Swedish) and carry a denomination in two currencies, one of which was obsolete at the time of issue. The tokens probably owe their primary notoriety to the ‘one-coin-from-each-country’ collectors.
   Svensk Numismatisk Tidskrift brought a notification* about the release of a gold 5000 francs / 5000 riksdaler dated 1990. This token was issued by Stiftelsen S:t Barthélemy – Sverige (The St. Barthélemy Foundation – Sweden) in Trelleborg, which was raising funds for the establishment of a Swedish cultural institution on St. Barthélemy. The curious editors of the periodical phoned the foundation in order to obtain further information. They were told that the tokens had been minted by ‘Scandcraft in Mamö’, and that the artist behind them is (Mme) M. Louise in Paris. The Scandcraft** company was actually located in Trelleborg. The reference to Malmö could be a mistake, or maybe the company had an agent there. The other tokens from 1988-1994 must have the same origin, because their design is exactly the same.
   Suddenly we’re back in familiar territory. The concept of ‘local coins’ (lokalmynt) was introduced in Sweden in 1977 and remained popular throughout the 1980s. (See my commentary on them here). They were tokens, sponsored by private associations, and had a purchasing power in certain venues under certain circumstances. The sponsoring association would benefit from the funds generated through the sale of the tokens. The first of those is from Trelleborg, of all places. Supposedly, Scandcraft has minted many of the local coins of Sweden. So, conceptually, the St. Barthélemy tokens are quite similar to the Swedish local coins. The main difference appears to be that the St. Barthélemy token is “from” an overseas territory, which was previously Swedish, but has since become French, while other local coins are from current Swedish territory. Local coins are supposed to have a purchasing power, even if most of them were never actually used for any purchases. I have no information as to whether the St. Barthélemy tokens ever had any purchasing power. I wouldn’t be surprised if you may have been able to buy a book with them at the foundation’s book store, though!
   There’s an additional token dated 1995, which is design-wise different from the others. It has a portrait of Marius Stackelborough on one side and an order, the Nordstjärneorden, on the other. The inscriptions are in Swedish. It has – similar to the previous tokens – a double face value: 100 francs / 100 daler. Marius Stackelborough is a personality from St. Barthélemy who was involved with the foundation that issued the tokens of previous years, so there can be no doubt that this token, too, was issued by the same foundation. Note that the currency unit in this case is ‘daler’, rather than ‘riksdaler’. Riksdaler is both a historical Swedish currency unit and a slang term for the current currency unit, the krona.*** It may have been felt, that ‘daler’ is more appropriate for the whole St. Barthélemy theme, because the so-called Spanish dollar (Swedish: spansk daler) was a significant coin in circulation on the island during the Swedish era.
   Various coin-like items, also known as exonumia, have been issued in the name of St. Barthélemy since 2004, but those do not seem to have any connection with the Swedish foundation.
   In conclusion, the St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-95 were minted in Sweden and issued by the foundation Stiftelsen S:t Barthélemy – Sverige in the same country; they are conceptually related to the local coins of Sweden.
   In case anyone was wondering if St. Barthélemy was ever affected by Sweden joining the Scandinavian Monetary Union (established in 1873) – this does not appear to be the case. St. Barthélemy was geographically isolated from Sweden, but an immediate neighbour to the other Caribbean islands. Whatever circulated in the Caribbean region generally speaking had a greater impact on St. Barthélemy than anything that was happening in Sweden. The short window between Sweden joining the Scandinavian Monetary Union and St. Barthélemy being handed over to France was 1873-1878. I have seen an official document from the island from 1876 estimating the damages after a tornado at 17,975 Spanish dollars.

* Nytt ”lokalmynt” för S:t Barthélemy in Svensk Numismatisk Tidskrift, February 1991.
** The full name of Scandcraft was Scand Craft Ädla Metaller AB (1978-85) and Nya Scandcraft AB (1985-2006).
*** The late, small, riksdaler coins of 1857-73 were exchanged for 1 krona coins at the time of the 1873 currency reform caused by the Scandinavian Monetary Union. The old term ‘riksdaler’ kept clinging to the 1 krona coin.

Offline malj1

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2019, 12:21:23 AM »
Some pictures would be appreciated.
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Online Figleaf

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2019, 09:48:37 AM »
I presume, though it is not quite clear from your post, that the tokens could be used as money on St.  Barthélemy. That would indeed make them local tokens, but it would not make them Swedish. I can very well imagine that Swedish collectors would have an interest in them, but that is another matter.

As an example, in 1938, Sweden issued a commemorative 2 Kronor piece for the Delaware settlement. That is not a US coin. The US issued a half dollar in 1936 for the same occasion. That is not a Swedish coin. Yet, US and Swedish collectors could have an interest in both. BTW, if I remember correctly, the US piece was sold at a premium only, so it would not have circulated, making it more like a medal with a denomination.

It is fun to compare all this with an earlier period of Swedish migration, to Kiev. This resulted in Arabic coins being very well represented in early medieval Swedish and North German coin hoards. From these hoards, it is evident that Arabic coins were money in what is now Sweden. However, they are not mentioned in the catalogues of Swedish coins I know of. :)

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Vincent

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2019, 08:48:15 AM »
In terms of pictures, see links below.

50 riksdaler / 50 francs 1988: 50 Francs/50 Riksdaler - ** Exonumia ** ? Numista.
500 riksdaler / 500 francs 1988: Saint Barthelemy - 500Francs/500 Riksdaler - 1988 - argent - Monnaies Médailles.
5000 riksdaler / 5000 francs 1990: (I couldn't find a picture of one, but see this mention of a silver off-metal strike: Monnaies de Saint Barthélémy).
100 riksdaler / 100 francs 1993: 100 Francs/100 Riksdaler - ** Exonumia ** ? Numista.
200 riksdaler / 200 francs 1994: Coin: 200 Riksdaler (200 Francs / 200 Riksdaler) (Saint Barthelemy) (Patters).
100 daler / 100 francs 1995: https://colnect.com/en/coins/coin/99424-100_Riksdaler_100_Francs_100_Daler-Patters-Saint_Barthelemy.

Whether the tokens are Swedish or Barthélemois is a matter of definition. I tried to avoid defining them as one or the other, but just provide the information I have. The foundation behind them is based in Sweden and the manufacturer is a Swedish company. (Relevant question: did the foundation have a representation in St. Barthélemy at the time that may have sold the tokens on the island?).

Regarding the usage of the St. Barthélemy tokens for any purchases, either as something that actually happened or at least as an option for the owner, I simply don't have any information. The first Swedish local coins from Trelleborg from 1977 were issued in association with a local event, that drew large crowds of people, and there would have been many real opportunities for these tokens to change hands in actual transactions. The St. Barthélemy tokens were issued in a more private setting - by a foundation trying to raise funds. This would have made it more cumbersome to set in motion a programme of getting businesses to voluntarily accept the tokens as means of payment. The backdrop against which the St. Barthélemy tokens should be understood is the Swedish tradition for local coins. The standard for those is that they have to have a purchasing power, at least in some businesses, at least for a short period of time. If the St. Barthélemy tokens were to stick to this standard, they would need to have a purchasing power in at least some context, either in Sweden or on St. Barthélemy, or both. Whether or not the foundation made such arrangements with any businesses, I don't know. On the other hand, if the foundation held a public event and on that occasion would be willing to sell you a set of postcards for a 50 riksdaler token, then the condition would be met. It would not be in their interest to have a large backflow of the tokens they sold, because it would defeat the purpose of fundraising. The foundation would have expected people to mostly just buy the tokens and not spend them anywhere.

Online Figleaf

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2019, 03:28:35 PM »
Here is some perspective. The lowest value, 50 FRF, re-valued for inflation june 1988 - august 2019 is 82.8097 FRF. Converted to euros, that is € 12.62.

The highest value, 5000 FRF, re-valued for inflation june 1990 - august 2019 is 7764.39 FRF. Converted to euros, that is € 1183.67.

The latest issue, 100 FRF, re-valued for inflation june 1995 - august 2019 is 138.73 FRF. Converted to euros, that is € 21.15.

To spend just one coin, you'd have to buy much more than a package of postcards. Comparing these values with the local issues from the Netherlands (usually one in base metal, other denominations - not for circulation - in precious metal) I find it quite difficult to imagine that the St Barthélemy issues circulated.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Vincent

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2019, 05:43:23 PM »
I am leaning in the same direction. If you bought a token upon issue, it would pretty much be a donation to the foundation. I imagine the foundation would, in 1990, have consulted its members and supporters in advance to figure out approximately how many 5000 riksdaler/francs tokens they could realistically sell and then have that number of tokens minted. If they did go through the trouble of giving the tokens a nominal purchasing power, it would most likely be for the purpose of fulfilling a requirement - on paper - to define the tokens as anything other than medals with a fictitious face value.

Offline pat

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Re: The St. Barthélemy tokens of 1988-1995
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2019, 03:05:00 PM »
I am the owner of the site Monnaies Ultramarines Francophones which contains a page on St Barthelemy : Monnaies de Saint Barthélémy.
I bought one 5000 francs/ricksdaler coin/token from a Swedish merchant, who told me that he had seen a few of these, intended to be trial coins in silver for a gold coin.
Unluckily he sent me the coin in a plain envelope which arrived opened and empty, although sent as registered.
So I lost this coin/token and in fact never saw it. Of course my money was sent back to me, but I'd rather have the coin.