Suez Canal Nearly Complete / Woodblock / April 3, 1869

This woodblock engraving from April 3, 1869, shows the Suez Canal nearing completion. I am interested in the history of the canal and the people who built it. I have a few tokens used by workers at the company store.

The Illustrated London News, April 3, 1869

Laborers are shown removing rock in a section of the canal. The canal, 164 kilometers long and 8 meters deep, was an enormous engineering challenge. The waterway passed through mostly sand and low lying lakes and rivers connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea,

The canal took 10 years to build. Ferdinand de Lesseps formed the Suez Canal Company to finance and build the canal. The company completed it in November 1869, seven months after this newspaper was printed.

A construction company called Ch. & A. Bazin issued this French Franc token in 1865. It can be found in denominations of 5 Francs, 1 Franc, 50 Centimes, and 20 Centimes.

Rare North West Territory Fur Trade Token Sold

This is an interesting, rare 1 MB trade token from the early 20th century. It was used by fur traders with a company called Lamson and Hubbard Canadian Company. That company competed with the Hudson’s Bay Company in the territory around Baker Lake, Nunavut. There are three denominations in these Made Beaver tokens: ½, 1, and 5. All of them are rare.

eBay auction: 353434802900
Ended: April 03, 2021 19:13
Winning bid: US $600
Bidders: 8
Sold from: Modesto, California

CCC Token eBay Sales in 2020

For the second year in a row, I’ve tracked the sales of all CCC tokens on eBay. What follows is summary information for those token sales in 2020. See last year’s numbers here.

Number Sold68
Total Value$7,923
Average Price$117
Sale FrequencyEvery 5.4 days

The least expensive token sold for $18. It was a 5 cent piece from Company 1754, McGregor, Iowa. The most expensive one sold for $567. It was a 5 cent piece from Company 4471, Bishopville, South Carolina.

A total of 37 different denominations and companies were sold last year. The reference catalog says there are 288 different pieces in the series, so only 13 percent were available for sale this year on eBay.

This table shows the number of tokens sold from some of the most common tokens:

Number of SalesCompanyLocation
11Company 1754Mcgregor, Iowa
7Company 1455Unicoi, Tennessee
5Company 610Stockton, Illinois
4Company 1780Mt Nebo, Arkansas

There were 16 sales with a sales price of $200 or more.

DateDenominationCompanyPrice
1/1/20205 centsCompany 1501$250
1/12/20205 centsCompany 2719$207
2/22/20205 centsCompany 6419$275
3/1/202010 centsCompany 1455$233
3/15/20205 centsCompany 2315$253
3/20/202010 centsCompany 769$286
3/22/20205 centsCompany NF 7$253
6/13/20205 centsCompany 4471$567
7/11/20205 centsCompany 725$228
7/14/202010 centsCompany 770$340
10/12/2020Bottle DepositCompany 2605$358
10/18/20205 centsCompany P 59$353
10/30/20205 centsCompany 2501$207
11/15/202010 centsCompany 770$316
11/21/202010 centsCompany 1455$293
12/13/20201 GameCompany 3760$267

Camp Hedges, Arkansas

This brass token was used by members of the CCC stationed at Camp Hedges in Stone County, Arkansas. The coins reads:

CAMP HEDGES / 743 / CCC
GOOD FOR / 5 ¢ / IN TRADE

No other denominations are known from Company 743. These tokens are scarce. According to my records, only one example was sold on eBay in 2019 or 2020.

Hedges is an historic community in the Ozark National Forest. The camp was built during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. The Civilian Conservation Corp program provided jobs for young men.

Camp Hedges built roads, bridges, dams, trails, and campgrounds. Some of that infrastructure still stands today, including Gunner Pool dam. Camp members also fought forest fires and did conservation work in the Sylamore District of the national forest.

References: https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net and Manderscheid catalog of CCC tokens (see references).

Egypt on July 26, 1956

On July 26, 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. It had been owned by France and Britain until then.

That same year, Egypt issued a new 25 Qirsh coin to mark the occasion. It’s a large coin, 35 mm, and made of 72% silver. There were 258,000 minted.

The obverse shows the front facade of the Suez Canal Company building in Port Said.

The reverse shows the denomination in the center (٢٥) “25” and the word Qirsh (قرشا) below it. The dates of 1956-1375 (١٣٧٥-١٩٥٦) are below that. The winged sun design is featured at the bottom.

Borel Lavalley Suez Canal Token

This rare token was issued by Borel, Lavalley, and Company, an engineering firm and contractor to the Suez Canal Company. Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps and his Suez Canal Company built the canal between 1859 and 1869.

Paul Borel and Alexandre Lavalley formed their company in December 1863. Graduates of a polytechnic school, both worked in the railway industry before joining the canal project. An estimated 74 million cubic meters of material was excavated for the main canal, and Borel and Lavalley handled more than 75 percent of it. (Karabell, 2004, p. 208-210.)

The company issued trade tokens, presumably for workers to buy provisions at the company store. Tokens are good for 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 Franc, or 5 Francs. The 5 Franc pieces are the most rare.

Shown here is a 50 cent piece. The obverse depicts a ship in the center, surrounded by beads and an inscription:
TRAVAUX DU CANAL DE SUEZ
EGYPTE

Translation:
WORKS ON THE SUEZ CANAL
EGYPT

The reverse shows the denomination, a circle of beads, and an inscription:
BOREL LAVALLEY ET COMPIE
BON POUR
50
CENTIMES
1865

Translation:
BOREL LAVALLEY AND COMPANY
GOOD FOR
50
CENTS
1865

Reference: Karabell, Z. (2003). Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal. Knopf.

World Coin Quiz

The Willamette Coin Club met virtually again in October. We held three coin quizzes by presenting slides over Zoom. Attendees wrote down their guesses on paper at home, and we scored the quiz at the end. Honor system. The winners received a nice coin from the club’s collection mailed through the post office.

There are roughly 6500 languages in the world. I like the variety of written forms and designs on world coins. I selected photos of coins showing 16 different written languages. I cropped and rotated the images to maximize the characters. The coins are biased for European languages.

The quiz can be downloaded below as a PDF document.

Completed Small Set of Hudson’s Bay Company Tokens

I recently completed assembling a small set of Hudson’s Bay Company East Main district tokens after winning a 1 Made Beaver piece in a Dix Noonan Webb auction. These pieces are hard to find, especially in nicer condition. My 1 MB piece shows the most wear and has likely been cleaned (due to off color). With so few pieces coming up for sale, I need to buy when I can. I will continue watching for an upgrade.

1939 Palestine 1 Pound Note

I bought this note from the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palestine Currency Board produced banknotes with values of 500 mils, 1 pound, 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 50 pounds and 100 pounds. It’s my first piece of Palestine currency; I’m working on a complete date set of the coinage.