QUEBEC Repentigny Bridge / Cheval Token Breton 556*, Leroux 596l
*Please note that in the 11th edition of the Charlton catalogue that this is erroneously listed as Breton 552. This has been reported to Clément for correction in the next edition.
The so-called Repentigny tokens appeared in 1890 and were purported to be patterns for the 1808 Bout de l'Isle tokens. Many authorities including Breton accepted them as genuine. Breton published a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding their discovery.
These twelve Repentigny tokens remained unknown until 1890. Since their discovery they have been the object of considerable, controversy, many eminent collectors holding that they are of recent fabrication.
It seems to me, that if it had been the purpose to issue such a series for gain, that they would have attempted something similar to the regular Bout de L'Isle tokens but this is a totally different series, all relating to Repentigny.
The fact that the Repentigny Bridge was built after the others (See History of the Bout de L'Isle tokens,) may explain why these tokens were ordered. Mr. Lyman H. Low, of New York, who came into possession of these tokens, has written me a letter, from which I give quotations, which gives a clear explanation regarding the discovery of these coins.
Lyman H. Low wrote - New York, N.Y., Oct. 19th, 1893.
In the year 1890, a set of Repentigny bridge tokens, of the series known as the Bout de L'Isle Tokens, came into the hands of the writer from England. This set has excited considerable interest on this side of the Atlantic, from the fact that it is of a type differing in character from any heretofore known, and, so far as known, is unique. An illustration of these tokens appears in the Supplement to Mr. Breton's Canadian Coin Collector, 892. (Nos. 349G to 349R.)
After a careful examination of these pieces, I reached the conclusion that they are genuine patterns, and are of the same period as those which were used, while these were rejected, I have since seen no reason to change the opinion then formed.
One of the principal objections raised against their authenticity is that the inscriptions are misspelled the word ON being substituted for OU and that therefore, since the same error occurs in the dies of the accepted series, those were blindly imitated perhaps through the workman's ignorance of the language. This objection, I believe, has little weight. There is no reason why the dies from which the pieces under consideration were struck, may not have been an experiment by the same maker, who fell into the same error into which he had stumbled on his previous effort, if indeed the others were really the earlier in point of time; and, as to this, who shall decide which are the older and therefore the original dies on which the error first occurred? Even were both sets cut by different English engravers, probably having no knowledge of French, it would not lie surprising that both had fallen into a similar error. In either case it cannot be doubted that the blunder arose from a careless reading of directions furnished from this side of the water ; certainly nothing could be more easily confounded by one not familiar with the language, than "on" and "ou" in a manuscript. The character of the workmanship is not that of later time; in fact, it is perceptibly different.
The pieces were sold at auction in London, by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, on the 31st of July, 1890, in a catalogue of various collections, Lot No. 80; with them, were some 107 Eighteenth Century tokens, and the purchaser of the lot has informed me that he then attached more importance to the latter than to the Bridge Tokens, a ground evidently taken by the cataloguer. If these pieces had been of recent fabrication, and intended to deceive, it is hardly conceivable that they should have been thrown in with a number of other pieces without protection, in a market so distant, and in a sale of such brief announcement that none of the Catalogues were sent to America. Certainly, no one would presume to intimate anything like collusion on the part of that old and well known house. The pieces simply possessed no special value, so far as the sellers had knowledge, and not the slightest effort was made to attract the attention of collectors here or abroad to their rarity. There can be but one conclusion, and that is, that the pieces are just what they profess to be neither more nor less.
Were anything further needed to corroborate this view as to their genuineness, it might he mentioned that not a single duplicate of any of them has ever been seen or heard of.
Taking, then, the facts which I have gleaned touching this set of tokens, and judging them from my experience and observation of the known series and its history, I can come to no other conclusion than that they are authentic, and struck from dies made in the early part of the century, and the pieces not having been approved, were neither issued nor duplicated.
They were denounced my R. W. McLachlan as fraudulent on the grounds that their fabric was too modern for the pieces to have been struck in 1808.
Additionally, R.W. McLachlan stated in the September 1912 issue of The Numismatist:
… about four years ago I received a letter from Mr. W. J. Davis, of Birmingham, author of ‘The Nineteenth Century Token Coinage,’ stating that he had found the person who had fraudulently produced the Repentigny tokens — one who had also emitted other forgeries. He had made him give up the dies to be destroyed after, as he had learned, six sets in all had been struck and issued.
A very interesting and rare example of the numismatic jiggery pokery that was occurring in the 1890s.