November 3rd, 2017 marks 200 years since the Bank of Montréal first opened its doors to the public. Two centuries ago it was known as the Montréal Bank, but by 1822 it was printing notes as The Bank of Montréal. It is the oldest continuously operating bank in North America and bills itself as Canada’s First Bank, even commissioning a book of that title chronicling their history in 1966. Collectors of tokens and banknotes are very familiar with the historic pieces associated with the bank and Geoffrey Bell Auctions Ltd. has been pleased to have been able to represent a number of them.
At the RCNA Ottawa Sale in 2016, we offered a discovery note, a Bank of Montréal $1, 1859 CH 505-30-04-02. It wasn’t the prettiest of notes, but it possessed everything someone would want in a note that served Canadians well before there was even a Canada and it sold for $5,250.
At the Toronto Coin Expo 2015 Spring Sale we auctioned the Geoffrey Bell Collection of pre-Confederation tokens and coins and a rare side view penny token that was an ex John J. Ford collection piece, BR 523 (1838), Courteau 36, CH LC-11-A1, realized $9,200.
But, the rarest examples from this pioneering institution were from the Richard Cooper Collection, including a couple of side view penny tokens that were a part of the Toronto Coin Expo 2015 Fall Sale; a Br. 523. Bank of Montreal Sideview Penny, 1838. – Courteau 37. CH LC-11A2 hammered at $8,250 and a Br. 523. Bank of Montreal Sideview Penny, 1839. – Courteau 38. CH LC-11B closed at $15,000.
The pièce de résistance that night was a special strike: a 1845 Bank of Montréal halfpenny token that was one of only four known and the only example in private hands. There is an in-depth writeup on the token in our lot description that amplifies the significance of a properly prepared auction catalogue. This very rare piece sold for $51,000.
There is also a new book highlighting the history of the bank, A Vision Greater than Themselves: The Making of the Bank of Montreal, 1817-2017. When you have a bank that has been prominently in business for 200 years there is a lot of material available to collectors. The sky is the limit for the possibilities of assembling a fine collection of Bank of Montréal tokens or banknotes.