Historic Merchant Scrip No Longer Scarce

Industries such as the pulp and paper sector and the fur trade shaped Canada into the country we know today and numismatic pieces that link to our history are attractive additions to any collection.  Those already interested in this genre know about Grand River Pulp and Lumber Co. scrip and this week’s Geoffrey Bell Auctions Ltd. blog post will address an unfortunate collecting scenario: what happens if a hoard is uncovered.

Grand River Pulp and Lumber Co. scrip have sold successfully in our past sales, but we’ve learned that a hoard of the notes was discovered a few years ago and the marketplace is starting to see them in quantities not previously known, including being offered to our auction company for future sales.  Our opinion is that our clients should be made aware of any changes, which is why we feel it important to point out that the value of most of these notes has now dropped substantially.

Grand River Pulp & Lumber

Does that change the history behind them?  No.  These seemingly innocuous bits of paper have a real story to convey.  The Grand River Pulp and Lumber Co. Limited operated a mill at Hamilton Inlet, which is at the mouth of the Churchill River in Labrador, NL not far from Happy Valley-Goose Bay from 1902 through 1911.

The company’s founder, Alfred Dickie, was born in Nova Scotia in 1860 and was one of the province’s most prominent lumber exporters before forming the Newfoundland company.   He was also a politician, serving as, among other positions, the first mayor of Stewiacke, NS from 1906 to 1911.

His application for a timber license in Newfoundland sparked a very long border dispute between what would become Canada’s tenth province and Quebec.  The case, which was ruled in Newfoundland’s favour in 1927, stayed in the books on appeal until it was officially cancelled in 1971, 60 years after Dickie’s company ceased operations.

The natural plagues of the lumber business, fire and weather, took its toll on Dickie’s ventures resulting in his assets, all but one share to allow him to retain directorship, being transferred to the Royal Bank, his creditor, in 1904, but he remained on as the salaried manager.  Despite his troubles, he rebuilt his business, including the Labrador company, and died in Halifax in 1929 a wealthy man.

The Grand River Pulp and Lumber notes, printed by T. C. Allen & Co. stationers of Halifax, are said to be Newfoundland’s only known merchant scrip.  A complete collection would contain denominations of five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, dollar, two dollars, and five dollars.  There were no two dollar pieces in the hoard, so those are still elusive and rare.

These notes remain attractive mementos of a very important time in Canadian history and any reduction in their scarcity can’t subtract from this narrative, but collectors need to be in tune with the reality of the current market.


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