One of the strangest episodes in Canadian numismatic history centres about these coins. For twenty years they remained a mystery, and what is stranger still, there was no particular reason why they should have been any mystery at all.
Almost at the very beginning of my collecting career I encountered one of them and my curiosity was immediately aroused. The dealer who sold me the coin, now deceased, apparently never noticed that it was counterstamped, or if he did, certainly told me nothing about it. As the situation later developed, even had he wished to do so, it would have been impossible. In any event, I paid the full price for it which was current at that time. The coin concerned was a Newfoundland JOP.
As might be supposed, I lost no time instituting enquiry about my counterstamped acquisition. One person who should have known better tried to tell me that it was the work of the Mint, a thing which I was wise enough not to believe. My rather numerous enquiries always ended up against a blank wall and I finally concluded that it was no coin which properly belonged in a collection. Having reached this conclusion, it eventually came about that I sold it for face value, an action which I now sincerely regret.
According to Irene Burd, an article on the JOP dollars appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune some time in 1947. Vaguely hopeful, I wrote to the Tribune and received the answer that it would be impossible to locate such an article unless much more definite information could be given. However, knowing what I now do, it is doubtful if the piece in question could have been much more than fruitless speculation which would have been of no value. Still, I shall always wonder about it.
Irene Burd, formerly of Winnipeg, purchased a 1947 JOP Blunt for $3.00 from a dealer in the city mentioned and he sold it for this price because he considered it to be a mutilated coin. Further, she was advised to fill the markings in with silver, a thing not very easy to do. Moreover, he told her that he had successfully filled in a second coin of the same year.
A JOP of 1948 was picked up in Spokane about five years ago by James Riley, a coin sold to him by Frances Mills, and a dealer of the same city. He subsequently returned it to her as defaced and what happened to it thereafter is unknown. Instances of like nature must have occurred many times.
Finally, and to the great pleasure of many of us, Larry Gingras a citizen of Richmond, British Columbia, took the matter up and brought it to a successful conclusion. His splendid article on the JOP dollars appeared in the 1959 October issue of the Canadian Numismatic Journal and answered practically all the questions that the coins involved. We are all greatly indebted to him for his good work. It should be plainly understood that a great deal of this chapter is solidly based upon his highly interesting story.
Joseph Olivia Patenaude owned at one time an excellent business in jewellery on Baker Street in Nelson, British Columbia. Being diligent and industrious, he did very well and had a great number of friends. Among other things, he was successful as an optometrist and was listed as one of the few in his time capable of making trifocal lenses. Had he stayed strictly with the jewellery business, this story would not have been written. It was his strong interest in silver which eventually led to the JOP dollars.
Being a citizen of public spirit, Patenaude became the proponent of a cheaper method of refining silver ore which had been developed by a Mr. French, a method which promised much for the future of this metal. He and several other Nelson citizens backed Mr. French and the outcome of the situation was a bitter legal battle during the 1920's which ended in victory for powerful mining interests. Unluckily for Patenaude, the litigation also ended most of his bank account.
Patenaude had excellent reasons for his strong bias toward silver. Not too far from Nelson, and also in British Columbia, is the town of Kimberly, the site of the famous Sullivan Mine, a producer of lead and zinc, and also the greatest silver mine in Canada. Interestingly enough, and south of the border in the Coeur d'Alene's, is located the Sunshine, the greatest silver producer of the United States. It is obvious enough that both are located in the same mineral belt.
Quite unlike most men, Patenaude did not allow himself to become embittered by his legal misfortunes but continued to do all that he could to advance silver in public esteem. He firmly believed that the use of a silver dollar would be of value to Canada and put on a vigorous campaign devoted to the minting of such a coin. Needless to say, when 1935 came about, his enthusiasm for the dollar was of the most genuine kind.
To advance the new coin in the opening of its career, Patenaude purchased 1,000 silver dollars and counterstamped them with his now familiar initials. The coins were widely distributed among the citizens of Nelson and for many years he gave them out as change to customers of his store. One reason for the counterstamping was a natural interest in seeing where they would go in circulation. That they certainly went far and wide is an evident fact.
An honest man is said to be the noblest work of God and Patenaude is a shining example of unselfish devotion to an ideal and to the service of humanity. One businessman in Nelson declared of him that he did not believe that he had ever been guilty of an unkind act. His whole life was honestly devoted to the doing of good and he paid no attention whatever to race or creed. Although a bachelor, many a homeless waif was the recipient of his kindly interest. He looked upon his money as a gift of God and generously shared it with others whom he considered less fortunate. He would indeed be mean of spirit who would fail in admiration for so fine a character.
Although it is contrary to law to deface the coinage, Patenaude was quite innocent of such knowledge and he did not knowingly violate the coinage statutes. Happily, as it now turns out, he was never challenged on this point.
We have already noted that 1,000 of the 1935 dollars were counterstamped. It is assuredly safe to assume that the dollars of other years should at least equal those of the first year and therefore 2,000 of them should be in existence. As far as present knowledge extends, none ever reached the Mint where their destruction would be required by the statute which governs mutilated coins.
Rather odd is the fact that so many of the counterstamped dollars are the 1947 Blunts. No case has yet been reported of a 1947 Pointed that has been so marked. It is very nearly a certain thing that they came to an end with 1949, most probably because he disposed of his business in 1950. Many of the intervening years between 1935 and 1949 are still something of a mystery and there may be years which saw none stamped at all.
Worthy of note is the fact that the JOP's are counterstamped in two different ways. The far commoner sort would appear to be his initials stamped in an oval and combined as one punch. The other type, and the one which came to my attention on the Newfoundland piece, is stamped with three separate and larger letters. My first assumption, and until I knew better, was that all the other coins were marked in the same manner.
As far as I can see, those who hastily disposed of their JOP's on the ground that they were mutilated are possibly the victims of an erroneous supposition; that is, that they definitely are not items for a collector and can boast nothing more than face value. According to Larry Gingras, citizens of Nelson set considerable store by them and their purchase in the town named is almost out of the question. And this being true, I therefore judge that they have a very definite value. Knowing what I now do of them, nothing on earth could induce me to sell the one that I have, a highly treasured gift from Somer James of Regency Coin & Stamp Co. It is hardly to be supposed that I should be the only person in this category.
Until the history of the JOP's was known, it certainly was a reasonable assumption that they were mutilated and of no value other than face. But circumstances do alter cases and this is one instance in which circumstances have indeed altered with a vengeance. Those who have these coins will do well to keep their unique history in mind. It is an absurdity of the greatest kind to suppose that they have nothing more than face value. Any person who really wants one will have a far greater task on his hands than I would care to undertake.
Already indicated is the fact that a fair number of these dollars are in the hands of Nelson citizens. Some may enquire, if they are such cherished items, as to their manner of getting into circulation? There is certainly no mystery about this. No doubt a number of persons would have, or did have, four or five of the coins and would therefore be willing to part with some. As to giving up all of them, I greatly doubt it, save in exceptional cases. Persons who put keepsakes up for sale are an uncommon species and their honor questionable.
Somer James did all that he could to gain information about the JOP's and to establish some sort of value for them. It certainly was not his fault that he met with such scant success. Little doubt may now be entertained that the story of the future will be one of quite a different kind. As far as value is concerned, I must decline to hazard a guess.
Just recently, Homer Cardle, a Spokane collector, picked up a 1947 Blunt JOP for its face value in a local drug store. Had its former owner known the background of the coin, then there is reason to suppose that no sale would have been made at such a price. It was purely a piece of luck and nothing else. As it is, Spokane has at least two known specimens.
A few words about Nelson may be in order. This town of 7,200 is a short distance over the border and slightly under 200 miles from Spokane. Located on the south side of the west arm of Kootenay Lake, it is in effect a travel way junction of the Kootenay area.
Gold was discovered in 1867 on Fortynine Creek, 9 miles from Nelson, and outcrops discovered in 1886 led to the development of several important mines. The town site was chose in 1888 and was named after the Honourable Hugh Nelson, at that time the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. Incorporated in 1897, Nelson was the first city in the province to undertake the development of a municipal hydro-electric plant on the Kootenay River.
Nelson may aptly be described as a nerve centre for the Kootenay area since it serves as a financial, marketing, and distributive centre. Further, the town has shared in the development of the mining, forest, farming, and fruit growing activities. Its attractive lake setting makes it popular with tourists. Such is the town that Patenaude honored by a long life devoted to generosity and good deeds. He died at the advanced age of 85 on May 9, 1956, and was buried in Nelson.
By odd coincidence, another P. O. Patenaude served for some time as printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty and therefore recorded the earlier history of the dollars in the Mint Reports.
Such is the strange story of the marked dollars that were so long a puzzle. Without at all intending to do so, Patenaude wrote an unforgettable chapter in the history of Canadian numismatics. It is only just that his memory should be forever enshrined in the Canadian dollars.