Sydney Hodgkinson we glimpse as a Hudson’s Bay Company man. In 1909 he’s working as an accountant at the H.B.C. Telegraph Creek trading post in the northern part of British Columbia. Sydney is an imaginative and lyrical chap – he writes to a friend in familiar verse, thanking him for a book:
Sydney Hodgkinson worked with the mighty H.B.C. from 1908 to 1935. The trading posts were often in tiny, remote settlements. In the 1910 Henderson’s B.C. Gazetteer, where Hodgkinson is listed as an accountant, Telegraph Creek is noted as “a trading post, mining camp and post office in the Comox-Atlin district” that had a population of 190 (“whites, 40, Indians, 150”).
Sydney left his family his collection of Hudson’s Bay Company “Scrips”. There are from three Trading Posts in the B.C. District, not Telegraph Creek, but McDames Creek, Fort Grahame and Dease Lake. They are a fascinating piece of history.
Brian Grant-Duff is a Vancouver-based collectables expert who has handled the entire collection:
“A scrip is basically non-government issued, unofficial or semi-official currency. It looks like they come from the pre-World War I era. The historical record, which is scant, says that they were not supposed to be issued — they were not authorized by the Hudson’s Bay Company. But the poor guys running the post needed some form of money as people were trading. So this is possibly locally created scrip.””
The scrips are very small, like an old-fashioned ticket at a movie theatre. They come in four different denominations, each with a different colour. The 25-cent scrips were white, 50 cents were green, $1 was red and $5 was blue.
“What is interesting is that it’s multi-coloured printing,” said Grant-Duff. “They managed to get a rainbow-coloured printing on it, I guess to prevent counterfeiting. I’m not sure how they did that, but it’s extraordinary.
Grant Duff auctioned the first scrip in the cache on June 20 2015. It was estimated at $100, but wound up selling for $1,099. Six bidders from across Canada faced off over the scrip, which appeals to both Hudson’s Bay Company and B.C. collectors. The rarity of the scrips makes them valuable.
“I’ve only handled three or four in 30 years,” said Grant Duff, “Information on them is scant, and the market is not well-supplied. This is certainly an exciting find for anyone interested in this type of material.”
Scrip issued by the Dease post:
Dease had been named in 1834 for Chief Factor Peter Warren Dease, and became a major junction for miners traveling to the gold rush in Cassiar. One hundred years later in 1934 the name was changed to Dease Lake.
Scrip issued by the H.B.C. McDames Creek post:
H.B.C. Fort Grahame:
Sydney Hodgkinson was a regular writer and contributed to The Beaver – H.B.C.’s inhouse journal:
Note: many of these scrips have sold but there are some still being offered for auction at All Nations Stamp & Coin weekly auction (Dec 2015)