Made beaver

The made beaver was a unit of account used in the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), located in British North America. One male beaver skin collected during winter months was equivalent to one made beaver.

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Throughout the 17th century, European fishermen and First Nations engaged in the fur trade. These fishermen would not trade directly with hunters. Rather, they would trade goods with First Nation middlemen. Prior to the HBC’s formation, French settlers and Indigenous traders exchanged goods for furs near the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers.[1]

In 1670 England chartered the HBC. At that time, the company set up a number of trading posts, and by 1718, it had a monopoly on all trade in the basin of Hudson Bay.[1]

The British did not use a standardized currency for over 250 years after settling in Canada.[1] During that time, most trade was carried out through the practice of bartering. Eventually, traders began using various foreign coins as stores of value. In order to trade with Indigenous peoples, the HBC standardized the unit of account as the made beaver, or one high quality beaver skin.

In 1795, a made beaver could buy eight knives or one kettle, or a gun could be purchased with 10 made beaver pelts.[2]

Each HBC trading post exchanged made beavers and various other goods.[1]

In addition to exchanging physical beaver skins, the post managers also exchanged made beaver coins. Managers created these coins by cutting copper and brass from kegs into a rectangular or circular shapes and marking them with his initials and the letters HBC. Some beaver coins introduced between 1854 and 1870 were fractional, including ones that represented

12 and 14 made beavers.[3]

Example of HBC tokens used circa 1854

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