The Broke Token


This “Broke Token” was found in the buried topsoil of the Loretto Site in Niagara Falls. Interestingly, this North American token was found in the same stratigraphic lot as the pai sikka (learn about the pai sikka token).

Broke Token (Photo by Andrea Carnevale)
Broke Token (Photo by Andrea Carnevale)

The token was struck to commemorate the first naval victory of the War of 1812 by the British Navy. The commander of the H.M.S. Shannon, P.B. Vere Broke, captured the U.S.S Chesapeake on 1 June 1813. An intense gun battle resulted in heavy damage during the boarding of the Chesapeake by Broke and his men. The ensuing battle was short, lasting ten to fifteen minutes (Padfield 1968:191), but the fighting was intense; 71 men perished and 155 were wounded (Toll 2006:415). During the battle, Broke suffered a severe injury to his head from which he never fully recovered (Malcomson 2009:58). Following his victory, Broke had the enemy ship towed to Halifax and it was taken into service for the Royal Navy. The Chesapeake was eventually sold. This token was minted the following year to honour the victory.

The Broke token was minted in 1814. These tokens, as many other ‘private tokens’ of Nova Scotia, are considered somewhat crude and, consequently, they are somewhat rare. According to Cross, the majority of local tokens were engraved by Thomas Halliday (Cross 2010:58). This copper or brass token carried a value of a halfpenny. The obverse shows the profile of Broke with the legend ‘Broke’ above the bust and ‘Halifax Nova Scotia’ below. On the reverse, a seated Britannia with a shield to her right and a trident in her hand is shown. To her left are two ships on the water. The legend above her is ‘Britannia’ and in the exergue is 1814. Two variations exist: the Long Bust and Short Bust (Cross 2010:59). The short bust has further varieties or sub-categories that include variations in the number of buttons and size of ships beside seated Britannia.


Cross, W. K., 2010. Canadian Colonial Tokens. Charlton Press, Toronto.
Malcomson, Robert, 2009. The A to Z of the War of 1812. Scarecrow Press, Maryland.
Padfield, Peter, 1968. Broke and the Shannon. Hodder and Stoughton, London.
Toll, Ian. 2006. Six Frigates:The Epic History of the U.S. Navy. Norton, New York.