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View Full Version : What's My 1 Square Inch (Of the Yukon Territory) Worth?


ralph124c
04-12-2010, 08:59 AM
Back in the 1950's, there was a kid's TV show called "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon".
It was about a RCMP sergeant and his husky dog (King), who went about catching crooks and bad guys.
As a promotion, the producers of the show would send you a deed for a one square inch plot of land, somewhere in the Yukon territory of Canada.
What are these plots going for now? Do I have to pay back taxes on it?

running coach
04-12-2010, 09:08 AM
I would bet the deeds were not real.

fluiddruid
04-12-2010, 09:16 AM
Here's the story. (http://firstam.com/landsakes/html/email/061002biginch.html) Short answer, you don't own it anymore.

Unfortunately, no one paid taxes on the 19 acres, and in 1965 it was sold by the Canadian government for an arrearage of $37.20. According to an August 2000 article in the Whitehorse Star newspaper, "a Quaker Oats spokesman in Chicago claims the company never received a tax bill."

Spoons
04-12-2010, 09:16 AM
It was a cereal giveaway, sponsored by the Quaker company. Unfortunately, the deeds are worth nothing today. You can read all about the promotion at this link (http://yukoninfo.com/klondikebiginch.htm); but here's the part that answers your question:

Not only do these people not own the land now. They never did, because each individual deed was never formally registered. The Klondike Big Inch Land Co., an Illinois subsidiary established to handle the cerealís land affairs, has gone out of business. And anyway, the Canadian government repossessed all the land back in 1965 for nonpayment of $37.20 in property taxes.

jasg
04-12-2010, 11:07 AM
So, if I calculated this correctly, in 1965, it was worth:

$37.20 / (6,272,640 sq. in. * 19) = $ 0.000000312132489

johnpost
04-12-2010, 11:15 AM
does anyone have the episode

01/27/55 Land Deal

that this promotion was offered in? Yes that was the title for the episode.

Spoons
04-12-2010, 11:19 AM
No, the $37.20 was just property taxes. The entire plot was purchased for $1000, so you'd have to figure out how much the land had appreciated or depreciated between 1955 and 1965, and do the necessary calculations on the end figure.

But it would all be moot, because each square inch was never properly registered; and thus, the square-inch deed holder never really owned the land at all. I'd assume the Klondike Big Inch company did register the whole plot with the local land titles office, but it never legally severed the plot into square-inch parcels and the kids who got the certificates in their cereal never bothered registering the individual inches. (In fairness, lacking any information to the contrary from Klondike Big Inch or the Yukon or Canadian Governments, the kids couldn't have known they had to.) At any rate, proper title to the whole plot would have remained with the Klondike Big Inch company until the government repossessed the land for back taxes.

lieu
04-12-2010, 11:22 AM
Dirt deeds never done dirt cheap? Bummer.

Northern Piper
04-12-2010, 11:33 AM
Plus, in order to register individual title, there would have to be a subdivision application to the local authority, and I highly doubt that there would have been approval of subdivision into one inch square plots, so the kids never really owned those plots.

johnpost
04-12-2010, 12:26 PM
does anyone have the episode

01/27/55 Land Deal

that this promotion was offered in? Yes that was the title for the episode.

to not be confusing the above episode was in Challenge of the Yukon, the radio show.

The tv show, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, started in 09/55.

Chronos
04-12-2010, 01:28 PM
The certificates the kids got might still have value as collectibles, though, which would almost certainly be worth more than the plots of land themselves, and likely more than the original purchase price.

My dad had one of these. He liked to joke about buying up three more, in a triangle around his plot, and setting up a tiny tripod oil drill.

Dragline
04-12-2010, 04:38 PM
I still have six of the deeds - went in big, planning to go dig a few tons of gold and retire. Oh well, there's the Enron stock.

johnpost
04-12-2010, 05:28 PM
the certificates stated it didn't include mineral rights.

jasg
04-12-2010, 05:39 PM
I still have six of the deeds - went in big, planning to go dig a few tons of gold and retire. Oh well, there's the Enron stock.Then you may have some money coming to you!

The article linked by fluiddruid says that the certificates have sold for $40 on the collector market.

Also, it says that the 19 acres was sold for 37.20 in back taxes - I'm sure it was worth more, but it is the last quoted prices for the land ;)

Spoons
04-12-2010, 06:58 PM
Also, it says that the 19 acres was sold for 37.20 in back taxes - I'm sure it was worth more, but it is the last quoted prices for the land ;)Let's look at it another way: the land was seized by the government because the $37.20 assessed in property taxes were not paid. A seizure for unpaid taxes is not a sale. The title of the land simply reverted to the government; no money changed hands and no sale occurred. The government was out $37.20; but it did not resell the land for that (or any) amount.

Note that if the government had tried to resell the land in 1965 and found a willing buyer, the government's price would have to be a fair market value--certainly, not just the amount of the taxes. At the very least, there would be various fees associated with the transfer of title to the new buyer, possibly realtors' or agents' fees, and maybe mortgagees to pay out as well. After taxes, fees, mortgage, etc. had been deducted from the proceeds, anything left over would be returned to the owner from whom the land had been seized. This is all as directed by the applicable legislation about civil enforcement; to the best of my knowledge, governments are not exempt from the duties and responsibilities of any other creditor in seizure or repossession situations.

the certificates stated it didn't include mineral rightsVery few titles in western Canada do include mineral rights; I would be very surprised if a cereal box giveaway included mineral rights. For this reason, Chronos' father would be unable to set up a tiny drilling rig--because he had no right to the oil (technically, a mineral under local law) under his land. Sorry about that, Chronos.

samclem
04-12-2010, 07:10 PM
The certificates the kids got might still have value as collectibles, though, which would almost certainly be worth more than the plots of land themselves, and likely more than the original purchase. We bought 100 of these from a collector a few years ago. We run them on ebay and get about $20-25 for these.

Captain Amazing
04-12-2010, 07:28 PM
What would Sergeant Preston say if he knew what the Canadian government had done to his loyal listeners' land? Nothing good, I bet.

Northern Piper
04-12-2010, 10:14 PM
Sgt Preston would say that his loyal listeners should pay their taxes, like good citizens. :)

Northern Piper
04-12-2010, 10:15 PM
Very few titles in western Canada do include mineral rights; I would be very surprised if a cereal box giveaway included mineral rights.

Depends where you are in western Canada. When the feds started granting land in eastern Manitoba, mineral rights were often included; fewer as settlement progressed west into Saskatchewan, and even fewer in Alberta, as the feds cottoned on to the value of the minerals.

Captain Amazing
04-12-2010, 10:30 PM
Sgt Preston would say that his loyal listeners should pay their taxes, like good citizens. :)

Well, King, the case is closed!

Spoons
04-12-2010, 10:53 PM
What would Sergeant Preston say if he knew what the Canadian government had done to his loyal listeners' land? Nothing good, I bet.I know you're having a little fun, but there is a serious question inside your remark.

Generally speaking, all land in Canada that is in private hands is held in fee simple. Without going into an absurd amount of historical detail, this means that, for all intents and purposes, the title-holder owns the land--the only other person who has a superior claim to the title is the King or Queen (usually just called the Crown). There are no Dukes, Counts, Earls, or Barons or others from whom the fee simple title-holder received the land; and more importantly, to whom the title-holder owes allegiance or to whom the title-holder has ceded any rights based on his or her occupancy of the land. Nobody stands between the fee simple title-holder and the Crown--the ultimate title-holder. Again, bypassing a large amount of detail, this means that the fee simple title-holder has full rights to the land, and nobody except the Crown can defeat the fee simple title-holder's title. Note that this rarely happens; and when it does (as in the case of an expropriation for public purposes), full and fair market value is paid by the Crown.

Now, in the case of the Klondike Big Inch company (let's abbreviate that as "KBI"), the fee simple title-holder was KBI. It, in turn, severed its land holdings into inch-square parcels--6,272,640 of them, as has been said. Then it drew up title deeds to the parcels, and distributed them. But it never registered the individual parcels as fee simple holdings; and just as importantly, never told those who received the title deeds that they had to register their parcels to be regarded as fee simple title-holders. This put KBI in the position of being a feudal Duke, Count, Earl, or Baron: it owned the land and had a bunch of tenants who only had rights as far as KBI granted them. Which did not extend to fee simple ownership.

When the Crown seized the land for non-payment of taxes, it seized KBI's land--it did not seize (for example) the land Chronos' father held, because Chronos' father never really held it at all. He was not the fee simple title-holder; KBI was. As a result, Chronos' father was at best a tenant, paying nothing except the price of a box of cereal for the privilege, in return for which he received rights only until KBI (the fee simple title holder) lost the land. Which it did. At that point, any rights Chronos' father held to the land disappeared--or, if you prefer, Chronos' father's title was defeated by KBI's action (or inaction). Much as feudal serfs lost their land when their lord (Duke, Count, etc.) lost his landholdings.

Canadian legal Dopers, comments? Have I got the right idea?

Spoons
04-12-2010, 11:02 PM
Depends where you are in western Canada. When the feds started granting land in eastern Manitoba, mineral rights were often included; fewer as settlement progressed west into Saskatchewan, and even fewer in Alberta, as the feds cottoned on to the value of the minerals.Yes, we still have a few private fee simple title-holders in Alberta who have managed to retain mineral rights. But those are growing fewer as titles pass between bona fide purchasers for value. As I recall, my professor for my Land Titles class took a perverse delight in throwing questions involving privately-owned mineral rights into our exams; I don't know what she will do for difficult questions when the last private mineral title passes and all mineral rights revert to the Crown.

R. P. McMurphy
04-12-2010, 11:40 PM
Obviously, class action lawyers had not hit their stride when this promotion was concocted.

I don't think any reputable company would attempt anything this like that these days.

postcards
04-13-2010, 12:39 AM
I don't think any reputable company would attempt anything this like that these days.

Well, the Jack Danial's distillery is pretty reputable, and they've been handing out 'unrecorded plots' to the Tennessee Squires Association (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Daniel%27s#Tennessee_Squire) since 1956.

My plot is number F38235. I have no idea how large it is, but a few times a year they send me updates on the local conditions.

dtilque
04-13-2010, 01:03 AM
So, if I calculated this correctly, in 1965, it was worth:

$37.20 / (6,272,640 sq. in. * 19) = $ 0.000000312132489

What you actually calculated was the tax bill for each of the title holders. Or rather the 1965 tax bill, which I assume was for the first ten years of ownership. If they hadn't seized the land and the property tax rate hasn't changed since 1965, everyone who hadn't paid their taxes would now owe:

$0.000000312132489 * 5.5 = $0.0000017167286895

All right, everyone, pay up!

jbaker
04-13-2010, 11:31 AM
I don't think it's right to say that the deedholders never actually owned their land. Assuming the deeds were otherwise properly drawn up, they should have been sufficient to convey unperfected title to the plots, which the new owners could have perfected had they troubled to record title (at a cost undoubtedly in excess of the value of the land). Of course, the 1965 seizure of the land dispossessed those owners.

Should Quaker have told the kids that they had to record title? I don't think that's usual in land transactions; the normal assumption is that buyers know that recording is their responsibility. (In a typical residential real estate transaction, the mortgage lender's lawyer takes care of it.)

Northern Piper
04-13-2010, 11:45 PM
Except the territories in Canada use the Torrens system of land titles, not a system of land registration. Ownership is proven by the title. If you're not on title, you're not the owner.

The kids may have had some sort of equitable claim against the land-holding company, but if they weren't on title, they weren't the owner. Plus, there's the subdivision problem I mentioned earlier - in a titles system, the land titles act normally sets limits on how subdivision occurs, with approval from some planning agency necessary. If there wasn't subdivision approval, the kids couldn't register their title to their one inch plots.

Northern Piper
04-13-2010, 11:48 PM
Canadian legal Dopers, comments? Have I got the right idea?
I think so, subject to my comments about the titles system. I don't think it's accurate to say that the purchasers, like Chronos' father, had any sort of title, unless it was actually registered with the Torrens title system.

But I'm not a land lawyer, so I'm going on murky fumes left in the tank from the Bar Ads and articling. :)

GaryM
04-14-2010, 11:13 AM
Slight hijack, but it concerns Canadian mineral rights.

I ran across this article (http://thetyee.ca/News/2006/06/14/MiningRights/) a while back and marked it as I found it pretty unbelievable, at least to me.

If I understand correctly, pretty much anyone can/could file a mining claim on your property and explore for minerals with the property owner having no recourse.

I posted this as it seems to fit in with the mineral rights discussion.

Is this still the case, and is it unique to BC?

Spoons
04-14-2010, 12:45 PM
Is this still the case, and is it unique to BC?It looks like some changes have been made to the legislation in order to address the concerns of landowners such as those in your linked article. See the information factsheet at this link (http://amebc.ca/Libraries/Taxation_Ecomonic_Incentives/Fact_Sheet_for_Private_Landowners.sflb.ashx) (warning, PDF). While the factsheet is detailed but clear, I think this part goes a good way towards answering your question:

While a Free Miner may enter Crown or private land in B.C. to explore for minerals belonging to the province, restrictions are placed on this access. A Free Minerís right of entry does not extend to:

-- land occupied by a building,
-- the area around a dwelling house (the curtilage),
-- orchard land or land under cultivation, and
-- protected heritage property or land in a park.

As of June 2, 2008, before entering private land to explore for minerals a Free Miner must provide notice to the landowner in the prescribed manner. Similarly, if the land to be entered is leased under the Land Act, the Free Miner must notify the lessee.

The owner or lessee cannot prohibit entry but is entitled to compensation for loss or damage caused by the entry.Looks like the miner referred to at the beginning of the article can't just wander onto private property any time he feels like it any more--he must provide notice--and if he digs or paints anything, he owes the landowner some compensation for the damage he causes.

I don't know if the same situation would occur in other provinces, as land titles and mineral rights are provincial responsibilities. This means, of course, that their laws regarding mining claims are not necessarily the same as BC's.

Chronos
04-14-2010, 12:51 PM
I find it amusing that my father has become the example "landowner" in this discussion, despite the fact that the OP, ralph124c, apparently also bought one.

elbows
04-14-2010, 12:56 PM
Spoons I believe you're right, there are indeed considerably different laws governing such things from BC, a province, and Yukon, a territory.

Spoons
04-14-2010, 01:10 PM
I find it amusing that my father has become the example "landowner" in this discussion, despite the fact that the OP, ralph124c, apparently also bought one.I find "Chronos" easier to type than "ralph124c." :)

But I'm not a land lawyer, so I'm going on murky fumes left in the tank from the Bar Ads and articling.Prompted by an interest piqued by a long-ago job I once had, I actually did study land titles and the Torrens system at law school. Other than that (and bar ads and articling), however, I do very little with real estate; though for some odd reason, my office is in the real estate department of our firm. I guess I continue to keep my knowledge of real estate law through some of the office discussions occurring in the vicinity of my office.

GaryM
04-14-2010, 01:24 PM
It looks like some changes have been made to the legislation in order to address the concerns of landowners such as those in your linked article. See the information factsheet at this link (http://amebc.ca/Libraries/Taxation_Ecomonic_Incentives/Fact_Sheet_for_Private_Landowners.sflb.ashx) (warning, PDF). While the factsheet is detailed but clear, I think this part goes a good way towards answering your question:

Looks like the miner referred to at the beginning of the article can't just wander onto private property any time he feels like it any more--he must provide notice--and if he digs or paints anything, he owes the landowner some compensation for the damage he causes.

I don't know if the same situation would occur in other provinces, as land titles and mineral rights are provincial responsibilities. This means, of course, that their laws regarding mining claims are not necessarily the same as BC's.

Thanks for the information.

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