Long-held rarities see light of day in historic sale

By Jesse Robitaille 

“It was the greatest auction I’ve ever been a part of.”

Charles “Chuck” Moore made the remark earlier this month, after the Canadian Legacy Sale II realized $4.1 million in total sales. With its first two sessions bringing in more than $3 million, the auction was the largest sale of Canadian materials in Canadian numismatic history.

In fact, by the time the sale’s fourth and final auction was set to begin, auctioneer Steven Bromberg announced the sale had already set a new record for Canadian auctions.

Jointly presented by Bromberg and Moore, the four-day sale included 3,000 lots of rare and high-quality coins, tokens, medals and banknotes from the world over. More than 600 bidders registered online with iCollector, about 500 of whom actively bid throughout the sale. An additional 200 people placed bids from the floor, telephone and mail.

“It was a very strong sale just on its own,” said Moore, president of Moore Numismatic Auctions. “There aren’t many collections like this.”

The first session began on Feb. 11 with the sale of the Landon collection.

Canadian tokens sold well, with bulk lots often doubling or tripling their estimates. And as auctioneers reached the red-hot U.S. coins, prices began to climb. While this quantity and quality of U.S. coins had never been seen before in Canada, Moore said, the Canadian material was also incredible.

“The hordes of Canadian coins are very unusual, going back to the Victorian era. Occasionally, 20 pieces would show up of a penny dated 1901, but in this case, there are probably 1,500 Canadian Victorian-era pennies in Mint State condition.”

Moore said the release of these coins “almost doubles the known population of many of these issues.” As a result, he decided carefully on when and how to release the coins, of which there were about 730 Canadian large cents in ICCS-graded MS-64 to MS-66, to market.

“We also had to consider the ethics of the Landon sale and what a sale like this could do to the market.”

Bromberg said there were fears about how a large amount of fresh material coming onto the market at once, as it did with this sale, would affect pricing.

“If anything, what happened was there were so many people looking at the opportunity to acquire these coins that prices held firm and maybe even went higher with the interest in the fresh material available.”

He said he believes prices will remain high.

Seven pieces, including a 1915 Canadian large cent that sold for nearly $10,000, were graded MS-67 Red. Nearly all of the large cents had at least 90 per cent of their original golden-red lustre and were spot-free thanks to excellent handling and storage. Interestingly, it is believed the coins were collected between 1882 and 1916 in the year of issue and carefully stored until their discovery only two years ago; true numismatic treasures, some locked away for 130 years.

“Not only are the coins remarkable, but the fact that their existence remained a secret for over a century is equally remarkable,” said Moore.

Bromberg, president and CEO of Canadian Coin & Currency, said the Landon and Victoria North sales show the “solid depth of the Canadian coin community.

“We found that the two collections combined served to bring out all of the serious collectors across Canada and the world.”

On Feb. 12, the second session saw the Victoria North collection realize nearly
$1.2 million after buyer’s premiums with more than 80 per cent of the collection sold and more than 90 lots selling at or above their pre-auction estimates.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a large numismatic auction room filled to capacity with floor bidders,” said Bromberg. “With the quality and quantity of coins and banknotes in the Canadian Legacy sale, I think just about every collector with an empty space in their collection was participating.”

The collection’s centrepiece realized a price nearly $50,000 over its original estimate after feverish bidding on the floor, phone and Internet sent the price skyward. The stunning 1921 50-cent in MS-65 – Bromberg’s personal favourite from the sale – eventually sold to an online bidder for $220,000.

“It’s kind of the obvious stand-out piece of the collection, but I think what I like about the collection more than anything else is the fact that it’s consistently attractive and consistently high-quality,” said Bromberg, explaining the collection’s consignor passed over pieces unless they were of exceptional grade and eye-appeal.

While some of the Victorian coppers from the second session went unsold, highlights included some coins that were absent from the Landon collection. The 1907H cent in ICCS MS-65 Red exceeded its original estimate and realized more than $6,600. Key date pieces such as the 1926 Far 6 five cents in ICCS MS-65 and the 1936 Dot 25 cents brought $15,525 and $8,625 respectively. The 1948 silver dollar in MS-66 also sold well, nearly reaching its $50,000 estimate.

Bromberg said he met most of his goals for the sale.

“To set new records for the highest-grossing sale of Canadian numismatics ever is a major accomplishment, but I think this is secondary to the type of auction experience we want to deliver to our bidders and consignors.”

Bidders at the auction were shown images of each lot as they were bidding. By the fourth session, bidders could also see iCollector bids as they were made in real-time. Similarly, online bidders were provided with high-quality photography of each item as well as a live stream of the auctioneer’s panel.

“But most importantly, we sought to provide a completely transparent auction with clear modest opening bids and professional practices,” said Bromberg.

The Canadian Legacy Sale III is being planned for the fall.

Prices listed do not include buyer’s premiums or sales taxes.

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