By Jesse Robitaille
Realizations include buyer’s premium.
Even exceeding auctioneers’ expectations, a pair of sought-after $500 banknotes set world records as they drew spirited bidding during this June’s Prominence Sale IV.
A 1911 $500 bill (DC-19) crossed the block for $528,750 after 15 bidders put their hats in the ring to own what auctioneers described as the “holy grail” of Dominion of Canada banknotes. The same denomination from the Bank of Canada’s inaugural 1935 Series (BC-17) brought $337,812.50, with more than 20 bidders competing for that lot. Both sales set new world records as the June 26-29 auction, hosted by the Canadian Numismatic Company (TCNC), topped $2.5 million in total realizations.
“I sincerely think this great sale we just had will help the Canadian numismatic industry and prove our market strong and healthy,” said auctioneer Marc Verret, the owner of the Québec-based auction house. “I am very proud of this sale and all the records set, but I’m also so happy for the Canadian coin market, for our industry. It is good for all of us.”
With nearly 40 bidders competing for the two leading $500 banknote lots – both with a $100,000 estimate and $50,000 opening bid – it “created some occasional memorable moments of juggling through numerous phone bidders at a time,” Verret added.
“Cell phones, store phones and even borrowed family phones were necessary to fulfill the phone bidder requests.”
Offered as Lot 412, the 1911 bill (the so-called “Queen Mary” note) is certified as Very Fine-20 by Legacy Currency Grading (LCG), a third-party paper money grading service founded in 2019. The note’s serial number is “012754.”
It’s one of just four privately owned examples, and while the Bank of Canada’s National Currency Collection holds both specimen and proof examples, no institutional collections have an issued example, Verret said.
Another issued example – also in Very Fine condition and with a serial number reading “012735” – brought $322,000 US (about $344,000 Cdn.) as Lot 12893 of Heritage Auctions’ September 2008 “Long Beach” sale.
This previous record was topped by more than $200,000 this June.
1935 $500 NOTE
The 1935 $500 note, offered as Lot 455, is also certified by LCG as Extremely Fine-45 PPQ (premium paper quality), better than the past two examples offered by TCNC.
Its realization – $337,812.50 – also exceeds the past record for this note by more than $200,000.
Before this June’s auction, no other sales of a 1935 $500 banknote were recorded for more than $100,000, Verret said.
“Before this one sold a few days ago, we held the previous record as well,” he added, referencing an example certified as Very Fine-25 that sold for $97,750 as Lot 406 of the 2014 Torex Auction.
The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Government Paper Money lists examples in Extremely Fine-40 at $250,000.
The example offered this June topped that catalogue value by more than $75,000.
“The Canadian market is very strong and extremely healthy,” said Verret. “Collectors, investors and dealers are more knowledgable than ever, and they have realized how rare our Canadian rarities are – or were – undervalued. More and more serious buyers have stepped up and are now willing to pay whatever it takes to obtain either the extremely rare items or the high-end material.”
He expects demand for this sought-after material to continue growing as it has in recent years – and especially throughout the pandemic.
“Before, during or after the pandemic – it doesn’t really matter. I think the interest keeps growing, and if we can come up with the items the buyers are looking for, they will just keep buying them.”