1911 silver dollar in public spotlight for first time in decades at ‘National Show’

By Jesse Robitaille

Collectors rushed the doors of the Fall 2019 National Postage Stamp and Coin Show this September amid the fervour surrounding Canada’s rarest coin, shown publicly for the first time in 30 years.

Displayed alongside a complete set of 1911-12 specimen coins, the only privately owned 1911 silver dollar was on the bourse of the recent “National Show,” which returned to the Greater Toronto Area on Sept. 7-8.

“It had a great impact on the show and the hobby, and it got people in the door who might not have come in,” said dealer Sandy Campbell, owner of Proof Positive Coins and co-owner of the 1911 silver dollar, also known as the “Emperor of Canadian Coins.”

It’s one of only two examples struck in silver after King George V ascended to the throne following the death of his father, Edward VII, in May 1910. While two 1911 $1 coins were struck in silver – plus another in lead that remained undiscovered until 1977 – the silver dollar was officially held off until 1935, when the $1 “Voyageur” coin was issued.

“It was steady for the two-and-a-half days we were showing the 1911 silver dollar to people,” added Campbell, who along with Ian Laing, owner of Winnipeg’s Gatewest Coin, acquired the coin at auction this August.

The coin’s presence was covered by national media, including The Globe & Mail, as well as local Toronto media.

The duo paid $552,000 US (about $735,000 Cdn.) for what was the highest-earning lot of the George Hans Cook Collection, which brought $3.2 million US (about $4.2 million Cdn.) when it crossed the block on Aug. 15.

The only other 1911-dated silver dollar has been held in the Bank of Canada’s National Currency Collection – on loan from the British Royal Mint – for nearly 50 years.

The example shown in Mississauga this September has changed hands only 17 times since 1960, when its existence was first made public after U.K.-based auction house B.A. Seaby announced it acquired the coin “from an undisclosed source.”

Altogether, the coin has been owned by 18 separate parties – either individuals or partnerships, like the one between Campbell and Laing – and hasn’t been shown publicly since the late 1980s, when it was held by Montréal’s Empire Industries.

“There was a good crowd there when I went down to get a peek and admire its attractiveness,” said dealer Sean Isaacs, owner of Almonte, Ont.’s Alliance Coin and Banknote.

“Judging by the crowd, it had a big impact. It’s one of those things that catch the eye of the press, whether you’re a coin collector or not. Displays, in general, are a critical element to a show, where just one fabled coin can make an impact, and it certainly did that weekend.”

Moving forward, Campbell and Laing are keeping quiet about the coin’s future and instead only affirm it “will not leave Canada again,” referencing its recent sale by the Texas-based Heritage Auctions.


Collectors of all ages turned out in large numbers to the Sept. 7-8 show in Mississauga.

With the presence of Canadian numismatic royalty on the bourse throughout the weekend, one might think the show’s philatelic accompaniment would be overshadowed; however, the two hobbies share more similarities than differences.

“Both industries see a need for a little bit of participation between the two hobbies, and I think Mike (Walsh, CCN publisher) understands both hobbies better than any CCN publisher of the past,” said Campbell.

“Historically, coin and stamp shows don’t do well together, but this one sort of breaks the mould. The promotion for the show is great, and that goes for both for the stamp and coin hobby.”

Having both hobbies “under one roof” is also a positive for dealer Gerard Feehan, owner of Halifax’s Citadel Coins.

“A lot of collectors do collect both, so having it all under one roof makes sense. It’s a bigger show with a bigger turnout, and that’s because there is a crossover.”

Feehan, who attends about 10 shows a year, welcomes any opportunity to network with like-minded people – even if they’re stamp collectors, he added.

John Masterson, the owner of Ontario’s Beaver Bullion, was one of about 50 dealers on the bourse in Mississauga.

“It’s more people for us to make those connections, and more is better. With both (stamps and coins), it gives the show a good flow.”

These comments were echoed by Isaacs, who added the “dynamics of the show are great.”

“It’s the only coin and stamp show at the national level, and it’s nice to see the two hobbies come together at a great location.”

Formerly organized by the Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association as the “National Postage Stamp Show,” it was sold to Trajan Media and rebranded to add numismatics in 2015 before moving to a new venue  – the Hilton Mississauga – in 2016.

“The show seems to be gaining momentum because every show is a little better than the previous in regards to attendance, in regards to frequent buyers and in regards to dealer interaction and business,” said Feehan, who has attended each National Show since it began under Trajan’s management in 2015.

“And of course, it’s well promoted. We feel it’s one of the best in Canada.”

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