Auction preview: 1911 electrotype at RCNA Sale

We’re only two weeks away from the annual convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA), where the gamut of numismatic treasures will cross the block in a three-session sale hosted by New Brunswick’s Geoffrey Bell Auctions (GBA).


Among the more interesting pieces in the upcoming auction, to be held July 20-22, is Lot 1264, a 1911 electrotype silver dollar estimated at $20,000$30,000.

“That’s a pretty cool piece,” said auctioneer Brian Bell. “We suspect it’ll hit in estimate range, and I honestly believe the owner of the 1911 dollar will probably step up and want this piece, too, because really, it’d be a nice little package side-by-side.”

Lot 1264

Lot 1264 (shown above) has a weight of 24.7 grams and a 35-mm diameter.

This electrotype (which is a copy of a coin produced using an electroplating process—common throughout the 19th and 20th centuries) is a copy of the 1911 silver dollar designed by Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal. It measures 35 mm in diameter; weighs 24.7 grams; and is composed of 73 per cent copper and 27 per cent silver with “traces of base metals,” according to Bell.

“Most electrotypes of the Royal Mint were made by Charles Ready from 1880 to 1900 but his sons carried on after that,” he said, adding this specific piece was likely made from one of only two struck specimens known to exist (one belongs to the Bank of Canada’s numismatic collection and the other is in private hands).

“Nobody really knows,” he said, of how many electrotype examples exist. “These things were produced for display purposes in museums, the Royal Mint and wherever the 1911 silver dollar was to be shown.”

The Bank of Canada has electrotypes of the obverse and reverse, Bell said, but they are “uniface specimens” weighing 13.91 and 18.37 grams, respectively.

“This specimen [Lot 1264] has an antique finish unlike the shiny Bank of Canada specimens.”

Bell said the RCNA Sale will be the “highlight of the year” for GBA, which is coming off a likewise outstanding sale at the recent Toronto Coin Expo, where a classic copper Owen Ropery storecard (Breton 564) sold for nearly $23,000, among other highlights.

“It’s the gathering place,” said Bell, of the annual RCNA conventions, “and having it in Ottawa made it one of our must-have venues.”

“Ottawa is full of history and we have attempted to make this offering an historic event to suit the venue,” he said, adding GBA hasn’t bid to host an RCNA auction since 2010, when it hosted the sale in Saint John, N.B., Bell’s home province. But this year’s sale is likely GBA’s “best offering to date,” according to the long-time auctioneer. “There are numismatic treasures not seen for generations and you are invited to participate.”

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