Auction review: ‘King of Canadian Coins’ among offerings

A 1921 50 cents—widely known as the “King of Canadian Coins”—will be among the highlights of the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) Auction to be hosted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries next month.

Lot 20065 of the sale’s third session, the coin was struck by the Ottawa Mint. Described as “excessively rare” in any grade, this example has a grade of Specimen-62 from the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).

According to the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, the coin had an initial mintage of 206,398 pieces; however, contemporary demand was not present for the 50-cent denomination, and only about 28,000 pieces were issued between 1921 and 1929.

Known as the ‘King of Canadian Coins,’ the 1921 50-cent piece has a storied history.


According to auctioneers, most experts believe the coins issued were dated 1920. When demand for the denomination resurfaced at the turn of the decade, Mint Master John Honeyford Campbell melted the entire population of 1920-21 issues before re-coining the silver for a 1929 issue.

Campbell was worried the public would suspect the 1920-21 issues to be counterfeit if they were dispersed in 1929 owing to the large quantity and old year-dates. It’s believed about 75 1921-dated pieces survived the melting pot—some through the sale of Specimen sets (like the example to be offered by Stack’s) and others through circulation strikes sold to visitors of the Mint.

Described by auctioneers as displaying “beautiful dusty rose toning … brilliant iridescent highlights and excellent eye appeal.”

Housed in an older generation green label PCGS capsule, this is the sole example at this designation (with only three examples certified finer). It has an opening bid of $27,000 USD and a pre-sale estimate of $45,000 USD-$60,000 USD.

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