By Jesse Robitaille
With the help of a pair of well-known Canadian dealers, the Bank of Canada Museum has acquired what was the only publicly available 1911 silver dollar.
A pattern coin (an experimental piece struck to evaluate production details such as proposed designs, metal compositions and die formats), the iconic silver dollar now belongs to the central bank’s National Currency Collection. It joins two other patterns in silver and lead, with which it will soon be publicly displayed – in the same showcase – for the first time since their minting 111 years ago. The public will be able to view the three coins in the museum’s permanent galleries once the provincial government lifts its pandemic restrictions and the museum can reopen to the public.
“Such an important Canadian numismatic treasure belongs in a museum,” said museum curator David Bergeron, who currently serves as the president of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society, of which he’s also a Fellow.
While the museum “doesn’t disclose the terms of these types of transactions,” it took possession of the coin last July, according to Bergeron. In addition to its planned museum display, he hopes to display the three coins – the two silver patterns plus the lead example – at the upcoming Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) Convention in Ottawa.
The RCNA is planning to host an in-person convention – its first since 2019 – in the nation’s capital on July 20-24.
If public health and health system indicators continue to improve in Ontario, the provincial government plans to lift its current capacity limits in all indoor public settings on March 1.
“As long as public health guidelines allow, the museum hopes to have all three coins on display for the RCNA Convention this summer,” said Bergeron, who added he’s “delighted” the museum could acquire the 1911 silver dollar pattern. “Repatriating the coin for everyone to enjoy will always be one of my proudest achievements. The coin now belongs to the Canadian public, and it will be available for all visitors to the Bank of Canada Museum to enjoy in person or to view and read about on the museum’s website.”
On loan from the British Royal Mint, the only other 1911 silver dollar has been held in the National Currency Collection since 1976. It has been publicly displayed in the museum’s gallery since 1980.
While the museum has certainly benefitted from this long-term loan, the Royal Mint “could recall the coin at any time,” Bergeron said.
“Now, with an example to call its own, the Bank of Canada Museum can ensure that an example is permanently on display for all visitors to enjoy.”
The lead pattern was discovered in a federal finance department desk in 1977, since which time it has joined the National Currency Collection’s roughly 130,000 artifacts, only 1,400 of which are displayed in its galleries.
The collection also holds two uniface electrotype replicas, one featuring the obverse design and another with the reverse.
Another complete electrotype replica is also available on the collector market, where it most recently hammered down for $14,000 during the July 2016 RCNA Sale.
The Royal Mint struck the replicas – a common practice through the 1800s and 1900s – for contemporary museum displays.
& THE ‘EMPEROR’
Canadian dealers Sandy Campbell, of Nova Scotia, and Ian Laing, of Winnipeg, jointly acquired the last publicly available 1911 silver dollar in 2019.
Together, they had a plan to ensure it would evermore remain in Canada. The museum worked with Campbell to transfer its ownership to the bank’s collection last summer, about a year after it sold at auction.
“Ian and I both felt the coin belongs to the people and should never have been in private hands,” Campbell said this February. “I was fortunate to handle this coin three times and feel bad that other dealers will not get that opportunity. Having said that, I still believe the greater good was to have the coin permanently in the Bank of Canada collection for all Canadians to enjoy.”