Check out the top five coins, banknotes of 2020

Following our two-part numismatic year in review (‘Lack of shows, club meetings undermines hobby camaraderie,’ Vol. 58 #20, and ‘Market plateaus amid pandemic with hopes high for 2021,’ Vol. 58 #21), CCN has compiled a list of the top five Canadian coins and banknotes sold at auction in 2020 using the data from its regular auction reviews.

By Jesse Robitaille

Realizations include buyer’s premium unless otherwise noted.

A key-date silver dollar in high Mint-State (MS) condition was the top-earning Canadian coin at auction in 2020.

Certified as MS-66 – one of only three examples recorded in that grade by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) – the 1948 dollar hammered down for $49,000 (plus $9,800 buyer’s premium) at auction last April. One of only 18,780 silver dollars issued in 1948, it crossed the block as Lot 255 of Geoffrey Bell Auctions’ (GBA) Spring Sale.

Other third-party grading services, including Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and Canadian Coin Certification Service, also haven’t certified a 1948 Canadian silver dollar above MS-64, according to auctioneer Brian Bell, of the New Brunswick-based auction house.

Looking back to 2019, the top-earning Canadian coin sold at auction that year was a 1911 silver dollar pattern. One of only two known to exist, it brought $552,000 US (about $735,000 Cdn.) as Lot 31399 of the George Cook Collection sale. Dealers Sandy Campbell and Ian Laing, of Nova Scotia and Manitoba, respectively, jointly acquired the coin.

While the 1948 silver dollar commands a strong price across all grades, other dates are more affordable.

As reported by CCN last May (“Canadian coin market teeming with quality for under $500,” Vol. 58 #5), silver dollars are among the most sought-after yet affordable Canadian coins. While the key-date ’48 dollar has a Trends valuation of $2,000 in MS-60, the previous year’s issue, which has a similarly low mintage of 21,135, can be had for between $215 and $1,100 in the same grade, depending on which of the many varieties it is.


One of only 50 known 1916-C gold specimen sovereigns ranked in the second spot among the top-earning Canadian coins of 2020.

Both a type and grade rarity, the coin is certified as MS-64 by PCGS. Offered as Lot 99177 of the Caranett Collection of Sovereigns this May, it sold for $38,400 US (about $54,180 Cdn.). It is “arguably the most famed rarity of the short-lived Canadian Sovereign series,” according to auctioneers with the Texas-based Heritage Auctions, which handled the Caranett Collection.

In 2019, another 1916-C sovereign specimen in MS-66 sold for $156,000 US (about $207,635 Cdn.), including buyer’s premium, as Lot 31390 of the Cook Collection. Despite being only the fifth top-earning Canadian coin sold at auction in 2019, it realized more than the top four Canadian coins sold at auction in 2020 – combined.

#3: 1888 50-CENT COIN

Among the top three Canadian coins sold at auction in 2020 was a Victorian key-date variety in MS-63.

The 1888-dated 50-cent “Obverse 2” variety was offered as Lot 704 of the Winter Torex Auction held in Toronto last February, about two weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Offered by The Canadian Numismatic Company, the coin brought $44,030, including buyer’s premium.

The sale was one of the last in-person numismatic auctions held in Canada.

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