By Jesse Robitaille
Since 1867—a time before the Royal Mint birthed the Royal Canadian Mint, and before the Bank of Canada was established—there have been thousands upon thousands of coins and banknotes issued for circulation in Canada.
And while many collectors agree it’s tough to choose a favourite out of the gamut of Canadian coins and banknotes, in honour of Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial, a few have tried to pinpoint their favourite issues of the past 150 years.
1924 $5 QUEEN MARY NOTE
Morris Kosowan, owner of Classic Cash in Alberta, said his favourite banknote series—the one he has “a passion for”—is the Bank of Canada’s first series, the 1935 Series.
“I love the ’35s because they only had a two-year issue, and they survived the Depression,” he said. “Anybody who put a dollar away during the Depression – or even had a dollar – had some money.”
Of the 10 denominations included in the 1935 Series, Kosowan said the higher denominations – such as the $500 and $1,000 note – are his favourites.
“I’ve only ever seen three or four for private purchase,” he said, of the English-language $500 note. “They’re very pricey, and at this point, I don’t know if I’d buy one or not.”
The 1935 Series is the only Bank of Canada series to include a $500 denomination as well as include both English- and French-language examples of each denomination.
In terms of single banknotes, Kosowan said another favourite is the 1924 $5 Dominion of Canada note (DC-27) featuring Queen Mary in official court dress of consort on the obverse. The note’s reverse depicts the East Block of the Parliament Buildings.
An example in Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) About Uncirculated-58 brought $14,500 (not including buyer’s premium) as Lot 859 at the recent Toronto Coin Expo Spring Sale, held this June. The note was offered as part of the Covered Bridge Collection.
Kosowan, who has been dealing for 22 years and has been a collector for most of his life, said he’s becoming increasingly interested in paper money.
“I think it’s because of the survival rate and the delicacy of the notes, compared to coins, which are a hard metal,” he said, of his fondness for banknote collecting.
1936 DOT CENT
Greg Jones, owner of Lighthouse Numismatics, said his favourite piece from the past 150 years is the famed 1936 dot cent.
“I love the simplicity of problem solving the change of monarch from 1936 to 1937 with the ’36 dot coinage,” said Jones. “The Mint’s fear of not having a portrait die prepared and struck in time to acknowledge King George VI taking over the throne resulted in this small dot between the ‘9’ and ‘3’ to be its indicator for coins issued in ’37.”
Nearly one year after the death of King George V on Jan. 20, 1936, his immediate successor (and his eldest son) Edward VIII abdicated the throne. The next in line was George VI; however, the Mint didn’t have his effigy prepared so planned to re-use the George V effigy with the addition of a small dot directly below the date.
“Turning out not to need them and having virtually all melted makes a funny aside to what collectors and dealers know to be one of Canada’s most rare coins,” added Jones.
Only three 1936 dot cents are known to exist today.
In April 2013, the Texas-based Heritage Auctions sold “the legendary Pittman-Krause 1936 dot cent” to an anonymous Canadian collector for $253,000 Cdn. The coin was formerly owned by numismatist John Jay Pittman, whose home it was stolen from in 1964 but later returned, as well as CCN founder Chet Krause, who sold the coin in 2004 for $207,000 Cdn.
125th ANNIVERSARY OF CONFEDERATION
Phillip Beauchamp, co-owner of Pheli Mint, said his favourite issue of the past century and a half is the 1992 12-coin set honouring Canada’s 125th anniversary.
“When I think of the most Canadian issue, what really strikes me is the 125th anniversary quarter set featuring the 12 provinces and territories,” said Beauchamp, who added he was nine years old when the set was released.
“I remember my dad had a small grocery store, and that’s when I really started with the coins. He had a pop machine, so we’d take them all out of the pop machine and put them in paper cards, and then he’d resell them at his store, and I have sets and sets of those,” he said. “That’s my first coin memory, and that’s the issue that really strikes with me.”
Beauchamp said he has been “dabbling” in numismatics since working with his father as a child. He recently co-founded Pheli Mint – a new private mint located near Belleville, Ont. – with fellow collector Eli Richter.
1975 $50 RCMP NOTE
Canadian Paper Money Society (CPMS) past president Jared Stapleton said his favourite Bank of Canada note is the 1975 $50 bill commemorating the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the reverse.
“I do have some 1975 $50 notes in my collection,” said Stapleton, who’s also owner of Metro Coin and Banknote in Toronto’s west end as well as the biannual Toronto Coin Expo. “This is a note that I remember when I was a kid and I admire the musical RCMP ride portrait on the back of the note.”