Majority of unprecedented Cornerstone Collection sells for $3 million

By Jesse Robitaille

Three-quarters of collection changes hands while only available 1936 ‘dot’ set, worth $1.5 million, still available, garnering interest from several parties

With 20 unique pieces among its more than 250 rare and highly graded specimen coins, the Cornerstone Collection exceeded virtually all expectations when it was offered in a fixed-price catalogue beginning this June.

Assembled by the Rogozinsky family over a nearly 50-year period, the multi-generational collection is estimated at $5 million altogether. It was sold in 2018 to Nova Scotia dealer Sandy Campbell, owner of Proof Positive Coins, who then submitted the collection to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) for certification.

Earlier this year, he proceeded with its sale as outlined by the Rogozinsky family, who wished to see Campbell “maintain the pristine condition of these coins, and to pass them on to a new generation of rare coin collectors, in a respectful manner.”

“Sales are better than anticipated, and we’re very happy for that and the market,” said Campbell, who added the sale’s outcome was uncertain as it vied for attention with the George Cook Collection of Canadians Coins, which was announced this March and offered by Heritage Auctions on Aug. 15.

“There’s always a worry people will sit on their hands and wait, but with the quality and uniqueness of the Cornerstone offering, people just weren’t going to miss out.”

The eight-piece specimen set for 1911-12 (1911 sovereign shown) was also sold for $140,000 from the collection, which was assembled by the Rogozinsky family.

The response from the Canadian numismatic community was “overwhelmingly positive,” Campbell said, with several noteworthy collectors offering testimonials.

“I found the overall quality of this collection to be superb and even saw a few examples that eluded us in specimen condition when we assembled our complete set of mint condition Canadian and provincial coins,” said Sid Belzberg, whose own collection realized nearly $3 million USD in 2003.

Brian Cornwell, founder of International Coin Grading Service, called it “unquestionably the greatest collection of specimen coins ever assembled or offered for sale in Canadian numismatics” while Jack Alston, whose collection of Canadian specimens was sold by Heritage in 2001, called it a “landmark offering for Canadian coins.”

“Never did I expect to see such a comprehensive collection of high-grade Canada specimens,” added Alston.

SPECIMENS & PROOFS

The four-piece 1930 specimen set (10-cent coin shown) sold for $150,000.

In the early 1970s, Abe Rogozinsky and his son, Michael, the current president of Empire Auctions, began assembling a collection of high-quality specimens and proofs.

“Instantly rarer than business strikes, due to the tiny mintages, and superior in appearance to regular issues, putting together a collection like this had never been done before,” wrote Michael Rogozinsky in the collection’s catalogue, which was sold for $75 with all proceeds going to the Victoria County Memorial Hospital Charitable Foundation – and matched by Proof Positive Coins.

“The collection really represents the rarest and finest of Canadian coins. Our intent was, and remains, to preserve coins for serious collectors of future generations,” wrote Rogozinsky. “The coins were well taken care of, never mishandled nor cleaned. Every single coin remains in the original pristine condition as we acquired them.”

While the Rogozinsky’s auction house, Empire Auctions, handled the sale of the family’s other collections, their “intimate attachment” to the specimens made auctioning that material “too much of an emotional conflict,” Rogozinsky said.

Wanting to sell the entire collection in one transaction – and importantly, within Canada – the family eventually decided on Campbell, who Michael calls his “friend and colleague in the industry for nearly 40 years.”

The five-piece 1934 specimen set (50-cent coin shown) sold for $95,000.

‘COINS THAT MATTER’

With better-than-anticipated results, the collection’s sale is a good sign for the rare coin market in Canada, Campbell said.

“The market is very strong for coins that matter. There are items in this collection that we haven’t seen in several generations, and while some of the big-ticket items didn’t sell, others did.”

Sold lots include the complete specimen sets for 1870, 1872-H, 1881-H, 1902, 1911-12, 1930, 1931, 1934 and 1938 plus “virtually everything after that date,” Campbell said, adding there were about $3 million in sales altogether.

“Some really cool proof stuff from 1884-94, most of that material is still in the collection, with a few exceptions.”

Only five sets, including four Canadian and one Newfoundland, remain unsold but with active interest, Campbell said.

Among them is the only privately available 1936 “dot” specimen set, which is estimated at $1.5 million.

“Going forward, a few clients are looking at large purchases, but they’re waiting to see what happens with Cook,” added Campbell at the time of printing, a week before the sale of the Cook Collection.

“They’re seeing where the better bargain is. It’s hard to believe people at the higher end are looking for a bargain, but as a collector, it’s about getting the most bang for your buck.”

Despite the divided interests, Campbell said about a dozen items had a handful of interested buyers soon after the catalogue was mailed this June.

“We priced the stuff very fairly, and I think that’s why there was such an overwhelming response.”

About $50,000 – proceeds from the sale of the catalogue – will be donated to the Victoria County Memorial Hospital Charitable Foundation, which supports the Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Campbell’s hometown of Baddeck, N.S.

“We’re quite involved with that foundation, and we’re very happy about that donation.”

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