With reporting by Bret Evans and Jeff Fournier
On today’s date in 2016, long-time Canadian dealer Ernest George Watson died at the age of 80 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Born in Yorkton, Sask., Watson moved to Alberta in 1950 and began working for Burns and Company. He became one of the company’s youngest salesmen in 1954 and married his wife, Isabella Masciangelo, on June 30, 1956. They moved to Lethbridge, where he continued to work with the company, in 1957—the same year a daughter, Roxanne, was born. A son, Rick, was born the following year. The family moved to Calgary in 1964, when Ernie and his father, Albert, entered the coin business together. Under the name Albern Coins (later adding “Foreign Exchange”), the business thrived for the next 40 years and became a Calgary landmark and one of the largest companies of its kind in Canada.
“He was one of the people who made coin collecting cool in Canada,” dealer Sandy Campbell, owner of Proof Positive Coins, told CCN in 2016.
The father-and-son duo enjoyed a great run that allowed Ernie to semi-retire in 1990 and hand down the business to his son, Rick, who ran Albern Coins and Foreign Exchange with Don Carlson, Ernie’s son-in-law, until it was sold to Gatewest Coins in 2001.
“Ernie was a gentleman, always,” Ian Laing, of Winnipeg’s Gatewest Coins, told CCN in 2016.
“You could not say a better thing than that. He always acted correctly in all his dealings and in all his relationships.”
Laing also noted Watson entered the coin business at the beginning of the modern coin collecting boom in Canada.
“He’s the last of the dealers who were here in the first coin collecting boom,” Laing told CCN, adding those dealers helped to form the hobby of today.
ALBERN COINS’ CCN ADS
Many CCN readers recognize the advertisements Albern Coins consistently placed in the paper. While the early advertisements were quite small, they soon grew to one and then two pages as the company expanded. The familiar heading in every issue boasted of the consecutive number of ads the company placed beginning in 1964, when CCN was known as Canada Coin News, and later as it changed its name to Coin Stamp Antique News and finally to CCN.
Albern Coins holds the record for consecutive ads placed in CCN with #1,000 published in 2006 (CCN Vol. 44, #6).
1911 SILVER DOLLAR
Watson is described as “a complex man,” according to Stan Wright, of Calgary’s Diverse Equities, who once worked for the late dealer.
“He was a good businessman who knew how to make deals happen, but he was also active in the community.”
While working for Watson, Wright put together a deal to purchase the famed 1911 silver dollar, which he later sold in a deal with iconic collector Syd Belzberg, whose collection realized nearly $3 million US when it sold in 2003.
“Owning that coin was a dream of Ernie’s,” Wright told CCN. “It was a memorable time for me as well.”
Watson’s father Albert died in 1983.