Premier Auction returns with paper money, specimens drawing early interest

By Jesse Robitaille

This September, for the fourth time since the pandemic began in early 2020, Colonial Acres will hold its biannual Premier Auction virtually, with no in-person floor bidding.

While the National Postage Stamp & Coin Show, where Colonial typically hosts its Premier Auction, will return to its usual in-person venue on Sept. 11-12, the two-session sale will be held online beginning on Sept. 10. It marks Colonial’s eighth Premier Auction since 2018 and comes as the Kitchener, Ont.-based firm celebrates its 30th anniversary.

“We definitely had increased interest from consignors wanting to participate in this auction,” said co-owner and auctioneer Kirk Parsons, who added two “substantial collections” comprise most of the sale’s 1,325 lots. “With the pandemic and no shows, we were concerned we would be scrambling to find quality items to showcase in the auction, but fortunately, at nearly the last minute, we had some collections come forward that make for another great assortment of material.”

Notaphilists should keep an eye out for the banknote sections – offered towards the end of the sale in three parts, including chartered, dominion and Bank of Canada issues – with a particular focus on specimens.

“Banknotes are once again strong, with some desirable specimen notes on offer,” Parsons said.

According to Paper Money Guaranty, a U.S.-based third-party grading service focused on banknotes, a specimen is an “example of a fully completed note design, either already in circulation or that was intended for circulation.”

“Specimen notes are distinctively marked in a way to distinguish them from an issued note. Such markings can include the word ‘Specimen’ or ‘Cancelled’ stamped, handwritten or perforated. Serial numbers can be all zeros or other non-unique serial numbers (e.g., 12345). Serial numbers can also be seen in a range (e.g., 1000001-2000000).”

Specimens can be uniface or printed on both sides, according to the PMG definition, and they can also be “non-issue examples of notes that were fully completed and intended for issue.”

“It is important to understand that a specimen must be complete and match the issued note, and that it must have one of the characteristics mentioned distinctive to specimen markings.”


Crossing the block as Lot 866, a 1904 Bank of Montreal $20 specimen is certified by PMG as Gem Uncirculated-65 EPQ (exceptional paper quality) with “exceptional eye-appeal worth a premium bid,” Parsons said.

Founded in 1817 as the Montreal Bank and renamed the Bank of Montreal five years later, the institution ceased the production of its banknotes in 1942.

The 1904 $20 note on offer this September is expected to bring $1,700 with a starting bid of $600.

Lot 878 offers an 1892 Bank of Toronto $10 specimen note in Choice Uncirculated-64 EPQ. It’s estimated at $1,250 with a starting bid of $675. This chartered bank issued notes from 1856 until 1937.

Another two specimen highlights come from the Bank of Canada’s first two issues in 1935 and 1937, respectively.

Lot 965 offers a 1935 Series $5 specimen note from the bank’s inaugural issue, the only release with dual unilingual banknotes. Each denomination was printed in English and French rather than bilingually, something that began with the 1937 Series. With a serial number reading “A0000000,” the example on offer this September is certified by PMG as Extremely Fine-40 EPQ. It’s estimated at $2,000 with a starting bid of $1,200.

A 1937 Series $50 specimen, from the central bank’s second issue, will cross the block as Lot 1030 with a serial number reading “A/H0000000.” The note is certified as Gem New-65 PPQ (premium paper quality) by PCGS Banknote, a division of Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). It’s estimated at $1,500 with a starting bid of $825.

Other noteworthy specimens include:

  • Lot 1051, a $5 “Devil’s Face” specimen from the Bank of Canada’s 1954 “Canadian Landscape” series with a serial number reading “A/C0000000,” a grade of Uncirculated-58 Original from Banknote Certification Service (BCS) and an estimate of $750;
  • Lot 1056, a $10 “Devil’s Face” specimen, also from the Canadian Landscape series, with a serial number reading “A/D0000000,” a grade of Uncirculated-55 Original from BCS and an estimate of $750;
  • Lot 1110, a nine-note set of 1969 “Scenes of Canada” specimens (with $1, $2, $10, $50 and $100 notes plus two $5 and $20 notes), all PMG-certified as Uncirculated-65 and -66 EPQ with an estimate of $3,500; and
  • Lot 1180, a six-note set of 1986 “Bird of Canada” specimens (with $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes), all BCS-certified from About Uncirculated-58 through Choice Uncirculated-62 Original with an estimate of $1,500.

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