Rare B.C. gold gilt patterns bring $348K at Torex

By Jesse Robitaille

Realizations include buyer’s premium.

Two rare gold gilt patterns produced for British Columbia in 1862 and described by auctioneers as being “amongst the rarest of Canadian issues” brought $348,000 at the recent Torex Auction this June.

Offered as Lot 434 of the 1,554-lot sale, the pattern coins were struck about five years before Canadian Confederation – when British Columbia was still a crown colony – following the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858. Before the end of that decade, about 30,000 miners flooded the banks of British Columbia’s longest river in what was the first major gold rush in Western Canada.

With the influx of miners came a pressing need for currency with which to exchange their newly found gold dust. While temporary relief was provided by the colony’s first government-issued banknotes in 1862, the area was still experiencing a population boom.

After a short-lived assay office failed in New Westminster, which is across the Fraser River from Surrey, British Columbia Governor James Douglas commissioned Vanderslices Silver Manufactory in San Francisco, Calif., to design and strike $10 and $20 gold coins.

An 1890H 50-cent coin in Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) Mint State-65 crossed the block for $261,000 as Lot 710.

Albrecht Kuner, then a Vanderslices employee, was responsible for engraving and testing the dies for these coins (and most other dies used to strike privately issued gold coins during this era).

He struck several silver trial pieces – also known as patterns, which are produced to evaluate a proposed design but are not yet approved for release – and sent them to British Columbia with their respective dies. Each design prominently displays his name and first initial – “Kuner A” – below the wreath on the reverse.

It’s believed Kuner “kept at least one set for himself and had the set gilded,” said auctioneer Marc Verret, of The Canadian Numismatic Company (TCNC).

The set offered this June by TCNC was originally acquired from the Kuner estate by U.S. numismatist Max Mehl before being sold to Virgil Brand and then John Temple in 1983.

This set’s $10 coin is certified by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) as Specimen-63-plus while the $20 coin is in PCGS Specimen-63.

Another gilt set is held in the Bank of Canada’s National Currency Collection, “but these are believed to be gilded sometime in the 20th century,” Verret added.

1890H 50 CENTS

A 1935 Series $20 banknote (BC-9a) in Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) Gem Uncirculated-66 EPQ (exceptional paper quality) brought $49,300 as Lot 201.

Overall, the results of the 2019 June Torex Auction were “overwhelming, to say the least,” Verret added.

“We were blessed with the opportunity to catalogue and display a fabulous array of Canadian numismatic items.”

Among those top highlights was an 1890H 50-cent coin in PCGS and International Coin Certification Service Mint State-65. A highly sought-after issue in Canadian numismatics, the 1890H 50-cent denomination is the rarest piece in the difficult Victorian half-dollar series, which has a mintage of only 20,000 coins, and appears infrequently on the market in any grade.

For reference, the Belzberg Collection – the world’s finest and most complete collection of Canadian coinage when it sold for $3 million USD in 2003 – only boasted an 1890H 50-cent piece in About Uncirculated-55.

The example offered this June is believed to be one of only three examples in Mint State condition and brought $261,000 as Lot 710.

A 1935 $25 banknote – Canada’s first commemorative note – in PMG Gem Uncirculated-65 EPQ brought $34,800 as Lot 203.


Moving on to paper money, a 1935 Series $20 banknote (BC-9a) with a serial number reading “A026907” crossed the block as Lot 201.

Certified by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) as Gem Uncirculated-66 EPQ (exceptional paper quality), it was described by Verret as “among the nicest $20 notes we have handled in over 37 years.”

It brought $49,300.

Another note issued in 1935 by the Bank of Canada – this a $25 denomination serving as the country’s first commemorative note – was offered as Lot 203. With a serial number reading “A015815,” the $25 note (BC-11) is certified by PMG as Gem Uncirculated-65 EPQ and realized $34,800.

Card money issued in Québec in 1729 and signed by Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, and Gilles Hocquart, intendant of New France, brought $38,675 as Lot 40.

Card money issued in Québec in 1729 and signed by Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, and Intendant of New France Gilles Hocquart was offered as Lot 40. Graded Very Fine-20 by Canadian Coin Certification Service, it brought $38,675.

In 2016, a similar example sold at auction for just more than $32,000, Verret added.

Rounding out paper money was a unique 1875 $1 Union Bank of Prince Edward Island $1 note (CH-755-14-02A) that crossed the block as Lot 81. Certified by PMG Very Good-10 Net and with a serial number reading “20548,” the note features a red “U/B” overprint and is listed in the 2019 Charlton Standard Catalogue, Canadian Bank Notes as the only known example.

“This note should be considered as a new find, possibly unique and of the highest rarity,” said Verret.

It brought $22,610.

A unique 1875 $1 Union Bank of Prince Edward Island $1 note (CH-755-14-02A) in PMG Very Good-10 Net brought $22,610 as Lot 81.


“The trend continued into Saturday’s session two,” said Verret. “On the block was the debut of the Canadian tokens and decimal coins, and again, it resulted in a series of great sales.”

Highlights include:

  • an 1885 five-cent “Large 5” variety in PCGS Mint State-66 that brought $23,800 as Lot 584;
  • an 1893 10-cent “Flat Top 3” variety in PCGS Mint State-66-plus that brought $16,820 as Lot 627;
  • an 1838 Bank of Montreal “side view” half-penny (Breton 524) in PCGS Mint State-62 Brown that brought $16,660 as Lot 331;
  • a 1921 five-cent piece in PCGS About Uncirculated-50 that brought $16,240 as Lot 604;
  • a 1948 silver dollar in PCGS Specimen-66 that brought $15,862 as Lot 757;
  • a 1945 silver dollar in PCGS Mint State-65 that brought $15,275 as Lot 746;
  • an 1870 50-cent “LCW” variety in PCGS Mint State-63 that brought $13,090 as Lot 702;
  • a 1946 silver dollar in PCGS Mint State-65 that brought $8,812 as Lot 747;
  • a 1904 five-cent coin in PCGS Mint State-67 that brought $7,540 as Lot 590; and
  • an 1872 Newfoundland $2 gold coin in PCGS Mint State-62 that brought $7,140 as Lot 417.

The final two sessions were offered online only “and capped off what should be considered one of the best sales, result-wise, on the Canadian market in the past 10 years at least,” Verret said.

“The numbers speak for themselves and shows and invigorated interest in Canadian collectibles.”


An 1885 five-cent ‘Large 5′ variety in PCGS Mint State-66 brought $23,800 as Lot 584.

Next up for TCNC is this year’s Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) Auction, which will be held in conjunction with the RCNA Convention in Calgary but “under a somewhat different platform,” Verret said.

“The RCNA Auction in Calgary comes with some particular challenges that will require us to run the auction as an Internet sale from our offices here in Québec city,” he said, adding all of the nearly 2,000 lots will be available for viewing at the Calgary venue from July 18-20.

Participants will be able to view lots in the auction room, where they can enter bids with staff in person or online on one of five computers that will be available to accommodate bidders who wish to bid from Calgary. Phone and email bids will also be accepted.

“Staff will be on hand to assist with online bidding,” Verret added.

For more information about the recent Torex Auction, click here.

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