Rarity, quality of Cornerstone Collection ‘unmatched at any point in Canadian numismatics’

By Jesse Robitaille

The Cornerstone Collection, which includes an unprecedented 20 unique pieces among its offering of more than 250 Canadian specimen coins dated from 1870-1953, will be offered in a fixed-price catalogue beginning this June.

Assembled by a “well-known” Canadian family throughout half a century, the collection – estimated at $5 million altogether – features a range of the finest-known rarities in Canadian numismatics. It will be offered by Nova Scotia dealer Sandy Campbell, owner of Proof Positive Coins, who submitted the collection to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) for certification earlier this year.

“It’s simply a landmark collection,” said Campbell, who added the number of unique coins alone is “unheard of and unmatched by all the great collections of Canadian coinage.”

“It’ll forever change the landscape of great collections because the completeness and quality are unmatched anywhere in terms of specimen collections ever offered in Canada. No collection measures up to the Cornerstone Collection.”

The catalogue, each of which will carry a cost of $75, will be mailed in mid-June. Whatever remains of the collection a month later will be on display at Campbell’s booth at the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association Convention in Calgary, Alta.

Campbell will also be accepting offers at the show, which will be held July 16-20.

“The core of ‘Cornerstone’ is a family collection, but some things were added,” said Campbell, who added he acquired the collection about a year ago and has been planning its sale ever since.

Further details about the family will remain under wraps until the catalogue is released this June.

“It was a well-known family in Canadian numismatic circles,” Campbell said, adding the reason for the family’s decision to sell its collection will be outlined in the catalogue.

“There’s a printed letter in the catalogue, and it will give a detailed reason as to why the family decided to sell the way they did.”

The catalogue itself is “of historic importance,” Campbell added, and will become a “collector’s item and reference for years to come.”

The full $75 cost of each catalogue will be donated to the Victoria County Memorial Hospital Charitable Foundation. Proof Positive Coins will also match these donations in its fundraising drive for health care. All donors will receive a tax receipt.

1936 ‘DOT’ SET

Of the nearly 300 coins to be featured in the catalogue, some examples are lotted individually but most will be offered in sets, Campbell said.

“There are many sets that we’ve never handled as a set, and the highlight is the finest-known 1936 ‘dot’ set with every coin being the finest or tied for finest.”

The set – worth about $1.5 million, Campbell said – is the only available 1936 specimen “dot” set. It contains a gem example of the 1936 “dot” cent in PCGS Specimen-65 Red-Brown that was once featured as the first lot of the sale of the collection of Rochester, N.Y., coin collector John Jay Pittman.

It was reportedly Pittman’s favourite coin and sold in 1997 – a year after his death – for $121,000.

The entire set contains the finest-known 1936 coins from the five-cent denomination through the dollar. This includes the five-cent “dot” in Specimen-67-plus; the 10-cent “dot” in Specimen-68; the 25-cent “dot” in Specimen-68; the 50-cent “dot” in Specimen-68; and the $1 “dot” in Specimen-67-plus.


Owing to what Campbell calls the collection’s “unmatched quality and rarity,” its material is expected to be highly sought-after by collectors in Canada and abroad.

“I’ve had a few collectors say to me, ‘What should I buy out of there?’ My comment to all of them is, ‘Throw a dart. Whatever you can hit, buy it.’ Year after year, the quality and rarity involved here is off the charts. There are 20 coins in this collection that are unique, and no other collection can boast that – nothing that’s come to the market in my lifetime can boast what Cornerstone does.”

Other highlights of the collection include:

  • a unique 1930 specimen set;
  • an 1870 reeded-edge specimen set that is, “as far as we could see, the only example ever offered as a set,” Campbell said;
  • a 1911-12 eight-coin specimen set that has “an amazing pedigree,” Campbell said;
  • the only complete 1934 specimen set;
  • the second-finest 1921-dated 50-cent specimen coin;
  • one of only a few complete 1945 specimen sets known to exist and only the second example to come on the market in recent years; and
  • complete specimen sets of 1870, 1872-H, 1880-H, 1881-H, 1882-H, 1902-H, 1908, 1911-12, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937, 1939, 1939, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953.

The 1911-12 set’s pedigree begins with an MP in England who ordered it from the mintmaster in Canada at the time. It’s then believed to have found its way to England’s Spink and Son auction house before landing with the Norweb family.

“It has a remarkable pedigree and fabulous condition,” said Campbell.

In April 1985, the 1911-12 specimen set sold for $33,000 as part of a Christie’s auction in New York.

Also on offer in the fixed-price catalogue are the only known examples of the following coins:

  • an 1874-H “Plain” five-cent coin in Specimen-64;
  • an 1875 “No-H” five-cent coin in Specimen-63;
  • an 1884 five-cent coin in Specimen-65;
  • an 1885 five-cent coin in Specimen-67;
  • a 1942 five-cent coin in Specimen-66;
  • two 1871 10-cent coins in Specimen-64-plus and Specimen-65;
  • two 1885 10-cent coins in Specimen-63 and Specimen-67;
  • an 1886 “Large 6” 10-cent coin in Specimen-66;
  • an 1888 10-cent coin in Specimen-63;
  • an 1890-H 10-cent coin in Specimen-66-plus;
  • an 1892 10-cent coin in Specimen-66-plus;
  • an 1894 10-cent coin in Specimen-64;
  • a 1930 10-cent coin in Specimen-67-plus;
  • an 1885 25-cent coin in Specimen-63;
  • an 1886/7 25-cent coin in Specimen-65;
  • an 1888 25-cent coin in Specimen-66-plus;
  • an 1889 25-cent coin in Specimen-65;
  • an 1892 25-cent coin in Specimen-66-plus;
  • a 1900 25-cent coin in Specimen-64;
  • a 1903 25-cent coin in Specimen-66;
  • a 1930 25-cent coin in Specimen-68; and
  • an 1888 50-cent coin in Specimen-63.

“The quality and rarity of specimen strikes are unmatched at any point in Canadian numismatics,” said Campbell, who added “no one has ever accomplished what this family has accomplished in terms of the depth, rarity and quality.”

For PCGS, the collection “represents a culmination of the last three decades of grading Canadian coins,” said PCGS President Brett Charville.

“PCGS is proud to have certified this collection.”

To order a Cornerstone Collection catalogue, contact Campbell at 1-902-295-7561 or sandy@proofpositivecoins.com.

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