Ottawa coin auction

Important update to Live Auction 2017

Our live auction is coming up fast, this Sunday April 2nd at the Almonte Old Town Hall (10-5pm). We have a few important announcements to share:

Erratum
Please note the addition of a short list of corrections & clarifications pertaining to our Sale Catalogue.
Download the Erratum.

Lot Viewing
In order to offer our local customers sufficient opportunity to examine the lots in our auction, we are pleased to offer the following special extended viewing times at 88 Mill Street:

Thursday March 30th – 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Friday March 31st – 9:30 am to 9:00 pm
Saturday April 1st – 10:00 to 5:00 pm

Important Change to Lot Pickup Terms:
For those attending our sale in person, please note that lots will now be available for immediate pick-up after the sale at our store (88 Mill Street; a three-minute walk from the Old Town Hall), beginning at 5:00 pm Sunday evening.

For offsite bidders and/or those who prefer not to stay until the conclusion of the sale, all unclaimed purchases will be invoiced and available for pick-up/shipping within 48 hours, as per the original terms detailed in our Sale Catalogue and on our website.

Planning to attend our Sale in Person?
In order to assist us in making sure we have booked the correct sized room, it would be very much appreciated if those planning to attend could confirm your plans to do so, as well as the number of people that may be joining you. Please just send a quick email to sean@alliancecoin.com.

View the complete auction information and catalogue on the website.

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday, April 2nd!

Sean Isaacs & Staff

Ottawa coin auction

Live Coin Auction – 600+ Lots Listed in Just Released Catalogue

Sean Isaacs

Sean Isaacs

I am truly delighted to present The Alliance Coin & Banknote Sale, our first public auction here in Almonte since opening our gallery 12 years ago. It will be held Sunday, 2 April 2017 at the Almonte Old Town Hall from 10am to 5pm.

Among the 600+ lots in this sale I believe there will be something for everyone, and with No Buyer’s Premium, the opportunities for bargains will be plentiful and transparent.

We look forward to welcoming our live bidders on sale day, and invite you to explore our historic downtown Mill Street (just steps away from our store and from the auction venue, at the Almonte Old Town Hall) where you’ll find no shortage of cafes, antique shops and galleries to while away the lunch break.

I am very pleased to welcome my good friend and colleague, David Giles, who will serve as our auctioneer. David brings with him significant experience as caller for the venerable Sparks philatelic auctions in Ottawa, and I am confident he will provide a fun and well-conducted sale for all in attendance.

With all the diversity you have come to expect from Alliance Coin & Banknote, we promise a fun auction experience and the potential for some really great deals!

View the Auction Catalogue

You can download the complete catalogue and find out all the auction details, including viewing of lots and placing bids, on the Alliance Coin & Banknote website.

 

Bank of Montreal One Dollar 1859

Almonte’s First Coin Auction

Our very first public coin auction will be held on Sunday April 2nd, 2017.

Several hundred lots, more than $100,000 in Coins and Banknotes up for offer, including a diverse selection of our famous ‘Odd & Curious’ Medals, Tokens and assorted Collectibles.

We anticipate having the full catalogue completed and posted to our website by mid-month, and invite everyone to join us on sale day at the Almonte Old Town Hall (just steps from our business), or for those unable to be here in person, to participate by submitting advance bids by either email, fax or telephone.

With all the diversity you have come to expect from Alliance Coin & Banknote, we promise a fun auction experience and the potential for some really great deals!

Ottawa Coin Auction

Sunday, 2 April 2017
10:00 am to 5:00 pm
(with a lunch-break between sessions)

Almonte Old Town Hall
Multi-Purpose Room
14 Bridge Street
Almonte, Ontario K0A 1A0

For more details, and a selection of sneak preview items, please visit the Auction page on our website.

Intercepting Canada’s most valuable stolen stamp collection

The Road Less Travelled – My own meandering path from collector to Numismatist: Part 5

“Right place, wrong time”

In every life and career there are some memories that stand the test of time above all others.  Memories that, upon reflection, bring you back to a moment in time that can remain as sharp and vivid as if it were just yesterday.   In my own case there are likely a few such candidates, however only one stands out when I think of my earliest years in the coin business, and that would undoubtedly be my brief and bizarre encounter with the “Jesse James” of stamp thieves.

It was June of 1990, and nearing the end of my second year working for Lincoln Heights Coin & Stamp in the west end of Ottawa (if memory serves, I had recently been “upped” to Director of Numismatics for the rapidly growing company).

Some days earlier, we had received a faxed bulletin from the Ottawa Police about a valuable stamp collection that had been stolen in the National Capital region.  It was notable not only for its extensive value, but for the unique character and rarity of the some of the material involved. As was always the case, a file-number was attached with a request to contact the Police if anything matching the brief detailed inventory happened to surface.

I do not remember the ensuing day of the week in question, but I can clearly recall the setting. Our store at the time was quite narrow, with cash and hidden work area at the very back, and a long series of end-to-end counters that ran up one side of the store to the front entrance.

It was a busy day, pretty much standing room only, with myself, one of our staff ladies, and the late Bill Perrin all serving at the counters.  Bill, a retired senior and former wheeler-and-dealer in coins on the flea-market circuit, worked with us part-time.  He was mildly crusty and never shy to speak his mind, but he was also trustworthy and attentive. We appreciated him, and I like to think he appreciated us.  On this particular day-of-days, I finished whatever task I was involved with and received a customer at the small counter located at the very back at the store, so that I was facing the sales-floor and front entrance to the store (as we were in a shopping center, the entire front of the store was wide-open during operating hours).

I did not recognize the customer, a youngish mustached man perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties. He began the conversation by expressing an interest in selling his stamp collection, and I invited him to show me some samples (all the more ironic on reflection, knowing how little philatelic knowledge I had ever managed to absorb).  That, however, wasn’t to be a problem on this occasion. There, on the counter before me, were placed two fabulous items that looked they had just exited out the back door of a museum. The first, an entire sheet of some early South American inverted stamp error, and the second some type of Spanish imperial envelope cover with ancient red wax seal still intact.

Why was my lack of philatelic knowledge not an issue here?  The answer lay not five feet from where we were standing, in the police fax which contained images of these two precise items.

Hence – in addition to my heart which had temporarily planted itself in my throat – I realized I had an acute existential dilemma. There was no reasonable doubt that I was looking at a portion of the most valuable philatelic collection ever stolen in Canada. I obviously couldn’t confront the seller, however. I had no idea how he would react if he felt cornered – would he react violently, was he carrying a weapon, would he simply bolt?

I had a store full of people, which paradoxically provided both a sense of security as well as grave concern.  Thankfully, customer-service auto-drive prevailed over panic, and we began an engaging discussion.  The seller didn’t seem to know that much about his collection (no surprise there), and the need for higher philatelic expertise in order to properly evaluate the material before me may have been pretense for making a telephone call to Paul, the owner of the business.

The additional challenge, however, was that the telephone sat only about six feet away – although behind a glass door leading to a small processing room, I could still be both seen and heard by the suspect at the counter.  Fortunately Paul was home to answer the call, and somehow – while trying to maintain a reasonably relaxed composure – I was able to convey the message that we needed help. And quickly.  “Stay calm, the Police are on their way,” Paul assured me.  I hung up, and turned my attention back to the stamp bandit.

Store layout

Click to enlarge

I am not clear on how much time passed (it felt close to forever), but at one point I looked past the suspect and saw two uniformed Ottawa Police officers approach the front of the store. I felt frozen, not wanting to give the person any excuse to turn around, noting the sea of people that still stood between the Police and the two of us. As we continued to discuss the stamps, I watched one of the Police officers step to the end of the counter and begin a discussion with Bill.

“What the Hell!” was my immediate thought – resisting with every fibre the overwhelming desire to flail my arms at them like a drowning imbecile. And then it happened.

While the Police waited at our front entrance, Bill began making his way down the long inside path of the counter towards me, with a puzzled expression on his face. Coming up to me, he paused, looked briefly around, and then leaned forward so that only myself and the suspect could hear what he was about to say.

“Sean”, he quietly asked in his usual gravelly voice.  “Do you know anything about a stolen coin collection?”

If ever I have experienced the sensation of feeling my life flash before my eyes, this was most certainly the moment. I’m pretty certain all the blood in my northern hemisphere drained away faster than you could say “let’s shank the rat”, though I could hear myself answering with a feigned “no” – which seemed an infinitely wiser response than “are you sure you don’t mean stamps, Bill?”

Fortunately for everyone concerned, the look on my face must have spoken volumes. The two officers quickly made their way into the store, and one actually moved around the counter to stand beside me in a protective stance. The suspect expressed cooperative confusion as he was taken into our sorting room for a chat, and only on showing them the faxed bulletin did the Police seem to understand the true dynamics of the situation.

Shortly afterwards, the suspect was led out of the office in handcuffs, and my last glimpse of him is something I will never forget – a look of genuine panic crossed his face as he watched one of the officers begin to fold the rare sheet of error stamps into quarters, for easier transport. A stamp thief he may have been, but at least he cared about the true philatelic integrity of the piece!

Letter of thanks from the Ottawa Police

Click to enlarge

Some weeks later I received a nice letter of thanks from the Deputy Chief of the Ottawa police, informing us that three people had been arrested as part of the overall investigation.  What the letter didn’t reveal was that the theft of the collection – apparently valued at a quarter million dollars – was apparently an “inside job” involving Canada Post employees.

Strangely (or perhaps not), the whole affair never seems to have hit the news, and I sometimes wonder who actually owned the stamps, and how they must have felt to have these treasures successfully returned to them.

Sean Isaacs

The Alliance Coin 2016 Boxing Week Sale!

Join us for our largest sale of the year, with hundreds and hundreds of new items added to inventory in recent weeks. Thursday, Friday & Saturday December 29, 30 & 31st 9:00 – 6:00 pm.

2016 Boxing Week Sale Highlights

50% off

Our superb new inventory of Canadian Municipal Trade Tokens

40% off all

World Coins & Sets
Canadian Decimal Coins
ICCS/PCGS Certified Coinage
Canadian Banknotes
World Banknotes
Medals & Tokens
Collectible Stamps
Ancient Coins
Silver Coin Rings

Gold & Silver Bullion, Royal Canadian Mint products excluded. Coins and banknotes will not be sold below face value.

30% off all

2015 & earlier Royal Canadian Mint Products
Gold & Diamond Jewellery (already at 60% or more off retail !!)
Supplies, References, Posters

Bullion excluded; banknotes not sold below face value.

20% off all

2016 & 2017 Royal Canadian Mint Coins & Sets

Bullion excluded; coins not sold below face value.

Terms of sale

Cash, Debit, Visa or Mastercard welcomed. No holds or telephone purchases.

2016 Selected Door Crasher Specials

2013 “Vintage Superman” .999 Silver Ten Dollars

Vintage Superman Coin

Retail: $40. While they last: $20.

United States Blank One Cent Planchet with BU Lincoln Cent

Lincoln cent with blank planchet

Just $1.00/pair !!

Set of 5 Montreal Canadians 2009 Vintage Jersey coloured 50 Cent Coins

Retail: $40+. An unbelievable: $10/set.  *one set per customer, please

Three Days Only! Don’t miss out on superb year-end deals! Thursday, Friday & Saturday December 29, 30 & 31st 9:00 – 6:00 pm.

The Road Less Travelled – Playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop” in Old Havana

In the first four segments of these “memoirs”, I detailed my rather profound transition from keen collector to apprentice of Paul Davis, and full-time dealer of coins. In these next couple chapters, I will choose to pause the overall progression of time and instead share with readers a few of my favourite anecdotes and experiences from the earlier years of my apprenticeship.

The first involves a rather memorable visit Paul and I took to Cuba  in late 1994.  This was an interesting time for Cuba, both in terms of politics and numismatics, with relations between the country and the United States frozen solidly in time. Trade of virtually any kind was forbidden between the two, and United States citizens were not permitted to visit Cuba.  At the same time, however, the state of the modern Cuban numismatic industry was remarkably advanced.  Not only were they proliferous producers of domestic commemorative coinage in both base and precious-metals (i.e. Silver and Gold), they were also the key minters of collector coinage to many other “veiled” socialist countries including the Congo (People’s Republic), Laos, Vietnam and Kampuchea. Add to this the fact that the United States was perhaps the world’s largest market for such coins – made acutely challenging by an absolute prohibition of importing these issues into the country – and a clear opportunity became apparent for any Canadian coin dealer willing to explore the development of a relationship with the Cubans. And yes, Paul was quick to recognize the potential of such trade, perhaps after having chatted with a represent of the Cuban Mint who would, on rare occasions, quietly visit the Toronto coin show scene in the late 1980s in order to try and promote their wares.

Thus, we began to import fairly copious quantities of the inexpensive Cuban 1 Peso commemorative coins in cupro-nickel, which featured a fantastic variety of themes ranging from mosquitos to ships to fish and fauna (together with, of course, the multitude of issues honoring the “fathers of the revolution”).  All of which, of course, had to be paid for in United States Dollars that could not pass through the U.S. banking system, in accordance with the strict sanctions of the day.

These sold quite well for us, and Paul soon decided that it was time to take our trading relationship to a new level. To Havana we would go, and press the Cubans on whatever more enticing numismatic goodies they might have stashed away.

Thus we set off on a chartered Air Transat flight from Ottawa – a plane that not only had a “non-smoking” section that ended one row behind us, but which also seemed to be okay with people actually standing in the aisle chatting while we were literally taking off.  Eventually we landed in Fidel’s Cuba, and after a bit of initial sight-seeing around Old Havana, I believe it was on the second day that we attended our appointment at the Cuban Mint.

Recalling this experience after 25 years, I do not recollect many elements of our overall visit to the country, yet my impressions of the resilience and self-sufficiency of the Cuban Mint remain sharp.  In spite of having been completely cut off from much of the western world for most of a generation, and the much earlier loss of their Soviet supporters to their obvious economic detriment, their Minting operations were remarkable. From the production of their own planchets, to the design, striking, packaging and shipping of a multitude of well-executive coins – both business-strikes and non-circulating commemoratives – and even to the manufacture and repair of their own minting equipment, the overall quality and volume of their output was (again) remarkable. Perhaps my most vivid memory was looking in on a laboratory-like room of ladies, all sitting at desks while hand-enameling the often stunning coloured Cuban coin issues (usually higher-denomination issues in pure Silver).

Eventually, after our full tour, Paul and I were led to a meeting room where we were to meet and negotiate with Mint senior management. I should note at this point that I spoke not a word of Spanish, and none of the Mint officials could speak a word of English. Paul, in his ongoing quest to better his grasp of foreign language skills (usually inspired by interest in a woman, in must be duly noted), had developed a functional understanding of Spanish, and was to be our facilitator. This I had understood from the outset. What I had not anticipated, however, was his unspoken plan for us to adopt a modified “good-cop, bad-cop” approach to the discussions, with myself as the decision-making chairman of the company, and he the negotiating underling.

Thus began a protracted and somewhat bizarre discussion where, periodically, they would pause while Paul gave me bits and pieces of their conversation, and then ask for my “approval” – at which point I would feign stern contemplation – and then respond. Looking back on the meeting after all these years, I sometimes wonder if I was actually a patsy, with their actual discussions having nothing to actually do with me. Who really knows!

What did come out of the negotiations, however, was very much a landmark numismatic agreement, for it had come to light that the Mint had built four “archival” collections containing one each of every modern Cuban coin struck in the building since the 1970s. These ranged from the hundreds of base-metal, Peso commemoratives referenced earlier, to rare and fabulous multi-ounce commemoratives and piedforts in both pure Silver and Gold, including patterns and test-strikings. One of the collections was mandated to be held by the Cuban government in perpetuity, and a further two sets were previously sold to the State Museums of other South American countries.  The fourth and remaining intact collection was now on the table.

The ultimate prize, however? The fabled “Lenin” 100 Pesos, a pure gold issue struck in 1977 with a total mintage of just 10 pieces. Certainly among the world’s most valuable modern issues at the time, with an envisioned retail value of  U.S. $10,000. An example of the coin hadn’t entered the market in more than a decade, and here was the only known potentially-available specimen put forward in offer to us , with one minor stipulation – it would only be available as part of a “package deal”, together with the other thousand or so coins making up this remarkable archival collection. We concluded our memorable “Bueno-cop, grumpy-cop” performance with a hand-shake agreement, and spent our remaining days in Havana sightseeing before leaving for Varadero, our ultimate departure point.

Sitting in the airport awaiting our flight, a lovely incident of happenstance occurred as I looked up and saw Canadian Senator Jacques Hebert strolling through the small terminal. The late Senator will perhaps be best remembered for his founding of the Katimavik youth program, which later spawned the much larger CIDA-sponsored Canadian World Youth program. It was the CWY program that had taken me to Nanaimo and Indonesia several years earlier, and I had long wished to shake his hand and thank him for the transformational experience – without which, I would not have met my wife Nana.  We spoke for a few moments, I at last shook his hand, and a bit of positive good karma came full-circle at that particular moment and place.

Back in Ottawa in the ensuing weeks, we prepared to welcome the Cuban Archival Numismatic  collection to its new home, after completing some complex payment arrangements for the six-figure purchase price.  The collection eventually arrived, and was fabulous. We produced inhouse a bound catalogue “Cuban Commemorative Coins” that immediately became the definitive reference on all modern issues of the Havana Mint, and which included a remarkable 44 coins that were entirely unknown to the collecting world prior to publication. The Gold Lenin immediately found a quiet home with Canada’s foremost collector of Cuban coinage, and the next few weeks and months saw an eager feeding frenzy among hungry collectors on both sides of the border.   I have never made it back to Cuba in the ensuring decades, and wonder how the time-capsule of “Old Havana”, together with their remarkable and historic Mint, may now change in this bold new era of Cold War dissolution.

Sean Isaacs

Next Time: “Right place, wrong time” – intercepting Canada’s most valuable stolen stamp collection

‘Coins & Strings’ Open House 2016

We look forward to welcoming one and all to our annual Winter Open House:

Coins & Strings Winter Open House
Saturday, November 26th, 2016
3:00 to 6:00pm
Note: we will be closed on Saturday until opening for our event at 3pm.

Join us as we give a nod to the 20th anniversary of Canada’s Two Dollar coin with the finest display of rare and fabulous “Twoonies” ever seen on public display. I am especially pleased to be welcoming back our favourite harpist, Diana Marie, after a seven-year absence from the area.

 

Invitation to Coins & Strings 2017