Top 12 Fun Facts about Alliance Coin & Banknote

  1. Most noteworthy customer – the tallest woman in the world! (Sandy Allen)
  2. Most remote mail-order sale – the volcanic Island of Reunion (east of Madagascar)
  3. Largest collection purchased – a tie:
    The Bonavita Trade-Dollar inventory: 55,000 Tokens, 1 Ton
    The Fesco World Collection – 40,000 coins, 1 Ton, 1 Transport Truck with security escort
  4. Amount of Silver bullion handled since opening in Almonte: 10.5 Tons
  5. The celebrated Canadian actress and director Megan Follows once filmed a Hallmark Christmas scene at our back door (and took her lunch break in our lounge!)
  6. Our antique display cabinets were used for a pivotal scene in “The House Sitter” movie, with Tori Spelling
  7. Most valuable coin handled – an 1859 Brass One Cent: $45,000 (a world-record for a Canadian Large Cent!)
  8. Heaviest coin handled – the incredible 2014 “Haida Gwaii” $500 issue: 11 pounds of Pure Silver!
  9. Average number of collections we examine each year (big and small) – 300
  10. Most memorable appraisal engagements: Nobel Prize Medals for both Physics & Chemistry
  11. Number of Pennies we have donated to the Almonte General Hospital – 620,000
  12. Number of Kilometers driven since Sean became a coin dealer – 1 Million+ and counting!

Image of Reunion courtesy of worldwidewendy.be.


The Ballad of Frank McPhail

I don’t believe I had any sense of what it was to be a “man’s man” until Frank McPhail came into our lives. A status not erroneously earned through athletic prowess, bombast or the ability to survive two weeks in the bush with just a can of beans and a bowie-knife. Rather, Frank quietly impressed with an unwavering dedication to those most ancient of qualities – ethics, humility, and an unparalleled mastery of carpentry.

It is almost 13 years ago that Frank was recommended to us by the venerable Leonard Lee, to whom I sought advice on who might assist us with the intimidating task of renovating our new permanent headquarters at 88 Mill Street. Mr. Lee told us Frank was our man, but he cautioned us with one piece of advice.

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“Pinko Panic”: Budget Item Stirs Confusion between ‘Non-Legal Tender’ and ‘Demonetized’

This article is a reprint from two years ago.

An item quietly unveiled in this past week’s Federal budget has caused a notable tizzy among those old enough to remember Magnum PI and the Canadian Dollar Bill. Easily missed in the initial budget-coverage, I was informed by my philatelic colleagues on Wednesday – perhaps a little too gleefully – that the government had moved to axe the legal-tender status of several banknote denominations, namely the One, Two, Twenty-five, Five Hundred, and One Thousand Dollar denominations.

Admittedly, this policy enactment is both unprecedented and peculiar. Unprecedented, as I believe it is the first time, to my knowledge, that the Bank of Canada has moved to designate any previously-circulating banknote as “non-legal tender”. And most certainly peculiar, as with all the heady challenges facing our domestic economy, the government thought it necessary to devote thought and resources into the de-listing of Twenty-five and Five Hundred Dollar Banknotes – neither of which have actually been printed for more than 80 years, and currently cost a minimum of $1,000 and $30,000 respectively for “entry-level” collector samples. In short, if the government is concerned about any outstanding liability or nefarious use of these notes, this would be pure folly.

Their philosophy on the Thousand Dollar notes, or “Pinkos” as I’ve discovered they are called by those in the know, is somewhat more grounded. As with other highest-value notes in the global economy, there are some legitimate concerns in areas of both the funding of illicit activity (i.e. the drug trade), as well of counterfeiting itself. Production of the $1,000 note was discontinued in Canada almost 20 years ago for these very reasons, although as coin dealers, we continue to encounter the notes on a fairly regular basis – interestingly, often emerging from the farming community whose traditional bank-shy practices likely fostered more commerce using these notes in Canada than was ever the case with organized crime.

It is, however, the status of One and Two Dollar notes that are of more relevant concern. For unlike the three higher-denominations detailed above, the Ones and Twos of the past 60+ years remain extremely common, with the vast majority carrying no collector-value above their indicated face-value. Indeed, we handle thousands of these notes annually, with the majority being distributed from our till to mostly grateful customers.

So, precisely what is causing the telephones of likely every coin and banknote dealer in the country to ring this week? The culprit is semantics. Or more precisely, the inability to recognize the critical difference between the terms “non-legal-tender” and “demonetized”.

What the government has set into motion is the withdrawal of the legal-tender status of these five specified denominations, meaning their guarantee and backing for use in every day financial transactions is being revoked. In actual practice, however, this significant legal reclassification will have little impact on anyone’s daily lives, as the practical status of these notes for most of the past 20 years has essentially been as non-legal-tender items anyways. Just ask anyone in recent memory who has handed a dollar bill to the kid at the Tim Horton’s drive-through, or tried to buy a riding mower at Canadian Tire using a “Pinko”.

As scary as this can be spun to sound, however, it remains an entirely different issued compared to the dreaded “D” word – namely, demonetization. It’s in the fine-print of budget coverage, but the impending non-legal tender designation does not mean all these millions of notes will suddenly become worthless. Sure, while as indicated above, acceptance and validity of the notes in everyday transactions will cease, they can still be cashed in through the banking system for an initial period, and then ultimately redeemed through the Bank of Canada itself, after that. Thus, unlike for example the French 500 Franc note, which at one point could buy a lovely Parisian lunch for two, and yet is now totally and completely worthless due to demonetization, the integrity of these Canadian notes continues, albeit with a bit more legwork involved in cashing them in.

For our part, we’ll quite likely continue to hand out One and Two Dollar notes from our till well-beyond the cessation of their legal-tender status, as long as our customers continue to appreciate them (although as we all know, it only takes one pretentious crusader with too much time on his or her hands to spoil the broth for all).

So, what is our advice to those sitting on these notes, we are now asked on an almost hourly basis? Well, as I commented to a fellow of the rural gentry yesterday who confided he was keeping 15 of the Canadian Thousand Dollar notes among his savings: breath easy, let your kids know you have them, and at the very first breath of “demonetization” to leave the lips of any future Minister of Finance, get to the front of the redemption line-up and be prepared to give up some of your personal data in exchange for a final cash-out.

No “Pinko Panic” here, just an evolving business-as-usual in one of the world’s top first-world economies.

Sean Isaacs

Author’s note: see the Bank of Canada’s link for their excellent description of the impending changes.

Coin Show in Westboro, Dec 6th

If you’re an avid coin collector, please consider coming out for a Coin Show in Ottawa’s Westboro neighbourhood on Sunday, December 6th.

Coin Show Location

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 480 Westboro, 389 – 391 Richmond Road, Ottawa, Ontario  K2A 0E7

9am – 3:30pm | 7 dealers – buy, sell, trade.

All Covid–19 safety protocols will be observed and enforced. Only 50 people allowed in at one time. Patrons must mask up and use the hand sanitizer provided upon entry, and always maintain physical distancing.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Special Indonesian Exhibit enters its final week

On Monday October 5th, we had the great pleasure of welcoming his Excellency, the Indonesian Ambassador to Canada, for the formal opening of our special exhibit “Numismatik Nusantara”.

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Coins, medals, and more, from our latest ebay coin auction

The Weird & Wonderful rolling auction continues!

Our next session in our ongoing “Weird & Wonderful” sales will be live on Ebay at midnight this Friday!

With 100 fresh new lots from all areas of our inventory, we invite you to take a browse:

Click here to access our ebay coin and collectibles auction.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to add something unique to your collection!

 

 

Alliance Coin & Banknote retail store

Now re-opened for business!

We are pleased to report that as of September 10th, we have now reopened for limited browsing hours of 10:00 to 5:00, on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at Alliance Coin and Banknote, 88 Mill Street, Almonte.

Currently limited to a maximum of four customers in our gallery at any given time, we also remain available for appraisals and purchasing and Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Glebe location only on this day), however please note that these services are only available by pre-booked appointment.

Unfortunately, due to both capacity restrictions and my own limited availability, we cannot accommodate walk-in requests for appraisals or purchasing.

We thank you for your understand as we continue to adapt our business in order to comply with the our current public health environment.

As always, appointments can be booked by telephone, email, or by reaching out to me directly on my cell phone.

Please be patient, as it may take a number of days to keep up with our current call volume.

Current Opening Hours at a Glance

Thurs – Sat: 10am – 5pm
Almonte store and gallery open for browsing

Tuesdays (Almonte)
By appointment only for appraisals/purchases

Wednesdays (The Glebe)
By appointment only for appraisals/purchases

Gold coin Winston Churchill

The Literal Historical “Melting Pot” – a Rare Modern Medal revisits a common Coin Dealer Conundrum

A recent addition to our inventory has generated both keen interest as well as renewed discussion on a quandary quite familiar to most professional coin dealers, namely:

to melt, or not to melt?

 

The remarkable item in question is a 52mm commemorative medal struck by the private Canadian Wellings Mint in 1965 to commemorate the life of Sir Winston Churchill.

As esoteric as the known bronze and silver strikings of this issue may be, our example is a virtually unknown version in solid 24K gold.  Beyond being rare – most private gold issues such as these were struck strictly based on pre-orders, and thus usually number in the single-digits – based on the intense pressures of the booming gold market in the ensuing five decades since the medals were issued, our new acquisition is very possibly the sole surviving example.

So wherein lies the quandary here?

Namely, in the fact that as a fine gold medal of 143 grams, the actual intrinsic (or melt) value of the medal currently sits at just under $12,000.  This is hugely-significant, as it presents an almost impossible bench-mark for even the most ardent collector of Churchill medallic history to chase. Thus, a coin dealer in my position is faced with a clear choice between two strategic options: hold out hope that a collector will attach sufficient value and appreciation to the medal that he or she will be willing to offer a price that meets or exceeds this current melt value (while also having the budget to actually do so!), or eliminate risk in a potentially volatile market and send the medal to the refiners.

I raised this issue in casual conversation with a good philatelic colleague earlier this week, and at the mere mention of possibly melting the piece was lightly chided (in my capacity as a representative of the numismatic side of the dealer community) as “never considering the history of items when we are quick to melt things”.

But is it really that simple? One of the key guiding economic principles in business as well as life that has stuck with me over the years is that of “opportunity cost”.  In other words, the opportunities forgone and lost as a result of having made one particular decision over another.

Even in the best of times, coin dealers never have enough working capital. The “opportunity” cost of retaining this Churchill medal in inventory is the tying up of a significant investment, in hopes of what would inevitably be a very marginal return at best.  Of even greater significance, however, is the risk involved in holding such material in a volatile gold market.  To crystallize this point:  if we look back five years ago on this date, the spot market value of an ounce of gold was approximately $1,500 CDN, or roughly 40% lower than current rates.

Thus, in the complete absence of any factors that would cause this commemorative medal to be any more or less desirable from the perspective of a collector of such things, its intrinsic value none-the-less increased in this comparatively short period of time by a staggering $4,900. ! Fabulous, one might think, from the perspective of the recent seller, however from the view of a coin dealer whose living depends on making the right decisions in a market area of extremely tight margins, this serves as a reminder of how quickly “speculation” can take an abrupt turn into negative territory.

All this to say, the pressures to melt such a medal, realize a small margin, and preserve the availability of precious limited operating capital is quite intense.

Melting History

But back to my colleague’s chiding comment about “melting history”.  Is this really the case in this example?  Some purists would enthusiastically concur; but objectively, could this really be said in the case of a privately-issued modern medal, with no official ties to either government or indeed, the commemorated subject matter at hand? As with many subjects, there is certainly room for engaging debate on both sides of the topic.  I certainly would never be naive enough to deny that “sins of the historical melting pot” have not and do not occur.

Although only a young collector during the first great silver boom of 1980, etched in my memory are stories of people lining up at coin shops and refinery agents, waiting to melt not only their coins and old tea pots, but also the military and agricultural medals of campaigns and accomplishments of past eras, etc.  Without a doubt, the unfortunate seduction of the record-high metal prices of the time did indeed temper the ethics and commonsense of what should and should not have been destined for the melt-pot.  Indeed, my current quite passion of collecting sterling cigarette cases began in my early years as a sensitive and somewhat naive coin dealer. In those days (from the late 1980s into the 1990s), silver was cheap. No one cared about these neat and eclectic artifacts, and my conscience simply couldn’t let me send them off to the melt pot.  In hindsight, I am glad that I made those decisions which set me on a particular collecting path I continue to enjoy, but honestly – had silver been much higher, and I hadn’t quickly learned to temper my enthusiasm for preservation with the realities of being in business, I would probably today be living under a bridge somewhere with cases of canned beans and my fabulous collection of cigarette cases.

But I have digressed here. Of the numerous similarities we numismatists share with our philatelic colleagues, one of the most striking differences is this issue of intrinsic value.

A stamp dealer who somehow ends up with $10,000 worth of a particular 8-cent stamp in his or her inventory has three clear paths from which to choose.  One can either expand one’s Christmas card list to include the population of a small city, and use the stamps in the way they were naturally intended, or simply keep them in stock and hope to piecemeal them all out at a retail level by the time one reaches the point of “Freedom 95”.  The only other alternative is to simply blow them out (to the extent that is even possible) at a massive discount, which would presumably result in an economic loss, once cost and effort is all accounted for. What one cannot do is immediately extract oneself from the tie-up of funds by either putting them into the fireplace, or presenting them at the local post office for cashing out at a cent under face (etc.).

As coin dealers, however, we are both fortunate and somewhat cursed to have to consider the bullion-value implications of everything we add or extract from inventory, and make both prudent and calculating timing decisions in how we handle complex coins and medals.

In the case of our impressive and possibly unique Winston Churchill Gold medal, with serial number “4”, I will respect the significance of the subject-matter at hand and the efforts devoted to designing and striking the piece by making a good-faith effort to find it a home in the hands of an appreciative collector (or indeed, an investor, if one is so inclined). At the end of day, however, there remains a 50/50 chance that we will make the strategic and necessary decision to send it to that great “historical melting-pot” in the literal sense.  After 30 years of dealing you learn to trust your judgment on such things, and to continuously explore that comfortable balancing point between the stark realities of opportunity cost in business, and the ethical appreciation for the medallic and numismatic history that is all around us.

Sean Isaacs