We’ve rebranded our “Weird & Wonderful” sale to “Odd & Curious”, but either way, we’re starting 2021 with our biggest ebay sale yet!Continue reading
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”.Continue reading
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!
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.
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.
Having decided to remain open by Appointment Only, at least for the remainder of the summer, we’re very happy to point our customers to our largest rolling ebay coin and collectibles auction. The latest installment, with our largest ever inventory of Weird & Wonderful items is now live.
Please visit us on ebay for a wonderful selection of coins, medals, and other collectibles. You can see a selection of highlighted items in this post.
We are also delighted to report that we are finally cleaning up the online inventory database on our website, and in the coming week will be posting 150 fresh new ICCS Canadian coins for your pleasure!
One of the most delightful aspects of our particular hobby and business are the engaging stories of treasures found. Whether a Roman coin hoard unearthed in a farmer’s field, a tobacco tin of frontier gold coin found under the homestead floorboards, or a cargo of Spanish bullion emerging from the depths of a long-lost galleon, these imagination-stirring discoveries not only captivate us with tales of instant riches – they also serve as direct links to our numismatic past, sometimes adding to the historical narrative in the process.
Sometimes, however, a treasure can remain cloaked not six feet nor 1,000 fathoms under, but virtually in plain site as among the pages of a long-neglected book of fiction, migrating for generations from one shelf to another before finally revealing its hidden secret. This is a brief telling of one such recent instance, and the complete happenstance that lead to the remarkable discovery of a unique piece of eastern Canadian banknote history.
It was actually in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown that a friend and fellow collector told me of an interesting and unexpected find. Although fond of coins and paper currency, his primary passion is in the collecting of antique books. In the course of fueling this hobby, Uncle William had found its way into his collection during the summer, I believe as part of a bulk lot. Authored by Jennette Lee and published in 1906, the protagonist of the small and innocuous hard-cover book has been described as “a genial character who has a talent for confounding land sharks and ending up owning most of the property in sight”.
A hand-written inscription on the inside cover gives important context to its early owner, and reads “Mrs. Israel Lovitt Porter, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia”. We will return to this momentarily, but first – the discovery.
Skimming through the pages of the book, my friend came across a peculiar 9x5cm “fragment” of a document, deliberately trimmed to frame a classic contemplative portrait of Queen Victoria at center, with lion and unicorn at left and right respectively. Any mystery as to the origin of the host document was only momentary, as the back of the piece revealed at its center [the] “Bank of Yarmouth N.S.”. With his experience in the hobby he immediately recognized the origin document to be a banknote, and with the name of the institution at hand, he was able to narrow down the issue as being a Ten Dollar note of 1870, printed by the British American Bank Note Company.
Chartered in 1859, The Bank of Yarmouth conducted business in Nova Scotia until failing in 1905, due to the fraudulent paying of dividends without the necessary capital to sustain such payments. Although near identical Ten Dollar notes were issued by the Bank in both 1870 and 1891, this note fragment was just large enough to reveal – through the absence of the word “Canada” above the lion’s head – that it was from the earlier of the two issues.
Further examination of the fragment revealed a subtle but highly-important discovery – the top part of two signatures appear at the bottom left and right, undoubtedly those of the Bank’s Cashier and President. The significance of this rests in the fact that although all surviving notes of the Bank of Yarmouth are very rare, The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Bank Notes lists the 1870 Ten Dollar issue as existing only in “Institutional Collections”. Further research into the collection of the Bank of Canada Museum, however, indicates that only a single unissued Proof of this note exists in the collection. Thus, this small trimmed vignette of Victoria, having rested against all odds among the pages of “Uncle William” for more than a century, has now revealed itself to most likely be the only surviving example of the issue – an irreplaceable link to the history of this Eastern Canadian chartered bank.
And what of the link, if any, to the owner of the book? Preliminary research reveals only that Israel Lovitt Porter was born in Yarmouth in 1883. He was listed on local property rolls as a Merchant, and must have been reasonably successful as he and his wife – Catherine Gardner [Cann] Porter – held title to at least three homes on Forest Street, two of them for a remarkable 64 years until Catherine’s death in 1983.
Did Porter, in the course of running his business, come across the note and trim it down to Victoria’s portrait for posterity, as its redemption value would have been null and void after 1905? Or rather, is it entirely unrelated in its origin to the owner of the book, and simply encountered and retained in its current state for the lowly but practical purpose of serving as a bookmark?
To these questions we will likely never have adequate answers, but the very fact that this unique fragment has survived a century and half, two World Wars, and endless opportunities to become lost in the dustbin of history is both remarkable and delightful to collectors and students of Canadian chartered banknote history alike. Proof positive as well that sometimes numismatic/currency treasures can indeed be found without the use of either a shovel, metal-detector, or scuba-tank!
I hope this brief update finds everyone and their families safe and secure, as this insidious disease moves from being a distant threat to a very local one that now penetrates the sanctuary of many if not all of our own communities, big or small, rural or urban. Our faith, perseverance, and steadfast adherence to the very sage public health advice will carry us through to brighter days ahead.
Although now approaching one full month since the temporary closure of our retail store here in Almonte, it has been a very busy period for Alliance Coin & Banknote. Thanks to the wonderful support of our mail-order customers, more than 100 items from our recent Spring Catalogue have now found their way into the homes of fellow house-bound collectors. Hundreds of diverse items remain available from this price-list, so please feel free to browse its pages.
I am also very pleased to report that we have just closed out our single most successful ebay “Weird & Wonderful” campaign of the past few years, with more than 200 lots heading out to quite literally every corner of this continent. As with most industries these days, times are tough for the collectibles small business community, and I would like to humbly and sincerely thank our customers for your support over the past month.
I am also delighted to announce tonight’s launch of “wave two” in our ebay campaign, with new lots being added each and every day. Highlighted here is a small teaser selection of the truly remarkable items we have coming up for sale in the coming days – keep watch via the ebay link, and consider adding something new and unique to your collection!
Once again, I wish everyone well in the coming weeks.
Stay safe, and keep the faith.
Click to enlarge the images below!
Announcing our Famous Year-end Boxing Sale! I am delighted to announce the return of this annual event.
In addition to offering the deepest store-wide discounts in the coin business:
- We always have fresh new inventory available for our sale, not just the old stuff!
- We’re opening the entire weekend for our customers, and look forward to your joining us!
Best wishes for the holidays, and for a healthy and prosperous 2020!
Sean Isaacs, family and staff
Boxing Week Blow-Out 2019
Alliance Coin & Banknote
88 Mill Street, Almonte
December 27 – 29, 2019
Friday & Saturday 9am – 7pm
Sunday 10am – 6pm
Simply click the images below to see all the details for our sale!
We look forward very much to welcoming our local customers and friends this coming Sunday, December 1st, for some music and good cheer!
I am currently putting the final touches on our “Freaks & Errors” display, which will see the unveiling of at least a couple watershed errors that have remained completely unknown until our open-house.