As a coin dealer, there is a finite variety of material that we tend to see on a daily basis in our buying and selling activities. Our days often involve the processing of fairly routine bullion, numismatic and commemorative coinage, usually although not always with constant duplication, infrequently spiced up by various issues of historical and/or aesthetic interest. This is what we do, and few of us would remain in the business if we didn’t enjoy it.
Ask any coin dealer over a cup of coffee or tea, however, and he or she will freely confess that – like most if not all collectors who keep us in business – it is the constant potential for discovery that keeps the weeks, months and years interesting for us. Just the possibility of discovering the rare, the previously unknown, or simply the downright cool coin, medal, banknote or token keeps us eager and enticed by every collection that is brought through the front doors of our shops.
I am no different, and after 25 years in the coin business, I am still intrigued (and yes, sometimes delighted) by anything I haven’t previously encountered. This frankly doesn’t happen often, although one remarkable summer afternoon two years ago stands vividly in my memory, and led to an extraordinary discovery on an otherwise ordinary day.
As is often the case, the seller was both unannounced and his offerings seemingly unremarkable. A single roll of Loon Dollars he had acquired at his bank, from within which emerged a particular example that he found to be odd in appearance. Vividly I remember the three stages of recognition my mind quickly went through, on seeing what he had to offer.
My first and immediate impression on seeing the “silver” 1992 commemorative Loon he had found was that we were dealing with a plated coin, and a fairly crude one at that. Indeed, the coin had an abnormally brilliant finish – quite unlike either Silver or Nickel – and further, the surfaces appeared to be somewhat inconsistent and not smooth, as one might expect. On further examination, however, the minor anomalies suggested less of a post-production (i.e. private) plating issue, and very likely a legitimate off-metal strike. In other words, where first impressions suggested it was simply a common Loon that someone had tried to silver-plate, a closer look indicated that it was possibly a coin that had been struck with the proper dies but on an incorrect planchet (or “blank”) intended for another coin. Rare, certainly on higher-denominations such as this, but not unheard of.
The third and final stage of recognition, as I call it, quite literally took my breath away. Tilting the coin to catch the light, the uneven though seemingly blank fields suddenly leapt out at me. What I had thought were simply uneven anomalies in the surface-plating revealed themselves to be underlying text. Thus, what initially appeared to be simply an off-metal strike onto a blank mystery planchet was, in reality, an over-strike onto a pre-existing coin! And not just any coin.
I was truly in awe of the fact here, on this innocuous “125” commemorative Loon depicting two children on Parliament hill, was a complete row of Bengali text sitting just below the surface. Further close scrutiny of the reverse revealed the ghostly outline of a standing family of four interwoven with the Canadian Peace Tower, while the obverse (or “Queen side”) revealed the distinct underlying waves of a body of water.
Taken together, and with five minutes of further research, the full remarkable story of this coin’s evolution became clear. This remarkable and almost certainly unique error began its life as a 1992 One Taka coin, struck in stainless steel by our own Royal Canadian Mint on behalf of the government of Bangladesh. As part of the United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) program, the theme of the coin focused on family planning. Almost identical in size and weight to the plated 91.5% nickel planchets used for the concurrent Canadian One Dollar issue – both of which were being struck at the Mint’s Winnipeg facility – the almost inconceivable occurred. A fully-struck Bangladesh Taka somehow made its way back into the production process for the commemorative Canadian Loon, and then became “rebranded” as a new Canadian coin with Far Eastern undertones.
In subsequent photography, I was amazed at the detail of the original host coin that appeared in the fields with the correct coaxing of light, revealing the twin identities of this superb “discovery coin” which now rests proudly in my own personal collection. Sure, the hunt continues for the rare, the interesting and the unusual, although the bar is perhaps now set impossibly high on the heals of this uber-cool “East Meets West” Canadian error coin.
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