As I have recalled in earlier writings, my mother and I came to Ottawa in 1980, where we settled in Westboro. It didn’t take me long to discover the Sears Coin & Stamp department at Carlingwood Shopping Centre – either an easy 10-minute bus ride or manageable bike trip away – and regular Saturday visits became the highlight of my weekly routines.
The kiosk was owned at that time by Peter Degraaf, and managed by Mabel Driega. Mabel’s son, the late Andrew Driega, would eventually take over the business in later years. I was a keen collector, and expect I represented that hybrid of both good customer and pest to the ladies that worked with Mabel.
I was primarily interested at the time in affordable early Canadian & Chartered banknotes as well as generally pre-Victorian English coinage, but would also watch out for anything “neat” that might appear in their cabinets, and which my limited budget could accommodate.
Thirty-five years ago, “errors” were generally a novelty area of numismatics that attracted some restrained interest (even then, only the truly naïve would return a “defective” coin to the Mint for replacement), and I don’t recall having had any examples in my modest collection. That changed, however, on one particular Saturday that remains clear in my memory. I rode the #65 bus for the short trip to the mall, and made my way to the coin counter – at that time, in a far corner of Sears’s first floor beside the automotive parts department.
After a few minutes of browsing, I was intrigued by a “lot special” in one of the cabinets, which offered something like 15 various Canadian error coins in small bag for $50. The deal certainly met the criteria of being “neat”, and I was happy to bite. The bag would reveal a selection of clips, blank planchets, and some minor off-center strikes. What especially caught my attention, however, was a funky looking Penny that appeared Silver in colour, and had some odd distortion of both obverse and reverse field designs. Closer inspection revealed one of the coolest coins that remain in my collection today, and a minor “Holy Grail” of error coins – the “double-denomination” strike.
This particular piece started its life as a 1973 Ten Cent, and was then re-fed through a press and struck with One Cent dies of the same date. Thus, clear detail of both denominations remain visible, as well as both 1973 dates from the dual strikings. Whether the significance of this piece was overlooked when the lot was assembled, or the nature of the error market in the early 1980s was accurately reflected by the lack of attention given to the coin, is not clear. Looking back, however, I like to think that I was rewarded for my keen patronage with a great deal, and the coin remains to this day one of the most fortuitous purchases I made during those fun early years of collecting.
This past Monday the doors of that Sears department store closed forever, and among the many, many formative memories I have of the store in general, recollections of my interactions with the ladies of Sears Coin & Stamp (whom, in later years, I would end up working with side-by-side as I entered the coin business) remain among the fondest.