SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Calgary born chess patron Sid Belzberg was recently in the news again. The Globe and Mail interviewed Sid about his interest in rare Canadian coins, and especially about one penny…
A $350,000 penny from heaven
December 29, 2009
By Anna Mehler Paperny
Rare Canadian coin, one of only three known to exist, is up for auction in New York If a fingertip-sized circle of 73-year-old copper can be called charismatic, this one is.
An impossibly rare, exceedingly valuable piece of Canadian history will go on the block next month in the form of a 1936 Canadian “dot” penny.
It owes its existence to a historical blip and a monarchic muddle: After King Edward VIII’s
unexpected abdication in December, 1936, to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson
, the Royal Canadian Mint’s moulds with his bust on the penny were no longer valid.
In the interim, the mint used 1936 George V moulds, stamped with a dimple-like dot to distinguish them from the ones minted before.The penny test-run wasn’t deemed a success, however, and the dotted pennies never entered circulation. For decades, the three pennies, along with a few of equally orphaned dimes, were secreted in the mint before being purchased and held for years by collector John Jay Pittman.
The pennies remain shrouded in mystery – there are still rumours there are one or two more kicking around a secretive collector’s coin purse.
Now, this penny – in the best condition of the three officially minted – is the most sought-after Canadian coin in the world. It’s part of Heritage Auctions’ sale of a peerless collection of collectible Canadian coins, on behalf of an anonymous collector, projected to bring in an estimated $6-million. It doesn’t go on the block until Jan. 3 but already the bids are coming in at more than $160,000.
Cris Bierrenbach, Heritage Auctions’ director of international sales, said they expect it to sell for close to $350,000, although it could go for far more than that. The entire Canadiana collection, a mass of 365 coins in near-pristine condition, could net a total of $6-million.
“The 36 dot is the most important Canadian coin there is – the most famous, the most charismatic, the most sought after,” Mr. Bierrenbach said.
But for renowned Canadian collector Sid Belzberg, one of the coin’s former owners, the penny’s significance far exceeds its monetary value.
“It becomes almost like a treasure hunt – it becomes a real passion and a challenge to see if you can actually finish what you’ve started,” he said yesterday from Sweden, where he’s visiting family.
Mr. Belzberg has been a coin-collector since the age of 8, and he still recalls the “wonderful animal motifs” of the complete Centennial coin set he received as a bar mitzvah present in 1971.
Alicia and Sid Belzberg“I consider my thirteenth year as the year where my passion for coins was more than just a child’s dream.”
But he and his wife Alicia rounded out their collection of every Canadian coin ever minted largely in the past decade, when they were able to afford pricier, rarer specimens.
“Coins, they just have really interesting historical stories behind many of them. And aesthetically they’re very pleasing.”
Once the Belzbergs completed their Canadian coin collection in 2003, the thrill of the chase was gone and they sold off their prize, including the vaunted 1936 dot, shortly afterward. The penny was bought for about $250,000.
“It’s funny,” Mr. Belzberg said. “Once you’ve done it and you’ve completed the set and the hunt is over, the excitement isn’t there any more. That’s just the mentality of a collector.”
Now, the couple has transferred their collecting mania to other things – notably a dizzying array of pocket watches.
Coins don’t hold quite the same thrill for Mr. Belzberg that they did a decade ago. But he wouldn’t miss next month’s auction for the world.
“I’ll attend the auction – just for old time’s sake. I guess there’s some nostalgia, sure.”
Rare Canadian penny fetches $402,500 US http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/01/04/consumer-canadian-coin-auction.html
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS