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Newsletter #67, July 7, 2005

Rare Colonial British Columbia Coins in Calgary Auction

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The rarest set of North American coins, British Columbia 1862 Silver and Gold $10 and $20 coins, from the Sid and Alicia Belzberg collection, are being offered as one lot by Calgary auctioneer Stan Wright, on July 22, 2005 as part of Diverse Equities Canadian Numismatic Association sale. The presale estimate of $1.75 million puts these coins out of the reach of most collectors and museums, although well-known British Columbia collector Ron Greene once owned the Silver $10. One of the $20 gold coins comes from the collection of Egypt's King Farouk. 

This set of pattern coins was originally prepared for display at the London International Exhibition at the behest of former Hudson's Bay Company Factor, and then Colonial British Columbia Governor, James Douglas. Only five sets appear to have survived and this is the only group not in museum hands. 

Colonial British Columbia Coins

There are examples of the Government of British Columbia and Crown on one side, and Wreath and Denomination on the other, pieces in the British Museum, The British Columbia Archives, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Collection, and the Bank of Canada Collection. 

It is possible there are other examples that have not made it to market, but there are as few as three known of the various denominations and metals of the British Columbia coins, and this may well be the only time the set of four, plus a spare $20 gold, have been offered as one lot in Canada.

It appears that this set of British Columbia Colonial coins may be the only one ever available to the open market. The coin dies  were engraved by Albert Kuner, and some Silver pieces were struck in San Francisco, from dies prepared by the Vanderslices Silver Manufactory. The original wax impressions were destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and fire there. 

Governor Douglas hoped to establish a Mint in New Westminster, British Columbia, but less than 20 of each of the gold $10 and $20 pieces were minted in B.C. before production was halted forever. British Columbia needed high denomination coins to assist in the Cariboo, Victoria and San Francisco gold trade that put British Columbia and Vancouver's Island on the map. 

Colonial British Columbia Coins
London, of course, never authorized the coins for official production, but they are collected as patterns, coins that were prepared for use but not approved.

There is a precedent for pattern collecting in Calgary. The 1911 Canadian Silver Dollar, another pattern coin, which was once owned by Wayne Gretzky, is the property of a prominent Calgary collector. If he paid $1,000,000. for that coin, of which three examples are known, perhaps he will be unable to resist the only known set of British Columbia coins in private hands for just a million more.

The same marketplace that recognizes the 1911 Silver Dollar as Canada's first, likewise accepts the British Columbia $10 and $20 gold coins a Canada's first. 

Canada was a Dominion until Confederation in 1867, and did not make it's own gold coins in Canada until 1908. Newfoundland issued $2 gold coins in 1865. British Columbia officially joined Canada in 1971, while Newfoundland held out as a British Colony until 1949. Replicas already exist of the $20 Gold so do not get too excited if you find one, until you have it examined by a reputable dealer. 

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Newsletter #68
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