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Keep Track of your Coins

(The following copyrighted item by Robert Aaron first appeared in The Toronto Star, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.)

Imagine throwing out a pair of old shoes and not realizing that they contained a rare coin worth more than $225,000 Canadian. That's exactly what happened to the retired owner of several manufacturing and metals companies in Florida.

Back in 1997, the wealthy collector, who wants to remain anonymous, first purchased a one-of-a-kind 1849 Cincinnati Mining & Trading Co. $10 pioneer gold coin. A relic of the California gold rush, instead of being struck on a gold coin blank, it was overstruck on an 1849 J.S. Ormsby $10 gold piece.

In those wild west days in California, private companies struck their own coins which were honoured as money for their metal content. The designs were rather crude and unattractive, but there was no government mint in California at the time, and private minters serviced the populace.

Immediately after he bought it, the collector couldn't get to a bank vault quickly, so he placed the coin into one of his old golf shoes for later retrieval.

He then forgot where it was. It may happen to all of us, but hopefully not with a trinket worth more than $200,000.

Shortly afterward, he sold his entire rare coin collection to Donald Kagin, a California coin dealer, for "several million dollars."

Although the inventory listed the 1849 pioneer gold $10 coin when the collection was sold to Kagin, the coin never appeared with the rest of the collection, and its whereabouts remained a mystery.

Along comes a tornado in central Florida in February 1998. The collector's family donated a pile of clothing items, including the shoe containing the old coin, to the local Jaycess to aid in relief efforts for victims of the storm.

Jaycee volunteer Patricia May was sorting through the clothing donations and found the coin which was in a plastic capsule created and sealed by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), an American coin grading company. Thinking it to be a worthless trinket, May took it home and tossed it into a drawer. Her house was burglarized in January, 2000, but the burglars also thought it was worthless and left it behind while taking silver dollars from the same drawer.

Recently, she stumbled across the coin again and did some research on the Internet. Texas dealer Douglas Winter identified the coin from the serial number on the PCGS capsule. With the help of several dealer members of the Professional Numismatists Guild, the coin was surrendered for return to its now-81-year old owner.

Dealer Don Kagin flew from California to Florida to retrieve the coin and forward it on to its rightful owner. The grateful but forgetful provided a $10,000 reward to May and $5,000 to the Florida Jaycees.

For coin collectors everywhere, the lesson to be learned from the story is: if you're going to hide your coins in oddball places, remember where they are, or write down the location and keep the memo in a place where you will see it.


The second Torex® coin and stamp collectible show this year will take place later this month at the Primrose Hotel, 111 Carlton St. at Jarvis in Toronto. Show hours are 10 to 5 on Saturday, June 16, and 10 to 3 on Sunday, June 17. Now in its 39th year, Torex® is Canada's longest-running collector's show. This season it features a bourse area with 50 dealers from across the country.

Special guest at the Torex show will be (Ebay Canada) - the country's largest online collector marketplace. A high quality auction will be conducted by Moore Numismatic Auctions Inc. The first session features 600 lots of superb Canadian bank notes, and the second offers 1,400 lots of Canadian and Newfoundland coins, world and ancient coins, medals and tokens. Highlight of the sale will be the auctioning of a very rare Canadian 1921 half-dollar in near perfect condition. Auctioneer Charles Moore has estimated the coin will sell at more than $75,000.

As part of the Torex event, three collector organizations will be meeting on June 16: the Canadian Tire Coupon Collectors at 10 a.m., the Canadian Association of Token Collectors at noon, and the Classical and Medieval Society at 2:00 p.m.

For more information contact Brian Smith, (416) 861-9523 or visit

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