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Canadian Columnist Retires Coins & Stamps Pen

Special to the Canadian Coin Reference Site

Bob Aaron

Toronto Star Coins columnist Bob Aaron has announced his retirement from writing the newspaper's coins and stamps columns after an uninterrupted run of more than 36 years and more than 1,400 columns and 1 million words.

The Toronto Star is Canada's largest newspaper and Aaron's longevity there made him the longest-running numismatic columnist in the country, and one of the longest-running on the continent.

“The column had run its course,” Aaron noted in announcing his retirement, “and it's time to focus on other pursuits.” He will continue to write his weekly residential real estate law column called Title Page in the Star's New in Homes section. For more than five years, Aaron was juggling all three columns in the newspaper.

Aaron's Coins column began in The Star in October, 1968. At the time, he was a student at Osgoode Hall Law School in downtown Toronto. For most of the column's run, it appeared every week on Saturdays.

In recent years, the column was moved to Mondays and appeared bi-monthly and later monthly. In 1993, following the death of the Star's stamps columnist, James Montagnes, Aaron took over the newspaper's Stamps column, and for many years it alternated with the Coin's column - his main interest.

In announcing his retirement, Aaron noted that in the 500 or so years that coin collecting has been an organized hobby, the last four decades have been the ones which have seen the most change in coin issuing and collecting.

He referred to a number of events during the time he wrote the Coins column which have had a significant impact on coin collecting: the end of the U.S. ban on gold ownership in 1974; the breakup of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; the amalgamation, appearance and disappearance of other countries; the birth of the euro which replaced many European currencies; the move to high denomination circulating coins; and the explosion in the number of bullion issues and non-circulating commemorative coins.

When the loon dollar was being considered by the Royal Canadian Mint and the Canadian government in the 1980s, Aaron spoke out strongly in favor of the proposed coin and later in favor of retaining the endangered Canadian cent on nationwide television. Over the years, he made numerous appearances on local and national radio and television to promote the numismatic hobby.

Aaron was been a frequent contributor to or columnist for Canadian Coin News since 1966. His articles and news items have also appeared over the years in the Canadian Numismatic Journal, World Coin News, Numismatic News, Bank Note Reporter, Coin World, and World Coins.

In 1974, before the Canadian mint had its own promotional films, Aaron received permission from the Mint Master to prepare his own slide set based on a tour of the Ottawa and Hull plants, and this received wide circulation among Ontario coin clubs. The slides are historic now, showing as they do the Hull plant which no longer exists, and the Ottawa plant which has been completely reconstructed.

In the same year, with government permission, Aaron reprinted a limited edition of the 1935 to 1972 Royal Canadian Mint annual reports, and sold them to interested collectors and researchers. Most of the reprinted material was either impossible or very difficult to obtain, and Aaron donated the entire profits of almost $1,000 to three Canadian numismatic organizations.

On two extensive trips to Europe and the Middle East in the 1960s and 1970s, Aaron visited some 20 different mints and showed slides of his trips to several coin clubs across southern Ontario.

After the death of prominent coin dealer and auctioneer Frank Rose, Aaron bought his entire numismatic library, shipped it to Toronto from Florida, and donated it to the University of Toronto library where it will be available for future generations of scholars.

In 1977, Aaron testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee on a bill to amend the Criminal Code in relation to counterfeits, similar to the American Hobby Protection Act.

Aaron has served on the boards of a number of Toronto-area coin clubs, was a founding director of the Donald B. Thomas Memorial Foundation, drafted the by-laws of the Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers, and served a two-year term on the board of the Canadian Numismatic Association. He was also appointed to two committees of the American Numismatic Association, and was named chair of the International Relations Committee under then- A.N.A. president David Ganz.

Aaron's personal hobby is collecting coin-bowl or coin-handle spoons, and he has travelled widely across the United States and Ontario to display his collection and speak about his spoons. (A coin spoon is a spoon manufactured with a real coin in the bowl or on the handle.) His collection of about 3,000 spoons is the largest of its type on the continent.

Aaron has attended several coin launchings and first strike ceremonies, including the opening ceremonies of the Winnipeg mint, the first striking there of the loon dollar, and the reopening of the Ottawa mint following its reconstruction. In 1990 he visited the Paris mint and Albertville, the site of the 1992 Winter Olympics, as a guest of the French Olympic coin program.

In 1985, Aaron was a participating investor in the Mel Fisher discovery of the 1622 shipwreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha Spanish treasure ship, and received a small share of the treasure in the form of coins.

Aaron practices real estate law in the Toronto business core. He operates the family law firm Aaron & Aaron, which was founded 75 years ago. He is an elected director of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which governs the Ontario legal profession, and is chair of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association.

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