My Favorite Canadian Coin
Dealers can be fond of certain coins for many reasons. As a young collector/vest pocket dealer, I naively asked a veteran of the coin show wars, "What is your favorite coin?"
The old gent looked at me and said, " The next one you buy from me."
Of all the possible choices available in Canadian numismatics, my favorite is the 1858 Twenty Cent Piece. The intricate, yet simple, design of the coin appeals to me. The apple-cheeked portrait of the young queen seems a perfect fit for the size of the coin. The reverse design with the delicate leaves in the wreath is more appealing than later variations. That the coin was only minted in one year is a shame. I wish the series had continued. I'm not positive why the denomination was discontinued when twenty cent coins were produced only a few years later in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Perhaps one of the more knowledgeable numismatists that visit this site can answer that question.
There are other reasons why I'm so partial to this coin. I've bought and sold dozens of these popular type coins over the years. I'm positive I never lost money on a single one. I wish I could say the same about some of the other things I've had in inventory.
Simply put, the 1858 twenty-center is good property. It must rank as one of the more popular coins among intermediate and advanced Canadian collectors. Despite consistent demand, the coin remains reasonably priced. Fortunately attractive AU examples are available so those of us who aren't made of money can have a pretty example in our collection.
And now the real reason why this coin is so special to me - the rest of the story!
In 1973 I got a call from a gentleman who had driven by my tiny shop and noticed the sign saying I specialized in world coins. "Would you like to buy some?" he asked.
When I inquired about what he had for sale I got little response. I would need to come to his home. He would only be available this afternoon. He was leaving for an extended vacation in Florida and planned to take the coins with him to sell there if I wasn't interested. When I was invited into his home I noticed the kitchen table covered with coins. At a glance, the coinsappeared to be a giant-size version of the typical soldier's WWII accumulation. As I began sorting and making piles my first impression was confirmed.
The fellow with the coins began to talk and ask questions. A task that I could have finished in a few minutes dragged on for more than an hour. Then it was time for his wife to serve coffee and cookies. That led to more conversation and questions. Without warning the man said, "It's all junk isn't it? I showed some of the coins to another dealer and that's what he called them."
"Well," I began, as the husband and wife stared at me. "There is no single coin that has any real value, but all coins can be fun to collect. Because something isn't worth much doesn't me it can't be interesting."
"What will you pay for the whole shebang?" he asked.
Prior to his first question I was waiting for the right time to use my little thanks for letting me look but this group isn't for me speech. Instead I said, "Twenty dollars."
"Sold!" said the wife. "It makes me nervous having that stuff around."
I fished a $20 bill out of my wallet and was soon on my way. When I got back to the shop I poured what coins I could fit in the junk box and stored the rest behind the counter.
Late the following spring, I was surprised to see the same couple walk in the front door of the shop. My first thought was that they had done some housecleaning and had come to bless me with another wonderful lot of European pocket change. Not so. They had brought an elderly neighbor along who had some coins to sell. She had only two pieces so they didn't expect me to come to the house.
There they were! A perfectly matched pair of light blue-gold toned 1858 Twenty Cent Pieces. Under the beautiful color the surfaces were immaculate with strong luster that seemed ready to pop out at me. Back then we called such coins blasty. Now days, the words incredible gems might apply. Wonder coins would also work.
The lady's father, a banker, had traveled to Ottawa in 1859 and brought the coins back as souvenirs.
I think everyone in the room noticed how my hands were trembling after my offer was accepted and I was counting out the cash on the counter.
I kept the two coins for about a month before I showed them to a good customer who instantly bought them. The last time we spoke, which was some time ago, my offer of $7000 wasn't enough to bring the pair out of hiding.
"You'll get them back some day," promised the proud owner.
I can't wait-but must. The next time I won't be foolish enough to sell the two finest examples of this coin I've ever seen.