NEW YORK - For the first time in history, one of virtually every set of valuable Canadian coins ever minted is being sold at the same time. Experts say the collection outshines the central bank's.
More than 1,000 pieces will be on the auction block in Manhattan Monday night, and numismatists are predicting the treasure could fetch as much as $10 million.
"This is without question the finest collection of Canadian coins ever assembled by any individual or institution, even better than the Bank of Canada's," says Bob Korver of Heritage World Coin Auctions.
The coins, owned by Sid and Alicia Belzberg, include a priceless part of the country's history. For instance, there are $10 gold pieces from British Columbia predating Confederation. And there's a 1911 silver dollar that's so rare it's expected to bring in as much as $1 million on its own.
"It really started as a labour of love for us," says Sid Belzberg. "But the coins over the years became more and more expensive, and it became harder and harder for us to acquire new pieces."
"It was becoming too much like an investment than a hobby."
Some collectors have urged Ottawa to step in and buy some of the rarest coins. But others doubt the government will be able to justify shelling out millions for old money when there are increasing demands to spend today's dollars on various social programs.
"I hope most of it goes back to Canada," said one collector who flew from Alberta to New York to bid on the collection. "It is always sad to see it in another country, when it is Canadian money."