Specimen sets, scarce varieties, paper money to highlight Premier Auction

By Jesse Robitaille

With many of Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions still in place, Kitchener’s Colonial Acres is gearing up for its third virtual Premier Auction this April.

It will be Colonial’s seventh Premier Auction since 2018, about three years after the coin-dealing company entered the auction business. But since last spring, just as the pandemic was beginning to take hold, the firm has been forced to host all of its sales, including the twice-yearly Premier Auction and its regular monthly auctions, online.

“Consignments were more difficult this past year as we didn’t have the standard means of approaching people and discussing consignments in person, but over the years, we have acquired more people that have been consigning more and more to our Premier Auctions,” said auctioneer and Colonial co-owner Kirk Parsons.

The upcoming April 9-10 auction will offer 1,385 lots, topping the 1,295 lots offered last fall and nearly matching the 1,388 lots last spring, when the Premier Auction was held online only for the first time. While last spring’s auction was held in April, Colonial was accepting consignments at coin shows and its store before mid-March, when the cancellations and social restrictions began.

“We had one consignor provide us with some choice decimal coins that I feel will do very well,” said Parsons, who added he’s “very confident and optimistic” for the interest in the April sale. “There are some great 10-cent, 25-cent and 50-cent coins that are both better grades, and some better dates. As always, our paper money section is also strong again this year. We always strive to bring a broad spectrum of material that will attract all collectors and all budget levels.”

Many lots’ starting bids begin at 50 per cent of their Trends valuations “or very close to that,” Parsons added.


Among the top highlights are a pair of specimen sets, including one from 1908, when the British Royal Mint opened its Ottawa Branch, which later became the Royal Canadian Mint.

Lot 1271 offers Canada’s 1908 five-coin specimen set, struck in Ottawa, with its original presentation case. The coins – in one-, five-, 10-, 25- and 50-cent denominations – are all certified as either Specimen-65 or Specimen-64 by International Coin Certification Service (ICCS). The lot is expected to bring $4,850 with a starting bid of $3,250.

The following lot – 1272 – offers another “Ottawa Mint” specimen set, this one a six-piece set from 1950. The coins were taken from their original case and since certified and slabbed by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) as part of the Cornerstone Collection, which was sold in a fixed-price catalogue for more than $5 million altogether beginning in 2019.

The $1, 10-cent and five-cent coins are certified as Specimen-66, the 50-cent coin is certified as Specimen-65, the cent is certified as Specimen-65 Red Brown and the 25-cent coin is certified as Specimen-64.

The lot offered this April is expected to bring $5,000 with a starting bid of $3,575.

The set also sold for $5,000 as part of the Cornerstone Collection.

An 1885 five-cent ‘Large 5’ variety (highlighted at bottom left) is offered as Lot 354 of the April 9-10 auction. It carries a $4,500 estimate.


Moving on to coinage, an 1885 five-cent “Large 5” variety in Mint-State (MS) condition will cross the block as Lot 354.

Certified as MS-64 by ICCS, it’s “a gem coin with rolling lustre throughout,” according to Parsons, who added there’s an estimate of $4,500 and a starting bid of $2,350.

While ICCS population data is publicly unavailable, only 12 examples – of all varieties – are known in MS-65 and higher based on other population reports from PCGS, Canadian Coin Certification Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC).

Lot 757 offers a 1905-dated 50-cent coin, one of only 40,000 struck that year, certified as Extremely Fine-45 by ICCS. A key date, the coin is expected to bring $4,125 on a starting bid of $2,400.

In the Elizabethan era, a 1966 $1 “Small Beads” variety – the rarer of the two – will cross the block as Lot 934. Certified as MS-63 by ICCS, this example has an estimate of $4,500 on a starting bid of $2,500.

In exonumia, Lot 987 offers a circa 1830-35 “Ships, Colonies & Commerce” half-penny token (Breton 997/Charlton PE10-13). A rarity, only two examples are reported in the NGC census. In ICCS Fine-12, the example to be offered in April is expected to bring $2,000 on a starting bid of $1,100.

A 1902 Dominion of Canada $4 ‘4 at Top’ variety (face shown) is offered as Lot 1067 with an estimate of $5,500.


A 1902 Dominion of Canada $4 note (DC-17a) offered as Lot 1067 leads the way for paper money.

Certified as Fine-15 by Legacy Currency Grading, this example is the “4 at Top” variety and features the Various-Courtney signature combination plus a serial number of “066715-A.” It’s expected to bring $5,500 with a starting bid of $3,650.

Moving to Bank of Canada issues, Lot 1093 offers a $100 note (BC-15) from the central bank’s inaugural 1935 Series. It was the bank’s only dual-language series, with each denomination printed in English and French, respectively, on separate notes. Certified as Very Fine-25 by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), the note on offer in April is “a nice, problem-free, mid-grade example,” Parsons said. With the Osborne-Towers signature combination, it has a serial number reading “A10110-D.” It’s expected to bring $4,900 with a starting bid of $2,650.

The sale also offers several specimen sets, including a six-piece set of ‘Birds of Canada’ notes overprinted with ‘SPECIMEN 0849.’ It’s estimated at $1,600 as Lot 1207.

Lot 1206 offers a matching nine-note specimen set – each with a red “SPECIMEN 485” overprint – from the Bank of Canada’s “Scenes of Canada” issue. Certified by Banknote Certification Service, the set includes one $1, $2, $10, $50 and $100 note plus two $5 and $20 notes. Ranging in grade from Choice Uncirculated-62 to Choice Uncirculated-64 Original, the lot is expected to bring $3,500 with a starting bid of $1,950.

A set of six matching “SPECIMEN 0912” notes from the Bank of Canada’s “Birds of Canada” issue will also cross the block as Lot 1209. All certified by PMG, the $2, $5, $10, $20 and $50 notes are graded Gem Uncirculated-66 while the $100 note is in Uncirculated-66. The lot is estimated at $1,900 with a starting bid of $975.

Other matching specimen sets will be offered as:

  • Lot 1205, a set of eight “SPECIMEN 484” notes ($2, two $5, $10, two $20, $50 and $100) from the Scenes of Canada issue with an estimate of $3,250 on a starting bid of $1,800;
  • Lot 1207, a set of six “SPECIMEN 0849” notes ($2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) from the Birds of Canada issue with an estimate of $1,600 on a starting bid of $875;
  • Lot 1208, a set of six “SPECIMEN 0852” Birds of Canada notes ($2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) from the Birds of Canada issue with an estimate of $1,600 on a starting bid of $900; and
  • Lot 1210, a set of six matching “SPECIMEN 0979” Birds of Canada notes ($2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) with an estimate of $1,600 on a starting bid of $850.


Lot viewing will be available at Colonial Acres’ storefront on 991 Victoria St. N. in Kitchener beginning on March 19.

Viewing times are Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Both live online auction sessions will begin at 5:30 p.m. (ET).

In addition to online bids before and during the sale, Colonial will also accept bids by mail, email, fax, phone and in person at the company’s Kitchener store.

Looking ahead to this fall, Parsons is hopeful he’ll soon be able to meet with collectors, consignors and bidders in person at auctions and coin shows across the province.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope we can all enjoy a live coin show in the fall and enjoy each another’s company and camaraderie that goes along with live shows and auctions,” he told CCN, adding he’s been impressed with the busy online activity throughout the pandemic.

“When COVID hit the world, we entered uncharted territories along with everyone else. But our expectations at the beginning were blown away by the strong prices and active bidding at auctions. It was impressive to see the coin community, which is historically ‘old school,’ move towards the digital world. It was a pleasant surprise and has proven to be a very effective means of conducting our business and auctions during these challenging times, when all shows are cancelled and person-to-person business is at an all-time low.”

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