‘A vanishing rarity,’ 1921 fifty-cent coin to hit the auction block in September

The “King of Canadian Coins” will be one of many rarities featured in Colonial Acres’ Fall Premier Numismatic Auction this September.

“Colonial Acres will be presenting to the public a vanishing rarity: one of but six specimen-grade examples of the 1921 fifty-cent piece known to exist,” says the auction firm’s Todd Sandham. “PCGS certified as a Specimen 64, the coin is garbed in a fitting sombre grey patina with undertones of regal purple.”

“The other known Specimen 64 sold this spring for $155,350. Of the two, this is the nicer,” Sandham says. “One of the highest heirlooms of the Canadian numismatic world, this coin will be the crown jewel in any array of rare Canadian coins.”

The “King” is featured as Lot 616B at the Sept. 8-9 sale, to be held in conjunction with Trajan Publishing’s National Postage Stamp and Coin Show at the Mississauga Hilton, Sept. 9-10. The show in Mississauga, Ont. will host 50 coin and stamp dealers from across Canada.

“Hundreds of thousands of Canada’s 1921 fifty-cent pieces were cast into the fire, rendered into liquid silver, and re-struck to bear the date 1929,” states the description for Lot 616B. “1929 – the year the world’s fortunes fell into depression, 1929 was also the year a numismatic legend arose from the crucible.”

The 1921-dated 50-cent coins’ mintage was 206,398.

“They lay idled in the mint’s coffers until 1929, when the foliated silver piece came again into demand,” Colonial states. “John Honeyford Campbell, master of the mint in Ottawa, feared the early 1920s coins would be taken for counterfeits if issued now. He ordered them melted. Coin by coin, the 1921 fifty cents fell into the furnace, emerged as elemental silver and copper, they were recast and re-struck.”

A few 1921 fifty cents survived, however.

“Collectors and mint visitors had already purchased some 75 of the coins, in specimen sets or as souvenirs,” Colonial adds. “These scant survivors of the fire became what Canadian numismatic icon James Charlton would later christen as ‘the King of Canadian Coins.’”

A total of 1,284 lots will be offered over two sessions, starting Friday, Sept. 8 with the first 663 lots including the 1921-dated 50 cents.

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