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This one-of-a-kind $2 Newfoundland gold coin was pressed in Birmingham in 1865 with extra pressure to ensure the finest detail. — Photo courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas
Rummage through dad’s old coin collection. Check grandma’s trunk. If you have an old Newfoundland coin lying around, you may make a fair dollar.
On April 11, one of these coins sold for US$102,812.50 at a major auction in Chicago. The $2 gold coin is, according to Rod O’Driscoll, owner of East Coast Coins, the most expensive Newfoundland coin ever sold.
It was minted in 1865 to test a design for the Newfoundland $2 coin. The design wasn’t chosen, so the coin is one of a kind.
On its way to the auction block, said O’Driscoll, the coin passed through some interesting hands. In 1910 it appears to have shown up in the British Museum in London. A little later it found its way into the collection of King Farouk of Egypt.
In a 1969 article, coin specialist Fred Bowman listed it as one of Canada’s 10 rarest coins, and most recently it was sold in 1995 from the world famous Emory May Norweb collection for close to $40,000.
There were other Newfoundland coins that fetched a pretty price at the auction, including an 1865 20-cent bronze coin that sold for nearly US$24,000 and a five-cent coin from 1865 which sold for more than US$12,000.
Newfoundland coins are very popular for coin collectors around the world, said O’Driscoll, because they comprise a complete set. The colony began minting its own coins in 1865 and continued until 1947, two years before Confederation. The limited stretch of time means there are only 145 different Newfoundland coins, and collectors love completing sets, said O’Driscoll.
Most people do it as an investment, he said, noting how he had Newfoundland bank notes that in 1991 went for $3,000.
“Today they’re crossing the auction block in the range of $20,000.”
Others do it for the love of history or the prestige of having something no one else has.
“The Newfoundland coin market is huge in the U.S. and Canada,” said O’Driscoll. And the markets “seem to be getting stronger.”
Most Newfoundland coins aren’t worth huge amount. O’Driscoll estimates you could pick up about 85 per cent of the Newfoundland set for less than $10. But there are rare ones floating around.
O’Driscoll said he’s keeping his eye out for an 1871 10-cent coin that accidently had a Canadian stamp printed on one side and a Newfoundland stamp on the other. Two examples are known, both belonging to the Canadian coin museum in Ottawa. But O’Driscoll thinks there may be several more scattered around Newfoundland. And each might fetch more than $100,000.
As he puts it, it’s “time to check your attic.”