NEWFOUNDLAND HOARDS DRYING UP!
Categories // Rod's Thoughts
Newfoundland Hoards drying up
For many years I’ve had a keen interest in collecting Newfoundland coins. Since being a teenager I’ve been purchasing collections in and around St.John’s and throughout the island portion of the province. In this article I’d like to share my first hand experience of Newfoundland Coin Hoards past and present.
As a dealer, I often refer to myself as a treasurer hunter – on a regular basis I see numismatic items which consistently blow my mind. Just this week, I inspected a small estate which included an EF 1909 Newfoundland government 40 cent cash note and a VF Government of Newfoundland $2 Cash Note – just came at me totally unexpected. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to uncover this type of material with little luck, then through word of mouth the items appear on my doorstep.
The purpose of this article is not to share items of individual numismatic interest but rather items which we commonly refer to as hoards – in terms of this article I will focus on original hoards – collections which have been hoarded on issue and not ones put together by a modern collector (I know of some amazing local hoarders who will never sell their holdings of NFLD coins but that’s for another time)
The issue of coins hoards is indeed a difficult one to research. Q. David Bowers issued a great compilation on American Coin Hoards and Treasures in which Newfoundland coins also had passing reference.
The problem with reporting on hoards is that most collections were purchased in confidence therefore dealers are not always free to share their stories. Further, as we all know, the excitement of telling these types of stories often get embellished to the point of the original facts being completely lost. I remember some years ago that when the estate of the late J.R. Smallwood (former premier of Newfoundland) was auctioned, I purchased a cased AU 1948 Canadian Silver Dollar – well, within months, grapevine chatter had me purchasing a Specimen 68 which I got $20,000.00 for. I wish! This is the type of distortion that happens all the time when talking about original and exciting finds. In this article I will share for the most part, my own experiences.
Firstly, I’d like to share a story of my recent visit to view the holdings at the Newfoundland museum more commonly called “The Rooms” after taking a look at the Rowe collection of NFLd coins and paper, and a small hoard of shipwreck coins from the Falcon found off the coast of the island in Trinity Bay, the curator showed me a very interesting find, turns out in the 80’s a set of framed Newfoundland banknotes garnered some attention which was hung on the wall of a government Department for many years. The people called the museum and later had the set donated. I looked at the set which was in its original frame – to my amazement there included:
Union Bank $50 & $2
Cash Notes: 40 cents, 50 cents, 80 cents, $1, $2 , $5
1920 $1 & $2
along with many more issues including a pair of signed 1850 remainder notes. Also included in the holdings there were 30 sheets of 4 signed 1850 Island of Newfoundland remainder notes.
Another interesting story I experienced was about 8 years ago when one of the local auction houses had one of their regular sales. The auction pamphlet noted that there were some coins included: when I went to the viewing, I was quite amazed, the auction description had one lot listed as miscellaneous foreign coins – when I inspected them – there were no less than 25 NFLD $2 gold coins laying loose on the table to be auctioned as one lot. Further digging uncovered 10 – 20 American $10 , $20 and $5 golds mixed in with a small box of silver along with plenty of other surprises. That night at the auction, bidding was pretty strong for the coins – I did pick up some foreign gold that nobody seemed to know was gold and a nice lot of 10 pieces of NFLD paper money. Where this lot came from, I’ll never know just that the auctioneer told me the contents were dropped off in a garbage bag as part of a larger estate.
On another occasion, A friend of mine had a call from a lady with a small bucket of Newfoundland 5 cent silvers 16,000 in total. He purchased them. There were 4 1946 C’s in the mix.. The 46 5 cent is an interesting coin, A good friend of mine told me with certainty that in 1951 he was approached by a gentleman who had 5 rolls of 1946 5 cent silvers – not having the money to buy them at the time, he attempted to communicate with the gentleman on many occasions after the original meeting but never had any success in finding him.
The same person in 1968 made a purchase of 1000 NL $2 golds from a merchant family on the West Coast of the Island – I purchased the last coin from the hoard in 1997 an ICCS 1880 AU50. Smart guy, he took, almost 30 years to unload the hoard so as not to flood the market. I have seen a few hoards of $2 golds in the past 30 years up to 78 on one occasion but am unsure as to what ever happened to them. Today I seem to find them one at a time, although on occasion a lot of 4 or 5 will show up, most often in Au or better condition.
When the Union Bank of Newfoundland and the Commercial Bank of Newfoundland crashed in 1894, many Newfoundlanders lost their fortunes. After that period, many people never trusted the banks again and began to hoard their money.
In the late 1990’s a gentleman came to me telling me the story of a guy in his hometown who had massive quantities of NFLD and Canadian silver along with hoards of banknotes, “it could fill several trucks” he told me. Being the skeptic, I told him I hear those sort of stories all the time but they are rarely if ever true. You can imagine my surprise about a month later when the guy showed up at my house with a quantity of NFLD 10 cent silvers that was big enough to completely fill one of my empty briefcases – the lot was unsorted with many Edward and Victorian 10 cents mixed in. He told me this old guy went out to a well on his property and the two of them hoisted up one of many ropes and at the end was a large sealed bucket – he unsealed the bucket and instructed the guy to bring the coins to me for sale which he did. I was amazed!
A month later the guy showed up with another large lot but this time, unsorted Canadian quarters – enough to fill my briefcase again. At that visit I was told the old guy had money like this hidden all over his property. That was my last purchase from that hoard and I never did find out what happened to the collection – I have been to the town many times but never had any further success with this hoard.
In 2002, I received a call from a gentleman who said he had a lot of coins and wanted me to have a look – I was quite surprised a few days later when I dropped by his house to find 5800 NFLD half dollars – thousands of NFLD 10 cent and 5 cent silvers and many bags of mint sealed Canadian silver half dollars and dollars. In the lot were 4 mint rolls of 1941 10 cent silvers all full white – it’s a coin that shows up on the island quite regularly. I made 6 complete sets of NL 50 cents from that hoard but the vast majority were common George and Edward halfs. Most often what shows up are average circulated coins.
In 1999, I traveled to Grand Falls Newfoundland to look at the collection of a 90 year old gentleman who had been collecting for many years. When I entered his basement I was faced with thousands of pepsi and coke cans all filled with Newfoundland coins – there was enough in that collection to weigh down my SUV – in the end I did get some NFLD coin albums with MS Victoria half dollars from 1898, 1899, 1900. I was told later that the guy never earned more than $6000 a year but had managed to accumulate this amazing hoard.
On rare occasions, I will still find high grade NFLD coins. About 10 years ago I purchased about 60 full white NFLD 25 cent coins from an old time dealer – when I got them graded many came back MS63 – 64 but I did get one MS65. I asked the dealer where he attained this interesting hoard and he told me in the 70’s he was at a local store and was passed 2 brilliant 1917 25 cent coins in change upon further asking if there were others, he managed to attain all 60 from the cashier at face value!
On another occasion just last year I purchased with a friend, a small hoard of 5 cent silvers in Twillingate which included an original role or 1929 5 cents. Several of these came back MS65 which was amazing in that they were stored loose in a container with hundreds of others for over 60 years.
During my University years when I operated at a local flea market I noted a guy who used to shop one coin around each week to the local dealers, I would ensure that I was the high bidder knowing that if what he was shopping around was an indication of a bigger collection, it was worth the small loss up front. Sure enough after many months we decided that I would go to his house to view the collection. I was amazed that in 3 whitman albums there were perhaps 200 mint condition Newfoundland halfs . Most of the copper had PVC contamination but the silver was still in amazing condition. Most of those coins went to local collectors and eventually made their way to grading companies where most went MS62 – 64. The gentleman’s father (who owned the coins) died in 1973 and the coins were stored by the family for 25 years.
There are many stories of other hoards of Newfoundland coins and tokens . At one point they would show up on a regular basis. Today, my experience is that the hoards have gotten much smaller and the high grade coins are rarely present. In Newfoundland, many of the families who possessed these hoards were well-to-do merchant families who never had a need to sell their holdings and probably never will. They remain in the safety deposit boxes of the banks or are hidden in peoples homes – under mattresses and in attics – maybe a few are still sitting in the bottom of wells.
Stories on the best hoards of course, I won’t be sharing with the hope that I purchase them.
Till next time.
East Coast Coins