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Penticton coin dealer hits jackpot

Katerina Bakalos holds two pieces of Canadian currency valued in excess of $800,000, including a 1925 Dominion of Canada $500 bill and what’s called the “King of Coins,” a 1921 50-cent piece. Owner Kosta Bakalos of Penticton’s Blue Nose Coins and Precious Metals is helping sell the collection of the anonymous owner, including these two items. - Mark Brett/Western News
Katerina Bakalos holds two pieces of Canadian currency valued in excess of $800,000, including a 1925 Dominion of Canada $500 bill and what’s called the “King of Coins,” a 1921 50-cent piece. Owner Kosta Bakalos of Penticton’s Blue Nose Coins and Precious Metals is helping sell the collection of the anonymous owner, including these two items.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Kosta Bakalos is calling them Canada’s most wanted.

It’s justified. Along with several other pieces, the Penticton numismatist is selling a 1925 Dominion of Canada $500 bill, which alone should bring in $450,000, according to the value set by Bakalos, the owner of Bluenose Coins and Precious Metals.

Of an original run of 40,000, only eight examples of the bill remain.

“This one is the best one of all eight on record, it’s even nicer than what the Bank of Canada has in their museum,” said Bakalos, who has been asked to help sell some of the rarest coins and bills in Canada by an anonymous collector.

“It’s probably one of the prettiest notes out there, in my opinion. If it sells for what we think it’s going to realize, it’s going to be a record.”

Bakalos describes the $500 bill as a true rarity and a significant piece of Canadian numismatic history.

“It’s like finding a Picasso somewhere in Penticton that has been hidden for years,” he said. “It’s got the potential to hold the record for the most expensive note ever sold in Canada.”

The Western News was invited to view the bill before it was turned over for auction to Brian Bell of Geoffrey Bell Auctions, who flew out from Moncton, NB to pick up the bill in person.  The engraving on the blue 89-year-old bill can only be described as exquisite, down to the fine details on the portrait of King George V, which graces the centre of the bill.

In those days, according to Bell, the focus was on the quality of the bill and the design, compared to today, where the focus now is on counterfeit-prevention measures.

“Back then, it was actual artwork that they cared about,” said Bell. “They weren’t as concerned about counterfeiting.”

This isn’t the first time that Bakalos and Bell have seen this $500 bill. In 2010, it was Bakalos that convinced the current owner to purchase it through Bell’s auction house, when it sold for $190,000.

Before that, the last time it changed hands was in 1961, when Bakalos said it sold for $1000.

“I convinced my client it would be a great buy. I was actually going to bid up to the neighbourhood of $275,000,” said Bakalos.

It’s not often, he continued, that a dealer gets a chance to represent a collection of this magnitude, and his previous work with his anonymous client was part of the reason he was selected.

“It’s somebody that I have sold to in the past and all of the major dealers have dealt with this person, but I guess he really liked how I handle things with him,” said Bakalos, who describes his client as a high-end collector who gathers only the finest known or the biggest rarities he can get his hands on. “He’s decided that he wants to sell the highlights of his collection, and of all the options that he had, he entrusted Bluenose to represent him.”

The collection includes several other significant items, including what Bakalos calls the “King of Canadian Coins,” a 1921 50 cent piece.

“For anyone that knows anything about Canadian coins, it is the coin to have. There are only 75 in existence and that coin is one of the two finest known,” said Bakalos.

“It’s everybody’s dream that collects coins to even hold a coin like that in their hands.”

Bakalos admits he is one of those, having been a collector and a customer of Bluenose before he purchased the shop 15 years ago.

“I am a collector at heart. I wish I could afford to own that,” he said, adding that he would have trouble ever letting go again. “If I had the means to own them, I would keep them.”

But until they are sold, Bakalos said, this exceptional coin collection will be resting in a bank vault.

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