April 2004 Issue
James C. Johnston Jr.
Photos by Steven Vater



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This 10-cent Canadian stamp of 1935 featured a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, which I thought was Sergeant Preston of the N.W. Mounted Police. I wondered why “Yukon King” was left off the stamp.



This beautiful banknote of the Bank of Clifton states that the bank has a capital of a $1 million, but it probably did not have that much. The bank went “bust.” 

    James C. Johnston Jr. was born in the historic Oliver Pond House in Franklin, Massachusetts where he has lived for 58 years. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in History and is the author of several books. He has also written more than 1,500 articles and monographs in The Numismatist, Linn’s Stamp News, The Regional Recorder, and other publications.
   Johnston was a teacher in the Franklin system for 34 years and has been associated with Johnston Antiques since 1962. He is a well known appraiser of antiques, books, fine arts, stamps, and coins. He is a founding member of the Massachusetts Suburban Antique Dealers Association, a member of the American Numismatic Association, and the American Philatelic Society. He has also been President of the Franklin Historical Society since 1985.

    Johnston is also a well known lecturer whose topics cover a wide range of social history, antiques, coins, stamps, and the fine arts, as well as, politics and political and military history.

 Collecting Canadian Coins...  By James C. Johnston Jr.

            I have always loved the coins and stamps of Canada. The portraits of queens and kings, the tokens, the odd half dime, and 20-cent denominations make Canadian coinage exotic. As a six and seven year old, Canadian material conjured up images for me of the Canadian gold rush, Sergeant Preston of the Northwest, mounted police, and his dog, the great “Yukon King.”

            Those of a certain age will remember the radio, and later the television series, about the amazing Mountie and his world-saving dog. This series fired my imagination, and gave me my view of Victorian Canada. I set about collecting all things Canadian, including books, stamps, prints, and, of course, coins.

            Cents, nickels, silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars (once in a great while) could be picked up in change in Massachusetts in the 1950s and early 1960s. Some merchants on Main Street in Franklin, Mass., saved their Canadian change for me. There were even a fair number if coins with the image of George V among the coins saved for me by these shopkeepers. The first Canadian coin I ever owned was a 1917 half- dime with the image of George V in his crown and royal regalia. To me this coin was a treasure. They were all great guys, but Elio Mucciaroni saved more coins for me than any of my merchant friends on Main Street.

             Back in those days the Whitman Publishing Company printed blue coin folders with holds punched in the pages to hold coins. I filled up my Canadian folders with circulated coins. Filling up the spaces by date was exciting for a pre-teen kid. But in time I became more discriminating and a little richer. I began collecting the large cents minted between 1858 and 1920. They were a little more pricey, and somehow the old blue folders did not seem to cut it anymore. I moved on to mounting my Canadian coins in 2-inch square folders, which were at that time slid into 12 pocket die-cut cardboard pages. Later on 20-pocket vinyl pages were developed, which provided an ideal format for collecting my Canadian coins.

            In 1962, I went off to college in the little Massachusetts town of Bridgewater. There I met the town librarian, Bertha Cameron, who introduced me to a retired professor by the name of Louis B. Stearns, a great old man who had started collecting coins and stamps in the 1880s. He had a million stories and no one to share them with. His stamp collection and numismatic confraternity had all passed away. He was happy that Mrs. Cameron had introduced him to me, a young coin and stamp collector who was happy to share his hobby. He needed someone to help him organize his vast materials. I brought him some two-by-two holders and envelopes, and we worked for many hours on the off days when I had early classes. (Weekends were saved saved for frat parties.)


Canadian quarter
of 1919.

The silver Jubilee dollar of 1935, was minted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of George V as king and emperor of the British Empire.  

John Cabot’s ship “The Griffin” was featured on the 1949 dollar.

This beautiful gold sovereign was minted for Canada in 1911 and features “St. George Slaying the Dragon” by Benedetto Pistrucci.

            Professor Stearns needed additional help from time to time, and he became a grandfather figure to me. I set up a display of rare U.S. stamps for him at the college library, fixed his storm door, glued some chairs, and did some other household tasks. On my birthday in 1963, he presented me with an un-circulated 50-cent piece minted for Canada in 1872. It had a re-engraved date as well as a re-engraved “ents” in the word “cents.” I was shocked.
           “Do you know that this coin has a value of $150,” I asked. “Is that so? I hope that you enjoy it,” he replied.

            I have that coin to this day, and it is my most wonderful numismatic treasure. Its value today is well over $10,000, But to me it is priceless because of the wonderful individual who gave it to me. Our visits in the few years remaining to him were in a nursing home. His collections were no longer with him, but we would revisit them in our conversations. I found out about his passing by accident and walked to his funeral at the Bridgewater Swedenborgian Church.

            Points of Interest in Canada’s Numismatic History

            Canada is rich in 19th-century tokens, mostly minted in copper. My first token was given to me by my father and was minted for the Bank of Upper Canada. It features St. George slaying a dragon. I later got a banknote issued by the Bank of Clifton in 1861 in the amount of $2. The bill is handsome, and it proudly states that the bank had a capital of $1million. In spite of that fact, the Bank of Clifton went belly-up. These banknotes bear mute testimony to the existence of the bank.

            My collecting interest centers on Canadian coins minted before 1959. The reason for this is that I love the design of the 1958 “British Columbia” dollar. Canada only minted silver dollars on a regular basis from 1935 onward. The 1935 dollar was minted to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the coronation of George V. In 1939, a special dollar was minted to commemorate the visit of George VI and his queen, Elizabeth, to Canada.

           In 1949, Canada minted a dollar to mark John Cabot’s voyage of 1497 and 1498 and Newfoundland’s incorporation into the Dominion of Canada. The coin featured Cabot’s ship Griffin. These, along with the 1935 25th anniversary silver jubilee coin of George V, constitutes the total output of commemorative dollars up to 1958.

            Since then, Canada has minted dozens of attractive commemorative coins that are actively collected, but not by me. Like a lot of collectors, I have cut off a date to narrow the scope of my collecting. Collectors have to set bounds for themselves no matter what they collect. That makes the hobby fun and gives it focus. I collect Canadian tokens, cents minted from 1858 to 1920, half-dimes minted from 1858 to 1921, dimes minted from 1870 to 1937, the 20-cent piece of 1858, 25-cent pieces minted from 1870 to 1937, dollars minted from 1935 to 1958, and the gold sovereigns minted between 1908 and 1919. I also like the $5 and $10 gold pieces of the reign of George V. I also collect the stamps and coins of the Canadian provinces, but that is another story.

            My Canadian collection is tied up with great memories of wonderful people like Bertha Cameron and Louis Stearns as well as fictional characters like Sergeant Preston and Yukon King. Yet I still collect Canadian stamps and make friends like Jeff, Marilyn, and the gang at Saskatoon Stamp Center in Saskatoon, Canada, where it is always colder than it is here in Massachusetts. That gives me a great degree of comfort.

          My Calendar

        If you Journal readers want to catch up with me in April of 2004, this is where I will be:             On April 4, I will be at Richard Murphy’s N.E.S.S. Coin and Stamp Show at the Holiday Inn (near the junction of Routes 1A and 128) in Dedham, Mass. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
       On April 25, I will be at Tom Lacey’s Greater Worcester Coin Show in Auburn, Mass. at the Best Western Yankee Drummer on Route 12, just off the Mass. Turnpike at Exit 10. The show hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.. I hope to see you there.  

You may email Jim Johnston at johnstonjim8@aol.com  You may also wish to check Jim's website
for further updates.   www.johnstonantiques.com 


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