Canada's 1936 Dot cent a puzzling rarity

One of three examples known in April CICF auction
Published : 01/24/13
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Canada’s 1936 Dot cent combines pedigree, rarity and mystery, and remains a numismatic enigma.

One of three examples known — all of which can be traced to the same past owner — will highlight Heritage Auctions’ Chicago International Coin Fair sale.

Death, abdication, delay

Like the coins of so many former British properties, Canadian coinage depicts the reigning monarch, and when there’s a change in rulers, a new effigy is created.

The Jan. 20, 1936, death of King George V spurred mint officials in Britain, Canada and elsewhere to began preparing for the transition to a new obverse portrait, of George’s heir, King Edward VIII, who immediately assumed the throne but, as per custom, was not due to appear on coins until the following year.

During 1936, Royal Canadian Mint master John H. Campbell decided to completely redesign the circulating coinage. While the RCM worked on the new designs, production of 1936 cents with George V’s portrait continued, and late in 1936 more than 200 dies for various denominations were ready with King Edward VIII’s portrait, to be used in 1937 on new coinage. Then, on Dec. 12, 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry a divorced American woman. Edward’s brother became King George VI. Worried about a coin shortage, officials decided to continue producing the coins of George V using 1936 dies into 1937 while dies to bearing George VI’s portrait were created.

To distinguish the 1937-struck, 1936-dated coins from the otherwise identical 1936 coins, Mint officials placed a small dot on at least some, maybe all of the reverse dies. On the cent, the dot was placed just below the date. The raised dot appears to have been placed on the dies by hand with a punch.

The dot is extremely tiny and should not be confused with the dot appearing with decorative elements between CENT and 1936.

The RCM reportedly minted 678,823 cents bearing the dot.

Where did they go?

But what happened to all those Dot cents? Only three 1936 Dot cents are known to exist.

Because of a stockpile on hand, low demand and the quick approval of a George VI effigy, the anticipated coinage shortage never materialized. Striking of most 1937 coins began before the May 16 coronation.

“Most of the ‘1936 dot’ coins were not needed,” according to Haxby. “A few rare examples of the cent and 10 cents do survive, all of the others apparently having been melted down.”

Three 1936 Dot cents, with varying Mint State grades, are known, all three once in the John Jay Pittman Collection.

Numerous circulated pieces that have surfaced over the years have not been authenticated, and experts suggest that it is unlikely that any genuine 1936 Dot cents ever circulated. The Royal Canadian Mint did not announce the existence of the 1936 Dot coins, nor were the coins mentioned in the Mint’s annual report.

A trio of Dot cents

John Jay Pittman built a large collection of coins by diligently seeking the coins he wanted. And he wanted the Dot cents (among other rarities).

Before his death in February 1996, Pittman and his family owned all three known Dot cents. Pittman’s collection was sold in a series of auctions beginning in 1997.

Lot 1 in the first auction, Oct. 21, 1997, was a Dot cent graded “Gem Specimen” in the catalog. This cent sold for $121,000. It was later sold in the Chester L. Krause auction Jan. 11, 2004, for $207,000, and this same example of the coin is being offered by Heritage in the April sale to be conducted in conjunction with the CICF show scheduled for April 18 to 21. It has been part of the Nikita Collection of Canadian Coins and is currently graded Mint State 63 red by Professional Coin Grading Service.

The second Dot cent offered was Lot 2148 in the third Pittman Collection auction Aug. 6, 1999. Akers described it as a specimen “nearly in the Choice category, or possibly Uncirculated” but Pittman thought it was a circulation strike. This example sold in 1999 for $115,000.

The third Dot cent is part of a complete 1936 Specimen set that also contains the Dot 10- and 25-cent coins and the regular issue coins.

In the third Pittman auction, all the 1936 Specimen set coins were bought as a set for $345,000. The “Dot” cent in the set is graded Specimen 66 red by PCGS, the highest-graded of the three Dot cents known.

The Specimen set coins joined the Sid and Alicia Belzberg Collection of Canadian coinage, which was auctioned Jan. 13, 2003, where the Dot cent realized $230,000. That Dot cent thereafter sold in the January 2010 auction of the Canadiana Collection for $402,500. ■

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