History

Organized Numismatics In Calgary

by Neil Probert

Organized numismatics in Calgary had its beginnings in 1949.  Prior to that time there were a number of coin collectors in Calgary but they never gathered together in organized groups.  Collectors frequently contacted their fellow collectors to examine each other’s collections, talk about their recent acquisitions, and review articles in recent numismatic publications, such as the ANA’s Numismatist, and other coin bulletins that the individuals had obtained.  There were no coin dealers in Calgary at the time, but you could acquire some coins and other numismatic items from hobby shops, antique stores, pawn shops and estate sales.  There were very few coin collecting resources available at that time.

One individual collector in Calgary would have a huge influence on the local numismatic community.  Professor A. Reginald Prince was born in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1900 and came to Calgary in 1949 to work as a biologist at Mount Royal College.  Prof. Prince had been collecting coins since he was a child. He corresponded with many other collectors throughout Canada and the United States, including people like Sheldon Carroll and J. Douglas Ferguson.  He was a member of the American Numismatic Association for many years.  He met a few people in Calgary who were also collectors, and frequently got together with them to discuss coin collecting.  He was aware that the Ottawa Coin Club had been formed in 1948 and, like many other collectors throughout Canada, he had inquired regarding joining that club.  In January 1950 members of the Ottawa Coin Club formed the Canadian Numismatic Association, and Reginald Prince was one of the first people in Western Canada to join. He was CNA member #144.

Prof. Prince was excited about the national organization.  He had seen a local club form in Ottawa and grow rapidly, so he thought, “Why not in Calgary?” Calgary’s population in 1950 was about 125,000; a city, he thought, large enough to support its own club.  He discussed the idea with a few collector acquaintances and they agreed. 
So along with S.C. Riggs, an accountant with the Royal Bank, and Russell S. Trowsdale, a retired bank manager, he placed an ad in the Calgary Herald newspaper and organized the first meeting which was to be held at the Mount Royal College Library.

Five other individuals turned up that cool evening in November 1950 for the first meeting of the Calgary Coin Club.  The group continued to meet on a monthly basis with a few more collectors showing up at every meeting.  An executive was elected with Prof. Prince as the first President and minutes of meetings were taken starting in April 1951.

In April, 1951 the Canadian Numismatic Association’s President’s Message in the CNA Bulletin stated: “It is our hope and wish that in any city, town, or locality where there are at least five members of the CNA, they will get together and organize a Chapter of the Canadian Numismatic Association.  The Chapters will be numbered in the order in which they are organized and will take their name from the municipality in which they are located.  The first Chapter is the Ottawa Chapter, which was organized on March 12, 1951.  It will henceforth be known as the Ottawa Chapter (No. 1), Canadian Numismatic Association”.

Immediately, the Calgary club applied for affiliation with the Canadian Numismatic Association.  In order to become a Chapter of the CNA, every member of the local club must also be a member of the CNA.  The members of the Calgary club qualified, and a letter of application was sent to the CNA.  Originally, it was announced in the February 1952 CNA Bulletin that the Calgary club was Chapter #3 of the CNA, however, their application had been misplaced and was actually the first application for Chapter status that the CNA received.  After much correspondence between Calgary and Ontario, it was agreed that the Calgary club should become known as Calgary Chapter #2 of the CNA. This was announced in the CNA Bulletin of March 1952.

Dues for the Calgary Coin Club at the time were set at $2.00 per year and $1.50 for juniors.  Of this amount, $1.25 was for the annual dues of the CNA. So dues in the Calgary club were only 75 cents a year. 
By the end of 1955, forty-four people had applied for membership in the Calgary Coin Club, and they were also automatically members of the CNA.

In order to attract more members, a coin display was set up in the window of the Hudson’s Bay department store in downtown Calgary in November 1951.  This was tried again in 1952 with an exhibit of Canadian coins in the Universal Hobby Shop.  Also in 1952, a push was made to get juniors interested in coin collecting.  A separate meeting of juniors was arranged at one of the local high schools and a number of junior collectors attended.  They were given samples of old Canadian coins and some foreign coins. Foreign coins were abundant in those days as so many people had just returned to Calgary from all different parts of the world after the end of the Second World War. In addition, there were a number of refugees entering Canada and many of them had currency from their native lands.  All of these strange coins encouraged a number of people to collect coins during that period.

Prof. Prince was also a member of the ANA, and the ANA sponsored National Coin Week throughout the United States every year.  Once again Prof. Prince thought why not in Calgary.  So in April 1955, the club arranged to have a coin display in the front window of the Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Calgary as part of National Coin Week. The club continued to have these displays throughout the 1950’s in various store fronts in downtown Calgary always as part of National Coin Week.

In 1953 a coin club was formed in Regina, Saskatchewan.  In 1956 and 1957, many of the Calgary members travelled to Regina for that club’s Western Coin Round-Up which were the first official coin shows in western Canada.  In 1957 there was much discussion between the members of the Calgary and Regina coin clubs. Finally it was agreed that the Western Coin Round-Up should be held annually, with the Calgary and Regina clubs taking turns hosting the event. 

The Calgary club would host the Western Coin Round-Up for the first time in 1958.The first coin show hosted by the Calgary club took place on June 28 and 29, 1958. 
The Third Annual Western Coin Round-Up was held at the Stampeder Inn in Calgary.  There were displays from many members, dealers from across Canada and the United States, and a large number of the general public in attendance at the coin show.

There was a banquet on the Saturday evening with special guest speaker John J. Pittman from Rochester, New York, a Director of both the CNA and the ANA.  Mr. Pittman had on display some of Canada’s rarest coins, including the 1862 $20 gold pattern from British Columbia and sets of the 1936 Canadian “dot” coinage. In addition, as part of the 1958 Coin Show, there was a four part auction during the weekend with 734 lots including a 1921 50 cent piece in uncirculated condition, two 1948 silver dollars, and a number of gold Canadian sovereigns.  The 1921 50-cent piece sold for $3,200.

Many of the members of the Calgary Coin Club travelled to Regina again in 1959 to take part in the first CNA Convention to be held in Western Canada.  Many of the Calgary members brought exhibits to display at the convention.  Considering the size of Regina at the time, the convention was very successful.

In the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s interest in coin collecting continued to grow. Attendance at the local meetings was high, sometimes with over sixty people coming out to meetings.  Attendance was also high at the local coin shows with over two thousand people going through the doors at a local two day coin show.  Much of the interest in coins was due to the high value of the silver coinage that was in circulation during that time and the great deal of publicity that the increased value of silver was receiving.  The commemorative coinage celebrating Canada’s centennial in 1967 also stirred a great deal of interest in coin collecting.

During those early years, members of the Calgary club travelled together frequently to promote numismatics.  Two or three carloads of members would travel to Lethbridge, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver, and even sometimes into the United States, to Spokane and Seattle, to attend various coin shows. Starting as early as 1957, groups of members would also travel to various locations in Southern Alberta to try and set up coin clubs in those areas.  There were trips to Lethbridge, Banff, Brooks, Olds, High River and even Medicine Hat.  Ads were placed in various local newspapers, known collectors in the area were contacted, and then Calgary club members travelled to these towns to give presentations and encourage local collectors to form clubs.  The first time this was tried in Lethbridge in October 1959, ten members from Calgary drove down to Lethbridge and over sixty people attended the meeting, with nineteen signing up as members of the new club.  Some of the clubs did not last very long, although the Banff club lasted a few years and clubs in Lethbridge, Brooks and Medicine Hat lasted a number of years and even hosted a few local coin shows.  Members of the Calgary club continued to travel together to attend these coin shows and participate in the coin display competitions.

On September 2, 1962, a Prairie Numismatic Federation was formed at the Second Annual Coin Show in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Representatives from coin clubs across the Prairie Provinces including Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat were on hand to discuss the advantages of forming a regional organization. Cec Tannahill, from Saskatoon, was the person heading up the idea.  The aims of this local group would be to assist with the formation of new coin clubs in smaller cities, help local coin clubs put on coin shows and promote existing clubs with the general public.  The organization was to work with the Canadian Numismatic Association on a more local level.  In May 1963 the Calgary club hosted the first Prairie Numismatic Federation Convention and Coin Show. Unfortunately, while this seemed to be a terrific idea at the time, and the coin show was very successful, the Prairie Numismatic Federation never seemed to catch on.  The Second Annual Convention was held in Saskatoon in 1964. Attended by a number of Calgary club members it was also the last Annual Convention and the Federation was wound up.

One year later, at the 1965 annual coin show of the Vancouver Numismatic Society, the idea of a Western Canadian Numismatic Organization was again discussed.  This Multi-Provincial Numismatic Organization would assist clubs in setting coin show dates that did not conflict with other clubs, and share and exchange ideas on monthly meetings, newsletters, and public displays. 
However, no such group was ever established.  In 1973 a number of representatives from coin clubs in the northwestern United States got together and formed the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association.  This group’s main goal was to promote coins shows put on by local clubs in the area.  The Calgary club was quick to join this organization which still exists to this day.

The Calgary club has always had a very visible presence in the City of Calgary and been active in promoting coin collecting to the general public.  Starting with coin displays at various public locations in the early 1950’s, to larger displays and manned tables at various public venues for the ANA’s National Coin Week and the CNA’s annual Coin Week Canada.  The club has also participated in a number of hobby shows, flea markets and heritage celebrations with displays on manned tables.  The club has also organized a number of one-day and two-day coin shows almost every year since 1958, and hosted the Annual Convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association five times, in 1968, 1975, 1987, 1995 and 2005 – once every decade since the 1960’s.

The Calgary club has been very successful with the annual national conventions.  The first convention in 1968 saw almost four hundred registrants.  One hundred of these delegates arrived three days early to attend the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.

Throughout this time the Calgary club has also stressed the value and importance of coin exhibits.  The club has always had a display competition at its local coin shows and awarded prizes for the best exhibits.  There have been dozens of events where the club encourages members to bring displays to various locations to promote numismatics. Members of the club have travelled to many parts of Canada to display at local coin shows and at the RCNA Conventions, and have brought home many awards.

The Calgary club has always had a very strong and active group of members to volunteer and assist the club in its activities.  For most of its existence, membership in the Calgary club has averaged between fifty and two hundred. The annual coin show committees usually consist of up to a dozen members and there are always a number of volunteers at the shows.  I think one of the major factors that helps to keep coin clubs strong and active is the monthly newsletter.
Throughout the last sixty years, in both Canada and the United States, the clubs that are the most successful are the clubs that issue a regular newsletter. This has also proved true for the Calgary club.  Starting in January 1959, the Calgary club has issued a monthly Bulletin to its members.  It started as a one page Bulletin in 1959 and has changed format and colour over the years.  Sometimes on coloured paper, sometimes with coloured print; on letter size paper and legal size paper, sometimes only one page long, and sometimes up to eight pages.  The monthly Bulletin keeps members informed about club activities, both current and future, the happenings at the regular meetings, and what the numismatic community is doing in the city and elsewhere.  For members who cannot make the meetings, the Bulletin keeps them informed and interested in the club, and encourages them to come out to club events, whether they are the regular meetings, social events like picnics or Christmas parties, and especially the local coin shows.  The monthly Bulletin of the Calgary club has won many awards over time, including two awards as the Best Canadian Club Newsletter from the RCNA and ten times since 1983 it has received an award from the American Numismatic Association’s “Outstanding Local Numismatic Publication” competition.

The club has also kept the interest of its members by creating a number of awards.  There is the Prof. A. R. Prince Memorial Trophy for Best of Show at the local coin shows, a trophy that has been awarded annually since 1972.  Also at the Calgary coin shows, The Harry Wright Memorial Award for Most Congenial Dealer has been awarded annually since 1990.  This award is named after one of the very first coin dealers in Calgary and is selected by popular vote from the general public at the show.  Apart from the coin show awards, there is the Donald D. Paterson Award presented to the club member who has contributed the most to numismatics in the City of Calgary.  This award has been presented annually since 1976 and never to the same club member twice.  In 1962, an Honorary Life Membership was created to reward hard-working, dedicated club members for outstanding service to the Society and the science of numismatics. 
This is a very prestigious award as only eighteen have been awarded to members in the sixty year history of the Calgary club.

The club has also kept members interested in club activities by issuing collectibles and commemorating significant events in the history of the club.  The club issued its first such collectible in 1961 with a wooden flat for our annual coin show.  This was followed by twenty-five cent coin plasters for the coin show in 1965 and a medallion in 1967 for Canada’s centennial.  The club issued its first wooden nickel in 1970 to commemorate its 20th anniversary.  It has continued to issue wooden nickels almost every year in conjunction with our annual coin shows and occasionally to commemorate other events. The club has also issued medallions to commemorate its 25th, 40th and 50th anniversaries.

For the five RCNA Conventions that took place in Calgary, the club has issued a number of different medallions, plastic tokens and paper script.  In 2005 for Alberta’s centennial, the Calgary and Edmonton coin clubs issued a joint medallion.  The club has a complete collection in the club’s archives of all of the numismatic items that the club has issued over the years and samples of all of the programs and brochures the club has produced.
Also for its 50th anniversary in 2000 the club held a special three day coin show which featured a special anniversary banquet that was attended by over seventy members and guests. A highlight of the banquet was the attendance of sixteen of the Past-Presidents at the event, including one from the 1950’s and three from the 1960’s. Over the previous fifty years only twenty-eight people had held that office.

Many members of the Calgary society have gone on to achieve prominence and are well known in numismatic circles throughout Canada.  Many notable numismatists have been on the executive and even served as president of the Calgary club.  Noted numismatist such as Donald M. Stewart, Ray Mah, Albert Kaiser, Garry Braunwarth, Stanley Clute, Earl Salterio, Al Munro and Geraldine Chimirri-Russell have all served as President of the Calgary club.

When the club was first formed it was known as the Calgary Coin Club.  Then they became Calgary, CNA Chapter #2.  In 1958 they officially registered under the Societies Act with the Province of Alberta as the Calgary Coin Association.  This lasted for ten years until 1969, when the name was changed to the Calgary Numismatic Society. This change was made to better reflect the many and varied items that members collected, not just coins but paper money, medallions and trade dollars. 

Thanks to the foresight of many of the early members of the Calgary Coin Club, I am pleased to be able to tell you a little bit about the History of Organized Numismatics in the City of Calgary.


 

Past Presidents of the Calgary Numismatic Society
Prof. A. R. Prince
1950-1956
Pat Spragg
1957
Jack Marles
1958
Bruce Ross
1959-1960
Donald M. Stewart
1961
Murray Weston
1962
Carl Butler
1963
Dave McRitchie
1964
Lawrence Hall
1965
Ray Mah
1966
Bill Wolley-Dod
1967
Jim Grendell
1968
Albert Kaiser
1969-1973, 1987
Hans Garde-Hansen
1974
Mike Power
1975
Honor Prince
1976-1977
Neil Probert
1978-1979
Garry Braunwarth
1980-1981
Stanley Clute
1982-1983
Earl Salterio
1984, 1995
Bernie Walker
1985-1986, 1991
Art Stephenson
1988
Al Munro
1989-1990
Robert McPherson
1992
Daniel Couture
1993
Ted K. Woods
1994
Ian Hunter
1996
Garth Wright
1997-2000
Geraldine Chimiri-Russell
2001-2002
Lawrence Duncan
2003-2004
Neil Probert
2005
Stanley Clute
2006
James Williston
2007-2009
Robert Albrecht
2010-2012
Harold Wilson
2013 - Present



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