The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 21, May 24, 2020, Article 17

WILLIAM W. C. WILSON (1869-1924)

Darryl Atchison submitted this biography of Canadian mega-collector W.W.C. Wilson. Thank you! -Editor

Wilson, William Walter Coulthard (1869 - 1924)

Wilson Day 2 Sale William W.C. Wilson was born on November 25th, 1869. He was one of five children born to James Crockett Wilson and Jeanne Kilgour. He lived for many years at Beauharnois but later moved to Montreal where his home was at 111 Crescent Street. He was a partner in the firm of J.C. Wilson Paper.

He began collecting coins at an early age and being of considerable wealth he put together the finest collection of Canadian coins, medals and tokens ever assembled by one person up to that time. He visited England and the continent on numerous occasions to attend coin sales and most of the patterns in today's collections on this continent were brought across the ocean by Mr. Wilson.

The 1909 convention of the A.N.A. was held in Wilson's home city, Montreal and Wilson played a prominent role on the organizing and entertainment committees. During this convention, Mr. Wilson was approached by Theophile Leon regarding the disposition of The Numismatist. In 1910 he purchased the rights to publish The Numismatist from Mr. Farran Zerbe who (having bought the publication from the estate of the late Dr. George F. Heath) had published the magazine as a private enterprise. In 1911 Mr. Wilson turned these rights over to the American Numismatic Association as a gift thus putting it completely in the hands of the A.N.A. staff.

So great was Wilson's penchant for collecting rarities that Bowman states: "During the later years of Mr. Wilson's collecting there was a noticeable scarcity of rare Canadian coins on this continent as Mr. Wilson had them all."

Wilson died on March 16th, 1924 at the age of fifty-five years.

After his death his collection was sold at auction on behalf of the estate by Wayte Raymond in New York in four separate auctions, in 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1928. The collection included the following rarities: four pieces of French playing-card money, two Gloriam Regni 15 sols, eight Gloriam Regni 5 sols, 107 Franco-American jetons, Papineau halfpenny in silver with two reverses, 1844 Papineau halfpenny in silver, forty-seven side-view bank tokens, sixty-two Montreal bridge tokens, sixteen copper and twenty-four silver modern Montreal bridge token restrikes, six 1837 Bank of Montreal front-view pennies, two 1845 Bank of Montreal halfpennies, six Lauzon Ferry tokens, six Owen Ropery tokens, six Maysenholder and Bohle tokens, four Hunterstown tokens, five Weir and Larminie encased-postage tokens, many exceptionally rare Bouquet Sous varieties, eight Lesslie twopence tokens, three original Copper Company of Upper Canada medals and nine restrikes, three of Myddelton's Kentucky Settlements tokens, four Jamaica-on-cask sloop tokens, eight sets of Hudson's Bay Company tokens, eight Northwest Company tokens, four 1858 Newfoundland Ship tokens, three McAuslane token from St. John's, Newfoundland, six sets of colonial anchor currency, four McDermott tokens, eight Prince Edward Island sheaf-of-wheat tokens, two sets of Anse Canot tokens, exceptionally rare Ships, Colonies and Commerce token varieties (including Breton 999), 1825 Bust and Harp token, one gold Beaver Club medal made for Henry MacKenzie, sixty-six Indian Chief medals, one hundred and sixty-five Canadian war medals, twenty Governor General medals, thirty-two pattern and one hundred and sixty-two proof Canadian decimal coins.

After several failed attempts to have him elected, a number of vocal supporters finally managed to have him inducted into the A.N.A. Hall of Fame in 2012.

(The information above is primarily from Collectors of Canadian Coins of the Past (1972) by Fred Bowman and supplemental material is catalogued in the Canadian Numismatic Bibliography)

Biography : Canadian Numismatic Journal : Vol. 1, no. 9 (Sep. 1956) - p. 178 - 179
Obituary : Numismatist : Vol. 37, no. 5 (May 1924) – p. 371

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