The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 7, February 13, 2022, Article 25


Geoffrey Bell Auctions April 28, 2022 Toronto Coin Expo Sale #26 sale features the Michael Joffre Collection of Canadian Historical Medals, catalogued by Jacob Lipson. An article written by the consigner describes his numismatic journey. -Editor

  Joffre Medals catalog cover Joffre Medals catalog sample page 1

Michael Joffre Collection of Canadian Historical Medals

In 1979, as an eight year old boy, I stumbled across a jar of old European coins in my grandfather's house. Upon discovering me on the floor with 100's of coins scattered around, he told me I could choose any one I wanted to keep. The Sweden 1736 1 Ore in VG that I selected started a collecting bug and has led to an incredible numismatic journey that has been one of my great passions in life.

The first LeRoux medal I acquired was as a teenager: a LeRoux 1875. That piece sat in a drawer, and I looked at it every now and then and wondered what other Canadian medals were available. During the years that followed, I collected in many numismatic areas — Roman, French, English, and American — but neglected to explore further Canadian medals.

In the early 2000s, my good friend and numismatic mentor Bill Whetstone acquired a nice collection of French coins, which included some very interesting medals (including the classic 1760 Montreal Taken medal in silver), he agreed to sell the whole group to me … and the medal voyage had truly begun.

Like in most areas of collecting, the first place to start was to find books. A 1960s reprint copy of LeRoux was available in the Carsley's library, and I brought it home to study. Shockingly, I was surprised to learn that in the century that passed, despite advancements in almost all areas of numismatics, no other standard reference had been written on the general subject of Canadian historical medals. There were some references on specific areas, but no grand treatise. This was in a way exciting, rather than a negative. I went off to find pieces, learn more about these wonderful artifacts, and see if I could find all of the medals in the LeRoux catalogue … and maybe others he missed.

Canadian historical medals represent a severely underrated area of numismatics. In terms of rarity, almost every piece in this catalog is significantly rarer than almost any important Canadian decimal coin. In terms of historical significance, each piece is an important part of our history and culture. In terms of artistic merit, few other items in numismatics can compare to the large three dimensional objects created by true artists of sculpting and engraving.

The medals in this catalogue are the result of two decades of actively buying from private collections, participating in major and minor auctions, hunting at shows, and trading with friends in Canada and abroad. I have had the pleasure of examining thousands of pre-1897 historical medals, and acquired about 1,000.

The focus was more on a broad type set, but opportunities came up to buy named pieces, and specialized groupings as well.

For years, I was looking for a way to provide some sort of update to the medal part of LeRoux, especially since the supplement has no pictures, and most of the information is limited. My journey with the collection was reaching maturity, and it was time to let others enjoy these medals as well. I contacted Brian Bell with the idea of creating a catalogue of my collection that would be an auction, but with a bit more detail than usual, so it could also serve as a future reference to the hobby. Brian could not have been more supportive, and I would like to thank him, Dawn, and Geoffrey for all of their hard work and trust.

Of course, there was only one person who I knew could cover the broad spectrum of LeRoux medals with the excitement and research it required, and my next call was to Jacob Lipson. His ability to research and synthesize information, and then translate it into easy-to-read descriptions is spectacular. This catalogue could not have been written without him.

Jacob Lipson wrote this introduction to the sale. -Editor

Welcome to what promises to be a special night for Canadian numismatics. The breadth and quality of this collection make it one of the most important offerings of its kind in a generation, one that will surely stand the test of time.

The medals in this sale are tangible artifacts of Canadian history. Many of them have been avidly pursued by advanced collectors for centuries and represented in the finest cabinets. In some cases, examples may only come to market every 30 or 40 years. Hopefully, our presentation of The Michael Joffre Collection of Canadian Historical Medals continues to foster and stimulate interest in what should be regarded as a series of considerable historical significance, and in medal collecting more broadly.

It takes a certain kind of collector to put together a set as diverse and extensive as the one offered here. Dedication and enthusiasm are prerequisites, which Michael possesses in spades. From the outset, his goal in putting together this group has been clear: To collect every medal listed in the landmark 1888 reference, The Canadian Coin Cabinet, by Dr. Joseph LeRoux, and, in so doing, to focus on rarity, quality, and completeness. Dr. LeRoux's catalogue, which was last updated in 1897, can be difficult to follow. It contains mistakes, omissions, and other inconsistencies. Any collector brazen enough to collect LeRoux medals methodically has to negotiate those obstacles. They must also commit themselves to the pursuit of an incredibly wide range of medallic types from iconic 17th century rarities to late-19th century souvenirs. Michael always embraced the challenge.

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Never afraid to step up to to the plate or go out on a limb, Michael has been an active participant in major auctions across Canada, the United States, and Europe for three decades. He has, over time, acquired many of the stand-out keys in Canadian (and North American) numismatics. Michael has also successfully obtained countless under-the-radar rarities, many of which have come to market only once or twice over a lifetime of collecting.

As a long-time coin dealer in Montreal and a proud native of that city, Michael could have chosen to part with his extraordinary collection in any number of ways. He insisted, however, on leaving something to future generations — a de-facto update of LeRoux's 1888 reference that collectors could refer to years and even decades into the future. In that vein, I have done my best to incorporate as much relevant information as possible into the pages that follow and to convey what makes each and every item in this sale so intriguing. Hopefully, Michael's passion for these remarkable medals comes through as well.

A few housekeeping items: Michael and I have made the decision to offer all lots in the order in which they appear in the LeRoux catalogue. As such, historical medals can be found among school medals and Indian peace medals with exposition medals interspersed.

To read the complete catalog online, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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