Haweater dollar collecting a labour of love for John Romanovich

John Romanovich’s Haweater coin collection has grown to over 2,500 coins thanks to 35 families.

Still seeking elusive silver coin to complete collection

TORONTO—When John Romanovich was gifted with his father’s coin collection, it included six Haweater dollars, from 1969 to 1974. Thanks to a classified ad placed in The Expositor and through connections made with 35 different families, that Haweater coin collection has amassed to over 2,500 and has taken on a whole new meaning.

John tells The Expositor that his father Larry had spent some time working in Birch Island in the 1980s and had even attended a Haweater Weekend when he picked the coins up. When John took the coin collection on, he “gravitated toward the (Haweater) coins.” He says the imagery appealed to him and his love of nature, reminding him of time spent at his family cottage.

Almost 10 year ago, John decided to start seeking out Haweater dollars online, searching sites like eBay and Kijiji, where he had limited success.

In 2018 he reached out to past Lion Dave Walton, who inherited the coin chair role from the late Roly Racicot and purchased a number of coins for his collection directly from the Little Current Lions.

Then, in 2020, he placed an ad in The Expositor: “Haweater Coins Wanted, Dead or Alive.”

“The response was great,” John says. “At first there was a flood of calls. I did buy from a lot of people, and a lot of people wanted to help.” John says he was so moved by people’s stories he found he often couldn’t say no, even though it might he was purchasing duplicates.

“It began to feel sentimental, especially when families were giving me their entire collections,” he continues.

With one of the collections purchased, the seller included a beautifully handwritten note with a little story of how the collection came to be. John was touched by this. “The coins didn’t mean as much without that bit of history, I found, so I went back and called the families that I had purchased from and asked them to write me a little something. After that, I almost made it a stipulation of purchase. I didn’t mind buying duplicates, I liked the stories.”

So moved was John that he created a book to gift to those families who have helped him on his quest for a complete Haweater dollar set. “A thank you for entrusting me with their collections.”

As for favourites from the collection, John admits to having two: the 1971 Bridal Veils Falls dollar and the 1988 hawberry dollar. He recalls working a job with his father that brought them to Manitoulin. The mindset of his father was always ‘time is money,’ he recalls, so having his father take a detour with him to Kagawong to watch the salmon make the heroic run to the falls on a fall day sticks with him.

“I love them all,” he says.

“It’s definitely been fun,” John shares. “And it’s brought joy between my father and I. It is beautiful. A lot of the families I met I still keep in connection with.”

John’s quest is almost complete, but he is missing one crucial, and very rare, piece. The pure silver 1968 medallion.

The 1968 medallion was the precursor to the Haweater dollar. Designed by the late Doug Tracy, there were four version of the medallion, which had Little Current, the Lions Club International logo “Haw-Eater” July 1st Week-End 1968 Low Island Park Project on the front. On the reverse, World’s Largest Fresh Water Island runs the circumference of the medallion with Ontario – Canada, a raised Island and hawberries in the centre.

There were four versions of the medallion: nickel plated (of an unknown quantity), antique bronze (500 made), gold plated (300 made) and the pure silver, of which only 106 were made.

Brooches were also created with that 1968 medallion. The Lions Club failed to receive Lions International permission when running the logo, so a quick-thinking Doug Tracy soldered a pin over the logo and painted  hawberries on each using appropriate coloured nail polish as an added touch. The Little Current Lions did make amends with the mother club and in 1972 began using the Lions International logo again, but with permission this time.

John has chatted with a family that does own a silver medallion, but as the family of a founding member of this Lions Club, they are understandably not willing to part with it, so his search continues.

Anyone with information on where John might find that last piece of the collection is encouraged to get in touch. He can be reached at (416) 985-8800 or by email, romanovichjohn@gmail.com.

Once his search is over, he intends on creating a second edition of his book and homage to those families who helped make his passion project a reality.