mccorkell-robert-2002

Robert McCorkell lived in Saskatoon and Ottawa before moving to Saint John, where he died in 2004. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

A collection of coins and artifacts a New Brunswick man left to a neo-Nazi group in the United States may be worth far less than the initial estimates of $1 million.

Probate court documents obtained by CBC News show Robert McCorkell's estate willed to the National Alliance is valued at about $250,000.

But there is also nearly $89,000 in outstanding liabilities that have to be paid from McCorkell's assets. He owed taxes to Revenue Canada, there are also lawyers' fees, appraisal fees, and projected auction fees.

That leaves about $161,000 for the white supremacist organization, which is based in West Virginia.

Mark Potok, of the civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, recently estimated McCorkell's collection, parts of which have been exhibited in Saskatoon and Ottawa, "may well approach $1 million."

McCorkell. who never married and had no children, according to a distant cousin, left the collection to the National Alliance when he died in Saint John nine years ago, but the estate has remained unsettled.

Anti-racism groups had planned to try to stop the National Alliance from receiving the items, fearing they could be sold and help spark a rebirth of the neo-Nazi group that has been in decline since its founder died more than a decade ago.

"For about 30 years [it] really was the most important hate group in America — the best organized, the one with the most money and really the most effective group politically," said Potok.

"It is also a group that’s produced a string of people who have carried out assassinations, arsons, bank robberies, all kinds of hate crimes and on and on. It’s really been responsible for a huge amount of criminal violence in this country," he said.

On May 6, a New Brunswick judge gave Fred Streed, of Oregon, who is the executor of McCorkell's will and is affiliated with the National Alliance, power to deliver the assets to the group.

As of Thursday, no challenges to the ruling had been filed in New Brunswick courts.

Streed's Moncton lawyer declined to comment on whether the artifacts are now on their way to the National Alliance.

The items include: Greek and Roman coins that are thousands of years old, an ancient Iranian sword, Neolithic arrowheads and an Egyptian stone tablet from the 13th Dynasty, according to a 55-page appraiser's report from August 2010.

"It's fairly extensive and it's very unique," said Ross Harris, who runs Loyalist City Coins and Books in Saint John.

"It would take a lot of hunting to collect a collection like this cause you'd have to go pretty well all over the world … It's not the type of stuff you just walk into a shop and buy," he said.

"Here's a gold coin from 322 to 308 BC, and I mean, that's very scarce."

McCorkell collected most of the items at auctions in the late 1980s and 1990s.

When he died in 2004, nearly 200 numbered boxes were taken from his home to a self-storage business in Moncton and catalogued by two men known to the National Alliance, according to court documents.

An appraiser could not be found in eastern Canada, so in 2006 an American specialist was brought in, the documents show.

McCorkell was born in 1937, the son of a farmer in Bearbrook, Ontario.

He became a chemist and lived in Saskatoon in the 1990s, when he joined the National Alliance.

The University of Saskatchewan's Museum of Antiquities was lent a portion of his coin collection and put it on display for several years.

When McCorkell moved to Ottawa around 2000, he took his collection with him. Some of his artifacts remain on loan to the University of Ottawa's Museum of Classical Antiquities.

He's buried in Saint John's Fernhill Cemetery