TORONTO - The anonymous owner of one of the first Order of Canada medals ever awarded is auctioning off the rare insignia via e-mail after Internet auctioneer eBay refused to let it be sold on their site.

In an e-mail Friday to The Canadian Press, the seller - identified only by the eBay username "dalida44" - said hundreds of people have expressed interest in the medal, awarded nearly 40 years ago to noted Quebec historian Gustave Lanctot.

The correspondence has also included a number of "insulting letters," the seller said.

"I had even one person writing: 'Can't believe you would sell this, this piece belongs to a museum. What else could we expect from a Quebecer, though. Disgraceful."'

An eBay spokeswoman said earlier this week that the medal was pulled from the site because it violated the company's policy banning the sale of government property.

The policy prohibits the sale of government IDs and licences, including birth certificates, passports and "any die, seal or stamp provided by, belonging to, or used by a government department, diplomatic or military authority appointed by or acting under the authority of Her Majesty."

However, the seller doesn't see the difference between the symbol of Canada's highest civilian honour and military medals, which are often posted on the site for auction.

"From my point of view, the medal of an unknown soldier who fought in World War II or an unknown fireman deserve as much respect (as) Gustave Lanctot's medal."

When eBay pulled the medal five days early on Jan. 1, the bidding had reached C$15,100 and more than 8,500 people had visited the auction, the seller said.

The owner said one medal collector was ready to send a bank transfer of US $22,000 for the sterling silver, snowflake-shaped medal.

The current owner paid C$45 for the medal at an estate sale in Montreal six years ago, but was unaware of its value until it was listed on eBay.

Lanctot was awarded the Order of Canada's medal of service just five days after the order was established on July 1, 1967. Since 1972, recipients have received a different medal and are described as officers of the Order of Canada.

Today, 64 individuals are appointed each year as officers to the Order of Canada.

Christopher McCreery, an author and expert on the history of the award, was among those trying to buy medal while it was up for auction.

Of the 389 medals of service awarded, only about 125 are still in existence because the remainder were exchanged for the officer insignia and melted by the Royal Canadian Mint, said McCreery, author of "The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development."

Rideau Hall says families or successors of deceased Order recipients can choose to return the award, keep it as an heirloom or donate it to a museum, but it remains in theory the property of the Crown.

Selling the medals is "highly discouraged," spokeswoman Marilyne Guevremont said last week.

A southern Ontario muscle car auto-parts dealer wants Rideau Hall to seize Lanctot's medal outright, and has contacted the RCMP to look into the matter of its sale.

"It's a sad state of affairs that this guy got this medal for being a historian," said Dave Thomson, a resident of St. George, Ont., about 100 kilometres southwest of Toronto. "Here his history is just being peddled."

Thomson regularly surfs eBay to buy war medals awarded to Canadian veterans in order to return them home for local honours. He had hoped to purchase Lanctot's medal to return to Rideau Hall or a museum.

"My main concern is (that) these medals are where they're supposed to be," he said. "I'm a preservationist."

"Maybe it's time this one was made an example of and we tighten up the rules on these medals," Thomson said, adding that guidelines should be put into place.

"If these medals weren't allowed to be bought and sold they'd be thrown out. "

"The Order of Canada is the highest honour we can give Canadians. The very fact that you're allowed to sell it demeans it. It makes it a joke. Somebody can receive it and sell it the next day for money."

Bids are being accepted for the medal until Jan. 12 at delorisivy(at)