US Coins

Inexpensive medal turns out to be extreme rarity

An example of now six known silver 1789 East Florida Proclamation medals, this one purchased for under $100 but worth thousands of dollars, is coming to auction Dec. 2 for the first time.

Morton & Eden Ltd. in London will offer the medal as Lot 786 in the auction.

Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

According to Tom Eden, special consultant to Morton & Eden, the East Florida Proclamation medal being offered Dec. 2 was purchased some time ago in the United States by a private collector in Spain for under $100 as an unattributed proclamation medal.

“It was only after its purchase that its true identity was discovered,” Eden said. “As we state in the catalog it has not previously been recorded and is new to the market.”

The medal carries an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 ($12,500 to $18,700 in U.S. funds). It is described as “About Very Fine.”

The 32.7-millimeter medal, weighing 12.04 grams, is now identified as Betts 10 in C. Wyllys Betts’ American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals).

Commemorating the proclamation of Charles IV of Spain as king by the governor of East Florida, Vicente Manuel de Zespedes, the medal features an armored and draped bust of Charles IV right, and inscription CAROLUS IV. D. G. HISPAN. REX.

The reverse depicts a six-petalled jasmine flower at center, small castle above and lion below, LA FLORA: ORIENTAL PER. ZESPEDS PROCLAM:TUS 1789. The edge is “obliquely grained,” according to the auction lot description.

The medal is sometimes referred to as a 4-real piece because of its similarity in weight and size to that circulating coin of the period.

Where, how many and how these medals were made is not definitively known. When Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold the John W. Adams example in 2015, five examples of the medal were recorded in silver, making the Morton & Eden offering the sixth known specimen. Three examples of the medals are also confirmed in bronze.

John Paul Jones

The very next lot in the auction is a recently discovered example of a John Paul Jones silver medal commemorating the capture of the British frigate HMS Serapis by the USS Bonhomme Richard off Flamborough Head on Sept. 23, 1779.

Naval hero Capt. John Paul Jones was in command of the Bonhomme Richard  during its engagement with the Serapis. The Continental Navy vessel was leading a combined Franco-American fleet of five ships against a large Baltice merchant fleet being escorted by the Serapis and the smaller armed ship Countess of Scarborough hired by the Royal Navy.

The Jones medal is described as “Extremely Fine,” but with hairlines caused by an early cleaning. Evidence of die flaws suggests an original or very early striking of the medal at the Paris Mint, according to the auction catalog.

Attributed as Betts 568, the 56.25-millimeter medal was executed at the Paris Mint for the Comitia Americana series of medals by French engraver Augustin Dupré.

The medal’s obverse features a bust right of John Paul Jones, after Jean-Antoine Houdon, in naval uniform, signed DUPRÉ. F. (Made by Dupré) on the truncation, JOANNI PAVLO JONES CLASSIS PRAEFECTO (meaning To John Paul Jones Commander of the Fleet), COMITIA AMERICANA (meaning American Congress).

The medal’s reverse features the naval confrontation in progress showing the crew of USS Bonhomme Richard boarding HMS Serapis behind, HOSTIVM NAVIBVS CAPTIS AVT FVGATIS (meaning The Ships of the Enemy Captured or Put to Flight), and  AD ORAM SCOTIAE XXIII SEPT M DCCLXXVIIII (By the Shore of Scotland, September 23, 1779).

Community Comments