World Coins

Auction firm returns stolen medal found in consignment

A silver medal from 1837, stolen nearly 50 years ago, is now reunited with the museum in Guernsey that once held the piece.

Images courtesy of Baldwin’s of St. James’s.

A rare medal stolen nearly 50 years ago has been returned.

Baldwin’s of St. James’s (in London) reunited what is now the Guernsey Museums and Galleries with an engraved silver medal that was stolen from the Lukis and Island Museum almost 50 years ago.

The medal tells one little bit of the story of the history of the silver mines in the Channel Island of Sark. 

The medal was presented to the States of Guernsey in 1956 by Col. J.A. Graeme, the great-grandson of Charles de Jersey, the King’s Procureur for the Island of Guernsey, to whom the medal was given in 1837. 

The medal was made as a gift from the mine-owner, John Hunt, an English engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions, who formed the Guernsey and Sark Mining Company and two other firms. 

Cornish miners and their families arrived in Sark and mining commenced. 

The engraved medal is typical of the period, with a raised floral border, a machine-turned inner border, a flat suspension loop and, on the obverse, the London registered maker’s mark of Charles Eley with the date letter for 1836.

The medal measures 65 millimeters in diameter.  

The obverse displays a hand extending from the clouds and holding equally balanced scales. 
The reverse has a 13-line presentation inscription: “This Medal Manufactured from the First Silver obtained from the Serk [sic] Mines is presented by Mr. John Hunt to Charles de Jersey Esq the King’s Procureur for the Island of Guernsey as a token of respect for his Valuable Services 1837.”

Hunt needed investors and it is reported that he placed a silver tea and coffee set made of Sark silver in his office window to attract them.

His gift to the King’s Procureur might have stood him in good stead but within 10 years his Channel Islands ambitions had all failed, according to the auction house.

The medal came to light in the quite extensive residue of a collection that had been formed from the 1950s onward, the bulk of which was sold in three separate auctions by Glendining & Co. in 1989. 

The anonymous collector, who died early this year, bought the Sark medal in London from a long dead respected collector/dealer, probably soon after it had been stolen, the firm said. 

Daniel Fearon, consultant to Baldwin’s of St. James’s and also the cataloger of the 1989 Glendining auctions, tried to research the medal for the collector 15 years ago, but the story of its theft came to light only much more recently. 

“There are not enough ‘happy endings’ when it comes to the theft of small items, especially after a 50-year wait,” said Fearon. “I am so pleased to have played a little part in getting the medal returned. Sadly, the silver and the money on Sark soon ran out but the medal is now back where it belongs and tells an important part of the story,” he said. 

The remainder of the collection will be sold by Baldwin’s of St. James’s as part of their Coinex auctions on Sept. 25 and 26.

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