World Coins

Dix Noonan Webb offers 18th century Betts medal associated with lottery

This 1736 silver medal coming up at auction was a prize to each entrant in Jernegan’s Lottery, a drawing for a wine cistern.

Images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

A lottery with only winners might seem like an oxymoronic concept, but one such “lottery” conducted by an 18th-century banker in London is the source of a rare medal.

Dix Noonan Webb’s July 6 and 7 auction includes an example of this medal, which was a prize to some lottery entrants vying for a large silver wine cistern or cooler.

Goldsmith-banker Henry Jernegan commissioned the cistern on behalf of a client who later reneged. Stuck with the unpaid bill, Jernegan decided to offer a lottery for the master work. Each entrant in the lottery paid 5 or 6 shillings to enter, according to various reports, some winning an example of the medal (then worth 3 shillings).

The winner, a Maj. William Battine, received the unique wine cooler that took silversmith Charles Frederick Kandler four years to make. Extra funds from the sale of tickets reportedly went toward the rebuilding of Westminster Bridge.

The cistern was apparently sold again, to the Regent Anna Leopoldovna of Russia in 1738, and it is now in the Hermitage. At least three electroplated versions of the cistern are known today, in museum collections.

John Sigismund Tanner designed the medal, which depicts on its obverse Minerva, with spear and palm branch standing between a pile of arms and emblems of the arts and sciences on the obverse.

On the reverse, Queen Caroline is watering a grove of young palm trees, which is a reference to her well known love of botany, as well as the nurturing of “green shoots” of knowledge.

This imagery of the queen and the palm trees explains why the medal was for decades incorrectly attributed to South Carolina, according to American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals by C. Wyllys Betts, where the piece is cataloged as Betts 169.

The medal measures 39 millimeters in diameter and weighs 20.3 grams.

The example in this auction is graded Very Fine by the auction house. Toned, the medal has an estimate of £60 to £80 ($85 to $113 U.S.).

Consigned: 1736 silver medal for Jernegan’s Lottery
Condition: Very Fine
Auction Location: London
Auction Dates: July 6 and 7, 2021
Details: Rare silver medal given to entrants in 18th century lottery drawing in London for a wine cistern

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