Baldwin’s of St. James’s have been able to re-unite the Guernsey Museums and Galleries with an engraved silver medal which was stolen from the Lukis and Island Museum almost 50 years ago; a medal that tells one little bit of the story of the history of the silver mines in the Channel Island of Sark. The medal had been presented to the States of Guernsey in 1956 by a Colonel J. A. Graeme, M.C., the great-grandson of Charles de Jersey, the King’s Procureur for the Island of Guernsey, to whom the medal had been presented in 1837.
The medal had been made as a gift from the mine-owner, a Mr. John Hunt, an English engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions, who had formed the Guernsey and Sark Mining Company, the Hope Copper Mine and the Herm Mining Company. Cornish miners and their families arrived in Sark and mining commenced. The attractive 65mm. 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 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 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 little gift to the King’s Procureur might have stood him in good stead but, sadly, within ten years his Channel Islands ambitions had all failed.
The medal came to light in the quite extensive residue of a collection which had been formed from the 1950s onwards, the bulk of which was sold in three separate auctions by Messrs. Glendining & Co., in 1989. The anonymous collector, who died early this year, had bought the Sark medal in London from a (long dead) respected collector / dealer probably soon after it had been stolen.
Daniel Fearon, consultant to Baldwin’s of St. James’s and also the cataloguer of the 1989 Glendining auctions, had tried to research the medal for the collector 15 years ago, but the story of its theft only came to light much more recently. He has been delighted to have been able to liaise with the executors of the late collector, the auctioneers and the Guernsey Museums and Galleries. ‘There are not enough “happy endings” when it comes to the theft of small items, especially after a 50-year wait. 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 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 September 25-26.
For more details on Baldwin’s of St. James go to their website.
Here is available more on the Guernsey Museums & Galleries.
If you want to learn more about modern coins from the channel islands, don’t miss this article on Guernsey’s coinage.