We can be too quick to write the obituary of the passionate old-school collector. Thankfully, they are still with us.
The extraordinary bidding battle for a simple George III silver
medallion seen at
Martel Maides of St. Peter Port, Guernsey on June 26-27, proves
Fashioned from a silver disc under 2in (5cm) across, struck with
the maker's mark only WB and bright cut with foliage, it
is inscribed to one side The Reward of Merit and
to the other Obtained by P. Baker for the greatest
progress in arithmetic at Mr. Berry's Academy June 1818.
A last minute entry to the sale that made the catalogue as an A
lot, it was consigned via a local firm of advocates from the estate
of a lady from Sark together with documentation detailing its
descent in her family since the first half of the 19th century.
Estimated at £60-80, it had considerable pre-sale interest from
both UK and US based clients (where education awards are much
collected) and from relatives of the deceased based in the UK who
were keen on preserving a family heirloom.
But expectations that it might be sold in the mid-hundreds
proved wide of the mark as two American bidders - one on the
telephone and another bidding online through Artfact Live -
exchanged blows for a full five minutes up to £11,000.
The medal will be making its way into a huge collection of 4000
presentation medals in the USA, that includes a section devoted to
school reward medals.
So what was Mr. Berry's Academy? An online cutting from the
Gazette de l'Isle de Guernesey dated March 9, 1811
perhaps gives a clue. In an advertisement titled Boarding and
Day School it reads: "Mr Berry, begs to inform the Ladies
and Gentlemen of the Island, that he has removed to Miss Smith's
house, in Havilland-Street, near George-Place, New Town, a
situation which he flatters himself will be found more convenient
for the young Gentlemen attending his Academy.
Merchants' Accompts by double entry, taught as well in the
School as privately, and young men, who from a neglect of
Education, or bad memory, feel themselves at a loss in business,
may of an evening receive instruction, in Writing, Arithmetic,
&c. with persons of their own age."
This sale also included an item of great interest to collectors
Specimens of English & Foreign Wood used in the
Manufacture of Tunbridgeware… from the workshop of the famous
maker Edmund Nye, came complete with its original printed key
naming each of the specimens to correspond with the handwritten
number on each sample, along with their country of origin and
It was consigned privately from Jersey and achieved £3200
against an estimate of £300-400, selling to a UK collector bidding
via the telephone. Grantham auctioneers Marilyn Swain sold a
similar item in 2004 for £1150.