Sunday - 21 December 2014

What price does success at school merit in Guernsey?

11 September 2013Written by Roland Arkell

As so often happens, a spectacular price for a very rare object will bring another out of the woodwork.

Back in June an extraordinary bidding battle emerged for a simple George III medallion seen at Martel Maides of St. Peter Port, Guernsey. Fashioned from a silver disc under 2in (5cm) across, struck with the maker's mark only  WB and bright cut with foliage, it was 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, expectations of £60-80 proved wide of the mark as two bidders exchanged blows for a full five minutes up to £11,000. The medal has made its way into a huge collection of 4000 presentation medals in the USA, that includes a section devoted to school reward medals.

So where was Mr. Berry's Academy? In the wake of the June sale an advertisement was located in the Gazette de l'Isle de Guernesey dated March 9, 1811.

Headed 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."

Latest Consignment

Now, more information regarding Mr Berry has surfaced with the emergence from a UK private collection of a second Reward of Merit - this one engraved W. Berry's Academy, Vauvert Road, Guernsey and, to the reverse, inscribed Obtained by W. R. Ferguson for preeminence in Reading, Carriage & Poetry, Dec. 1827.

It is believed that the medals may have been made by a local Guernsey silversmith and were marked with the recipient's initials. This time Martel Maides have pitched their estimate at £3000-4000.
Will lightening strike twice?

"We are going to be very interested to see the reaction to this one, bearing in mind the requirement to place a higher estimate on it to meet the vendor's expectations" said auctioneer James Bridges. "But despite the publicity we achieved, we have not been inundated with similar examples, so they are clearly as rare as the buyer and underbidder in June thought at that time."

The sale will be held on September 19.

Tel: +44 (0) 1481 722700.

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