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So when the Royal Exchange in Threadneedle Street burned to the ground in 1838, it must be assumed that this Royal Exchange Assurance fireman’s badge was rescued from the conflagration by a company fireman. The survival of this George III badge (in ironic circumstances) augmented its rarity and value, and it formed an integral part of the Royal Exchange collection of paintings and furniture offered by Christie’s South Kensington on June 26.

“Firemen’s badges were never made in large numbers as each fire brigade would have consisted of no more than 30 men”, said Christie’s Jeffrey Lassaline. “This, along with the abuse of daily wear, explains why so few have survived, indeed Henham and Sharp located only 140 of them for their book on the subject, Badges of Extinction, The 18th and 19th century Badges of Insurance Office Firemen.

This badge is discussed on page 84 of the book, recording its unnumbered and unique status – “the only badge known which has purely engraved decoration”, it was marvellously revealed.

All other badges have either repoussé, cast or chased decoration. Estimated at £2000-3000, the badge was once again taken into private ownership with a bid of £3500.