1771 silver medal featuring Grigory Orlov – £16,000 at Dix Noonan Webb.

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All bar one of the 83 lots from the collection got away to a hammer total of £139,000 and, overall, 81% of the 300-lot September 17 sale in Mayfair went for a total of more than £190,000.

“Nearly all the lots sold in the room to Russian buyers, many of whom were known to us,” said DNW specialist Tim Wilkes. “Most of them were not London based but had travelled from Russia for the sale, and possibly also for Coinex.

“The high prices were largely due to two factors. Firstly, many of the medals were in exceptionally good condition, and condition is ever more important nowadays.

“Secondly, the buyers were attracted by the fact that this was an old collection and most of these medals had not been on the market for several decades.”

Catherine clinches it

The name of Catherine the Great (1762-96) – subject of a current Sky TV drama series starring Helen Mirren – was a major draw.

Joint sale leader was an extremely fine and rare 1771 medal featuring Catherine’s long-time lover Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov. He led the 1762 coup which overthrew Czar Peter III and installed Catherine as empress.

Produced in Germany by one of Europe’s premier makers, GC and JG Waechter, the 3½in (9cm) diameter medal was estimated at £9000-12,000 and sold at £16,000.


Gold medal awarded after the Odessa plague – £16,000 at Dix Noonan Webb..

The other £16,000 seller was more of a surprise: one of the 344 gold medals awarded to servicemen and civil officials who fought the 1837 plague epidemic in Odessa.

Unsigned, but bearing the royal cypher to obverse and Cyrillic script translating as Neutralisation of Plague in Odessa to the other, it had been pitched at £3000-4000.

From Alexander I’s reign (1801-25), a silver medal by C Leberecht depicting the Centenary of the Foundation of St Petersburg, 1803, sold at £8000 against an estimate of £4000-5000.

Other than these, Catherine reigned supreme.

Featuring a laureate bust of the empress to one side, a fine and rare 3in (8cm) diameter silver coin by T Ivanov and P Bobrovshikov commemorating the Establishment of Provinces, 1775, trebled expectations in selling at £8500.

An extremely fine and very rare silver 1762 medal depicting the Coronation of Catherine the Great, by T Ivanov and GC Waechter, showed a crowned bust of the empress, on one side and, on the other, with Russia and Faith standing at an altar, with Providence in the cloud above holding a crown and sceptre.

Estimated at £3000-4000, it sold at £7500.