Dick Johnson was the first to forward this story about the results of the Noble auction of John Chapman collection of Australian coins and medals. -EditorThe crowd of medal collectors breathed a collective sigh and craned in their seats as Australia's first piece of colonial art sold for $750,000 at auction to a beaming mystery buyer seated in the third row.
Minutes later, it was revealed that the National Maritime Museum had bought the Charlotte Medal — a silver disc engraved by the convict and expert forger Thomas Barrett when the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay. Even the most hardened medal collectors paused in their bidding to clap.
Very little material survives from the ships of the First Fleet, so the Sydney museum sent its assistant director of collection and exhibitions, Michael Crayford, to Melbourne to secure a seminal piece of Australian history.
"It is also one of the best artworks for that period (so) we're absolutely thrilled to have it and it will be on display to the public within weeks," Mr Crayford said.
The silver disc was sold by John Chapman, a retired dentist, who bought it at auction in 1981 for $15,000.
The rest of his extensive collection of Australian medals, coins and banknotes, valued at $1.6 million before auction, also went under the hammer at the Noble Numismatics auction yesterday.
"I'm very pleased because what I wanted was for the medal to be displayed to the public," Dr Chapman said. "You realise that in the end you can't own these things, you're just the custodian."
To read the complete article, see: Coin forger's medal fetches a pretty penny (http://www.theage.com.au/national/coin-forgers-medal
To read a related article, see: First Fleet medal sells for $750,000 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/22/2311247.htm)
When informed of the hammer price, Alan Weinberg commented:
Wow! Incredible. Medal history has been made. One wonders who the immediate underbidder was, or if was there a reserve of $750,000 Aus.
Later Alan added:
The more I thought about it, the more I'm convinced there was no immediate underbidder to the $750,000 Aus sale price of the Charlotte medal and the Maritime Museum just stepped out and paid the reserve price. Reserve price? Well, for weeks prior to the auction, Dr Chapman the consignor and the auctioneer were interviewed, emphatically stating that the medal was "worth" $750,000 Aus. and that was also the catalogue estimate. Awfully peculiar that this is exactly what the medal sold for.
I was aghast when I first heard and read the estimate. $250,000 maybe. To my knowledge, no silver medal of any country has exceeded at auction $230K (plus buyer's fees). That record was set by the genuine oval George Washington Indian Peace Medal in the Stack's Ford sales.
I simply cannot believe there was an underbidder driving up the Charlotte medal to its estimate and proclaimed value of $750,000 Aus. That was a reserve and the National Maritime Museum, using taxpayer funds, just paid it.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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