The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 49, December 6, 2009, Article 14


An interesting Australian medal came up for sale in London recently, and it was sold to an American collector. It sure traveled a long way! -Editor

They say that every object carries a story, well this curious object has more than most! The school prize medal looks ordinary enough at a first glance, but it is its background that has sparked interest nationwide.

1824 Halloran School Prize Medal

The silver engraved 1824 "Halloran School Prize Medal" was previously owned by a private UK collector who has now put it up for auction. There are only five others similar to it.

It was presented to a 14 year old schoolboy by the name of John Dawning Tawell, an immigrant to Australia from the UK who had only arrived in Sydney the previous year. Tawell received his medal from the notorious Laurence Hynes Halloran.

Posing as a chaplain, he served on the Brittania at the Battle of Trafalgar. He then lived in South Africa for a while where he was banished and heavily fined for defamatory libel upon publication of a satire on South African Characteristics.

Halloran returned to England but trouble followed him and he was found guilty of forgery and sentenced to seven years transportation.

Halloran immigrated to Australia in 1819 and there helped establish a private school that eventually became known as Sydney Grammar School.

The boy who received the coveted medal had an equally notorious father. Mr Tawell Snr was sacked from his job as a Quaker Linen-Draper for the seduction of a young housemaid who subsequently fell pregnant. He turned to forgery and was transported to Australia from the UK. He made his fortunes in the pharmaceutical business and encouraged his family to join him, which is when young John Tawell arrived in Sydney. However the good life did not last long and Mr Tawell Snr was arrested after poisoning one of his mistresses and was later hanged at Aylesbury in 1845. He was the first man to be caught by newly installed telegraph wires which allowed police to communicate with each other his whereabouts.

Other reports said medal was sold to "an American collector". OK, that narrows it down to 300 million people or so. But of the tens of thousands of casual collectors, I would suppose that only several hundred collect medals of any type. Of those, the most serious collectors belong to the Medal Collectors of America (MCA), and many of them are E-Sylum subscribers.

So how many of them collect Australian medals? What about school medals? Aha! I thought of a possible suspect. So at about 10pm Thursday I emailed the collector about the medal and asked "Was it you?" Within minutes I had a reply from their iPhone: "Y". Bingo!

I won't out anyone without their permission, and in a subsequent email the collector, a longtime E-Sylum reader and contributor, agreed. The buyer was John Sallay of, who displays his collection of school-related medals on the site. -Editor

John Sallay writes:

Yes, I thought it was very interesting on a number of dimensions - great story, great iconography, signed by the engraver (with his own very interesting story), and a real piece of Australian history.

The price was an order of magnitude higher than what a comparable British or perhaps even American school medal would have cost, but another example sold two years ago in a Noble Numismatics auction in Melbourne for roughly the same price.

My wife is a very understanding person...

To read the complete article, see: Piece of Australian Notoriety Goes Up For Auction (

The medal ... was bought by a private American collector whose bid exceeded the expected $A21,565 to $A26,956 sale price.

Auctioneers Morton & Eden uncovered the medal's history after a British private collector approached them wanting to sell the valuable item.

A spokesman described the auction as a "great result", even though a bit disappointing that an Australian collector isn't the proud new owner of the medal.

"It's a very special object," Chris Proudlove said.

Murder and mayhem linked to rare medal (

Morton & Eden's auction was also mentioned in an article forwarded by Arthur Shippee. Thanks! -Editor

Silver Groat A hoard of silver coins hidden in a Northamptonshire field during the Wars of the Roses has fetched more than 29,000 at auction. The 186 coins, found in Brackley in 2005, were sold at Morton and Eden by the metal detector enthusiast who found them and the owner of the field.

It is thought they were hidden in the summer of 1465 by someone who went into hiding during the dynastic civil war. They were sold in separate lots for 29,900 at the auction house. Jeremy Cheek, from the specialist auctioneer, said the coins represented a "sizeable stash of money" at the time.

To read the complete article, see: Wars of Roses silver coins fetch 29,000 in auction (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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