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The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 54, December 30, 2012, Article 13

QUERY: 1902 PARIS IN LONDON EXHIBITION MEDAL UNIQUE?

Nick Graver suggested republishing this article by Kenneth N. Traub from the January - February 2013 issue of RNA News, the official journal of the Rochester Numismatic Association. The article's title is "1902 Paris in London Exhibition Gold Award Medal". Can any E-Sylum reader help? (And yes, the image sizes are a little off-kilter - my fault, not the author's. This is not an even rarer coin, the elusive type where the obverse is larger than the reverse...) -Editor

Imre Kiralfy was an accomplished international producer and director of plays, stage spectaculars and exhibitions around the world. In 1893 he built a reproduction of the Chicago Columbian Exposition on the grounds of Earl’s Court in London replete with a larger (308 feet tall vs. 264 feet) Ferris wheel than the original Chicago one, an amusement park, and palatial exhibition buildings. This exhibition was followed by the Empire of India Exhibition in 1895 and other expos including the 1902 Paris in London Exhibition. It was Kiralfy’s idea to invite exhibitors from the Paris 1900 Exhibition Universelle World’s Fair to his smaller scale version at Earl’s Court in 1902.

London exhibition medal obverse London exhibition medal reverse

Information on this exhibition is quite scarce as it is not considered an official world’s fair because of its nature and size. My search for information on the fair on Google and through the interlibrary loan system (ILL) turned up only one extant reference copy at the Getty Museum library of the “Paris in London [at] Earl’s Court Official Guide & Catalog 1902” by “Imre Kiralfy Director General”. The Getty Museum graciously digitized the catalog which can now be obtained by the public at: http://www.archive.org/details/parisinlondon19000lond

My interest in this relatively obscure exhibition was ignited by Joe Levine’s (Presidential Coin & Antique Company) recent email sale list #4 where he offered for sale the magnificent gold award medal from the 1902 expo pictured above. The medal is 45.5 mm diameter and weighs 52.9 grams. It is edge-marked 18 ct and has a tiny Spink & Son London lettering at the bottom of the reverse. Levine’s listing nicely described this uncirculated medal as follows:

“The obverse legend, PARIS IN LONDON EXHIBITION EARL’S COURT 1902, surrounds a scene in which a seated figure of Londonia is shown shaking hands with a standing figure representative of Paris. At left is the Arms of London and above, a river god probably representative of the Thames. At right is a small figure of Industry. In the central background is a view of Earl’s Court showing, among other sights, the Great Wheel, which was a feature attraction from the time it was built in 1894 until the time it was demolished in 1907. FOR MERIT, inscribed in the exergue.

The reverse bears an octagonal shield engraved: WARDLE &/ DAVENPORT LTD. / GOLD MEDAL & DIPLOMA/ PARIS IN LONDON/ EXHIBITION/ 1902.

The medal awardee, Wardle & Davenport, was a silk and cotton thread manufacturer located in Leek, Staffordshire, England. The Official Guide & Catalog describes the company’s products including: “Peri-Lusta cotton threads dyed and treated with Mercerisation, and afterwards by a patented process, and also Esplen-D’or, an artificial silk of great brilliance well adapted for working with Peri-Lusta.”

This listing also states that “...examples of needlecraft done with the above...” are present at the exhibit.

Neither this medal nor any other from this exposition is listed in either: Brown, L., British Historical Medals: 1760-1960; 3 volumes; Reprint: London, 2007 or in Eimer, Christopher: British Commemorative Medals and Their Values: London, 2010.

I’ve contacted Joe Levine, Chris Eimer and Spink & Son Ltd. (London) to find out more about the rarity of this medal. Spink’s commemorative medal specialist Richard Bishop wrote to me, “I do not know of any written records here at Spink… the firm made many prize medals and records do not exist.” Chris Eimer said: “The medal that you have is unquestionably rare and it may well be that just a handful of examples were awarded, with perhaps yours the only survivor today.” Joe Levine has never handled any other medal from the Paris in London Exhibition of 1902 prior to mine.

I would appreciate it if any reader would be so kind as to provide me with any additional information you might have regarding this medal, even if this results in disabusing me of my fantasy that I own a unique award medal.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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