An ANS Pocket Change article published last month describes an interesting William Shakespeare medal recently deaccessioned by the society. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online for more.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the American Numismatic Society's eBay store are the numismatic stories that come with the objects we are privileged to offer. While every object has a story to tell, we aren't always privy to the full story, apart from what we know about how they were made, who issued them, and where they circulated generally. But certain specifics—exactly whose hands something passed through, for example—are often lost to time, with the exception of pedigreed objects and the like. However, when the provenance or previous ownership of an item isn't committed to paper, it is sometimes committed to the object itself in the form of an inscription or engraving.
Such is the case with a silver medal honoring William Shakespeare (or
Shakspeare as it is spelled on this medal, one of 80 different spelling variations used over the years) inscribed to
John Halhed Esqr. on the edge. This small fact was noted in our eBay listing and subsequently allowed a living descendant of John Halhed—his 4x great-grandson Michael Halhed—to find the listing using eBay's saved search functionality, and ultimately win the auction.
First, some background on the medal itself. The original listing noted that this was a
Beautiful 1803 National Edition of Shakespeare medal in silver and featured on the obverse
Shakespeare seated on a rock flanked by the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting with HE WAS A MAN TAKE HIM FOR ALL IN ALL I SHALL NOT LOOK UPON HIS LIKE AGAIN below said rock. On the reverse we find the lengthy inscription
THIS MEDAL REPRESENTING SHAKSPEARE BETWEEN THE DRAMATICK MUSE AND THE GENIUS OF PAINTING IS RESPECTFULLY PRESENTED TO THE PERSON WHOSE NAME IT BEARS IN GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION OF THE GENEROUS SUPPORT GIVEN BY THE SUBSCRIBERS TO THE GREAT NATIONAL EDITION OF THAT IMMORTAL POET I.I. & J.N. BOYDELL AND G. & W. NICOL. 1803"—providing us with a great wealth of information about this medal, why it was issued, and who would have received it.
At 48 mm, the medal was designed by Conrad Heinrich Küchler (c. 1740–1810) —a German engraver who worked for Matthew Boulton at his famous Soho Mint. For many years, Küchler was the sole artist employed in designing and die-cutting the many coins, medals, and tokens produced by the Soho Mint, including the one pence and two pence
cartwheel coppers of George III. Credit must also be given to Thomas Banks (1735–1805) who sculpted the monumental Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry which Küchler used as the basis for his obverse design.
A gold example housed at the British Museum contains the following curatorial note:
There are gold and silver examples of this medal in the British Museum, that in gold having been presented to George III. The name of the recipient is engraved on the edge of the medal whilst others are inscribed in impressed capitals: STRUCK IN THE MINT OF M . BOULTON. The flans vary slightly in thickness. There is a trial striking of the obverse die in bronzed lead in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Because of delays in striking the medals they were not available to subscribers until 1805.
The ANS medal was inscribed to John Halhed and purchased by his 4x great grandson Michael Halhed.
The American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce that the Shakespeare medal shown above is now back in Halhed family hands, joining letters (including a stamp-less letter sent from Australia to England in 1843 from one of John's sons, sent to a cousin), postcards, a pocket watch mechanism from the early 1700s, paintings, sketches, and several books. eBay and other auction sites have expanded and combined collecting interests to create a new generation of hobbyists who enjoy many aspects of history.
To read the complete article, see:
JOHN HALHED INSCRIBED WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE MEDAL REUNITED WITH FAMILY
Wayne Homren, Editor
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