Medals have been all over our TV screens of late, thanks to the Euros and the Olympics. Shiny and new, these are very different to the styles of medals which are so highly sought after in the auction market. Whilst other niche collecting fields tend to fall in and out of fashion, medals have a staunch contingent of buyers who seek out some very particular items, but very few people understand the ins and outs of the medal collecting market.
Military medals can be, excuse the pun, a bit of a minefield, but they essentially fall into two categories. Firstly, campaign medals; these were awarded for taking part in various campaigns where everyone involved was given one. Bearing this in mind, these are pretty common and were produced in their thousands. And secondly, gallantry medals; these were awarded for acts of bravery. World War One saw trench warfare and a large number of serious events, so more medals for gallantry were issued then. As a result, World War Two versions tend to have higher values, but both are really sought-after additions for collectors.
The value of any given medal is also dependent on the circumstances that gave rise to the award, who the recipient was and how many times the award has been given out. As a general rule of thumb, the more detailed and interesting the backstory, combined with the fame of the recipient and the event, the greater the value. The Victoria Cross continues to be one of the most coveted for collectors. This is the highest award for bravery and are rarely given out, they were introduced in 1856 and only 1358 have been awarded to 1355 men in total. The highest amount paid for a Victoria Cross was a reported £1.5m for a medal which was awarded to Captain Noel Chavasse, one of only 3 people who received two VCs, whilst only in June, another Victoria Cross sold for £420,000.
It is key for any would-be collector of medals to remember to look closely at the backstory of the medal in question, rather than just at the medals themselves. With an estimation that of all the medals ever issued, around 30 per cent will never be sold as families hold onto them for sentimental reasons, the best in class of medals from history’s most famous events can be few and far between on the auction market.
A medal group awarded to 516 Lieutenant Frederick Joseph Evans, available at the next Cheffins Jewellery, Silver and Watches sale on 26th August
At the next Cheffins sale we will be offering an interesting group of medals from World War one, which were awarded to 516 Lieutenant Frederick Joseph Evans, 9th Platoon, 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment (pictured above). These include a Distinguished Conduct Medal (the second-highest award for gallantry in action after the Victoria Cross for the ranks below that of a commissioned officer) and a Croix de Guerre avec Palme which was a French military decoration but which was also awarded to allied military forces who had performed acts of heroism and had also been mentioned in dispatches. It is known that Frederick Evans was awarded with the Croix de Guerre avec Palme on November 6th 1915 for his efforts during trench warfare by General Sir Douglas Haig. This medal group has an estimate of £700 - £900.
In addition, there is also a World War Two medal group, together with two rare Caterpillar Club pins which belonged to
RAF (pictured below). These include 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal and War Medal with associated bar mounted dress set, along with the Bomber Command medal and the Allied Prisoner of War medal. Ruston was navigator in a Lancaster Bomber which was shot down and exploded on 18th July 1944 when on a mission to destroy the Aulnoye railway junction at Revigny-sur-Ornain in France. Four of the crew died, including the pilot, whilst Ruston and two others of the team bailed out. They quickly went into hiding and although the other two made it safely back home Ruston was captured by the Germans and imprisoned at the Stalag Luft 1 Prisoner of War camp in northern Germany. This medal group along with the coveted Caterpillar Club pins have an estimate of £600 to £800.
Medal group awarded to Flying Officer Edward Harold Ruston, available at the next Cheffins Jewellery, Silver and Watches sale on 26th August
As values for medals can range from as little as £20 right up to well into the thousands or even millions, this is a really accessible collecting market to get into. Bringing with them some fascinating back stories and with plenty to choose from, medals can be a great way to begin a collection. Values for the best in class of medals with the most exciting tales to tell have held firm in recent years and unlike other asset classes, few buyers seek out medals just to make a profit. Rather, this is a collecting field which is dominated by academic interest or emotional attachment.
To view the medals available in the next Cheffins Jewellery, Silver and Watches Sale, click here.