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Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio   |   The August 2018 ANA Auction   |   22 August 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Session 2, Lot 35

Estimate: 7'500 USD   |   Starting price: 1 USD Price realized: 10'200 USD
Benjamin Franklin

“1783” Royal Society of Edinburgh Member’s Medal. Silver. Oval 36.8 mm x 29.0 mm. 230.9 grains, 2.2 mm thick at the rim. About as Made.
Unholed. Lovely deep silver gray surfaces with gentle blue, violet and gold mottling over both sides. Toned a bit more deeply at the rims, close to the legends and within the engraved inscription. Gently prooflike in the fields and apparently struck on a cast blank, with a scattering of tiny pits noted on one side. Very pretty in hand, and even more handsome in appearance when set into the fragile, original fitted case. The case itself is essentially intact and in nice condition, with weakness at the joint and a short split in one end of same, though it remains functional. Light handling wear to the mahogany leather cover.

The reverse bears the inscription, in three lines, "BENJn. FRANKLIN / LL.D. F.R.S. (LOND) / 1783", a clear reference to the famous American Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who was Elected an Ordinary Fellow of the Royal Society on November 17, 1783. His biography on the Royal Society's website gives his birth date and place, as well as his date of death, leaving no ambiguity as to which Benjamin Franklin the medal references. The 1783 founding of the Royal Society of Edinburgh by Royal Charter was for "the advancement of learning and useful knowledge." Few would have been more worthy of membership than Mr. Franklin, as his well-known biography makes clear.

The engraving on the medal is probably of a vintage later than it purports to be. The engraving work appears to be of a later style, and is akin to that seen on Victorian era engraved military awards created for actions for which no contemporary medals exist; a number of such aspirational medals for the Revolutionary War are occasionally encountered, for example. We surmise that an unawarded, remainder medal was engraved with the name of Franklin, one of the Royal Society's most famous members, whether by the Royal Society itself or by an enterprising Victorian era antiquary to feed the American market remains to be seen. Of the half dozen or so engraved Royal Society member's medals for which we have seen images, all are holed for suspension at the 12 o'clock position, and all include only the member's name and date of induction on the engraved side, with no other titles or memberships listed. This Franklin piece is anomalous on these two counts. A fascinating medal deserving of further exploration.

From the John Whitney Walter Collection. Earlier from the John Whitney Walter Collection. Earlier ex our sale of the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, Part 14, May 2006, lot 366.

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