Medal News

Volume 36, Number 10, November 1998

From the Editor's Desk

Volume 36, Number 10, November 1998

READERS will have probably been as depressed as I was to read the letters in the October edition of MEDAL NEWS from John Myres and "Retiarius" about the way that some genuinely important medal groups have been split, and therefore destroyed, over the years. Clearly there is something amiss. Looking at those letters a little more closely reveals that there are two issues here, and we should not confuse them. John Myres' letter drew attention to the sheer stupidity of fiddling with groups for economic reasons: in many cases the payback is very small, and hardly worth the effort involved. However, the fact that some people succumb to the temptation is not only a grievous injury to unique historical records, it is also an insult to the medal-collecting fraternity, holding us all in contempt. It should be the responsibility of all collectors to eschew these damaged groups when they appear and refuse to acquire them at any price. It also behoves dealers and auctioneers to help collectors by employing their expertise to expose these damaged groups. Dealers have vast experience, written records and photographs by means of which they can identify such material. Individual collectors cannot possibly emulate these resources, and we rely on the trade to provide us not only with our raw material but also with a lot of information, in numismatics terms, about what we are buying. The letter from "Retiarius" illustrates another side of the same coin, and this is the deliberate falsification of a group. The Victoria Cross group to Mark Scholefield offered for sale in Spink's Circular consisted of three medals. The group sold by Glendinings in 1965 comprised four. These are facts. Apparently the only medal these two groups have in common is the named Victoria Cross. Clearly it follows that both of these "groups" cannot be correct, so which one is? (The picture is perhaps even more complicated than previously thought. Turn to this month's letters page for a development). Obviously someone has concocted something at some time to defraud the market of a lot of money. In this kind of situation, how are we collectors to judge which is right? It is bad enough that rare Victoria Crosses suffer this kind of falsification, but it obviously occurs on a regular basis at all levels. I doubt that any collector has not had personal experience of this kind of thing. Only recently I came across a faked 1914-1915 Star which was "supported" by what now appears falsified (photocopied) documentation; fortunately an elementary mistake in the service number made me immediately suspicious. Clearly we are all at risk.

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