Medal News

Volume 36, Number 7, August 1998

From the Editor's desk

Volume 36, Number 7, August 1998

ONE of the things that annoys collectors in the extreme is discovering that they have bought a group of medals that turns out to be dubious in some way, if not completely faked. Three instances of this in the "trade press" recently have once again emphasised how careful we all must be when it comes to adding to our collections. Two of these accounts were published in the Spring edition of the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, and both concern the behaviour of dealers. Glenn Stein, who lives in Florida, USA, bought an expensive naval group from "a well known dealer's new list". When the group arrived it was not accompanied by the service details and medal confirmation promised by the dealer on the telephone. Stein then saw the same group offered on another dealer's list, with an additional foreign medal. During subsequent telephone calls with both dealers. Stein established that the first dealer had bought the group and had removed the foreign award which he judged to be "not contemporary", selling it separately as a single item. Stein returned the medals immediately. What had really upset him was the fact that "someone had lied . . . twice over in the same deal". Aubrey Bairstow, from Auckland, New Zealand, bought a pair of medals to the SAS, marked as replacements, with "impressive" career details, from a "Welsh medal dealer". He later saw the same pair in a London auction catalogue with different service details and lacking one of the clasps on his purchase. Bairstow was later able to confirm that his medals had indeed been "fraudulently altered", but worse was to come. The business of the dealer from whom he had purchased them had gone into liquidation. On the advice of the liquidator Bairstow sold the medals at a large loss, claiming the difference from the receiver. To date he has had no compensation. Finally, a real horror story from Graham Marfleet of Sydney, Australia (published in Dixon's Gazette, Spring 1998) with which I can personally sympathise, as the same thing happened to me, and I wrote about it in MEDAL NEWS ("Ever Been Had?", March 1991). In 1994 Marfleet had bought a QSA to a Private in the Camerons who was recorded (in a set of papers from the WO 97 class) as having been wounded in the shoulder by a bullet and having died therefrom in August 1903. In 1996, while documenting his collection in more detail, Marfleet started to suspect that there might be something wrong with the WO 97 service record, and after checking out all his doubts, concluded that it had indeed been altered. By whom, and for what purpose, remains unclear. These three incidents emphasise just how vigilant collectors must be when buying medals. It may be a coincidence that all three of these collectors lived thousands of miles from their source of supply, and therefore had no means of inspecting the medals prior to purchase. The moral of these disturbing reports is surely that all collectors, most of whom buy from lists at some time, should exercise as much judgement as possible when selecting medals for purchase, and not let emotion colour a proper appreciation of what is being bought.

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