A new world record price for medals has just been achieved by Spink, auctioneers in medals, stamps, coins and banknotes, at their headquarters at 69 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London, in their December 10 sale of Orders, Decorations and Campaign Medals.
The medals of Air Vice-Marshal “Johnnie” Johnson – the R.A.F.’s officially recognised top scoring pilot of the Second World War – were sold at auction for £241,500 against the estimate of £120,000-£150,000.
The medals, along with five log books spanning the period of 1939-1994 and five extraordinary photograph albums containing many previously unpublished war time images, has been sold to a private source in the U.K. The R.A.F. Museum bid strongly but was unsuccessful on the day.
David Erskine-Hill, Director of Medals at Spink, who auctioned the medals, said, “Such is the emotive nature of medals in general, and these medals in particular, that the atmosphere in the sales room became intense as the bidding increased. Obviously we are delighted at the result achieved at Spink today, not least for our vendor and the memory of Air Vice-Marshal “Johnnie” Johnson, one of the great personalities and leaders to emerge from the 1939-45 conflict. This really is a unique collection reflecting sustained gallantry over a lengthy period of time. The collection was purchased by a private source but will be remaining in the U.K. Let us hope that it might yet be loaned for public display, ensuring that the extraordinary achievements of “Johnnie” Johnson will never be forgotten.”
The Honours and Awards of Air Vice-Marshal “Johnnie” Johnson are unique in a number of respects, not least as an overall tally of three DSOs and two DFCs for the 1939-45 period alone – his CB and CBE were awarded in the post-war era, as indeed were further decorations from the Americans for daring sorties flown in the Korean War. But, as is often the case within the world of medals, it is the importance of the recipient’s career that really dictates interest and value, and in that respect Johnson is quite unique. The survivor of nearly 700 Spitfire combat missions in the 1939-45 War, and one of the great Wing Leaders to emerge from that conflict, Johnson will be best remembered as the Royal Air Force’s officially recognised top-scoring Fighter Pilot with the total of 38 confirmed victories. But he should also be remembered as a man who possessed a wonderful aptitude for placing his squadrons in the right place at the right time, thereby causing maximum damage to the enemy.
“Johnnie” Johnson died in January 2001, leaving instructions that his medals were to be sold at auction.
The previous World Record for medals was Can $400,000 set in October 1997 for the Campaign Awards of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, the Canadian war poet who wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’.