By Jesse Robitaille
All realizations include buyer’s premium.
The Sherbrooke Seminary’s medal collection – the second of four offerings from the Québec-based theological college – crossed the block to impressive results this November.
Hosted by Montréal’s Champagne Auctions, the two-session sale offered 600 lots of medals from Canada, the U.S. and abroad on Nov. 2-3.
The sale “blew the doors off the hall,” according to dealer Peter McDonald, who assisted with cataloguing the expansive Sherbrooke Seminary Collection, which was assembled by the school’s abbots beginning in the late 19th century.
Realizations were “super strong,” said McDonald, who added the “prices realized will set the standard for months to come.”
Among the top highlights was a five-piece group of 19th-century Carnaval de Québec medals that brought $1,140 as Lot 721.
“Normally, I would’ve been very happy to sell them for $100,” said auction cataloguer Ron Seigler, of MTM International, another Montréal-based firm affiliated with Champagne Auctions.
With a high estimate of $90, the lot exceeded auctioneers’ expectations by more than 12 times.
“A few people wanted it, and we were all looking around in disbelief,” said Seigler. “There was something special there.”
The group included:
- an 1884 “Ice Palace” holed medal (Leroux #1161) in Extremely Fine (EF) condition and with a weight of 5.9 grams;
- an 1896 “Carnaval de Québec” pierced medal (Leroux #1161e) in Uncirculated condition and with a weight of 5.1 grams;
- an 1896 “Québec Winter Carnival” medal (Leroux #1161h);
- an undated Ice Castle medal by P.W. Ellis (Leroux #1157) in Uncirculated condition and with a weight of 21.5 grams (no suspender); and
- a “Carnival d’hiver Montréal” medal (Leroux #1159) with a reverse by Ellis (Leroux #1157) in Uncirculated condition and a weight of 18.7 grams (with suspender).
A pair of rare New Brunswick college medals, the auction’s top-earning lot, were offered as Lot 616.
One of the medals – a 41-millimetre, 33.5-gram silver, silver-plated or white metal “Douglas Medal” – was issued by New Brunswick’s King’s College in 1829. The three-line Greek inscription on the reverse reads, “TA / ARISTA / AIONIA.”
The second medal – a 38-millimetre, 26.8-gram copper piece – features a similar design to the Douglas Medal but with a different view of the college and a rising sun at right. Its inscription reads, “UNIVERSITY OF / NEW BRUNSWICK / 1860.”
Altogether, the lot realized $7,800, exceeding its high estimate of $150.
Another high-earning lot was the “very rare” circa 1815 “Upper Canada Preserved” presentation medal that brought $6,000 as Lot 468.
The 51-millimetre, 73-gram medal includes an obverse inscription reading, “UPPER CANADA PRESERVED,” alongside a scene of the Canada-U.S. border at what’s likely the Niagara River. An eagle is shown on one side with a beaver on the other.
The medal’s plain-edge reverse – with no number – includes a wreath around the inscription, “PRESENTED BY A GRATEFUL COUNTRY,” with “FOR MERIT” within the wreath.
“The Upper Canada Preserved medal was struck by the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada for ‘extraordinary instances of personal courage and fidelity in defence of the Province’ during the War of 1812,” said Seigler, who added a British lion is shown protecting the Canadian beaver from a hovering U.S. eagle.
“The medal was never awarded because the war ended and the list of those entitled to receive it turned out to be too long for the society’s limited budget.”
Among the U.S. material was an 1866 Fenian Brotherhood brass-plated copper medal that sold for $840 as Lot 374.
“I had never seen anything nicer than EF before, but this was Choice Uncirculated,” said Seigler. “When things are at that level of quality, who knows what might happen?”
Pierced for suspension – common with this type – the medal measures 30 millimetres in diameter with a weight of 11.5 grams. Its obverse depicts a clipper ship at the centre with “IRISH” above, “REPUBLIC” below and “F” and “B” to the left and right, respectively. The reverse includes two clasped hands at the centre with 18 branches of shamrocks at the top and a rayed half-sun below. Groups of six and seven stars are to the left and right, respectively, with “IRELAND” at the top and “AMERICA” at the bottom.
With the first part of the Séminaire de Sherbrooke Sale bringing total realizations of $275,000 – more than half of the collection’s original $400,000 appraisal – the collection is exceeding auctioneers’ expectations.
“People got some good bargains even though we estimated conservatively,” said Seigler, who added, “Realizations, in general, were quite strong.”
“Most of the Canadian-related material was very strong – beyond our expectations – because we usually think American material will be the strength, but that wasn’t the case with this sale.”
Canadian bidders, too, were out in full force, Seigler added.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in this country in our own history and material, and for me, that is quite pleasing. In Canada, we’ve seen a lot of weaknesses at times compared to the U.S, but that’s swinging back around as of late.”
With “important, rare and seldom-seen pieces all throughout the auction,” the recent realizations speak to the market’s trends.
“Worth is a fluid term,” said Seigler. “People look at catalogue value and say that’s what something is worth, but I don’t follow that; the catalogues are often exaggerated with wishful thinking, but these realizations are what the market is truly like.”
The remaining two parts of the Sherbrooke Seminary Collection – offering world coins and tokens – are slated to cross the block in December and January.