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Rare James Cook Medal Sells for £3,200

27th September 2019.

A rare Resolution and Adventure medal from 1772 that sailed the globe on James Cook’s Second Voyage sold for £3,200 (plus premium) - four times the estimate - in Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographic Sale on 25th September. The modest-looking medal, which was given to the vendor by his grandmother as a child, garnered much interest before the sale amongst collectors of James Cook memorabilia.

James Cook sailed from Plymouth on 13th July 1772 aboard HMS Resolution, alongside the companion ship HMS Adventure, under instruction to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible in search of ‘Terra Australis Incognita’, a rumoured landmass to the south of Australia. Cook carried with him two thousand medals – now known as Resolution and Adventure medals – that had been commissioned by the British Admiralty to present to or barter with indigenous people encountered on the voyage. In addition, the medals were given out as favours to sailors during the voyage, and the remaining medals were taken on Cook’s Third Voyage. The medals were made from platina, an alloy of brass, copper, lead, tin and antimony, and had a bust of King George III on the obverse and a depiction of the Resolution and Adventure on the reverse. A hanging loop was drilled into the rim at the top so the medal could be suspended by a ribbon from the neck. Indeed, the side featuring the king is often found to be better preserved, as the medals were worn with the monarch facing outwards, leading to rubbing to the reverse. 

Further highlights of the sale included an English Civil War Pikeman’s Corselet, which sold for £3,800 (plus premium) against an estimate of £600-800, a Second World War Commando’s Knuckleduster Knife, which sold for £1,900 (plus premium), and a 19th Century Austro-Hungarian 15th Hussars Officer’s Uniform, which sold for £1,400 (plus premium).

The sale resulted in a total hammer price of £84,575 for 390 lots, with an 85% sold rate.

We are currently accepting lots for the next sale of Militaria and Ethnographica on 13th December.


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