News & Insights

Take Two! Second James Cook Medal Comes to Light

19th November 2019.

In September Tennants Auctioneers’ sold a Resolution and Adventure medal, that sailed the globe on James Cook’s Second Voyage in 1772, for £3,200 – and following publicity of the sale, a second medal has come to light which will be sold by Tennants in December.

The second medal differs from the first slightly as it is of ‘medal alignment’, which means that the top of the image on each side is set in the same position, rather than at 180 degrees to each other (‘coin alignment’). It is not clear why the alignment of the medals differs.  The medal will be sold in Tennants’ Militaria and Ethnographica Sale on 13th December with an estimate of £1,000-1,500 (plus buyer’s premium).

James Cook sailed from Plymouth on 13th July 1772 aboard HMS Resolution, alongside the companion ship HMS Adventure. Having circumnavigated New Zealand and mapped the east coast of Australia on his first voyage, Cook was 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. 

Amongst nearly 350 lots of medals, arm, armour and tribal art is a very interesting collection of twenty reels of German Wehrmacht 16mm Lehrfilm, or training film. The training films for the combined German defence forces show a range of activities from bayonet training to the care of horses, first aid and tank manoeuvres. Five of the reels have been digitised, and DVD’s will be included with the lot, which is on offer with an estimate of £500-700. Also of note are a pair of 19th century Officer’s box lock percussion 25-bore belt pistols made by J.C. Reilly of London (estimate: £2,000-3,000) and a Japanese Daisho (matched pair of swords) of the late Koto period (estimate: £2,000-3,000).

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