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Museum's Trash or Treasure Event Strikes Silver

16th February 2019

IMG_5976Last Autumn, Somerset Coalfield Life at Radstock Museum in conjunction with Killens at Mendip Auction Rooms, held their second antiques, collectables and curiosities valuation day, “Trash or Treasure?

The event, once again, saw many local people come along to the Somer Centre, Midsomer Norton bringing with them an array of fascinating items. On consultation with antique experts from Killens, everyone went home with a bit more information about their object and how much it should fetch at auction, should they choose to sell.

This was certainly the case for one individual from the Midsomer Norton area who brought along what turned out to be a very rare, old medal. The expert, who recognised the medal to be something special, had sold one before as part of a collection of medals, and knew right away that this medal was worth a great deal of money. Nicky Houston, from Killens, spent the following week carrying out research to track down similar examples that had been through other auction rooms to discover more about the medal and just how much it might be worth.

Nicky discovered that the medal (or order) was The Imperial Order of The Double Dragon, and was an award for outstanding services to the throne and Qing court in China. The order was founded by the Chinese Guangxu Emperor on February 7th 1882, one hundred and thirty seven years ago this month. The order was created in the wake of the Second Opium War to replicate Western honour systems and further engage with the West.  It was, therefore, only awarded to foreigners until it was extended to include Chinese subjects in 1908. The order was only in existence for a short period of time, as in 1912, the new Republic of China discontinued imperial orders; thus making the medals very rare.

Nicky said, “The particular medal we discovered at the Radstock Museum valuation day was a silver gilt and enamel Order of the ‘Double Dragon’, a third class award, with a blue silk sash, embroidered with two red dragons. It was awarded to Mr Bennet Palamountain in the late 19th century, who was an Inspector General of Statistics.

What was so lovely about the medal was that it’s provenance was complete from the time it was awarded to Mr Palamountain, and accompanying the medal was a photograph of the recipient, letters and documents.

We decided that a suitable auction estimate would be £7,000-9,000 and on the day it was an Australian telephone bidder verses a Swiss internet bidder who fought it out to make the eventual hammer price of £9,500”.

Dave and Carole Cocks, who organised the “Trash or Treasure?” event to raise funds for Radstock Museum, were delighted at the news, because Killens had generously offered to donate their seller’s commission to the museum for anything discovered at the event and sold through them at auction.

Tom Killen and Nicky Houston from Killens at Mendip Auction rooms handed over a cheque for £1145 for the amount raised so far from sales, including the medal, to Dave  Cocks Museum Trustee, Carole Cocks, Museum Volunteer and Stephanie Chorley, Treasurer of the Museum Society at Radstock Museum.

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