Calgary collector wins London bidding battle for Canadian medal from 1812 War

KEVIN WARD Canadian Press Tuesday, February 24, 2004

(CP) - A Calgary collector paid more than $9,000 Cdn on Tuesday for a medal believed to be from the War of 1812, which was found on the banks of the Detroit River by a treasure hunter armed with a metal detector.

The unusual history of the silver medal, which experts believe was made for a Canadian First Nations chief, probably helped push up its value, said Christopher Proudlove of Bonhams auctioneers.

"That's why it sold at a premium," he added. Bonhams had valued the medallion at 3,500 to 4,000 pounds (about $8,000 to $10,000 Cdn). It sold for 3,760 pounds ($9,384 Cdn).

Proudlove said the winning bidder didn't want his name released, but he described himself as a collector of Canadian artifacts and not just medals. The medal was found in the 1990s and sold by an anonymous Canadian collector.

Experts at Bonhams have said the medal, which is 75 millimetres in diameter, is one of just a few hundred that may still be in existence, but they rarely come up for sale. It depicts George III facing to the right on one side and the Royal coat of arms, crest, supporters and motto on the other.

Because the medal is dated 1814, Bonhams said it was probably given to the chief of a Canadian native band for his service to the Crown during the War of 1812. Based on the fact that it was found along the Detroit River, Bonhams believes it would have been awarded over the fall of Fort Detroit on Aug. 16, 1812.

American William Hull surrendered the fort to the British without a fight, terrified by an artillery barrage from the Canadian side of the Detroit River and the prospect of facing 500 First Nations warriors and 700 of General Isaac Brock's soldiers.

Brock was declared a hero for taking the fort, which boosted the morale of British troops fighting across Upper Canada. The successful attack on Fort Detroit also persuaded many neutral tribes to make alliances with the British.

Proudlove said there was wide interest in the medal, and not just from Canada.

"It was in such good condition, too, having lain in the banks of this river for awhile," he said.

"There was some strong Canadian bidding on it, but they were given a run for their money by the Brits."

Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press