BY WILLIAM MURPHY
March 21, 2005, 7:22 PM EST
Two Florida men who sell collectibles are running into opposition from city firefighters in their bid to sell a highly prized medal on an Internet auction site.
The two men said they bought a 1918 James Gordon Bennett Medal, the highest medal of valor in the city Fire Department which is awarded yearly, for $100 in a store in St. Petersburg.
The medal was awarded to Lt. Francis Blessing of Manhattan's Rescue Co. 1 after he and other firefighters pulled two men to safety from a burning submarine in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1918.
The collectors put the medal up for sale on eBay, and the top bid had reached $4,650 before they pulled the item Sunday after complaints.
"We're trying to reach them now to get that medal," Firefighter Michael Schunk of Rescue 1 in Manhattan said yesterday. "It should rest in a place of honor."
Noel Bolinger and Richard Hunt of St. Petersburg said they stumbled onto the medal while looking for other collectibles and were unaware of its significance or value.
"After 9/11 I can see how people feel about this," Hunt said in an interview. "But I'm an antiques dealer. I made $20,000 last year. It's not like I'm out to make a killing."
"We're both willing to give something up to see it get into the right hands," he said.
Hunt said he tracked down Fire Department historian Paul Hashagen of Freeport, who told him about Blessing's history.
However, Hashagen said he objected when he found that the history, attributed to him, showed up on the Web auction.
"I thought it was going to remain in private hands. I didn't give him that information to enhance the value of the medal," Hashagen said yesterday.
Hashagen said the medal carries as much significance for firefighters as the Medal of Honor carries for members of the armed services.
Blessing died of pneumonia at age 35 in 1930. He was single and has no known surviving relatives, according to Hashagen.
No one involved could say how the medal ended up in Florida.
The medal was established in 1869 by James Gordon Bennett, the editor and publisher of the New York Herald.
Firefighter Schunk said he knew firefighters in St. Petersburg and would try to get them to serve as intermediaries.
Bolinger and Hunt said they are unsure of what to do next.
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03-22-2005, 12:58 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
Fire Dept Medal of Valor Offered on EBay
03-22-2005, 01:23 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
It belongs at rescue 1 - it is a piece of that houses rich history and a testament to the traditions of the FDNY. you cannot put a dollar sign on that. be safe.
03-22-2005, 05:02 PM #3
While I would much rather see this medal in a place of honor at Rescue 1, don't be too hard on the seller. He isn't doing anthing illegal. Go look for military medals on ebay, there are thousands, many of which are named to a recipient and sometimes include the award citation. There is a difference between selling a historical item to a collector vs wearing it and claiming it as your own. The bidders could have been museums or historians for all we know.
Note that the sellers pulled it after complaints, and they say they are willing to take less to see it in the proper place. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt before we sic the WebTeam on them
03-22-2005, 05:25 PM #4
I agree with Gunnyv.....
I personally would like to see it go to FDNY Rescue 1 but the owner can do with it what they please. It would be great for history if it went to some museum but that is up to the owner of the medal.
I agree also it is different from dealer to collector, but if it is a wacker wearing it to show off is another thing.
Easy webteam.....steady now....Jason Knecht
Altoona Fire Dept.
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