Most families would not consider selling a collection of heirloom military medals.
Awarded to their loved ones for their exceptional bravery in battle, these medals have an inestimable sentimental value.
But thousands of people may not know how valuable military heirlooms can be, experts say.
Flying Ace: Air Commodore Philip Fullard was the seventh best British ace at the end of the Great War
Militaria is one of the largest areas of memorabilia collecting in the world – and the price of items depends not only on rarity, but also on the colorful stories behind them.
Some of the rarest medals awarded during the First World War can now fetch tens of thousands of pounds at auction.
A collection of 11 medals of bravery won by a First World War fighter pilot who claimed 40 confirmed aerial victories in 1917 is expected to fetch up to £60,000 in Mayfair today.
The story behind Air Commodore Philip Fullard’s rare set of medals is likely to appeal to serious collectors with deep pockets, experts predict.
At just 20, Fullard – from Wimbledon to London – was Britain’s seventh-best ace at the end of the Great War.
His 40 triumphs came in just eight months, making his ratio of frontline flight to number of aerial victories achieved unmatched by any other British ace.
His playing time was cut short, not by a bullet, but by a broken leg suffered in an off-duty football match in November 1917.
Although it is believed that he never returned to service in World War I, he later served again in World War II and retired with the rank of air commodore shortly after the war. end of the war.
The collection will go under the hammer this afternoon with Noonans auctioneers.
Medals in the set include Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, CBE; Distinguished Service Order; Military Cross and Air Force Cross.
Gongs: Some of the medals won by Air Commodore Fullard including the CBE; Distinguished Service Order; Military Cross and Air Force Cross
Christopher Mellor-Hill, Customer Liaison Manager at Noonans, says: “If Fullard had continued to fly, it is entirely possible that he could have exceeded the win score of any Ace of any nation.”
The lot was auctioned by a private collector rather than a family member.
Other lots include an ‘extremely rare’ collection of Naval General Service Medals from 1793-1840, expected to fetch up to £22,000; and a Peninsular Gold Medal from 1814, which could fetch £20,000.
Last month Noonans sold a First World War collectible which included the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar for £22,000.
Sergeant Frank Johnson’s kill count is the highest of any surviving non-commissioned fighter pilot during the Great War, making his rewards highly sought after.
Rarity: Air Commodore Fullard was also awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (pictured)
Is my collection of medals valuable?
While some medals sell for high prices, others will barely recoup the cost of their postage.
Older medals tend to attract higher prices than more recently awarded ones due to increasing rarity.
WWII awards are generally less valuable than old military medals, for example.
However, Oliver Pepys, associate director at Noonans, says other factors come into play, such as popularity among collectors, prize ranking and, most importantly, the story behind the medal.
“The highest prices at auction tend to be for the Victoria Cross, partly because of the scarcity of these on the market, but mainly because the Victoria Cross is the highest award in bravery ever,” he said.
There were 47,839 Military Crosses awarded between 1914 and 1946, while the Victoria Cross was only issued about 800 times during the same period. The most expensive Victoria Cross sold with Noonans cost £900,000 last year.
Medals such as the 1939-1945 Star and the War Medal were awarded to large numbers of soldiers and therefore do not have much monetary value.
Mr Pepys says: ‘The most common medals at auction are the standard campaign medals awarded for the Great War, in particular the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Over six million of each have been awarded and as a result they are of limited value, selling from £10.
Siobhan Tyrrell, medals expert at Dawsons Auctioneers and Valuers, says the most common groups of medals are World War I “trio groups”, which include the 1914-15 star, the British War Medal and the victory medal.
“This band attributed to the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers, for example, would sell for around £60-80,” she says.
‘However, the same set of medals to someone who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916) sells for £600-800, or the same set to a nurse with many military nurses abroad during World War I can sell for up to £1,500.
“The value of a medal generally corresponds to the recipient’s wartime experience.”
Mr Pepys says collectors are drawn to who the recipient was and what they did to earn it, rather than seeing the medal as an intrinsic object.
“This is especially true in today’s lot, where the history of the recipient – Air Commodore Fullard – is undoubtedly the primary factor in its estimate and likely final price.”
How to get the best price?
Siobhan Tyrrell says a rare medal will attract a lot of attention from collectors and enthusiasts around the world.
“There are thousands of medal collectors around the world – most want a chance to own a rare medal,” she says.
Dawsons medal auctions often attract a live audience of millions of bidders worldwide, she adds.
Meanwhile, while Mr Pepys estimates there are up to 100,000 active medal collectors in Britain, he says the number of auctions on the rarest is generally limited.
“For the most expensive items, there will only ever be a handful of bidders,” he says. “Almost everyone is bidding online these days – there are very few bidders fighting over in the room.”
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