(1737) French Honos et Virtus Indian Peace Medal. Betts-160. Silver, 55.9 mm. EF-40 (PCGS).1524.8 grains. Integral suspension loop intact. One of the all-time classics in the North American Indian Peace medal series, here in spectacular awarded condition. When this medal was initially discovered by the community of medal collectors and scholars, it was a sensation.
Your cataloger believes that this remains the most valuable medal to ever sell on eBay. Another medal offered at the same time from the same source, a rare Spanish Al Merito medal, may still rank in second place.
This is an incredibly rare and important medal, with the majority of known specimens now permanently housed in institutional collections. John Adams summed up its rarity and the reasoning behind it with sound logic in his 2011 essay "The Indian Peace Medals of Louis XV" in <em>Peace Medals: Negotiating Power in Early America:</em>
"The survival rate for British peace medals ranges between 4 percent for the Montreal medal to 8-10 percent for the undated medals of George III to 15 percent for the Happy While United medals used after Pontiacs revolt. Because many French medals were replaced by British medals after the English were triumphant, the survival rates for the French awards would undoubtedly be less. Based on our corpus of 13 surviving Louis XV medals of the Honos et Virtus design, a survival rate of 5% would suggest aggregate awards of 260 medals, whereas a 3 percent survival rate yields a total of 430. Whichever end of this range one chooses (We are inclined to choose the upper end), it is clear that France under Louis XV was active in building and maintaining alliances with Indian tribes."
The phenomenon Adams references - that of tribes swapping out their French medals for new English ones after the Peace of 1763 ended French dominion over their holdings in North America - is beautifully illustrated by two of the most recognized surviving examples of this type. Both are now at the American Numismatic Society, which, unbelievably, owns three discrete specimens of this type. The Hunter specimen shows GORGE III punched over LUDOVICUS XV, while the Pell-Newell example similarly has the entire obverse legend effaced and replaced with an engraved legend reading GEORGIUS III REX DEI GRATIA. While accomplished with two different methods and using two different styles of correction, the message was clear: you can keep your medal, so long as you know which King youre allied with now. Prucha even describes such a scene at "a conference in Mobile in the spring of 1765 [where] their chiefs gave up French medals and accepted British ones instead."
There are only three of these in private hands. This is easily the finest obtainable specimen with a hanger, surpassing the Choice Fine example we sold for $82,250 in February 2015. The only other privately held example, the Garrett-Adams specimen, is higher grade (PCGS AU-50) but was issued without a hanger and is thus unlikely to have been distributed to a Native American. In total, there appear to be 11 to 14 examples known. Your catalogers best guess is 12 or 13 specimens, with two of the phantom references in the literature likely to be the same medal that has not been seen since 1922.
This census is based upon the work of John Adams in "The Indian Peace Medals of Louis XV" with some additions and one correction.
1.Gilcrease Museum. VF with hanger. 55.0 mm, 94.2 gms. Ex Charles P. Senter Sale. Lot 30, 10/27/1933 (Illustrated in the Gilcrease book, p. 35)<p>2.Public Archives of Canada. VF with hanger. (Illustrated in Clash of Empires, p. 17 and Covenant Chain, p. 26). The original Adams census counted this specimen twice.<p>3.Canadian Museum of History (Formerly known as the Musee de la Civilization). Graded VG in the Adams census but probably closer to VF, with hanger. 55 mm, 99.8 grams.<p>4.Musee du Chateau Ramezay. AVF with hanger.<p>5.Private Collection, ex Garrett 1981, ex Adams 2009. No hanger or signs of mounting, PCGS AU-50. 55.3 mm, 69.4 gms.<p>6.American Numismatic Society, ex W.H. Hunter 1920, ex W. Phillips 1925. VG with loop removed and "GORGE III" punched over LUDOVICUS REX. 55.5 mm, 98.2 grams.<p>7.American Numismatic Society, gift of S.H.P. Pell and E.T. Newell. Good with hanger, "GEORGIUS III REX / DEI GRATIA" engraved on the obverse and "1775" on the reverse. 55 mm, 73 grams.<p>8.American Numismatic Society, ex W.H. Hunter 1920, ex W. Phillips 1925. Good with loop missing. 55.4 mm, 91.4 grams.<p>9.Morin plate example.
Fine with hanger slightly bent. Present whereabouts unknown. (This may be the same as #4, or possibly the medal listed as 11 and/or 12.)<p>10. Glenbow Museum. VF with unusual hanger, in line with the rim rather than perpendicular. 56.0 mm, 67.0 grams. From the Douglas Ferguson Collection.<p>11.McCord Museum. Taken from L.A. Renauds notes but not present today. Unlikely to be any of the specimens listed above.<p>12.Museum of Natural History, Halifax. Taken from L.A. Renauds notes (Not seen).<p>The McCord Museum does not list one in their current database, though the Nova Scotia Archives include a 1923-dated picture of one that still belonged to a Micmac chief named Matthew Francis at that time. Your cataloger (JK) wonders if the L.A. Renaud references are actually to this medal. Renaud exhibited his collection of medals at the 1922 ANA Convention. The Matthew Francis medal shows a number of distinctive marks on the reverse.<p>Not included on the Adams list:<p>13. Our sale of February 2015, lot 19. Choice Fine, with hanger. 55.5 mm, 1,380,8 grains.<p>14. The present specimen, discovered in November 2011.<p>While the exact number of specimens extant is unclear, it is wholly apparent that very few collectors will ever have an opportunity to own one. If an advanced collection of Indian Peace medals is built with the goal of understanding the relationships of native Americans with the empires that colonized North America, a good place to start is acquiring a medal from each of those empires. A British medal is easy enough, as is an American medal. A Spanish medal offers a significant challenge, but not as daunting as acquiring one from France. The Honos et Virtus medal of Louis XV is the only French medal type designed intentionally for distribution to native Americans, and its the only medal that permits a collector the assumption that a medal with wear and a hanger was owned by a native American. This example showcases its wear ideally, with evenly toned dark gray surfaces covered with a smattering of contact marks. The mount is unbroken and no damage, either intentional or accidental, is present. A few scratches in the lower right obverse field are the most notable issues. The design remains sharp on both sides, and the overall eye appeal is splendid. Excepting the Garrett-Adams specimen, which appears to have never had a mount, this seems to be the very finest medal of this type known that saw likely distribution.<p>Held by two advanced private collectors since its initial appearance on eBay, this medals reappearance at public sale is a significant opportunity for advanced collectors of Betts medals, Indian Peace medals, or important numismatic rarities of any sort. It is one of the singular highlights of the Syd Martin Collection.
To view supplemental information and all items from the Sydney F. Martin Collection, click<a href="https://stacksbowers.com/sydney-f-martin-collection/"target=’_blank’> here.</a></strong>.From the Sydney F. Martin Collection. Earlier from eBay, November 2011; Michael Oppenheim Collection; Warren Baker, January 2016.