Of all the collectors' niches I've encountered in my 30-odd years in the business, none fascinates me - or captures history - quite like war medals.
As well as being pieces of history, they are also symbols of heroic action and accomplishment. Each one tells a story.
Medals are therefore very rewarding to collectors, offering a chance to preserve vital episodes in history for future generations. And now there's also financial impetus for you to get involved.
The medal markets are buoyant and currently worth an estimated $33m per annum - and this is rising along with the values of the world's rarest medals.
Noel Godfrey Chavasse's VC and
The stories of bravery and heroism surrounding medals are key to their appeal and value. And, thanks to finite supply and growing demand, medals also offer good appreciation as investments (while the 2014 centenary of the start of World War I is set to push up prices even further).
Take the Victoria Cross, for example: the highest honour for gallantry available to British and Commonwealth forces, awarded for actions in the face of the enemy. Only 13 examples have been awarded since World War II.
For evidence of the rise in medal values, you need look no further than the VC.
VCs were freely available for around £100,000 in 1990. Today, the record price for a single VC stands at £491,567.
But what about a 'double VC' - specifically, the VC with added bar? The VC and bar awarded to Liverpool-born British Army officer Noel Godfrey Chavasse (1884-1917) brought nearly £1.5m at auction in November of last year.
And the buyer of that VC was none other than the Tory peer Baron Michael Ashcroft. Lord Ashcroft remains a tireless champion of VC heroes, and is also a renowned collector himself with 152 VC medals to-date (11% of all those awarded) in his ownership.
Lord Ashcroft got me thinking about medals, this week, with his £5m donation to London's Imperial War Museum.
The result of his donation is the new Extraordinary Heroes exhibition: almost certainly one of the most comprehensive and fascinating medals exhibitions in the world.
I strongly urge you to check out our Video of the Week (courtesy of the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper) in which Lord Ashcroft describes the new expo. In it, he describes perfectly the allure that medals hold for collectors.
You may be wondering that, if Lord Ashcroft owns the majority of VCs out there, then there can't be any real opportunities for you to get involved as a collector?
We can say with confidence that Lieutenant John Knox's VC - which is
Well, Ashcroft doesn't own all of them. In fact, when I set up Paul Fraser Collectibles I made a promise to myself that we would buy our own VC at some point - and that we'd offer it to our readers on a first come, first-served basis.
Thanks to our ongoing success as a global collectibles news source and retailer, that's exactly what we've done. The medal we're offering was awarded to a Scottish Lieutenant (later Brevet Major) named John Simpson Knox during the Crimean War.
This VC is particularly special as Lieutenant Knox was awarded his medal for his actions at the Battle of Alma, the first conflict of the Crimean War. It is also the first VC to have been awarded to the British Army (all of the prior recipients were in the Royal Navy).
The VC is part of a small collection that also includes the cannon ball which later took Lieutenant Knox's arm off at the siege of Sevastapol.
I'd argue that this piece is one of the finest collectibles on today's markets. Click here to read more about Knox's VC and his remarkable story.
Lieutenant Knox's story is just one of many extraordinary acts of heroism that you, as a collector and investor, can research and immerse yourself in.
What's more, with collectible medals, you are helping to ensure that the brave remain unforgotten - and that their legacy remains preserved.
Until next week,
- Learn how you can get pleasure and profit by investing in gallantry medals
- Click here for all the latest Medals and Militaria news
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