A massive hoard of more than 1,000 military medals is up for auction in what could be the biggest sale of its kind Sheffield has ever seen.
The collection, which is likely to fetch tens of thousands of pounds, was amassed by an enthusiast who lived in the city and had a passion for researching the stories behind the people who originally received the medals he bought.
Covering the period from the mid-1800s to the 1991 Gulf War, many of the medals were awarded to soldiers from the York and Lancashire Regiment, including examples from the Boer War and World Wars One and Two.
John Morgan, auctioneer and specialist valuer at Sheffield Auction Gallery in Heeley, where the collection is being sold, said: “This the largest single-owner medal collection we have ever handled.
“My tactical view is that it’s in excess of 1,000 medals – but it might be closer to 2,000.”
The numbers are such that the sale is being handled in two halves. The first auction is happening on March 4, and the second on June 9.
John said that the collector, who has died, spent a ‘significant amount of time’ seeking out valuable medals. “He may not have been doing it when he was 20 but he certainly did it for the majority of his life.”
Highlights include two World War One distinguished service order groups, military cross groups, multiple distinguished conduct medals and groups plus military medal groups from many wars.
A single Crimea medal to Trumpet Major Richard B. Davis of the 13th Light Dragoons, dating from 1854, is considered a standout. Trumpeter Davis was a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, in which just over 600 British cavalry advanced on Russian forces.
He made it through the Russian guns only to have his horse killed while returning, and retreated on foot. Mr Davis, who was born in India, died in Sheffield in 1902 aged 74.
When the collection first arrived it was ‘overwhelming’, John revealed.
“Normally medals come in smaller groups, but to collect so many in such an ordered fashion is not common at all. We categorised each by type, and those where there were most of, such as World War One medals, we started listing. While that was being done we started to look for significant medals – significant through history or value, ie the high grade gallantry medals. We haven’t finished by a long shot.”
But he added: “There are not that many British medals by type, perhaps 300, so it’s not like porcelain.”
The gallery has called the lots the Dore Collection – a generic name, rather than reflecting the medals’ former home, as the collector’s surviving family wishes to remain anonymous. The auctioneers are trying to keep the honours together by recipient.
“The value is attached to the person who received the medal, and what they did,” said John. “On its own a World War Two medal is worth a couple of pounds, but if it’s found that it belonged to the first man who landed on the D-Day beaches, its suddenly worth many thousands.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the medals or medal groups fetched thousands. It’s a significant find, fresh to the market, and for it to come out of Sheffield is wonderful.”
John said he has noticed a ‘resurgence of interest’ in medals. “We had a long period that was broadly peaceful, then we had conflicts such as the Falklands and Kuwait. That reignited interest in remembrance, which came to the fore with the anniversary of World War One. People are not glorifying it, but they are starting to understand what people went through.”