1854 Silver Prize Medal Products of New South Wales
Obverse: (Personifications of ) Britannia introducing Australia to France
Reverse: Deep border featuring illustrations of scenes of rural and mining activities; ships entering the Heads; inscription in the centre
Diameter: 73mm | Weight: 163g | Alloy: Silver
Maker: Leonard C.Wyon, Royal Mint - London
This incredibly rare medallion is described as being one of Australia's most beautiful from the 19th century.
The Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 ushered in an era of Exhibitions; local, Intercolonial and International, which continued beyond the end of the 19th century. International Exhibitions such as this enhanced trade between the Colonies and other countries, and created a competitive spirit between the Colonies that helped increase their prosperity.
The Products of New South Wales Exhibition was an event held to select exhibits from New South Wales that would be displayed at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855. It opened at the Australian Museum on November 14th, 1854, and was the first-ever temporary exhibit staged at that venue.
First-class prizes in each category of exhibit were awarded one of these silver medals, just 48 were struck.
A very detailed article on the background to this rare, historic and attractive medal was published by the Numismatic Association of Australia (NAA) in 2006 and can be accessed via this link.
All of the prize medals awarded at horticultural and agricultural shows in the Australian colonies were usually hand engraved. The 1854 Products of New South Wales medal differs from them in that it was struck between two steel dies in a screw press. It is also notable that it was struck in London, and pre-dates the establishment of the Sydney Mint.
The 1854 Products of New South Wales medal also shows the beginnings of the creation of a local or Colonial iconography for official medals, which was based on current trends in British medallic art.
The obverse of the 1854 Products of New South Wales medal is modelled on the reverse of the official prize medal for the 1851 Exhibition designed by L.C. Wyon, where allegorical figures were used to represent various countries.
The design of the reverse of the 1854 Products of New South Wales medal, however, does not appear to have any British precedent. Rather, it is stated to reflect Australian Colonial landscape paintings of the period and was designed by a painter.
Notable recipients of these silver prize medals were Rev. W.B. Clarke, Messrs. James and William Macarthur and, interesting in numismatic terms, Mr Julius Hogarth.
We do not know the provenance of this particular medal as Davies (in the publication noted earlier) states "...for the medals are usually uninscribed..."
This is a perfect example of one of Australia's most highly regarded commemorative medallions. It remains in impeccable condition given its age - our images show that the surfaces both on sides remain original and free of any tone or patina.
Some striations are evident in the fields on either side (particularly on the reverse), we'd suggest that these hark from the original dies, and not from any enthusiastic polishing or mishandling.
It remains an incredible memento of formal efforts throughout the 19th century to showcase Australia's natural wealth on the world's stage.
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