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Was Spink & Son’s Selling a Sherlock Holmes Medal in 1902?

Was Spink & Son’s Selling a Sherlock Holmes Medal in 1902?

“You don’t happen to have a Raphael or a first folio Shakespeare without knowing it?”

– The Adventure of The Three Gables (3GAB)

Spink 1902 Cover

With the advances that are being made in digitizing older newspapers and magazines, it is amazing what we can now discover on the internet. While doing a recent search, I came across the February 1902 Spink & Son’s Monthly Numismatic Circular with a mention of Sherlock Holmes on page 5:69 in their Catalogue of Coins and Medals for Sale section.

The item in question is a medal of William Shakespeare, but features a bust of Sherlock Holmes.

The lot description reads as follows:

80284  Shakespeare. White metal Medal, with rim and loop for suspension. Size: 45 mill. Obv. Outer rim: AVRICE AND TITLED LUST ALONE WE BLAME. YET BLUSH WE MUST FOR “TIS A NATION’S SHAME”. Inner legend: THIS IS THE JEW, WHICH SHAKESPEARE DREW. Bust of Sherlock Holmes to l.; beneath, VP | NO PRIVATE BOXES. Reverse. THE DRAMAS, LAWS, THE DRAMAS PATRONS GIVE. AND HE WHO LIVES TO PLEASE. SHOULD PLEASE TO LIVE. Within oak-wreath: WHAT D’YE | WANT? | OF OB & DPO.          Extremely Fine           2 Shillings

Spink 021902 Catalog 1

Spink 021902 Catalog 2

When we first started writing this post, our intent was to ask our readers if they could supply any additional information about this medal and explain the Shakespeare / Holmes connection. While typing this up, we finally had the brilliant thought to search for some of the legends on the medal and maybe come with some more information. We were able to do much better with a find from an Australian coin auction house.

Shakespeare Holmes Medal

Shakespeare Holmes Medal Reverse

Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd Sale 91 Lot 4085 July 23, 2009

Lot 4085    SESSION 13 (2.30pm Thursday 23 July)    Great Britain – Historical Medals

GRAND THEATRICAL MEDAL, undated, in white metal inside a gold filled frame (44mm) with loop suspension, obverse, an allegorical head illustrative of Folly and Avarice, around, ‘This is the Jew which Shakespeare drew’, below, ‘V P / No Private Boxes’, legend, ‘Avarice and titled lust alone we blame / Yet blush we must for ’tis a Nation’s shame.’, reverse, ‘Whatd’ya / want / OP OB & DPO (Old Prices, Open Boxes, and Deference to Public Opinion) all wreathed in a garland of oak, at foot the rattle and trumpet, motto around, ‘The Drama’s laws the Drama’s Patrons give, And he who lives to please, should please to live.‘ Some oxidisation otherwise extremely fine.

Originally sold at Hathaway’s Newspaper Office, Royal Exchange. With original contemporary descriptive sheet sold with the medal.

Estimated at $100 AUD, the medal sold for $250 AUD.

To my thinking, these two descriptions are for the same medal.The bust on the medal gives no indication of Sherlock Holmes (deerstalker cap, pipe, etc.) So how do we explain Spink’s 1902 description of this being Holmes?

Any thoughts?

5 Responses to Was Spink & Son’s Selling a Sherlock Holmes Medal in 1902?

  1. With regard to that “bust of Sherlock Holmes” . . . it wouldn’t have been the only time that a typesetter who wasn’t paying close attention started off S..h.. and wandered off in the wrong direction.

  2. The last 6 months of publishing here has taught me well about wondering off while typing a phrase. I’m just wondering how they might have labeled it as a “bust of Shakespeare” when it looks nothing like any other rendering of Bill that I have seen.

  3. What Peter (and the typesetter) had in mind was surely “Shylock” rather than “Shakespeare”. The clue is in the phrase “the Jew that Shakespeare drew”.

  4. I suspect that the medal actually dates from 1809, long before Sherlock Holmes. The “OP” and “No private boxes” suggest that it may have been struck as part of the campaign that led to the “Old Price Riots” at Covent Garden Theatre, often referred to as the OP Riots. I googled that latter term and found confirmation at,_1809. The representation of Shylock the moneylender would, I think, have been intended as a dig at what was seen as the theatre management’s greed in raising its prices.

  5. The Jewish Museum in London has one of the medals on display. At is this description:

    Medal of (John) Kemble and OP riots
    Description: Anti-semitic bronze medal in a brass frame of actor John Kemble as Shylock associated with the old price riots. The riots were sparked by rise in theatre prices, Jewish boxers were hired to maintain order. The obverse shows Kemble as a caricature of Shylock with the text “This is the Jew that Shakespeare drew and VP, no private boxes” and “Av’rice and lust. Alone are to blame yet blush we must for ’tis nation’s shame” at the outer edge, the reverse has “What d’ye want? OP OB and DPO” encircled by oak leaves, and “The drama’s patrons give and he who lives to please should please to live.”

    (The writer makes the same error I did: “the Jew that Shakespeare drew” instead of “the Jew, which Shakespeare drew”.

    The great boxer Daniel Mendoza, who was indeed “hired to maintain order”, insisted on being billed as “Mendoza the Jew”, which I think is admirable.)