Papal Medals Mystery
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28 posts in this topic

 

I am looking for some help from the Numismatic community. I have acquired approximately 250 Papal medals from an eBay seller in upstate New York. He acquired them, purportedly, from the sister of a Roman Catholic Cardinal after his death. I am currently preparing the Papal medals for inclusion into an auction at either Heritage or Bowers. There seems to be some consensus that says that if I could prove the provenance  of the medals that they would be more sellable.

The last of the medals was the Papal medal of 2016, year four, of Frances reign. There were three Cardinals that died after 2015. One of them was Bernard Frances Law who was an only child, therefore, he could not have a sister that would have sold these metals

The other Cardinals were William Wakefield Baum and William Henry Keeler. I have been able to find out that Cardinal Keeler has two sisters both living in Toronto. The seller was very forthcoming in telling me that the sister who sold these medals wanted only cash and would not allow him to keep any of the photographs that she showed him showing the Cardinal receiving some of these medals from the Pope. He also showed me pictures of a chalice the was made from the Almy company in Spain for the Cardinal.   I could not find out anything from them after repeated calls, except the for Cardinals Baum and Keeler, they bought shirts from them.  Cardinal Baum also died in 2015, he might have received the 2016 medal, but I doubt it.

It’s my guess that William Henry Keeler was the Papal medals collector however I have no proof of that, merely conjecture.

I have obviously looked through the Internet extensively, but I cannot find any reference to either of these two Cardinals being Papal medals collectors.

I am asking the community to help me to see if anyone out there knows for a fact which cardinal could’ve been the collector. I’m more than happy to take any PM but would love to start a conversation on the boards.

Thanks very much for all your help.
 

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Very interesting.....there aren't that many Cardinals in the United States at any given time (<10 usually, I believe) so checking them all shouldn't be that hard.

I wonder if it could have been from a deceased Cardinal from a while back, like John Cardinal O'Connor of New York ?

What kind of medals are these ?  What have similar ones sold for ?

Good luck !

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The Vatican web site should have an archive of photos that include various popes. You should be able to find photo(s) matching the ones you saw, and then you can identify the priest receiving them. Your difficulty is that without documentation the claim of prior ownership is just hearsay and not acceptable to anyone authenticating the medals provenance.

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Judging by the volume of [unsolicited] overtures I get routinely from auction houses, and the like, it would seem that presenting a seller's wares in the most favorable light would be the principal duty of such businesses -- and that includes establishing provenance.  What have they, Heritage, etc., to say, anyway?

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I have checked the ones that died in the 2010 2020 dates and narrowed it down to the three because of the last date of the medal 2016.  the archive photos of the Vatican is an interesting idea and could put me on the right track.  The sister did not want to tell anyone her name and was very private about the whole transaction.  I do believe the seller.  He also paid cash for the medals.   It's an interesting story.   The medals range from the 1600's to 2016   and are mostly the official Papal medals, with some others.  Many are the 1800's restrikes but there seems to be a way to tell if they are original but except for the telltale line on the edge signifying  a cast restrike i'm a novice at it.

 

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17 minutes ago, Angelo43 said:

 It's an interesting story. 

...and maybe that's all it is. It is highly unlikely that any of these are originals except the modern ones. Seventeenth and 18th century medals were not mass produced then stored in a Vatican vault for future distribution. Frankly, I'd check the "poke" (box) they came in and see if there's a papal pig hiding there, ready to fly away....

;)

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The sister selling the medals and wanting anonymity could be legit.  She could be active and tied to some higher-ups in the RCC and doesn't want it known that she sold the medals given to her brother.  

Could be embarassing or just ask some uncomfortable questions.  Lots of politics in the hierarchy.

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Oh.....I see.....I misread the posts.....These are PayPal medals.....now it makes sense.... ;)

That might be a bit too cynical, but I am having difficulty imagining how to authenticate the medals. There are, however, many papal coin and medal collectors in Europe. Try posting on a European SIG or coin message board.

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On 1/25/2021 at 2:09 PM, RWB said:

Oh.....I see.....I misread the posts.....These are PayPal medals.....now it makes sense.... ;)

That might be a bit too cynical, but I am having difficulty imagining how to authenticate the medals. There are, however, many papal coin and medal collectors in Europe. Try posting on a European SIG or coin message board.

The medals are authenticate I'm trying to prove provenance 

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With nothing more from the OP, one must presume he found a way to establish provenance without referring to any prior owners. That would be interesting to learn about....

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There is an undeniably sensitive aspect to this. I suspect that the sale was contingent on confidentiality with the unverbalized understanding that any pertinent details, if determined, would not be released until all the principals involved were gone, out of simple decency and respect.

Perhaps not analogous but how would you feel as an author if a reviewer's copy of a book  you had written and inscribed with a personal message to a friend wound up downstairs in the Review Section of New York's Strand Book Store well ahead if its release date, unopened and unread (bought at a quarter of list price, and sold at half)? Unseemly, right?  Same thing.

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I totally agree but and this is a big but, what if the only reason that the sister sold the medals in this manner was to avoid the income/estate  tax in Canada?  If that was the only reason and there is very little likelihood of her being found out in these pages by a Canadian govt official then why not try to find out?  In addition this is a mystery.  would you not try to find out similar information on a topic that your interested it? 

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I guess it depends on your motive.  If it is to find out as much as possible about what's yours, why not?  As long as they've got nothing to do with King Farouk or Ratzie33 (private joke) go for it.

If it's to make a selling point, all the more reason why.  The television series Antique Roadshow and Pawn Stars wouldn't be complete without the obvious questions, including, "So how did you come by this?"

Have you managed to locate anyone knowledgeable about this series and its various appraised values? Surely a large, well-known, high profile and reputable auction house such as Heritage Auctions must have come across similar offerings at one time or another. I know you are still at the beginning of your inquiry.  I wish you all the best of luck on your endeavors!

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Thank you   They are on the way to Heritage along with many others that I have decided to liquidate.  I don't think the Cardinal bought many in the States but I am probably wrong.  According to the seller he received many of them from the Pope himself.  This was according to the pictures that the sister showed him along with a beautiful Chalice that he was also trying to sell.

 

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5 hours ago, Angelo43 said:

Not really, I have it narrowed down to the above Cardinal but little else to prove my suppositions. 

That's too bad. In this kind of thing provenance is 50% or more of the "value" to buyers. Otherwise Papal (or Pay-Pal) medals are readily available.

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So thought Heritage.   Other than trying to call the elderly sister and ask for a letter confirming my thoughts I can't think of any other avenues to pursue.   I really don't want to bother an elderly person.  i did think of trying to  call the Diocese he oversaw but thought that was overstepping also.   Also here's some older ones just back from NGC 

2850473-034-Obverse-HiRes.jpg

2850473-024-Reverse-HiRes.jpg

2850473-035-Obverse-HiRes.jpg

2850473-035-Reverse-HiRes.jpg

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Hey wait, what's Mithradates doing... Just kidding! I am confident every light source expert on the Forum will agree these are very nice photos. I see 1622 in Arabic numbers on one and 1970 rendered in Roman numerals on another. Very interesting.  Good job!

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Clemens XIII had a schnoz you could hang the laundry on. Good thing most of those guys were not active procreators.

Too bad the former owners will not cooperate. BTW - Your investigations should not be intimidated by religious sensibilities any more than those of some other entity. The facts and provenance of these medals will be lost.

The Alexander VII medal by Gasparo Morone honors his interest in the city's architecture, but shouldn't the date be MDCLXVII or earlier? Ah well, That's up to the Heritage folks.

Edited by RWB
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