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    British North Borneo Medal

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    I have this British North Borneo Medal that is marked ?SPECIMEN" on the rim. I found reference material to that states specimens were made but they were marked "COPY" on the rim. Does anyone know what this is...was used a display piece in a museum, or was it a prototype? I also realized that I have the reverse side of the planchet (gong) showing as the obverse...my mistake. Thanks in advance for the help.




    Edited by John F.
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    I suspect this is a more recent copy (= fake) made for the collector's market. This does not have the look of a Spink copy, much less of an original. Is it silver? Does the suspension swivel? A swiveling suspension would, of course, explain the obverse/reverse issue. I have never seen one of the Spink copies, only a very few originals.

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    Hi Ed,

    Here is an excerpt from the 2002 Medal Year book. It says specimens were made but they were marked "COPY". It also states that the S in "Son" in Spink & Son should be removed/erased, which the example I posted the S is removed. This can be seen under the front paw of the lion. The gong does swivel and is made of silver. Here is that excerpt:


    Edited by John F.
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    As far as I am aware, the same rule applies to the B.N.B.Co.'s issues as applies to the Spinks-manufactured medals for the Royal Niger Company. The 'S' is removed as per the R.N.Co. specimens, and they are marked as such, i.e. Specimen, and not Copy. Yours looks like a contemporary Spink-manufactured item - struck from the original dies, and not one of the modern marked copies that can easily be sourced on eBay.

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    What you have is - to all intents - exactly the same as the original issue medal. Specimens are struck by various mints for a number of reasons. The usage of the word copy is comparatively recent, and denotes just that - a reproduction (outright fakes tend not to be marked as fake). This is not the same as a specimen, which is an actual example of an issue.

    I understand that the B.N.B.Co.'s restrikes were manufactured by Spinks (the original makers of the medal), using the same dies, at around the same time as those for the Royal Niger Company. This occured sometime in the 1950s if I remember [don't have books to hand] correctly.

    Unlike officially-sanctioned specimen strikings by the Royal Mint (and its Commonwealth counterparts) which were/are struck as proof examples for governmental departments, institutes & museums, these privately-minted specimens are more prolific in number due to their desirability - original examples being struck in very small numbers and (of consequence) being very hard to find and expensive. Specimens are the affordable solution.

    Unmarked 'specimens' were also struck for the purposes of officially replacing lost medals and for late applications. These are basically 'unnamed' blanks - many of which have found their way on to the collectors' market - and I have several - both marked specimen and blank. With one notable exception, they are identical to the medals awarded named to recipients.

    As for your medal? These were (predominantly) struck for the collectors' market. Some view such items with disdain: merely unattributable scrap specifically made for the magpies amongst us. These are not the same as the recently-manufactured (and poor) 'antiquated' (or not) copies that seemingly flood internet auction sites. I have examined several such B.N.B.Co. Spink-manufactured specimens, and they have all been marked as such and not Copy.

    Like most things medallic (phaleristic), specimens are contentious. I know one of the great collector/authors who has several superb specimens in his collection, which are rarities in their own right. If you are an example collector, then what you have shouldn't cause you any headaches. I'd certainly be happy with it, as a named original issue would cost several hundred pounds.

    Edited by Tony Farrell
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    Thanks for the useful posts, Tony.

    To summarize:

    1- Original

    2- Period Spink "COPY"

    3- Later Spink "SPECIMEN"

    4- Blatant fake (as in "eBay")


    You do well to raise a question as to the role and place of non-original medals. Given the rarity and price of the originals and the desire of the type collection to fill a gap, we need to ponder the legitimate place of "2" and "3", above. I have been on the trail of a "1" for some time, and just missed a nice one in a group but the admission price was very high indeed. For example, a nice British British North Borneo Company Medal 1897-1916, 1 clasp, Rundum, silver (Private 42 Bahadur) went at DNW in December 2004 for a whopping ?920, while a British North Borneo Company Medal 1897-1916, 1 clasp, Punitive Expeditions, bronze (Esser Singh 311 Private) went in July 2004 (in pretty bad condition) for ?440.

    PS- Welcome, Tony. Hope you continue to drop in fron time to time! Good to see you again. :beer:

    Edited by Ed_Haynes
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    Actually Ed, I think points 2 & 3 might be the other way around. I looked in the 2005 MYB this morning (something I seldom do - much preferring the even less accurate, and much dog-eared 2001 edition) when I finished work and discovered that marked copies do in fact exist - though I've yet to examine one. DNW had a marked copy in their recent gong orgy also. I would suggest that these copies are later productions than the specimens already described - rather than the other way 'round, though I'm open to correction.

    I also consulted 'Taffrail' and was surprised to learn :wacky: ( despite the book having been on my bookshelf since the days of monoliths & monkeys) that these medals were permitted for wear whilst in uniform.

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