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Silver Piece x 100 – some thoughts on the value of art

How much is it worth? How do you value this piece? The sculptor and Jerwood Drawing Prize winner Juliet Haysom mused upon the way the medal is so closely linked to its transactional value by its material and tangentially to its artistic value.   Originally each medal was priced according to its weight, ranging from £133 to £144 (the latter the original asking price for members of BAMS).  For non members the silver piece cost £216.00.  However, the artist doesn’t give the weight.  The artist’s statement can be read in its entirety online on the BAMS website.  The surface was created by slicing the original 56mm. wax cylinder into exactly 100 pieces with a serrated knife, each slice cast separately in sterling silver and hallmarked as an individual artwork, each piece slightly different.

Do we have a problem with this piece?  Well yes and no.  It’s lovely in a quietly abstract and mysterious way as a concept medal.  How to we price it for auction? *  If it wasn’t for the artist’s statement and story we’d have no problem in putting a value on this medal – we’d weigh it and work out the silver value for that day, and try and get a premium.  Which is partially the artist’s starting point.  So how much of a premium does Art give to a medal? Now there’s a really big question.

Over the years we’ve had to buy in collections of medals sold for investment which curiously are often a much worse investment than the BAMS medals – which were never sold as investments!  So if you’d joined BAMS in the 1980s you would have built your collection by spending 25, 30 or 40 pounds on a medal, and realising a rather good profit now if you’d bought say the Chadwick or the Hamilton Finlay  – the names – or indeed almost any of the medals produced in the first 20 or so years.

Although we’ve sold several of the Chadwick Diamond bronze medals – the example in the current auction is only the third we know of which has been gilded

Even the later BAMS medals because of their small editions (averaging now about 25-40) will be scarce in years to come and when artists unknown to the general public now may become ‘names’ later in their career.  Art medals are still inexpensive pieces of sculpture, comparable in price with a good print in much larger editions.  So you have a few weeks to browse the current medal catalogue MB80 and think further.  But do act.  These collections are steadily being dispersed and it will get more difficult as the years go by to capture these rather wonderful sculptures for the hand.


* Lot MB80-50  Silver Piece 2009 cast silver sterling hallmarked 56mm. published in The Medal no. 56,  reserve £72.00  estimate £144.00 the original issue price.

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