Historical interest: The Charlotte Medal. Photo: Supplied
It’s not in great condition but the Charlotte Medal is of ”immense historical interest” and, despite a few holes, is expected to fetch $500,000 at auction this month.
The Charlotte was one of the six convict ships in the First Fleet. The ship’s surgeon John White was keen to have a memento to record the arrival.
Who better to engrave a silver medal for him than convict Thomas Barrett, known to White as an adept engraver who had already been caught forging a few coins along the way?
White’s personal servant William Broughton handed over the silver disc and engraving tool, and supplied the fixes of the ship’s position to be recorded.
Broughton is believed to have commissioned a copper version of the medal for himself.
A month after arriving at Port Jackson, Barrett, having finished the medals, was tried for stealing provisions and hanged. He became the first convict to be executed in the fledgling colony of NSW.
The silver version, having first returned to England, now resides at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. The copper version went ashore with Broughton, who was appointed government storekeeper in Parramatta. The coin was found in 1940 on a farm in Camden that Broughton had links to and appears to bear his initials ”WB”.
John O’Connor, of Noble Numismatics, which will auction the medal in Sydney, said when they originally sold the silver Charlotte Medal the owners of the copper medal came forward. Until that time it was thought perhaps the silver medal had been produced in England because it was in an English collection but as soon as the copper medal appeared it immediately substantiated a theory that the silver medal had been engraved in Australia.
Mr O’Connor said: ”Apart from the design of the ship, which is on the silver medal, the rest of the inscription is almost repeated verbatim. I would think if the Maritime Museum found out about it there would be a bit of a mad scramble to make sure it never leaves the country.”