What I learned this week about Rhode Island Ship Medals
@Catbert brought this coin to my attention earlier this week:
It was from an email from Stacks regarding the upcoming sale of the Sydney F Martin collection. It's a fantastic, rare, and beautiful coin. But my interest was piqued so I did a little more research.
I think it sold for $152,750.00 in 2014 as part of the Heritage Adams sale.
If that's the same coin, it's interesting that it was called VF back then. But as an R8 and possibly unique coin, grade doesn't really matter. What I found more interesting was the back story of Rhode Island Ship Medals.
Heritage's lot description says:
"The true origin and intention of the medals remains a mystery. It is believed they were struck in England within a year or two of the battle depicted and were intended as a message to the Dutch given the language used. However, some believe the medals were a Dutch product in support of the British. The obverse depicts the American troops fleeing Conanicut Island as part of the Battle of Rhode Island. Among the battle's participants was the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, a segregated regiment consisting of locally recruited African-Americans. The reverse represents Admiral Howe's flagship. The legend translates as, "The Americans had to run away in 1778, now there goes Adm. Howe the same way in 1779."
So, I thought...these medals are decidedly un-American!
Digging further, I found more on the Notre Dame website at https://coins.nd.edu/colcoin/colcoinintros/RIShip.intro.html
"The medal was minted in England for distribution throughout the Netherlands, most probably, during the second half of 1780. It commemorated a victory of the British Admiral Richard Howe. During the summer of 1778 Major General John Sullivan, commanding some ten thousand American troops, with the aid of about four thousand French troops under Admiral Comte d'Estaing, tried to take Newport Rhode Island from British control. On August 20, 1778, Admiral Howe defeated d'Estaing's fleet and then headed for Conanicut Island, situated just off the coast of Newport, where the Continental troops were stationed. Hearing of the British advance, the Continental troops were forced to flee from the island and abandon their attack plans....There is no evidence that these tokens ever circulated in America."
So they are collected as colonials only because they make reference to Rhode Island (?) .
I'm just learning this now and it disappoints me. I've always thought they were cool and always thought I wanted one, but now I don't know.