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The Infamous King George III

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I have purchased a medal that depicts King George III (1738-1820) and I want to share it with you. George III became King of England in 1760. I think most of us understand the founding of our country, but for an excellent refresher of how the King's actions prompted the American revolution, please see this excellent analysis by Alan Axelrod from his book Profiles in Folly:




After the American Revolution, King George III developed mental illness. As per the link, his first significant bout occurred in 1788 when he suffered bizarre hallucinations, paranoia, and depression while also speaking for hours on end in streams of nonsense, raving, soiling himself, and making sexual advances to all at court.


Because his symptoms were accompanied by extreme abdominal pain, vomiting, seizures, skin eruptions, and discolored urine, modern physicians believe he suffered from porphyria, an enzyme disorder. This may have been a genetic predisposition that was potentially triggered or exacerbated by arsenic, a major ingredient in many 18th century medicines. In March of 1789, Parliament sent congratulations to George III upon his recovery and a number of medals were issued in commemoration.


My piece is catalogued as a Middlesex 181 (Recovery from Illness Medal) and was one of the first medals manufactored at Matthew Boulton's Soho Mint with dies engraved by the Swiss diemaker Jean-Pierre Droz fresh from Paris. For Conder token collectors, items minted from SoHo are highly desired due to their quality.


I like the profile because it's "attractively ugly"! Check out the protruding nose and double chin (and that's evidence of die rust, not pimples on his face ;) ):




The reverse shows an altar on which burns a sacrificial fire entwined with a snake, olive branch and globe below - FELICITAS PUBLICA (THE COUNTRY'S GOOD FORTUNE)/ SAL . REG . REST ./ 1789 (THE KING'S HEALTH RESTORED 1789).




This token is gilded in silver or "Barton's metal" that is produced by rolling a metal surface onto a copper core. In this case the copper core is rolled between two plates of silver. The edge of numismatic items made of Barton's metal is sometimes left bare (and you can then see the three layers), or it is hidden by gilding the edge, in which case the piece appears to be made of silver. Of the two principal groups of numismatic items made of Barton's metal, the Soho pieces have their edges gilded.


This medal is very rare with less than 24 made with Barton's metal. I am proud to have added this compelling piece to my small Conder token collection!


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the reason why on coins and medals of the 1500's-1800's have male rulers on them with somewhat huge noses was a delibrate response to the commonly held belief (at the time) that a huge nose was indictive of royal regal bloodlines hence proving that this large nosed ruler was king by one more proof of royal heridity

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I also have a Middlesex 181 in Bartons metal. Mine does not have the edge gilded and the three layers are clearly visible. Mine came from Dr Richard Doty's Soho Mint reference collection and is pictured in his book Matthew Boulton and the Industrialization of Money.


Dalton & Hamer does not list this token in Barton's metal, but possibly the some or all of the pieces listed in silver may actually be Barton's metal with silver gilded edges.

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