Lady Finds Rare Medallion at Flea Market
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  1. #1
    Mar 2007
    Queensland, Australia
    Jackeroo, BH Landstar
    14 times

    Lady Finds Rare Medallion at Flea Market

    It always pays to know what you're looking at.

    Jun 19, 2008 (The Morning Call - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- SCHW | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Penny McKim is an antiques hobbyist who considers herself a skilled treasure hunter. So when she came across a shoebox full of coins and medals at a church flea market in Montgomery County, she had an idea she'd struck gold.

    Turns out that $5 box contained three ounces of gold in the form of a distinctive medal presented in 1928 to Charles M. Schwab, the man who built Bethlehem Steel into a world titan.

    "It's rather ironic," said McKim, of Stowe, Montgomery County. "Schwab was a powerful man who ended up dying penniless, yet I'm sitting here with three ounces of his gold."

    Exactly what that treasure is worth remains in question and probably won't be known until the day McKim sells her find. She's already heard from gold dealers offering her $1,300 for the right to simply melt down the 14-karat-gold medal and mine it for its gold value.

    "Oh, good heavens, I hope she doesn't allow that," said David Alexander, a medals expert with Stack's, a New York auction house that specializes in rare coins and medals. "I'm quite sure this is a one-of-a-kind piece. It should not be destroyed."

    The piece, a Bessemer Gold Medal, was awarded to Schwab by the Iron and Steel Institute of London. Now the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the trade group has been giving the medal since 1874 to one person each year for outstanding services in the steel industry, said Hilda Kaune, library coordinator at the London institute.

    The medal has also been presented to the likes of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

    Schwab, who led Bethlehem Steel for more than three decades, was given the medal while he was chairman of the corporation and also president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, based in New York.

    On one side, the medal features a raised profile of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British inventor who developed an innovative process for making steel. The other side of the piece, which resembles a large, thick coin and is more than 2 inches in diameter, has Schwab's name and the year 1928.

    How the medal got away from Schwab's family is anyone's guess. Perhaps Bethlehem Steel's most colorful figure -- Thomas Edison once called him a master hustler -- Schwab took a small company in south Bethlehem and built it into the world's second-largest steelmaker. It provided steel for everything from the Manhattan skyline to the Golden Gate Bridge to weapons for two world wars.

    In the process, Schwab's penchant for women and gambling in Monte Carlo made him an international celebrity. When he got the medal in 1928, he was at the height of his wealth, possessing a fortune some estimated as high as $40 million -- the equivalent of about a half-billion dollars today.

    But the gambling tables, his risky business ventures and the stock market crash in 1929 gutted his riches. He died in debt a decade later.

    Schwab's gold medal got into McKim's hands when she bought the shoebox full of coins and medals three weeks ago at a flea market at her church, the Cornerstone Family Church in Limerick Township. It was part of a bunch of relatively worthless stuff donated by church members who had probably cleaned out their garages or attics.

    McKim, who is 50 and makes jewelry for a living, believes the piece is worth more than $10,000, but Alexander, the expert at Stack's, said there's really only one way of knowing.

    "Obviously, the value of the gold sets a base for its worth," he said. "But in reality, it's worth whatever a collector is willing to pay for it, and with a one-of-kind piece like this, you never know what that is until it goes up for auction. We've had a lot of success with pieces like this."

    McKim plans to meet with Alexander, who has thus far examined only photos of the medal, to discuss an auction. And if she turns that $5 investment into thousands of dollars?

    "I'll make a large donation to my church," McKim said. "I like to sleep good at night."

  2. #2

    Jul 2004
    Shelbyville or any yard where the owner will let me detect!
    ace 250
    190 times
    Metal Detecting
    Banner Finds (1)

    Re: Lady Finds Rare Medallion at Flea Market

    Awesome story...



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