For What It’s Worth – September/October 2017

with Gary Miller


I have written before on the subject of the medals of the Governor Generals of Canada, but this one, which recently came into my possession, is of extreme importance. The beauty of these medals, produced by the famous Wyon family of England, is only surpassed by their rarity and significance to Canadian history.


Lord Dufferin served as the Governor General of Canada, the Queen’s representative to our fledgeling government, from 1872 until 1878. Of his many achievements while in office, few were more inspired than the institution of a Governor General’s award, in the form of a medal, in gold, silver or bronze, to be presented for excellence in academics, sciences and sports. These medals were presented annually to recipients deemed worthy and it is a tradition that continues to this day. There were two different types produced for Lord Dufferin, the first in 1873 followed by a modified design in 1876. In all there were only 148 medals issued with the 1873 date on them, 14 in gold (I have never seen one and I’m not sure that any still exist), 73 in silver and 61 in bronze. Many of these medals, although not all, have the recipient’s name and date of issue engraved on the edge. The medal shown below is an 1873 silver awarded to “H. B. McKay, Montreal High School, 1875” for excellence in mathematics.


All of these medals are quite rare and also, any that were presented, were unique to that recipient. This one had been preserved in its original case of issue and is in pristine condition and may be the finest known example available. It exhibits a golden toning and is remarkable in its workmanship . The obverse features the conjoined busts of the Earl and Countess of Dufferin and the reverse, the Governors crest in magnificent detail.


Geoffrey Bell auctions of Moncton, New Brunswick ( will have this medal, along with 13 other presented Governor General’s medals, at an unprecedented offering, in their auction sale of September 28 and 29 of this year at the Toronto Coin Expo. I would expect it to be estimated between $2500 and $3000 and it would not surprise me that it may bring more, as these metals are so seldom offered for sale to collectors.


Lord Dufferin

c1873 silver Governor
General’s medal awarded to
“H. B. McKay, Montreal High School, 1875” for excellence in mathematics