Wednesday 22 May 2019

Plunkett's 1916 medal goes up for sale - 75 years after his widow threw it in bin

Joseph Mary Plunkett
Joseph Mary Plunkett
1916 Medal of Joseph Mary Plunkett
1916 proclamation

Daire Whelan

The last of the 1916 leaders' official medals has been discovered on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Rising.

The medal of Joseph Plunkett, one of the signatories to the Proclamation, was posthumously awarded in 1941 by Eamon De Valera's government, and sent to his wife, Grace Gifford.

However, due to Ms Gifford's antipathy to the government of the time, she initially threw it in the bin before it was salvaged by a friend.

The medal will go on display at the Irish Independent and Whyte's auctioneers '1916 in the Attic' reader event in the Gresham Hotel, in Dublin's O'Connell Street on Sunday, January 31. Irish Independent readers can bring along items associated with the Rising, the War of Independence, and other historic events, to be valued - free of charge - by Whyte's collectables experts.

The event will feature an exhibition of rare artefacts from the Rising, including the Proclamation, Pádraig Pearse's newsletter 'War News No 1', plus letters and autographs.

There will also be an illustrated talk by Ian Whyte on the increasing interest in collecting and dealing with items from this period.

The Plunkett medal disappeared from view for 75 years until its current owner walked into Whyte's to assess its value.

"I couldn't believe it when Plunkett's medal turned up," auctioneer Ian Whyte said.

"All of the other 1916 leaders' medals were accounted for either through private collections or institutions. This was the last one unaccounted for."

The medal is valued at €70,000-€100,000 in Whyte's History & Literature Auction on March 13. Prices of 1916-related items have recovered in the last year, reaching pre-2008 levels. In 2014, a copy of the Proclamation went for €90,000 while just a year later, they were being sold for €400,000."

There are only 50 Proclamations in existence.

"From 2008-2013 prices did fall, but we are certainly getting back to peak prices," Mr Whyte said.

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