Easter Rising memorabilia fails to sell at auction
Several pieces of Easter Rising memorabilia failed to sell at a New York auction recently, after bidders stalled before reaching the reserve prices.
One of the most surprising lots to remain unsold was the collection of medals belonging to Seán O’Kelly who went on to become President of Ireland.
The medals had a reserve of $12,000 on them but the bidding only reached $11,000 and the lot was withdrawn.
There were a number of other high price items that failed to sell including a rare 1916 ‘Casualty’ medal posthumously awarded to Thomas O’Reilly, who died during the fighting at the GPO. The bidding for the lot stalled at $14,000, well below its $20,000 reserve.
The medals of Major General Lowe, the man who led the British Army response in Dublin and eventually accepted the surrender of Patrick Pearse, also failed to sell.
Irish auctioneer Ian Whyte believes the items could reach their asking price if auctioned in Ireland, but failed in New York because buyers are required to pay 23% VAT on the lots and would also face expensive shipping costs to move them to Ireland.
The auction did see some less expensive Easter Rising lots sold. The medals awarded to Cumann na mBan member Bridget Connolly sold to an unnamed telephone bidder from Ireland for $7,250.
The medals of Cairo Gang member Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Garwood sold for $4,750. Garwood was one of the men targeted by Michael Collins and his Squad for assassination on Bloody Sunday during the War of Independence. However, he avoided execution after the Squad couldn’t find him because he had spent the night in a Dublin brothel.
The biggest sale on the day was for the medals of British officer Captain Campbell Kelly. He was stationed at Victoria Barracks, Cork during the War of Independence, where interrogating captured IRA members was one of his duties.
Kelly was targeted by Collins’ Squad but survived numerous attempts on his life before eventually returning to England. The lot included his Military Cross, George Cross and a rarely-issued “Ireland ‘Special Intelligence Operations’ Order of the British Empire”. It sold for $9,500.