13 May 2010

Grandmaster Medal

For this next edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I found a number of interesting items worthy of attention. Since I would like to highlight only one at a time, I chose the item that is least likely to appear anytime in the near future. That item, whose front and back are pictured below, was described as an 'International Grandmaster FIDE relief chess medal for title holders, early type from 1952'. It received 32 bids, finally selling for US $765.

The address of the seller's web site, www.chessbookshop.com, is visible to the left of the ribbon and corresponds to his eBay seller id: chessbookshop. On those pages we learn that the proprietor is Karel Mokry, who himself earned the GM title in 1984. In the description of the item, he explained the provenance of the medal that he was putting up for auction.

We are listing a collection of circa 50 chess pins, badges, medals etc that were formerly owned by Czech GM Miroslav Filip. The collection includes many uncommon items that almost do not appear in the market like various Olympic badges/medals, badges of International Grandmaster and International Master, FIDE Award for participation in 10 Olympiads etc.

Miroslav Filip (1928-2009), Czech GM, the best Czechoslovak player in 1950s, one of world's best chess players around 1960, World Championship Candidate 1956 and 1962. Multiple Czechoslovak chess champion. He played in 12 olympiads, 194 olympic games in all, with the overall result (+62 =104 -28). Miroslav Filip is also well known as an arbiter (Karpov - Korchnoi, Baguio 1978, women world championships etc).

The item description also gave a detailed description of the medal and its history.

Metal, probably combination of silver and silver gilt. Medal average 27 mm, size with a ribbon ca 27 x 75 mm. This medal was not for sale, just the title holders were awarded it. Title International Grandmaster has an official status since 1950 when FIDE awarded the title to first 27 players. This is an early type of the award - the medal was issued in 1952 - GM Filip was awarded in 1955 as the first Czechoslovak player (except Duras who was one of first 27 holders and got it in 1950 for his play between 1900-1914).

I read somewhere that between 1950-1987 were awarded about 300 players by GM title, then I estimate that some 50-100 players were awarded by GM title between 1950-1960. I do not remember any offer of such a medal on ebay or anywhere, it was probably issued in small edition and is quite scarce.

The author of the medal is a well-known Huguenin company of Le Locle, Switzerland (by the way, there is currently several tens of products listed on ebay manufactured by this company). The company was founded by Huguenin brothers in 1868 and they are still active - their actual name is Faude & Huguenin.

There are two hallmarks on the back of the medal. One is at the bottom under the year 1952 (picture 4) where is stated HUGUENIN, fineness 0.750 in a frame and probably Huguenin's mark - it looks like joined letters HF. The second hallmark is on a piece of metal that connects the medal with a ribbon and shows again the letters (HF?) and fineness now is 0.925.

The hallmarks can mean that the medal is made from a noble metal - it can be a common medal silvered and gilt, or combination of silver and silver gilt and I cannot exclude combination of silver and gold. I am not an expert - I pictured details of the hallmarks and will let it on you.

I believe that GM Mokry has overestimated the number of players who were awarded the GM title between 1950 and 1960, and will calculate the exact number as soon as I find time.

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