The 26-Clasp QSA
A few observations
Under a macro lens the design of the clasps used for the 26-bar medal can be seen to differ from the “official” pattern in several distinct ways.
The typeface used is of a different font and somewhat smaller; the vertical alignment of the type is haphazard; the horizontal spacing of the individual letters does not match that of the official clasps.
Below are three comparison photographs showing these features. In each case the “official” bar is shown above its 26-clasp equivalent.
The 26-clasp font is lighter, and the design of certain letters noticeably different. In particular, the “E” has a longer central arm, which is set below the centreline. Its lower arm is thin and weak. Many of the letters have less pronounced serifs.
Three comparison photographs, showing the poorer quality of the 26-clasp typesetting. Note how “Modder River” is aligned too far to the right, and the “E” of Belmont is set too far to the left. The poor, “higgledy-piggledy”, vertical alignment, with letters set above and below the baseline and leaning from side to side, is also a notable feature. Five of the six 26-clasp medals I have found photographs of display all of these characteristics.
Close-ups of two letters, showing their different characteristics. The 26-clasp typeface is lighter, smaller and has less pronounced serifs. The central arm of the “E” is extended and set below the centreline. The lower arm of the “E” is thin and weak.
Top: comparison of the “ER RI” of “Modder River”, showing the irregular vertical alignment of the letters peculiar to the 26-clasp medals. Bottom: graphic highlighting the poor typesetting.
When viewed in profile, the construction of the 26-bar medal clasps appears less refined (see below).
Diameter: 36.6 mm (a little larger than average).
Thickness at the rim: 3.15 mm (the thinnest issued medal I have in my collection measures 3.36 mm).
The rim of the obverse is noticeably broader, with less space between its inner edge and the legend.
The striking of the example I have seems to lack some of the finer detail, though this could be due to wear/polishing.
Photographs showing the different widths of the rim, and the proximity of its inner edge to the legend. This is more pronounced on the obverse side.
Thickness at rim
Official issue (on left): 3.48 mm [thicknesses of QSA’s in my collection range between 3.36 mm and 3.71 mm, with an average of 3.57 mm]
26-Clasp medal (on right): 3.15 mm
Two photographs of medallist G.W. De Saulles’ signature, highlighting the lack of fine detail in the striking of the 26-clasp example. Note also the broader rim, though this is not as noticeable on the reverse as it is on the obverse.
Having noted the various anomalies outlined above, I wondered whether these were peculiar to the example I had in front of me, or whether they were evident with other 26-clasp medals.
After trawling the internet, I managed to find five further medals, and of these four showed identical features. The first thing I noticed was the misalignment of “Modder River”. Then, on closer inspection, I could see that all the clasps had the Es with strange extended central arms and weak lower arms. Also, all four had the wider medal rims.
The only example that had clasps conforming to the “official” design was one sold through DNW marked “SPECIMEN”.
So, given that there appear to be a fair number of these medals out there with identical characteristics, several questions come to mind, foremost of which are who made these and for what purpose? The numerous "unofficial" features must surely have a bearing on the answers to these two questions.
Five 26-clasp examples with the same characteristics: “Modder River” set too far to the right, the unusual Es, the “E” of Belmont too far to the left, the uneven alignment. The conformity of these five pairs of clasps suggests they were all struck by the same medallist.
Official bars are shown at the top for comparison.
Top: three 26-clasp examples, each with the same wide rim on the obverse.
Bottom: the claw suspension also has design elements that differ from the official issue, the most prominent of these being the two rings half way up the centre post. Note also the chamfered top edge of the suspension bar.