Sweetmeat Glasses

As I have said many times, we all love a glass of wine and within the field of glass collecting, drinking glasses have always commanded the greatest interest from enthusiasts. However there is a whole sphere of glass production which is equally as exciting and readily available to the collector.

The Georgians loved their desserts and the taking of dessert was an important occasion in its own right. The late 18th century was a time when the wealthiest members of society entertained with parties incorporating a large and varied amount of food, as well as generous amounts of wine and desserts.

Desserts may be taken with the meal or served away from the table in a kind of buffet form which could be directly after the dinner or later in the evening. The kind of treats on offer included candied fruit, marshmallows, crystallised citrus peels and almonds.

These desserts would be served in glasses on tall stems known as suckets that resemble drinking glasses. They would also be served on footed and stemmed plates and saucers known as tazzas and comports. Shorter thicker glasses with practically no stem were also used for holding jelly and ice creams. Custard cups, another variant on the jelly glass, were used for syllabub ( a creamy alcoholic sweetmeat ), egg custard and egg trifles. Sometimes all of these vessels would be presented on large stemmed salvers placed in the form of a pyramid.

These wonderful Georgian occasions and marvellous Georgian sweetmeats have provided the modern collector with an enormous wealth of collecting opportunity.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Wine Labels

In January 2019 I had a dry January. In January 2020 I felt that the concept was too populist and so went for a wet January. I did however promise myself a dry February but now having decided that the ship has sailed on dry months I shall continue to consume an occasional glass of wine all year round. Now, all this talk of wine makes me think of that marvellous collectable, the wine label.

During the Restoration (1660-1685 ) there developed a trend for decanting wine. This in turn created a need for labelling and thus wine Labels were born and by the 1770s they were considered commonplace.

The most popular design was to suspend the labels from the neck of the bottle or decanter using a chain, but rings were also used and some Labels were even fixed to the cork or stopper.Most early Labels were made from sheet silver. However the finest ones were fashioned by the process of casting and were heavier and thicker than the simple sheet silver ones.

The titles (e.g. Madeira, Port, etc.) were also created in various ways from simple engravings or piercing to the rarest examples where the title was cast along with the body of the label. The value of most Labels is often contained within the title, with popular beverages like Claret and Sherry being more common and thus less desirable and Champagne and Whisky fetching more for their rarity.

It can generally be said that the style of the different Labels mirrors the prevailing style of the time in which they were produced. Hence there are more neo-classical examples of urns and scrolls in the second half of the 18th century while the more common and simple designs in oblongs and ovals were produced in vast quantities in the 19th century.

By the middle of the 19th century a new law forced all vintners to stick labels to their bottles before sale and so the fashion for wine Labels faded.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Goss China

Carrying out chattels valuations sees me traveling all over the region and last Saturday I was in the beautiful Cathedral town of Ripon (where £2.00 sees you safely parked for 24 hours) to visit the property of an older lady who has now gone into a home. This lady loved her Goss china, but sadly she is in the minority these days. Could this be the time to invest?

William Henry Goss was chief designer at the Spode works in Stoke-on-Trent by the time he was twenty-five, but he was not happy and decided to branch out on his own.In the 1880’s, Williams son, Adolphus, joined the company. He was no potter, but he was an ideas man with a flare for marketing. His father had been producing specially commissioned commemorative pieces bearing heraldic emblems and he saw an opportunity to expand.

Adolphus realised that such wares would make great souvenirs for the mass market who, taking advantage of increased wages, were taking more holidays and day tripping on the growing railway network. He worked his way round the country over the next 20 years making contacts until he had a network of more than 1000 local agents. Each agent was responsible for promoting their local coats of arms which could be put on up to 600 small, mass produced named models. The local agents could ask for their symbols to be placed on just about anything.

Goss also produced a popular series of hand painted buildings, known as the Goss Cottages; examples included Shakespeare’s House and Robert Burns’ birthplace. However the heraldic crested wares still made up the bulk of the company’s sales. These wares became less popular after the First World War and in 1929 the Goss family sold out to a competitor Arcadian China.

Standards slowly fell and eventually the factory closed in 1944.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Hummel Figures

To the collector the value of their collection is often the last thing thing they are concerned about and I have often thought that an ideal subject for a new collector would be the charming Hummel figures of children. They can be acquired at reasonable cost and they are a vast and interesting subject.

These endearing figures were developed from drawings by a Franciscan nun Berta Hummel drawn for the Goebel Company in Bavaria. Introduced in 1935 Hummel’s figures were an instant success. By the time she died in 1946 she had drawn around 600 sketches, which was enough to keep the company producing Hummel figures for decades.

Hummels from the 1950s and 1960s are the cheapest on the market. Earlier pieces, groups and larger figures are more desired and so more expensive. The more recent or common a figure is, the more vital the condition becomes in determining value.

Many of the figures are made in more than one version. For example, “Weary Wanderer” was first produced in 1949 but has been made regularly ever since. The rather rare version with blue eyes is more valuable than all the others. Also “Puppy Love” which is one of the first models to be produced and therefore rare and valuable still has a rarer and even more collectable example which faces right instead of left.

Factory marks help in dating Hummels. During the 1930s the firm used a script “Goebel” mark under a crown. After 1950 a “V” mark with a small bee was used and from 1960 the bee became further stylised as a simple dot with triangular wings.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website


As is usual over Christmas I have gained quite a few pounds and as is usual for January I am dieting. Things, however, are not going as well as in previous years and I have had to resort to moving the button which fastens my work trousers by a number of centimetres. This in addition to causing me heartache has made me ponder the button.

Buttons have always been used for fastening and decoration. They have been discovered in Egyptian tombs and over 15,000 have been found on a Court costume belonging to Henry VIII. However button making took on a new dimension in the 18th century with Dandies sporting ornamental buttons up to 4cm in diameter and handmade buttons produced in anything even fine porcelain.

The 19th century saw the growth of mechanisation and Birmingham became the centre of the industry and exported buttons all over the globe. Metal buttons were popular for uniforms and servants’ liveries while better buttons like silver and enamelled examples were enjoyed by the upper classes. These better buttons were often detachable for laundry purposes and some came in handsome cases.

Victorian and Edwardian fashions stimulated button demand leading to special examples being made for boots, gloves and even underwear. Queen Victoria’s grief at the death of her beloved Albert stimulated the demand for mourning dress and black buttons.

The development of colourful plastic buttons happened in the 20th century.Those produced were often large with strong colours and geometric shapes common in Art Deco design. Sadly for the button producers the introduction of the zip and other boring but effective fasteners saw a decline in the demand for the button. Hold this space though as I am reliably informed by the large and vocal female side of my family that once again the button is the height of fashion. What better time to start a collection.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Tea Services

It is a sad fact, even in our retro loving world and even though a slight increase is perceptible, that a large percentage of tea services from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have limited value. The service which upsets many with its lack of value is the one with gilded outlines which is inscribed “genuine 22ct gold”. Sadly this cannot be scraped off and “weighed in” for scrap to give the service at least some value.

The gold used to decorate ceramics is always 22ct and it is applied by mixing and heating. One of the earliest forms was honey and gold, ground together and painted onto the article. When fired at a low temperature the result was thick and rich and could be tooled. By the 1770’s mercury gilding was taking over which led to a much thinner, more delicate result.

Had there been an enthusiastic health and safety department operating in the 18th century they would have been very busy investigating unexplained deaths of kiln workers resulting from the poisonous nature of the mercury used in the gilding process.

The other tea service which upsets people with its lack of value is the late Victorian printed and painted service. These have all been owned by a “great great” relative and are often complete,8 because they were rarely used. The reason they are worth so little is that every home had one and now few homes want one

With the resurgence of the “cup-cake” and an ever growing interest in baking and decorating cakes, cups, saucers and tea services are making a little bit of a comeback. Perhaps now is the time to start buying them again.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Eric Ravilious

I adore Christmas and New Year beyond measure, but I also adore getting back to work. I love the anticipation and excitement, wondering what I will see next, who I will meet next, what stories will there be to tell of 2020. In 2019 we sold a commemorative mug for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937. Coronation mugs usually make just a few pounds if we are lucky, but this one made £650. Why? Because it was designed for Wedgwood by Eric Ravilious.

Eric Ravilious was a very interesting man and his work is well worth collecting. He was born in 1903 and brought up in Sussex, where his parents ran an antiques shop. In 1919 he won a scholarship to Eastbourne School of Art and then in 1925 another scholarship to travel in Italy. I have never won a scholarship so am in awe of anyone who does, but anyone who wins two……

Returning from Italy with a glowing tan and a great deal more life experience Eric held his first exhibition of watercolour drawings in 1933 in London. He sold over 50%. His second exhibition at the same gallery in 1936 saw him sell 75%, an incredible success. During the 1930s Eric was staunchly anti fascist, so in addition to his own exhibitions, he lent work to the ‘Artists Against Fascism’ exhibition.

Eric was engaged as a war artist by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee in 1939 and between then and being lost in action in September 1942 he produced some of his best work. The body of Eric Ravilious was never recovered.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Reminiscing; continued…

Christmas is over for another year and as the tree comes down my thoughts return again to all those highlights our valuers gave me when I asked, as we used to ask our children after a holiday, “what were your best bits”.

Our man who knows more about toys than any I have met, John Morgan, has a coat which buttons up over a number of specialisms in addition to toys. One is militaria and he got very excited about a “dirty dozen watch” he sold for £12,000. So excited in fact that a special article is needed later in the month to tell its story. Sometimes, as John rightly says, it’s the vendor we fall in love with as much as the item they are selling. Like the professional aircraft engineer who in his spare time made the most amazing model engines we have ever sold. Lots like that just don’t come along very often.

A WWII Era Dirty Dozen Military Watch The Grana signed dial with Arabic numerals and second subsidiary dial in plain stainless steel case stamped W.W.W M18244 to case back to later expanding bracelet.

I have to say I love a good handbag and Janet Webster our ceramics, glass and vintage fashion specialist pointed me in the direction of one gorgeous bag we sold this year with a couple of suitcases. Louis Vuitton, with original receipts from Paris they sold for £3000. We sell quite a few wedding dresses and one this year had the newspaper cutting from “hatches, matches and dispatches” 1939 pinned to it. How wonderful.

To finish; I think everyone knows our furniture specialist Andrew Jameson. He has been studying the cabriole leg and carved knee since he was a boy. As Andrew explained furniture is in the doldrums a little, but quality will always win through. To this end he pointed me to a fabulous quality French kingwood vitrine which sold for £7000 in our last sale of the year.

What a wonderful way to sum up the year- “quality always wins through”

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Retro Gaming

With Christmas memories and waistlines starting to fade, the bright screens and click-click of the gaming handsets can still be heard across the bedrooms and dens of the country as the eagerly anticipated video console games of 2020 are bring played. The likes of FIFA 2020, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order are still pulling strong on the current generation of ‘gamers’.   

However, for gamers of an earlier generation there appears to be a resurgence of nostalgic times past and a passion to collect the video consoles and games of their youth.  The technology may not have been so advanced but the draw and thrill of rolling back the years is a fast-growing collector’s market. As the ‘gamers’ of the 1980’s and 1990’s grow a little older, they seem to have an urge to collect the technology they grew up with. 

So just how long ago did the video gaming age start? In pure terms electronic gaming goes back as long as the earliest computers and the time of Alan Turing and the years immediately after the Second World War. However, home video gaming as perhaps we now understand it, dates back to the mid 1970’s and the introduction of the wonderfully named ‘Home Pong’ by Atari which was a ping pong style game based on amusement arcade gaming concepts. By the 1980’s the advent of home computers in the form of such systems as the Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 gave a platform for home video gaming and by the 1990’s video gaming had console systems of their own such as Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64 and Sega Megadrive to name a few and the world of the gaming ‘fanatic’ came to be born. As the years have rolled on the technology continues to evolve until today and Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. But will any of these systems catch up with the biggest selling consoles of all time – Playstation 2 and Nintendo DS.  

The British Broadcasting Corporation Microcomputer System, or BBC Micro, is a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by the Acorn Computer company in the 1980s for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Designed with an emphasis on education, it was notable for its ruggedness, expandability, and the quality of its operating system. An accompanying 1982 television series, The Computer Programme, featuring Chris Serle learning to use the machine, was broadcast on BBC2.

The consoles are only part of the story, the other half is the games themselves. From the early days of the ‘Pong’ game developers have taken us to worlds of adventure, racing, puzzles, logic, sport among others and it is in these games that many a collector’s dreams are followed. Individual games can sell in for excess of £10,000 in the collector’s market. Do you have a hidden dust covered copy of ‘Air Raid’ for the 1970’s Atari 2600 or the 1990 Nintendo World Championship on the NES platform?????? In these, value is driven by rarity but what have been the most popular games ever sold? Who remembers the world of colourful tiles? Yes, ‘Tetris’ with over 500 million copies sold worldwide, is a leading contender along with ‘cubes’ of the world of Minecraft. 

If you are drawn back to the world of ‘retro technology’ a number of top tips may help clarify your thinking:-

  1. Always try to ensure the items you buy are working and complete. 
  2. Try to buy with original packaging intact especially if are thinking investment rather than ‘play’. Cables and instructions are often missing.  
  3. If the consideration is long term investment buy the items no one else is buying 
  4. Look out for promotional packaging or bundle deals that may have a short retail shelf life.
  5. ….and games currently on the up in value Cool World on Super Nintendo, Tintin Destination Adventure on original Playstation or what about Amazing Penguin on Gameboy…

The overriding advice as with all collecting hobbies is – enjoy it – as for your authors personal favourite – ‘Goldeneye’ on the Nintendo 64 – ‘I will be with you in a minute Miss Moneypenny, just got to finish level 3!’

The 20th February 2020 sees a specialist auction of Retro Technology taking place at Sheffield Auction Gallery where the likes of Super Mario, Grand Theft Auto, X-Box, Playstation, Atari, ZX Spectrum, Saga game Gear, Super Mario among others are being offered for auction. 

“The technology may be simpler, however, re-living the ‘gaming dramas’ of our youth is becoming more and more popular.” Commented Auction Gallery specialist cataloguer – James Mettam.     

If you have a collection or a single item you’d like to sell in our specialist auction, please contact us either on 0114 281 6161 or email us enquire@sheffieldauctiongallery.com


In the Forsyte Saga I remember Soames arriving home from a stroll and bemoaning the fact that nobody wore the correct hat for walking in the park anymore. Standards are slipping he said. I wonder what Mr Soames Forsyte would feel about my baseball cap and more to the point what would he think about the fact that nobody plays marbles anymore.

As a schoolboy I loved playing marbles and I worry that today’s child is missing the breathtaking excitement of the roll. However marbles have now become a popular collectors item.

Collectors look for marbles displaying complex patterns, the more complex and colourful, the more valuable. Symmetrical patterns and size also add a premium. Sulphides, which are clear marbles with a figural insert, are amongst the most popular

Probably the most desirable marbles are handmade, mostly German, from circa 1850 until World War One. They were made from brightly coloured glass rods that created swirling patterns of colour. The different patterned marbles created are known by different names including swirls, onionskins and corkscrews.

The telltale sign of a handmade marble is the slightly rough area called a pontil mark. This is the mark left when the marble is removed from the glass rod. It is important to distinguish these from the machine made examples coming from America after World War Two.

Machine made marbles are still very popular today, partly due to the scarcity and expense of handmade examples but also because of childhood nostalgia; many of today’s collectors played with these American marbles when they were young.

Manufacturers to look out for include Akro Agate Company, M. F. Christensen & Son and the Peltier Glass Company, but the exact value of individual marbles can vary enormously. Collectors are also beginning to take an interest in the innovative marble makers of today, especially as the Internet auction market booms.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website