Goss Crested Ware

It is widely acknowledged that Henry Goss and his two sons, Adolphus and Victor were the first to hit upon the very lucrative idea of producing souvenirs carrying coats of arms. These ‘seaside souvenirs’ were an ideal product to make just as the expansion of the railways and the introduction of the bank holiday had greatly
increased people’s travel. The day-trip was now becoming popular.

W. H. Goss & Co first produced crested ware in 1888 from their “Falcon Works” pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. A typical piece of Goss crested ware had a white, creamy glaze and a coloured transfer of a coat of arms. A genuine Goss has a printed mark, featuring an image of a falcon above the name “W. H. GOSS.” Hundreds of different pieces were made from traditional vases to top hats, clogs and tiny kettles.

The success of their heraldic china souvenir business was huge, with large scale production needed to meet high demand. It is believed that by 1910, approximately 90% of homes had a piece of Goss crested ware adorning their mantelpiece or sideboard. Adolphus Goss built up a huge network of Goss agents across the country to market and sell their crested ware. It began with the up-and-coming seaside resorts, but very quickly every town and city had its arms produced on Goss china ready for the tourist trade.

Other potteries such as Carlton, Grafton and Shelley didn’t take long to realise the potential sales in this area and launched their own ranges of crested ware. However, after the First World War tastes changed and interest

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Penny Toys

Cheaply made from pressed tin and very easy to break, these small toys, measuring no longer than five inches, were affordable to all as they really were sold for just a penny by many street peddlers and market stalls who still made a good profit on them.

Penny toys were in production from the 1860s but peaked in popularity around 1900, largely due to the process of transfer colour lithography that was widely available by 1890. It enabled fine detail and colour to be added to sheets of tinplate very quickly and economically making the toys very bright, exciting and desirable to children.

Many of the Penny toys were produced by well-known toy manufacturers and largely in Germany. German-based Distler, for example, started off as a penny tinplate toy manufacturer before expanding its range.

Penny toys were very small and that actually made them quite difficult for children to play with, especially where the toy involved a tiny detachable piece, like a driver, which was tricky to take in and out of a car. Vehicles were a dominant subject matter for Penny toys; they would all move, some needed pushing while the more sought after were fitted with a flywheel allowing them to propel themselves. Penny toys were quite often tiny replicas of larger, more
expensive tinplate toys on sale at the time.

There is a good collectors’ market for Penny toys, with very good or mint condition being the most important element in value, closely followed by rarity. Early examples tend to be more popular as the quality of production did decline over time as demand grew. Fine lithography and interesting or intricate designs are also keenly collected.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Railway Totem Signs

The 1921 Railway Act made changes to the railways ‘with a view to……. more efficient and economical working of the railway system of Great Britain railways.’

There were four groups formed; the Great Western Railway (GWR), the London, Midland & Scottish (LMS), the Southern Railway (SR) and the London & North- Eastern Railway (LNER). Of the four groups created, the Great Western remains the most popular with collectors.

Further changes were to come and the totem signs that are so well loved and appear in most enthusiasts’ collections were introduced onto stations from 1948 when the railways were nationalised and split into six regions. The totem signs were a branding exercise by British Railways and the standard size was 36” long.

Totem signs were made in different colours for each region. There was pale blue for Scottish, orange for North Eastern, maroon/burgundy for Midlands, brown for Western and navy for Eastern. The background was coloured and the lettering was
white. On some later orange North Eastern examples the white letters have a black outline, possibly to make them clearer to read in the dim evening light. Totem signs that are different from the norm like this are prized by collectors.

British Railways (BR) began trading as British Rail from 1965 and so began the gradual removal of the totem signs from stations. As with most collectables, the value of totem signs depends largely on rarity but also condition and desirability; if the station or place was particularly interesting or remarkable or regionally important then this also affects the value. Some totem signs appear regularly at
auction while some may never have been listed for auction or private sale and may not even have survived.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Harrach Glass

Harrach Glass has often been overlooked or had its incredible work wrongly attributed to other glasshouses, due to Harrach blanks being used by many prestigious Bohemian glasshouses in the 19th century. In recent history this has been rectified and Harrach Glass is gradually receiving the recognition it deserves.

When Harrach Glassworks began production in 1712 it was situated in the village of Neuwelt, Bohemia which later joined with other local villages to form the town of Harrachov in the remote mountains of what is now the Czech Republic. The 19th century is considered the ‘golden age’ of Harrach Glass and the company took part in many important international exhibitions during this time and exported huge amounts of their wares to other European countries. The acclaim they received at these World Exhibitions gave them a flurry of new customers including royal courts and prominent aristocratic families.

At the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851, Harrach Glassworks won first prize getting a gold medal and badge of honour. Their success came with their ability to demonstrate huge skill in many areas of glass production combined with the diverse range of designs including, at this particular exhibition, Gothic Revival and Oriental.

Many examples of Harrach Glass are unmarked, due to their paper and foil labels being lost. Fortunately the factory also signed many pieces so collectors can get “a feel” for the wonderful variety and production techniques. Recognising the shapes and styles of unmarked items, together with identifying the quite superb quality, makes attribution not only a joy, but an art.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Troika pottery was founded in 1963 in St Ives, Cornwall by the successful combination of three partners; Benny Sirota, a potter, Lesley Illsley, a painter and Jan Thompson, an architect. They wanted to produce beautiful pottery as works of art without the restraints of functionality. A desire that was very much part of the studio movement of the time and one which brought them success both artistically and financially due to the summer tourist trade and some very lucrative contracts with departments stores, namely Heals and Libertys in London.


Strong, structured and ultra modern designs were created, a far cry from the plain, functional styles of the period. Pieces were created in moulds but each one was then hand-painted. The main designs were based around geometric shapes with figural forms extremely rare. Small, rectangular shapes are most common with unusual shapes such as the ‘Aztec’ masks being the least.

Their early work was smooth and glazed and later, after around 1974, the work became more textured which became their signature style. There was far more production of the rough textured variety and it became incredibly popular and still is with collectors today. However, the earlier pieces which are rarer are the most valuable and highly sought after.

Marks can be used to date pieces; those bearing the words ‘St Ives’ are the earliest, with ‘Cornwall’ used after 1970. The town ‘Newlyn’, where the company moved in 1970 to expand into bigger premises, never appears in any marks.

The company, although successful, couldn’t compete with cheaper imports so eventually closed its doors in 1983. Troika is still popular amongst collectors today, especially since their 50th anniversary in 2013 which saw new exhibitions and publications to entice collectors anew.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Schuco Miniatures

The German toy manufacturer, Schuco, actually began life as Schreyer & Co. when formed in 1912 by Heinrich Müller and Heinrich Schreyer in Nuremberg, the name changed in 1921 when Schuco was officially registered as their trademark.

Schuco is well known for their beautifully made and mechanically clever tinplate toys. They managed to succeed in making mass produced toys that retained their quality of finish. They made cars, boats, animals, cowboys, clowns even Disney characters and a
Charlie Chaplin who walked along twisting his cane.

One of the popular ranges with collectors is their miniatures. First produced in 1924, these were tiny figures measuring from 2 to 4½ inches with metal-frame bodies covered in mohair completed with a tinplate face mask. Originally produced purely as a publicity
item they were soon being manufactured for many different uses. Some were made to contain lipsticks, manicure sets or perfume bottles, while others were marketed as mascots for bicycle bars or as lapel badges or simply as novelties in their own right with the acrobatic and tumbling bears particularly popular.

The most popular miniatures tend to be the bears and monkeys with the brightest colours being most desirable. Miniatures were commonly made in green, lavender, red, blue and pink, with rarer colours like purple and orange realising higher prices. Cartoon characters like Felix the Cat, were made as well as many animals from elephants to ladybirds and a particularly collectible ‘Noah’s Ark’.

Despite their tiny size, Schuco remained true to form and all their miniatures were incredibly well-made. Although not all are marked they can easily be recognized by the skill in production and the classic tinplate face over a mohair-covered jointed body.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Wade Whimsies

Wade Whimsies are arguably the most popular collectable produced by George Wade Pottery, ironic since in the 1960s many were literally given away. They were conceived as a way to get the factory back on its feet after the wartime restrictions, allowing only undecorated essential pottery production, were lifted.

The first whimsies were made in 1953 and a total of 109 were made until production ceased in the 1980s. The early models were made in sets of five between 1953 and 1959 with ten different sets being produced. The first set ever made was English Animals including a leaping fawn, a horse, a spaniel with a ball, a poodle and a squirrel. Next came another set of English Animals, this time comprising a bull, a lamb, a kitten, a hare and a dachshund, followed by English Country Animals, African Jungle Animals, Horses in a set of just four, Polar Animals, Pedigree Dogs, Zoo Animals, North American Animals and finally Farm Animals.

In the 1960s, wade whimsies were no longer sold in sets but instead produced as ‘giveaways’ for many popular retail brands such as Red Rose Tea and a number of different cracker brands. They became a popular tradition at the Christmas dinner table. Their popularity saw Wade begin producing sets for sale again in 1971, with a total of 12 sets made.

There are many variations in the whimsies largely due to the length and volume of production; moulds would get damaged or worn so were replaced regularly. There is, however, one key distinguishing feature on all authentic whimsies which is a fine set of parallel moulded ridges on their bases. This feature appears on all but the very first set of whimsies.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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One night last week, when I had finished all my washing and tidying chores early, my wife decided it would be exciting to watch a DVD. She is easily excited so not wishing to disappoint her, I agreed and left the choice to her.

After ten minutes we both felt the film was rather poor and on a steep downhill gradient, but decided to watch it anyway. One of the stars was George Clooney and all I can now remember about the evening was in the films credits, George Clooney not only had his own hairdresser he also had an assistant hairdresser.

Now George is a lucky man. He is blessed with looks not dissimilar to my own and a head of hair perhaps slightly better than mine. In the film his hair was cropped tightly to his head. As an auctioneer and valuer who is follicly challenged, my knowledge on hair care is obviously limited, but as his main hair dresser I am sure I would find a forty hour week hard to maintain and as his hairdressers assistant, who I assume would hand scissors and combs to the hairdresser, I am sure I would find job satisfaction hard to maintain. Perhaps if there were a few other heads of hair to look after life might be a bit more interesting. What that assistant would need as a distraction is a stamp collection.

The collection and study of postage stamps is known as philately and is hugely popular with beginners and specialists alike. The first ever stamp produced was the Penny Black first issued on 1st May 1840. Although it has legendary status it isn’t in fact rare with over 1.5 million still around today. A used stamp still has a reasonable value but the scarce unused versions, could set a collector back many, many times more. The Two-Penny Black, issued a week later, attracts similar prices.

Rare Stamps
Rare Stamps

The market offers huge variety for the stamp collector with over 350 authorities issuing stamps worldwide. Due to this wide range many collectors limit themselves to one area and focus on that. The British Commonwealth is a popular choice with stamps bearing the head of the British monarch, providing a fascinating document of the history of the Empire. As far as value is concerned, more valuable stamps tend to be those with a higher face value as they are rarer.


Value can also be found in the detail. A rare painting or cutting can increase a stamp’s value such as the 1955 one-penny stamp, where a small number of stamps had perforations cut 6mm too high so the bottom of the design appears at the top of the stamp. Cancellation marks or postmarks can also alter value and often certain marks are collected specifically. Occasionally, the Royal Mail actually issue an official variation such as a range with slightly different perforations of self adhesive instead of gummed. The Stanley Gibbons catalogue, a must read for all philatelists, includes these variations but many collectors only discover the variation on reading the catalogue and find the stamps are no longer on general sale, thus the subsequent high demand pushes their value up in the auction room.


Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Dinky Toys were first referred to by this name in 1934; a year after they were first produced and marketed as ‘Modelled Miniatures’ – a set of trackside accessories for the famous Hornby trains. Dinky Toys was founded by Frank Hornby of Meccano and Hornby fame, who had decided to branch out into diecast vehicles after watching their success when sold by American company, Tootsie Toys who first made model cars in 1909.

A boxed Dinky No.184 – A Volvo 122S, Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £620 in April 2014
A boxed Dinky No.184 – A Volvo 122S, Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £620 in April 2014

The first early Dinky toys were made of lead. They were generally produced in sets or series with the first being the 22 series (a to f) which included a military tank, delivery van, a motor truck, sports car, sports coupe and a tractor. They were brightly coloured, perfect miniatures and are extremely rare and collectable today.

The early lead examples were quickly replaced by models made from the much safer magnesium-zinc alloy mazac. However, this came with its own difficulties as the alloy contained lead impurities which caused corrosion and cracking of the metal, sometimes even crumbling. Consequently the survival rate can be poor for pre-war examples and the condition affected of those still around today.

Boxed Dinky Aircraft
Boxed Dinky Aircraft

Dinky toys continued to be made in series and sold in trade packs of six vehicles with individual boxes not introduced en masse until 1952. Dinky toys manufactured post-war were of a better quality alloy but the paint on the vehicles was distinctly duller. Production and popularity of the toys continued to rise with the mid-1950s often referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Dinky Toys when every man and boy had a collection and Dinky had started to upgrade its range, particularly re-introducing their bright pre-war colours.

Boxed Dinky Commercial Vehicles
Boxed Dinky Commercial Vehicles

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Ceramic Decoration

Over time there has been a huge variety of techniques used to decorate all types of ceramics from earthenware pots to ornate sculptures. Some very traditional, while others revolutionary.

Developed by John Sadler and Guy Green, the transfer printing process began in Liverpool in 1756. Josiah Wedgwood being one of the first to embrace it on his ivory based “Creamware”. It was developed in response to consumer demand for cheaper, mass produced wares – something more embellished than the previously plain merely functional alternatives. Most early patterns had an oriental theme as Chinese blue was a favourite at the time.

Ceramics, more specifically porcelain, is commonly gilded. Gilding is where surfaces are decorated with gold leaf or fine powder before being fired at low temperatures. Mixing the gold with mercury gives a brighter metallic finish, while honey creates a dull but very rich effect.

Gilding has been around for centuries, as has the lustre technique which involves dissolving oxides of metals such as gold, silver and copper in acid and combining them with an oil medium. This is then painted onto the object before firing, it creates a metallic or iridescent shimmering finish.

As well as differences in the design techniques there are also different types of glazes. Underglaze is popular as it is less expensive; designs are applied to an unglazed surface so objects are only fired once. While an overglaze, as the name suggests, sees designs added onto an already glazed surface and re-fired at low temperatures to fuse the colours to the surface. They frequently require multiple firings making them much more expensive.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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