Breakfast Wares

My father always ate Cornflakes for breakfast. As a young boy I always looked on this as a sign of manhood and vowed to grow up a strong, Cornflake eating man. Sleeping over at a friends one night I remember appearing at the breakfast table to discover his father eating Rice Krispies. He was never the same man in my eyes after that and my friendship with his son soon waned.

In 1894 Dr John Kellogg, who ran a sanatorium, by accident created the corn flake as he attempted to improve the diet of his patients. A patent was applied for that same year and the flakes of corn became so popular that Dr John’s brother Will Keith Kellogg set up the Kellogg Company to produce Corn Flakes and sell to the general public.

In 1906 Will and John fell out over sugar which Will wanted to put in the Cornflakes. Sadly, this led to a life time rift and the success of the company was left to Will Kellogg.

The Cornflake craze didn’t happen overnight, but by the 1930s a change in breakfasting habits was definitely happening. The great British public now required new ceramics to enjoy the first meal of a new day. Cereal bowls, toast racks, teapots and for the lucky ones, all on a tray to be served in bed.

These breakfast wares are popular collectors items today. Look for investable designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper and the rarer the pattern, the more exciting the purchase.

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

Football Tickets

As a boy I had a friend, who for some inexplicable reason supported a football team called Scunthorpe United. He even went to the Old Show Ground, where they used to play, in pursuit of his hobby. He still has, much to the annoyance of his long suffering wife, many programs from that passionate football following frenzy of a life he once lived. Never once though did he ever give the tickets a second thought.

What makes me think of this is the number of football tickets in our recent Sporting Memorabilia auction. So I caught up with Robert Lea, our specialist valuer on all things sporting and font of all football related knowledge and quizzed him about the interest in tickets.

Tickets are very collectable. Not only for football matches, but for all sporting events. The key to collectability in general sport is an extraordinary event, like the four minute mile, or something completely unexpected taking place at a meeting. The major meetings will always be in demand, but also major names breaking records at smaller events.

As far as football is concerned one of the most interesting is the David and Goliath meeting when Goliath is playing away at David’s house. The ground is small and the ticket allocation is low. A ticket which has not been used and so is complete with it’s stub in good condition is also always collectable.

Imagine therefore a ticket from a David and Goliath clash, taking place at David’s house when David won the encounter handsomely, but the ticket owner had a severe bout of influenza and was unable to attend. That ticket would tick all the collectable boxes.

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

Keith Murray and Wedgwood

As a boy my love for the auction room and the pull of the family business was never in doubt. If I had a fallback position, however, it would have been racing driver or architect.

Keith Murray was an architect. He was born in New Zealand. His father was Scottish and had travelled to New Zealand to meet his mother Lillian. The family came to England when Keith was 14 and seven years later he graduated from the London School of Architecture.

Originally work was slow, so Murray began illustrating for magazines. In the early 1930s he designed for Stevens and Williams and his designs were noticed by Wedgwood. Wedgwood were at that time recruiting designers to inspire their production and revitalise their flagging turnover.

In the 1930s Keith Murray designed for Wedgwood for two or three months a year. His designs, although slow to get started, were a triumph. This was largely due to the excellent combination of Murray’s sleek styles and the matt glazes developed by Norman Wilson, Wedgwood’s works manager at the time. The range of vases and bowls were hand thrown and featured incised horizontal fluting or banding. They were glazed in plain matt colours including, the most popular, blues and greens.

Other popular Murray items include the bronze coloured tobacco jar and the rare black basalt coffee set. Collectors just love the undecorated, simple shape Murray is famous for and they fit so well with today’s minimalist styles.

Sadly for the world of ceramics, after World War Two Keith Murray went back to his architecture.

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

Stanhopes

The iPlayer and Netflix have revolutionised the viewing habits of the ‘Dowse house’. The only thing we seem to watch live now is the evening news. Compare this modern choice with that of the Victorians who had nothing to view except possibly the images on their Stanhopes.

Stanhopes are small, novelty mementos that contain a miniature peephole revealing a mystery photograph. The Stanhope is a lens just millimetres wide to which one or more minute photographs, which look like black pinheads, are attached. When held up to the light the lens magnifies the micro-photograph as if it was projected onto a screen.

The name Stanhope came from Charles Stanhope, the third Earl Stanhope, who invented a uniquely powerful magnifying lens. However, it wasn’t until well after Stanhope’s death that his invention was adapted for these souvenirs.

It was a Frenchman, Rene Dragon, who combined Stanhope’s lens with Englishman John Benjamin Dancer’s micro-photography in 1860 to produce a tiny viewer with an image attached to a lens. He quickly realised the potential and began fitting these viewers into everyday objects.

Victorians bought into the Stanhope with untold ferocity and their popularity continued until the early twentieth century. By the mid twentieth century they had almost died out except for special occasions such as the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Stanhopes are a great theme for the novice collector as they are relatively inexpensive and yet extremely interesting.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Playing Cards

Last Saturday my wife and I went to York. We sat at the very top of a very modern, but temporary building. We watched a play by an Elizabethan playwright about a king who ruled for only two years.

What we experienced was Shakespeare’s Richard III, performed in Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean theatre. It was a wonderful day and leads neatly into playing cards. Richards reign was right at the end of the Wars of the Roses and in 1485 in an important last battle, near to what was eventually to become a car park, Henry Richmond defeated and killed Richard III. Richard as we all know was later discovered under some 20th century concrete, while Henry went on to become king.

Now Henry was a clever man and he married Elizabeth of York and so united the two warring houses of Lancaster and York. This is where we have the link to playing cards.

Playing cards originated in China in the 9th century and it wasn’t until the 1360s that they appeared in Europe. In 1475 Baptista Platina recommends cards as a beneficial after dinner game for gentlemen, to aid the digestion, but warns against cheating and desiring to gain.

In the salerooms we see many thousands of 20th century playing cards which are largely worthless. Unusual Victorian sets can be collectable but going back to Shakespeare’s Henry VII, the cards are almost non-existent so incredibly collectable.

Our link between the play Richard III and the playing card is that Elizabeth, the wife of Richard’s slayer Henry, was the Queen on playing cards during and long after his reign.

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

Testoons

As a teenage boy of 13 years my first job was that of a newspaper delivery boy. I rose at 6.00am from Monday to Saturday and I received fifteen shillings a week.

Those fifteen shillings today are 75 new pence and worth a fraction of what I earned. Those fifteen shillings in the 16th century were fifteen Testoons and their value I would have loved as my teenage salary.

During the reign of Henry VIII these Testoons were causing quite a scandal. It was in the 1540s and following a secret order that their silver content was gradually downgraded and replaced with copper as the Kings Treasury tried to raise much needed funds. This change undermined the principal at the time that the bullion value of the coin was broadly equivalent to it’s face value.

As the 1540s wore on the silver content of the Testoon continued to reduce. It eventually became so thin that it rubbed off easily from prominent parts of the coin, including the King’s nose. This gave rise to the King’s new nickname, ‘Old Coppernose’.

By the late 1540s the Testoon was being withdrawn and melted down as silver coins were being re-introduced. Although common at the time good examples of the Testoon are hard to find today. Our stamp, coin and medal department recently had a specialist auction which featured a Testoon. All the way from the time of good old King Henry to our saleroom. It was a very good example and sold for a buyers premium inclusive £10,020 (pictured above).

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

Belleek

My wife was born in Ireland, what other reason do I need to love the wonderful porcelain that came from the Belleek factory.

The Belleek porcelain factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland was established in the village of Belleek in the late 1850s by three men. John Caldwell Bloomfield, to whom the land had been left, and two businessmen Robert William Armstrong, an architect from London with an interest in ceramics, and a trader from Dublin, David McBirney. As well as local workers and apprentices the partners hired fourteen experienced men from Stroke-on-Trent.

The partners always wanted to make fine porcelain, but the early pieces to come out of the factory were items such as floor tiles and tableware. However, following a few failed attempts they succeeded in making a certain amount of parian by 1863. Belleek is popular for it’s parian wares. They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes to enhance the cream colour of the porcelain itself. The intricate baskets produced by the factory are some of the most popular items with collectors.

By 1865 the company already had a growing market in Ireland and England and was beginning to export items further afield to the United States and elsewhere. Queen Victoria was even a customer. The company exhibited in parian porcelain at the Dublin Exposition of 1872. Items displayed included statues, busts and centrepieces.

Although the factory is still in operation today, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.

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

Children’s books

As a father to four and grandfather to many more I have spent countless hours in my adult life reading and acting out a great many of the literary classics written for children. The children’s book is a very interesting topic. I have highlighted just three.

If you are lucky enough to posses a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone this is a valuable item. When Bloomsbury came to print it in 1997 they feared they would make a loss and the print run was very small. The perfect scenario for a marvelous investment, a rare book with a big future demand. Further print runs were needed for that book and so future Harry Potter books had enormous first print runs. The investment opportunity was never repeated.

From the modern to the Victorian. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was first published by MacMillan in 1865 with illustrations from Punch cartoonist John Tenniel. Carroll’s classic is constantly inspiring illustrators to rework the story. Many collectors collect for illustrators and will follow the same story through its many different versions.

Book sales can be hugely influenced by a film version of the said book and this effect can feed into demand for first editions of related titles. For example Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and a signed first edition of the precursor to the trilogy, The Hobbit, breaking auction records.

Children’s books will always be popular in the salerooms because of their timelessness, their nostalgia and the beautiful illustrations.

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

Marklin Trains

Early trains by the German toy manufacturer Marklin, like those of other makers, were simple and solid, but unrealistic. However, in 1891 at the Leipzig Toy Fair Marklin introduced standardised gauges, which was a major development in the manufacture of trains and was to change how they were produced in the future.

The early 1900s were the first ‘golden age’ of Marklin trains. The simple early designs were superseded by a range of realistic, detailed trains with a superb, thickly lacquered finish. The larger lll gauge was particularly popular in this early period, but by 1910 the demand for the smaller l and 0 gauge models was growing too. It was at this time that Marklin introduced a range of rolling stock and accessories.

1895 Marklin 0 gauge clockwork train set SOLD £3400

After World War One the heavy, thickly painted trains began to look old fashioned and by 1930 the I gauge was obsolete. All this led to the company, in the 1930s, investing in new tooling and launching a brand new range of trains.

In 1948 yet more changes, which included the launching of the smaller and instantly popular HO gauge. The die cast bodies were narrower with more accurate proportions, a slightly matt finish and a new type of coupling. By the late1950s the solidarity and quality of Marklin trains had firmly re-established the company’s reputation world wide.

Marklin trains are extremely popular and collectable today and many of the very early examples can realise impressive prices at auction.

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

The Newlyn School

In 1890, John MacKenzie founded the Newlyn Industrial Class in Newlyn, Cornwall. Along with other talented local artists, he took on unemployed fishermen and taught them to work with copper. John Pearson, co-founder of the Guild of Handicraft (1888), came to work with him at Newlyn in 1882. As a master craftsman, he was the man who taught the men their skills while MacKenzie supplied the majority of the early designs.

Newlyn used the ancient craft of repousse; the process where copper plate is laid on a bed of pitch or lead and hammered from the back to create designs. It is understood that the practice of beating on lead instead of pitch was actually devised by Pearson himself and was a trade secret of the Newlyn School for many years.

Newlyn is not always easy to recognize as not all pieces were stamped. The stamp used was generally the name ‘NEWLYN’ although there are six or possibly seven different variations on this stamp size and occasionally pieces bear other marks such as a date or designers name or the phrase ‘Newlyn Industrial Class Penzance’. Newlyn made a huge variety of things from domestic items such as dishes, trays and coffee pots to more decorative items like vases, panels and picture frames.

Designs largely featured marine subjects such as fish, crabs and seaweed but birds, fruit, landscapes and flowers also feature. One of the great appeals of Newlyn copper is the high quality craftsmanship, which incorporates quality of construction as well as brilliant design. Particular attention was paid to hinges and seams, which is in keeping with the Arts and Crafts movement thinking that construction should be part of the decorative features of any piece.

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