Children’s Books

What better present could your young child or grandchild possibly wish for this Christmas than a book. There is nothing in the world better than a book. Forget tablets, mobile phones and gaming apps, give a book.

Children’s book publishing is holding its own in a market where many other sectors of the book trade are suffering. The world of television, film and IT has changed the face of entertainment in the minds of many, but children’s books continue to hold their place in our hearts.

Timeless classics like Winnie-the-Pooh, Beatrix Potter or Roald Dahl remain strong sellers, both in their modern reprints in bookshops today and in their original form in auction houses across the country. It is worth remembering though that being in possession of a first edition alone will not always equal a high cash payout. Other factors affect a books value, such as the particular title, the print run, publication date and of course the illustrator.

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 the illustrators and will follow the same story through its many different versions. Roald Dahl’s books are illustrated by the very talented Quentin Blake whose originals fetch high prices in the art market today.

Children’s books are popular in the salerooms today both for their timeless appeal but also because collectors can indulge in the nostalgia of their own childhoods. Go on indulge yourself this Christmas.

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

Heubach Bisque Dolls

This year on Christmas morning thousands and thousands of children will wake to the joy of a baby doll, brought down the chimney or through the door with a special key, by an over worked and underpaid Santa Claus. For generations parents have loved buying these wonderful creations and for generations Santa has worked his magic.

The Edwardian Christmas would see many of these dolls being manufactured by the Heubach factory which was established in Lichte, Germany in 1843, after brothers Georg Christoph and Phillipp Jakob,bought an existing porcelain business. They initially made porcelain dolls’ heads and other figurines, but later as the fashion for using bisque spread to Germany from France where they had been experimenting with it from the late 1860s, Heubach began to use bisque as their main material from about 1910.

While the porcelain dolls were glazed and therefore shiny, the bisque allowed for a much more realistic skin tone as they remained unglazed; initially fired and then re-fired after layers of decoration had been applied. It was very uncommon to find a doll made completely of bisque as it was so delicate and breakable, most dolls had bodies made of cloth or leather and later composition, a substance made by mixing glue with sawdust or wood pulp.

As with all bisque dolls of the period, some had closed mouths and fixed eyes and some more expensive models had sleeping eyes and open mouths with teeth. Oddly, a doll found now with broken teeth is often not a sign of neglect, but a sign of care, as the loving ‘child parent’ has tried desperately to feed their infant.

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

Lea Stein

Lea Stein was a French Paris-based artist born in 1931 who become famous for her costume jewellery fashioned out of rhodoid, a form of cellulose acetate, typically the type used to make frames for spectacles. She began her own design company in 1957 but it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that she experimented with rhodoid and in 1965 started making buttons. By the end of the 1960s she had branched out from buttons to brooches and further improved her technique, with the help of her husband, chemist Fernand Steinberger. He invented a lamination process involving very thin sheets of rhodoid that enabled her to layer to dramatic effect. This method gave wonderful texture, colour and pattern to her pieces.

The subject and designs of her pieces include most commonly animals, particularly cats and people both famous and stylised. Due to the process taken to create them, each piece is completely original, no two are the same and all her work is signed in the same way; on the pin backing “Lea Stein – Paris”. Stein’s work is categorised as either vintage (1969-1981) or modern (1988-). The company suffered from competition abroad, closing in 1981. Stein began designing again in
1988 as well as recreating some of her vintage collection. The Art Deco look of many of her designs has repeatedly lead to them being mistakenly dated in the 1920s.

Popular vintage pieces include Fox, Rhino, Felix and Ballerina. Key modern designs include ‘Buba’ (an owl), Goupil (a fox’s head) as well as Penguin, Tortoise and the cat, Sacha. It can be incredibly difficult to tell vintage and modern pieces apart.

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

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