Telephones

As a small boy, growing up in mid twentieth century England, we were lucky enough to be a household with a telephone. I was never allowed to answer it though as it was an adult only instrument. We were, I remember, on a party line. I knew this because even though my sisters and I were threatened with ‘serious consequences’ if we answered the telephone, I often picked it up when no was around and sometimes heard our neighbour chatting on the other end. That was a serious thrill.

Later teenage years, after suitable tuition on method and politeness, brought the grown up responsibility of answering incoming calls. Fascination and intrigue quickly evaporated after that.

It was Alexander Graham Bell who set the ball rolling in1876 when he patented the speaking telephone. Since then all manner of designs for this amazing invention have been made.

An early design for the telephone was the ‘candlestick’ model made with a separate mouth piece and ear piece, synonymous with Al Capone.

It was however, the invention of Bakelite that saw the development of telephones take a new direction, beginning with ‘pyramid’ phones which are now Art Deco icons. Commonly made in black, the rarer green, white and red versions make much more at auction.

All Bakelite telephones show their date and manufacturer on the base” and their value increases if they still have their original chrome dial, plaited cord and pullout drawer in tact.

Like most things, the telephone also had it designers styles; the first of these is largely credited to the ‘Ericofon’. It was the first one piece telephone and was developed by Ericsson in the early 1950’s. It came in fourteen different colours but pink and orange still are the rarest and most collectable.

The production of the ‘Ericofon’ was world wide. The British one piece telephone, the ‘Trimphone’ and the Italian version ‘Grillo’ never achieved the success of the ‘Ericofon’ and very few are available on the auction market today. Obviously though, this only increases their value if you are lucky enough to find one. The value of a telephone lies in the desirability of the model and the rarity of the colour.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Toby Jugs

Once upon a time many years ago, when ‘horse power’ referred to how many horses pulled your coach and the tricorn hat rather than the baseball cap was the ‘go to’ choice for headgear, there lived a man called Henry Elwes.

Now Henry, even amongst his closest friends, had a reputation for being miserable. He was the king of miserable a short, fat man with dirty lanky hair and he held a record for drinking two thousand pints of Stingo. Stingo was very strong ale, but unfortunately there are no records to say how long it took Henry to drink all those pints. It matters not, however, how long it took, the mere fact it was drunk gave Henry Elwes the nickname Toby Fillpot.

There are many claims to the origin of the Toby jug, but one of the most convincing is that it is based on poor old Toby Fillpot. This is further backed by the work of a publisher Carington Bowles, who in 1761 published illustrations of a short, fat miserable man with lanky hair poking from a tricorn hat and titled him Toby Fillpot. A few years later Toby Jugs began to emerge from pottery factories.

Shakespeare’s Sir Toby Belch from “Twelfth Night”, who in the play is portrayed as an excessive drinker, is thought by some to be the source of the famous jug, but he just doesn’t have the portly misery of Mr Fillpot.

As time passed and more jugs were made, the grim face of Toby cheered up a little, particularly in examples like “The Sailor” and “Hearty Good Fellow”. The name, though, stuck, even when famous faces such as Winston Churchill appeared on these jugs, they remained Toby Jugs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering 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 Bottles

As I mature, slowly, with what I hope is a modicum of grace, into early middle age, I think the records need to be set straight. I have the eyesight of a healthy child, because I wear prescription glasses. I never get out of breath, because I never run anywhere. I never forget a thing, because I write everything down and when my wife isn’t in the car I drive like an adolescent.

Something else which matures particularly well is wine. This is a well discussed topic and matured rare wines are a great attraction in the saleroom. But what about the bottles.

Early wine bottles were made from darkly coloured glass, which had a hint of brown when held up to the light. This glass is known as ‘Black Glass’ and was used in wine bottles between 1650 and 1800. These early bottles are very collectable as they represent the earliest stages of consumerism in Britain. Due to their age there is usually surface deterioration, ranging from severe pitting to simple dullness. However, unlike many collectables, damage is acceptable in these old black glass wine bottles, so rare examples in very poor condition still produce good results in the saleroom.

Although not mass produced until the early 1800s, the production of glass was increasing throughout this early period with many glass houses opening up and different manufacturers gaining recognition for certain styles and shapes of bottle.

The commonest shapes in these early wine bottles are the ‘globe and shaft’, the ‘onion’ and the ‘mallet’, with rarer shapes, such as the octagonal being more collectable. More collectable still than the rare shape is the sealed bottle. These are bottles applied with a seal during manufacture which bears a family crest, a date or initials.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Suzie Cooper

Recently, during a house contents valuation I was conducting for Probate purposes in Clay Cross, near Chesterfield, I came across one of the most extensive collections of Susie Cooper ceramics I have ever seen. I have always been a take it or leave it sort of chap when it comes to Susie Cooper, but when i saw her talent en masse I have to say my opinion changed to one of admiration.

Susie Cooper was one of the most successful designers of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, she joined local potter A. E. Gray & Co. Ltd to gain the experience she required to attend London’s Royal College of Art. Initially Cooper was a production line painter, but her talent was quickly spotted and instead of going to London she became a designer at Gray’s.

Cooper was influenced by many artists, but her contribution to the company was highly personal. Gray’s used the factory mark “Designed by Susie Cooper” to identify her work and this early work of flowers and chintzware is still very popular with collectors.

By 1929 Susie Cooper had left Gray’s and set up on her own in premises at the Chelsea Works, Burslem. Products made after her departure from Gray’s are marked “A Susie Cooper Production”. However, in 1931, after interest from Wood & Sons, she moved to a larger studio at their Crown Works and products were then marked with the familiar leaping deer, that is most often associated with her.

The 1930s were the most dazzling years for Cooper and the high demand for her work led to her use of lithography at a time when most firms were still using mechanical decoration.

By the late 1930s Susie Cooper was producing up to 200 new designs a year, featuring banding, polka dots and stylised flowers. Patterns that were both modern and timeless such as “Patricia Rose” and “Endon” were the key to her success, appealing to a far wider audience than the work of many of her contemporaries.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering 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

Between us, my wife and I have five siblings. We are in the fortunate position of, not only being on speaking terms with all of them, but actually being on very friendly terms with all of them. Having spent, what seems like a lifetime dealing with deceased estates I have sadly met many families where this is not the case. I always find it very sad when families are no longer friends.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a very famous family had a very famous disagreement. Let me take you back to 1894 and introduce Dr John Kellogg, who ran a sanatorium. Amazingly and completely by accident he created the corn flake as he attempted to improve the diet of his patients. Sensibly he applied for a patent that same year and all in the proverbial sanatorium garden was rosy.

Now, those wonderful 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 them to the general public. Then, unfortunately, it happened. In 1906 Will and John fell out over sugar which Will wanted to put in the Cornflakes and unbelievably this led to a life time rift and the success of the company was left to Will Kellogg.

Even though the Cornflake craze didn’t happen overnight, slowly and 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, especially investable designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper. The rarer the pattern, the more exciting the purchase.

What a shame it was that the Kellogg brothers couldn’t have stayed friends and marvelled together how their simple flakes of corn were influencing Britain’s pottery designs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering 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 television programme that all antiques enthusiasts love to watch, The Great Antiques Hunt, occasionally finds its way onto the 14” screen in the Dowse House sitting room and occasionally we watch it. I find it very entertaining, especially when we are on it. One programme recently screened (possibly not too recently recorded though) featured one of the hunter’s with a Stanhope. A lovely novelty.

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

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering 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

The brown patches on our lawn are getting bigger. Other gardeners in the village seem to feel now is the time to seed, so in an attempt to cover our patches, I have decided to do the same. Along with general DIY, gardening and lawn management are not really my forte, so we shall be watching my project with interest. Fortunately the neighbours cannot see it, so failure, which is reasonably likely, can stay within the family.

I mention my lawn because it links beautifully to this weeks topic. The country known to have the greenest lawns is Ireland and Ireland is the home of the wonderful and under collected Belleek porcelain.

Image courtesy of Belleek Porcelain

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.

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 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 Caddies

Isn’t it funny how our habits change as we age. As a young man the only hot beverage I ever consumed was coffee, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk. As I graduated into middle age, the coffee became a little weaker and a cup of tea was occasionally taken at breakfast time. As I progress further on life’s path, tea is pretty much the order of the day, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk.

When tea was introduced into Europe in the 17th century it’s popularity rocketed, unheard of profits were made and tea caddies were born. The caddy was such a useful item as it could be kept in the drawing room under the beady eye of the mistress of the house and it could be locked.

Early imported tea was prohibitively expensive for all but the richest in the land, so early caddies were more often than not beautifully made and extremely expensive. The first examples were imported Chinese porcelain and styled like a ginger jar. They had a sliding top enabling tea to be poured in and a rounded cap facilitating easy measurement of a portion.

As tea drinking progressed through the 18th century it’s popularity increased and so did the tea caddies that kept it safe. Originally blue and white Chinese porcelain they were now to be found in wood, Sterling silver, brass and copper. By far the most commonly seen in the salerooms today are the wooden examples. These are a delight to collect, from the plain rectangular to the sumptuous casket. The slightly larger examples had three sections and were fitted with a central blending bowl to mix and blend.

As the 19th century progressed so the price of tea came down. This meant the lock on the caddy disappeared and gradually the tea went from the drawing room to the kitchen and the poor old caddy disappeared for ever.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering 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 young father, many years ago, one of my greatest joys was reading bedtime stories. I actually loved most of the stories, but really, really loved the voices I invented for all the characters. I thought the children all loved the voices too, but, as with so many things in life, I was wrong, they did and still do, love the stories though.

I think loving the stories so much is why the children’s book is always so popular in the saleroom. They are timeless and nostalgic and collectors love them. There are only so many that sell for high prices though.

If you are lucky enough to possess 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 marvellous 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

Those are just three examples which hopefully illustrate three different ways a book can have value.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Penny Toys

As grandchildren continue to be born and so the Dowse dynasty continues to expand, the wallet of the Patriarch no longer has time to grow a moth, never mind a colony, like it used to. Birthdays and Christmas are bad enough, but then there are all those other things…… If only we still had the penny toy.

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 pedlars 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 a0 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

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