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.

Costume Jewellery

I’ve always been a cup half full sort of chap. Occasionally during my many years on this planet, my cup may have dribbled just below it’s half way point, but usually it can be found languishing between halfway and full. This week however it is overflowing. Easter is here, summertime is here, a hot spell is round the corner, half the adults in the country have been vaccinated and very soon we will be able to socialise once again. Let’s dress up and have some fun, everyone put on your costume jewellery.

Costume jewellery made from non precious materials is often more evocative of its age than precious jewels. Worn since antiquity when the Romans excelled at glass imitation gemstones, this “secondary” jewellery exhibits impeccable craftsmanship and clever use of strong period style at relatively low cost. Costume jewellery sold now usually dates from the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and is by and large British or European.

Jewellery set with cut and polished lead glass in imitation of gemstones was first created in France in the 1730s by the jeweller Georges Frederic Stress. This paste jewellery was often cut and backed with foil to give colour and depth and then set in silver in dish like coilet settings. These jewels were popular in France and Britain and in Spain they were even worn in court.

Paste jewellery is very collectable and reasonably priced, although Georgian paste is considerably more valuable than the mid to late Victorian examples and will always realise higher prices, especially the earrings.

Pinchbeck, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was invented around 1720 by the English watchmaker, Christopher Pinchbeck, as a substitute for gold. It was the perfect partner for paste, as it could be intricately chased, engraved and coloured just like fashionable gold work. Popular designs included wide mesh bracelets, muff chains and hair ornaments. Other imitations exist but genuine Pinchbeck is characterised by its rich burnished colour and matt surface.

Later 19th century gilt metal, often erroneously called Pinchbeck, was ideal for less expensive versions of fashionably extravagant jewellery, lockets, bracelets and brooches.

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.

Duesbury Derby

When John Noakes was a presenter on Blue Peter it was one of the finest periods in the history of Blue Peter. When Jaguar produced the E-type Jaguar it was one of the finest periods in their history and when Kellogg’s Rice Krispies first snapped, crackled and popped onto the shop shelves in 1928 many said it was the best period for the Kellogg company.

Every company has its finest period and the same can be said for the Derby Porcelain Factory.It all began in 1786 when William Duesbury the younger succeeded his father and steered the factory through its best and most significant period. The young William was a multi talented man. He possessed a wonderful eye and an enviable appreciation of the artistic, but almost as important were his very effective managerial skills. Production was aimed at only the wealthiest customers with every piece finished to the very highest standard.

Derby specialised in cabinet wares, particularly cups and saucers or cabaret sets (too expensive to use and produced simply to be admired). Derby’s glaze was creamy white and very soft, producing a delightful and subtle feeling, unlike other English porcelain. Consequently the demand for Derby of this period today is higher than many other porcelains.

The decoration in panels or reserves was created by some superb artists including Zachariah Boreman and Thomas Hill focused on landscapes, Richard Askew famous for figures and William Billingsley, the greatest of all English flower painters. Derby rediscovered the charm of botanical designs and flower prints were also copied onto dessert services.

Sadly William Duesbury died far too soon, at only 34, but he left a factory which had become one of the finest in Europe.

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.

Royal Worcester Animals

There is something just a tiny bit unsettling about walking through a field of cows. Recently, on a hike through the glorious Derbyshire countryside my wife and I found ourselves in just such a field, with the said cows approaching us at what can only be described as a fast gallop. Without hesitation or consultation we both struck up our own gallops and bounded for the safety of the style exit.

The whole exciting experience with our cows meant that the rest of the walk was taken up by me regaling my wife on the wonderful Worcester animal figures championed by Kerr and Binns.

In 1851 W. H. Kerr and R. W. Binns purchased the Worcester company, which had been producing some of the most wonderful wares since the mid 18th century and started a new era in it’s history. The new owners introduced a new material, Parian, into the manufacture of Worcester porcelain. This material was long lasting, more easily coloured and gilded and most importantly very adaptable to produce the detailed modelling that Worcester is valued for in salerooms today.

This naturally led to an expansion in the production and consequently the demand for figurines which up until then had not been a primary element of Worcester sales. They began trading as Worcester Royal Porcelain Company Ltd. in 1862 and employed trained sculptors rather than factory workers to do their modelling.

Royal Worcester Animals are still very popular today. Collectors often collect in series including British Birds, Prized Cattle and Tropical Fish or more exclusive examples such as Netsuke Animals. Alternatively the more devoted collector may collect works by a particular modeller including James Alder, David Fryer or Dorothy Doughty who was most famous for her Bird collections.

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.

Rings

“Popped the question” is a strange expression, but one in very common use. It is many years since I popped my question and because of my devilish good looks, debonair persona and ownership of a mini van, the answer was always going to be yes. My future father-in-law’s answer was never quite so certain though as he never really liked my mini van. I gave the future Mrs Dowse my great grandmother’s engagement ring, which she treasures, but it means therefore that with the exception of her wedding ring I have never actually bought a ring for my wife.

Rings have been worn since ancient Egyptian times. Signet rings engraved with a personal seal are associated with power and status, while plain gold wedding rings are tokens of betrothal. Wedding rings have been given or exchanged since Roman times and from the 16th century it has been customary to use a plain gold band.

Before the discovery of large deposits of gold in the USA in the 1840s and diamonds in South Africa in the 1870s, jewellery that was no longer fashionable was often dismantled, melted and the stones refashioned to follow changing tastes. This makes rings before 1800 reasonably rare.

In the early 19th century half hoop and cluster rings were introduced and they remained fashionable throughout the century. Snakes, symbolising wisdom and eternity, were a particularly common motif in the mid 19th century, especially after Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with an emerald set snake engagement ring in 1839. Serpent rings consist of one, two, or three bands with single or double serpent heads, often set with diamond or ruby eyes.

New patterns introduced in the 1890s reflected the late Victorian and Edwardian revival of interest in 18th century court styles and jewellery of this period is characterised by the use of delicate settings.

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.

Goss Crested Ware

As I drive across this wonderful county of ours in search of the Antique, I listen to all sorts of things in my car. Spotify, library books on line, a somewhat selective approach to radio two, local radio, radio four and radio four extra, to name but a few. Last week I happened to be listening to a program about successful entrepreneurs who have made it very big. It seemed to me that each had a very good starting idea and were in the right place at the right time, but they all had something else. To use an unfortunate phrase, they had an ‘X’ factor.

In the world of the Antique, one such man was Adolphus Goss. Well, Adolphus, bless him, made the most of the late Victorians and their sudden love for seaside travel. He gave them all something to buy and take home from their seaside excursions. He gave them crested ware.

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.

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.

Pelham Puppets

My mother was a lovely lady, but she was also a very strict disciplinarian, especially in my early years. It was therefore somewhat out of character for her when on my sister’s eighth birthday she bought me a present to unwrap. I learned years later that it was to keep me quiet. I must have been a very naughty boy.

That year I was six and it was the only time I ever received a present when it wasn’t my birthday. Perhaps six was my rebel year and it was kept in check with a Pelham puppet. That was my present. I still have the puppet, but a rebel child would never keep the box, which was bright yellow as were all the boxes after 1955. The puppet was the Clown, one of the more common examples produced by Bob Pelham and his happy band. It’s a good job I didn’t realise at the time that it was a common puppet or I may have had a little tantrum, defeating the object of the gift.

The Pelham Puppet story is a lovely one and to put it into just a few paragraphs is impossible. It began as Wonky Toys in 1947. Called Wonky because during the war Bob Pelham made donkey models from strung wooden beads which led to his nickname ‘Wonky Donkey Officer’. Originally the firm made simply strung wooden toys. However, a threatened court case from another toy manufacturer claiming the manufacturing rights to the toys Bob was producing led to a change of name and direction and Pelham Puppets was born. The company began with just four employees and ended with a factory full of loyal passionate workers, until it closed in 1986.

Collectors today categorise the puppets by the type of head that sits on it’s boney wooden body. Some of the puppets are very common like the clown I received on my sister’s eighth birthday and these are relatively cheap to buy. Others which are much rarer like the Bookworm family, can be worth many hundreds of pounds each.

As always condition and boxes play a vital role in determining the value of a puppet along with rarity. Nothing is ever more exciting to an auctioneer than two determined collectors perusing one rare puppet that neither of them currently own. Pure joy.

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.

Collectors Clubs

This week something very exciting occurred. The newspaper contacted me to say we had a letter from an interested reader. What was interesting was that it came from a collectors club and only last week I had written about collecting.

It wasn’t, as it turned out, my most interesting and highly informative missive relating to collecting that had caused our reader to get in touch, but an earlier penned and equally captivating discourse on the joys of Old Hall stainless steel. Now, as it happens, there was an ulterior motive to our interested reader’s contact, but it was non the worse for that.

The messenger wished to draw attention to a specific collectors club. This made me realise that I had missed a very important ingredient which could be used to help bake the perfect collector; the collectors club. These clubs are everywhere and they are a vital link between a novice in his or her collecting field and a seasoned professional.

What was the club our interested reader wanted me to mention? It was a flourishing club for Old Hall, which our intrepid reader runs. The website he gave us was www.oldhallclub.co.uk. Needless to say I went on the website and it takes you through a myriad of useful information for the novice and the seasoned collector.

The moral of the story is, use the collectors clubs. No one knows more about their subject than the gallant founts of knowledge who run these wonderful institutions. From egg cups to fork lift trucks, they are out there. Last week I ended on the worry of boring family and friends with your collection, which in some instances can be a real possibility. That will never happen with a fellow club member.

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.

Collecting

It is many years since I have mentioned my DIY skills, but last weekend they once again came to the fore. My wife had decided that the repositioning of some of our paintings was imperative and so my drill was searched for, dusted off and along with a somewhat frayed extension, plugged in. Unlike many men, I only possess one drill bit and mainly through lack of interest, have never managed to acquire the correct plastic plug to fill the hole in the wall it makes. The result; my holes are a mess and only half of them are successful.

“I think they look fine where they are” I suggested. “Fine” was a silly choice of words and a discussion ensued. My argument was that we should put our efforts into researching some new artists and genres and replacing some of the paintings we have. This, I explained, would be a double helping of joy as we would have the excitement of the sale and the satisfaction of the purchase. I have to say I did well and we are now looking for some new pictures to hang on existing hooks.

The whole episode made me think generally of the joys of collecting. Collecting is different from investing, financial gain is not the object. Pick a subject that is of interest or has always held a fascination. Don’t choose a genre that is so rare examples never appear or one so common the market is flooded. Enjoy the research and always keep the first piece purchased, this will show how far the collection has progressed in the years that follow.The investor is always interested in the perfect example, but the collector is interested in just the example.

The auction room is a wonderful place to expand knowledge and enhance collections. In these present Covid times everything is virtual, but descriptions are still there and bidding is possible, full catalogues with numerous illustrations are available. With fingers crossed, post vaccination, things will get back to normal and that is the time to touch and examine as many examples as possible.

One word of warning. All collectors must learn to recognise when someone is losing interest in the collection they are waxing lyrical about. Nothing is more interesting than hearing an informed collector on a subject that is of interest to the listener. But, nothing is more boring…….

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.

Old Hall Stainless Steel

News of vaccinations beginning for Covid is very exciting for us all and if we cast our minds back almost a year it all started in a research laboratory. We have a lot to thank research laboratories for.

In 1913, Harry Brearley working in a just such an establishment in Sheffield discovered ‘rustless’ steel and became credited as its inventor. Originally stainless steel was developed for use in the military, or for medical equipment and industrial tools but in 1934 it was first advertised for domestic use at the ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’. At that exhibition by far the biggest and best stand was for a company called Old Hall.

William Wiggin, son of James the founder of Old Hall, had been experimenting with stainless steel tableware for some time, making the first stainless steel teapot in 1930. However, gaining support for the products from retailers was difficult and the Ideal Home Exhibition was the final stage in trying to get trade and the public onboard with his new venture.

The appointment of Robert Welch as Design Consultant in 1955 saw changing fortunes for Old Hall. Welch was not only a specialist in Stainless Steel production design trained at the Royal College of Art but had also qualified as a silversmith and his skills as such were evident in his designs. Welch’s work was seen as ‘British contemporary’ and earned him three Design Council awards. His notable designs included the hollow ware for P&O’s Oriana cruise liner as well as Old Hall candlesticks and the Alveston cutlery range which won him one of the awards in 1965.

The height of popularity for Old Hall was the 1960s when it was considered a shining example of first rate modern British craftsmanship. These golden years saw Old Hall found in most homes and possibly one of the most common wedding presents received by happy couples across Britain.

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.