Wine Labels

In January 2019 I had a dry January. In January 2020 I felt that the concept was too populist and so went for a wet January. I did however promise myself a dry February but now having decided that the ship has sailed on dry months I shall continue to consume an occasional glass of wine all year round. Now, all this talk of wine makes me think of that marvellous collectable, the wine label.

During the Restoration (1660-1685 ) there developed a trend for decanting wine. This in turn created a need for labelling and thus wine Labels were born and by the 1770s they were considered commonplace.

The most popular design was to suspend the labels from the neck of the bottle or decanter using a chain, but rings were also used and some Labels were even fixed to the cork or stopper.Most early Labels were made from sheet silver. However the finest ones were fashioned by the process of casting and were heavier and thicker than the simple sheet silver ones.

The titles (e.g. Madeira, Port, etc.) were also created in various ways from simple engravings or piercing to the rarest examples where the title was cast along with the body of the label. The value of most Labels is often contained within the title, with popular beverages like Claret and Sherry being more common and thus less desirable and Champagne and Whisky fetching more for their rarity.

It can generally be said that the style of the different Labels mirrors the prevailing style of the time in which they were produced. Hence there are more neo-classical examples of urns and scrolls in the second half of the 18th century while the more common and simple designs in oblongs and ovals were produced in vast quantities in the 19th century.

By the middle of the 19th century a new law forced all vintners to stick labels to their bottles before sale and so the fashion for wine Labels faded.

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

Tea Services

It is a sad fact, even in our retro loving world and even though a slight increase is perceptible, that a large percentage of tea services from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have limited value. The service which upsets many with its lack of value is the one with gilded outlines which is inscribed “genuine 22ct gold”. Sadly this cannot be scraped off and “weighed in” for scrap to give the service at least some value.

The gold used to decorate ceramics is always 22ct and it is applied by mixing and heating. One of the earliest forms was honey and gold, ground together and painted onto the article. When fired at a low temperature the result was thick and rich and could be tooled. By the 1770’s mercury gilding was taking over which led to a much thinner, more delicate result.

Had there been an enthusiastic health and safety department operating in the 18th century they would have been very busy investigating unexplained deaths of kiln workers resulting from the poisonous nature of the mercury used in the gilding process.

The other tea service which upsets people with its lack of value is the late Victorian printed and painted service. These have all been owned by a “great great” relative and are often complete,8 because they were rarely used. The reason they are worth so little is that every home had one and now few homes want one

With the resurgence of the “cup-cake” and an ever growing interest in baking and decorating cakes, cups, saucers and tea services are making a little bit of a comeback. Perhaps now is the time to start buying them again.

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

Christmas

If I had my way, which in my overpoweringly female household I never do, I would erect our Christmas tree the day before Christmas Eve. This is not a humbug thing, it’s because I think it is the most romantic day of the whole festivities. Looking at the dressed tree is all well and good and we all marvel at its beauty but it is the very act of securing it, lighting it and placing the decorations on it that is Christmas.

I write these words in the hope that my family may read them, be converted and next year reschedule the ceremony. I fear my efforts are in vain however as in addition to not paying attention to any words of wisdom I ever offer, non of my family ever read anything I write.

So, I write this beside a fully decorated, fully lit Christmas tree and I must admit in a joyful spirit of Christmas. As I smell the glorious scent from the needles and bask in wonderful glow from the bulbs I realise that these words will appear in the last edition before Christmas. So what better time could there possibly be to wish every single person who casts their eyes over this missive a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

The year 2019 saw the Dowse dynasty increase by one leading to our Christmas spend reaching new and record heights. Likewise in the saleroom new and record heights were reached which saw us selling more Fine Art, more Antiques and more Collectables than ever.

Perhaps one or two of those collectables may turn up in one or two Christmas stockings. If they do and for some inexplicable reason you don’t like the gift, worry not, we can always sell it for you next year.

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

Men’s Jewellery

It seems a strange thing to divulge, but with all our grooming, care products and general pampering us men are becoming a little old fashioned. If we look back in time at the 17th and early 18th century male we find him pampering himself beyond belief.

Late 18th century men actually wore as much jewellery as women, but during the early 19th century, following the lead of the popular British dandy Beau Brummell, trends moved towards more simple clothing and minimal jewellery which was restricted to tie pins, cufflinks and rings.

The tie pin was a long decorative pin fastened to the necktie or cravat. The late 18th century examples are shorter than later ones with fairly simple designs, usually with paste or foil backed gemstones in closed settings. Later the Victorians enthusiasm for novelty was shown in tie pin designs with sporting and hunting motifs as well as patriotic and political emblems becoming popular.

Cufflinks were introduced in the early 19th century and were as popular amongst women as they were amongst men.The design trends generally followed those of the tiepins. The best quality cufflinks are thought to be those produced in the early 19th century, usually 15ct. or 18ct. gold with fine detailing. Later ones had their gold content reduced to 9ct. and were mass produced. In the late 19th century cufflinks were often sold in a sets with matching buttons and press studs.

The most popular rings worn by men were seal or signet rings, originally used for authenticating documents by impressing the seal in wax. Signet rings made before the late 19th century tended to be set with a semi-precious stone and carved with a Coat of Arms or monogram. After the late 19th century these rings became a much simpler 9ct. gold band engraved with a monogram and mass produced almost exclusively for the expanding middle class market.

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

Toy Soldiers

Last weekend, while Christmas shopping for our many grandchildren, I treated myself to an Airfix (other manufacturers are available) Supermarine Spitfire kit. This came complete with paints, brush, Poly cement and (hopefully) detailed instructions on construction. It is suitable for ages in excess of 8 years, which amply covers me, so I thought why should the grandchildren have all the fun.

As a boy I built many of these delightful models. I felt the glorious pull of nostalgia when I bought the model, which is exactly what our mature toy collecting customers feel when they attend our toy auctions. One thing that really pushes the nostalgia button is a toy soldier.

The first commercial toy soldiers were produced in the mid 18th century on the continent, especially in Germany. They were small, solid, flat and made of lead. By the beginning of the 19th century the lead soldier was becoming more rounded in figure and production was centred on France and Germany.

Throughout the 19th century demand increased and production spread, although still mainly in Europe. But all was soon to change. A very clever Englishman called William Britain developed the hollow cast lead soldier in the 1890s. This sparked what can only be described as a toy soldier revolution as all the continental models lost favour.

The battle of the toy soldier continued however up to World War Two, with Germany, France and Italy still producing this solid model and William Britain and his fellow British manufacturers producing their hollow cast version.

Production stopped during World War Two and when the War was over experiments began with plastic. Production of the lead models ceased in 1966, with legislation regarding the lead paint and strangely enough that is when collecting hollow cast lead soldiers started to become fashionable.

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

Pot Lids

During breakfast recently my wife handed me her new jar of jam and asked me to open it. Nothing unusual in that it has been part of our married life for over forty years. What was so distressing was that for the first time in our long and glorious partnership I could not open the jar, eventually having to puncture the top with a fork to facilitate the manoeuvre.

I shall be writing to the manufacturer of my wife’s jam in the near future to protest at the new boundaries of tightness they have introduced, but in the meantime it has concentrated my mind on lids in general.

Before plastic and other packaging materials, toothpaste, creams, pastes etc. were sold in earthenware pots. Today the lids of these have become collector’s items. There are basically two kinds of pot lid, the black and white kind and the coloured kind. The black and white ones were first to be made because initially it was only possible to print a design in a single colour.

One of the most well-known pot makers was F & R Pratt. By the 1840s Pratt and a couple more potteries had managed to develop a technique for printing a design of more than one colour and were producing multi-coloured pot lids before the end of the decade.

Whilst initially pot lids carried information such as name of company, address and product, the coloured Pratt lids gradually became works of art in their own right.

Increasing production costs and competition from newly developed packaging materials meant coloured lids were forced out of production by the start of the 20th century. Because of the relative cheapness of the black and white lids they commanded a much larger market and therefore were around for quite a few years longer than their coloured counterparts.

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

Snow Domes

Last weekend my wife went into a garden centre. As I was with her I did too, although I was unsure of the reason or objective. We were immediately transported to December 24th, the displays for Christmas were everywhere and I have never seen so many snow domes.

Snow domes, or snow globes as we might know them, may conjure up images of cheap holiday souvenirs but they are in fact a popular collectable nowadays and date back further than you would think.

The first documented evidence of snow domes was by Charles Cole, American Deputy Secretary of the Commission of Glassworks, writing about the 1878 Paris Exhibition. Although it is believed that their origins lie with the development of solid glass paperweights in France in the mid-1800s, Cole makes no mention of this. The first ‘souvenir’ snow domes were made for the 1889 Paris Exposition, to commemorate the construction of the Eiffel Tower, with mini Eiffel Towers in them. After all, the real tower was originally supposed to be dismantled after the show. Unfortunately none survive today.

The 1940s saw a boom in popularity for this novelty when mass-produced plastic domes took over from the previously hand-made glass domes. Joseph Garaja patented the assembly of snow domes under water in 1927, aiding this boom.

The glass domes used various substances to achieve the ‘snow’, such as ground-up bone, ceramic dust, sand or ground rice. When the plastic dome came into production, the snow followed suit and was more often than not plastic too. The liquid in the both glass and plastic domes was water but often with an addictive such as glycol to encourage the ‘snow’ to fall more slowly and swirl around before settling.

Snow domes are not always circular with the oval becoming popular in the 1940s as it was found to be less likely to crack. Unusual shapes or examples with forms that surround the globe are popular as are those domes with internal moving or musical parts.

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

Half Dolls

Three of our children are girls and four of our grandchildren are girls so over the years I have had many relationships with many dolls, but they have always been full dolls, never half dolls.

Half dolls were essentially that, half a doll. They typically stood waist high with head and arms and were used as a decorative item. The upper bodies were usually attached to cloth skirts that were either stuffed to be used as a pincushion or used to cover household items such as teapots or powder boxes. Some later versions had separate legs which were attached to a base under the fabric skirt.

There is reference made to these pincushion dolls in the mid-18th century, however, it wasn’t until later in the 19th century and early 20th century that the half dolls were in popular demand and it was short lived as by the 1940s production had dwindled and eventually ceased altogether.

The majority of half dolls were made from porcelain or bisque but examples made from wood and wax can also be found. Key factories include Dressel & Kister, Goebel and Heubach. Some designs were very simple, while others were highly stylized, particularly the later 1920s and 30s examples when the half dolls were extremely popular and followed the clothing and hair fashions of the period. Some half dolls were even left completely naked and bald and clothes and wigs were fitted later.

The value of the half doll is principally in the form of the doll. If it is made all in one mould, with arms tucked close into the main body then these tend to hold the least value. More desirable examples will have gaps between the arms and bodies showing several moulds were used with the best having outstretched arms or even added accessories like handheld flowers. Large examples and those still retaining original skirts are also desirable to collectors.

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

Tennis Memorabilia

Every summer as the Wimbledon Tennis Championship rolls it’s tennis balls onto our television screens once again I feel a certain nostalgia for our old family sitting room and the sight of my mother groaning, cheering and jumping up and down to her darling of the centre court Virginia Wade. 1977 was an especially good year for me as not only did it see me marry my childhood sweetheart but it also saw my mothers efforts to help Virginia on her way to victory finally vindicated as she was crowned Queen of the centre court.

Tennis despite being a relatively young game, invented in 1874 by Major Walter Wingfield, has many avid memorabilia collectors and early rackets are very sought after. From the mid 1870s and the 1930s the shape of the tennis racket changed enormously, so early examples with their asymmetrical heads can be very valuable regardless of any association with a known player. Those however associated with legendary players like Fred Perry are a true collectors dream and can attract thousands of pounds at auction.

Presentation trophies too are collectable though novelty items which reflect the popularity of the early game are also of interest. Teapots, clocks and particularly jewellery were produced, a wide range of which featured racket and ball motifs.

Wimbledon specific memorabilia is always collectable. Programmes from the 1930s and earlier are now very rare and a must for collectors. A particularly popular programme would be from the first Championship held at the present site in Church Road in 1922. Programmes before this when the club was located in Worple Road, also in Wimbledon, are extremely sought after, especially from the First Championship held in 1877, when would you believe, only 160 people attended.

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

Spode

Spode was established in 1776 in Stoke-on-Trent by Josiah Spode who wanted to set up on his own after years of working for other ceramic manufacturers. Spode is generally acknowledged as developing the first recipe for bone china. Experiments were taking place in the Spode factory from around 1796 to create fine white porcelain with a recipe containing high quantities of calcined ox-bone alongside china clay and stone; originally known as ‘Stoke China’ it was later renamed ‘Bone China’.

Josiah died suddenly in 1797 and his son, Josiah II continued his work, establishing the factory as the largest and one of the best porcelain manufacturers of the early 19th century ‘Golden Age’ of British ceramics. This included being appointed ‘Potter to the Prince of Wales’ in 1806.

As well as being recognized as creating the original bone china recipe, Spode is also highly acclaimed for the part they played in the development of transfer printing in its early days. Josiah II perfected the process of transfer printing onto earthenware, producing some of the finest blue-and-white designs ever made. Their most famous pattern is probably ‘Italian’, also known as ‘Blue Italian’ or ‘Spode’s Italian’.

The Italian pattern was first introduced in 1816 and is still produced today; it is believed to have appeared on as many as 700 different shapes across the Spode range. The origins of the classical scenes of the pattern are, unfortunately for collectors, unknown. Although many of Spode’s designs can be sourced back to pictorial scenes or prints of the time, the origins of the Italian pattern remain a mystery and despite research by many interested parties, no single Italian scene has ever been found that encompasses all the features of the pattern.

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