Leica Cameras

Whenever I am shown a group shot photograph the first person I look for is myself. If I am not there the relief is palpable, if I am, the image which stares back at me never fails to disappoint. The expression “the camera never lies” just adds to my disappointment.

With all the ‘apps’ available today though, the camera can in fact lie very easily. Images can be improved with very little effort. All those years ago when the pioneers were struggling just to develop a clear black and white photograph, the thought of taking, viewing, improving and printing a colour photograph in less time than it took to set up their camera, would never have entered their Victorian heads.

The same can be said for Oskar Barnack. Who was Oskar Barnack? He was a very clever gentleman who in 1911 joined the Leitz company run by Ernst Leitz and who had a passion for photography and was dedicated to building a portable camera. In 1913 he built a prototype and in 1914 he developed it enough for Ernst to take with him on a trip to New York.

Between 1914 and 1924 a lot of water flows under the company’s bridges and the camera goes into production. It is called Leica 1, Lei from the company name and ca from the word camera. In 1925 it is presented at the Leipzig Spring Fair and the rest is history. The camera is a rip-roaring success, the quality is superb and all future developments to it and other models are amazing.

Surprisingly it was not until 1986 that the company changed the name from Leitz to Leica and the Leica Camera division became a private independent company. What a company it was and still today their products are the envy of the world.

Collectors the world over love a Leica and in a recent auction we conducted with a collection of cameras, including many Leicas, most of the estimates were exceeded by large amounts. We are privileged and I have to say excited that on Thursday 14th October we have another camera auction with more Leicas on display. Can life get any better?

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.

Cornish Kitchenware

This summer, being the summer of staycation for many, seems to be the summer of grandparentscation for all Dowses and their offsprings. There is a saying, well known I believe, that it is possible to get “too much of a good thing”. I think we may have reached that point, especially as two of our Cornish Kitchen Ware jars have bitten the proverbial dust during these many “…cations”.

True Cornishware was produced by T.G. Green of Church Gresley in Derbyshire from the 1920s onwards. The name is said to have come from one of the employees who, on returning from holiday in Cornwall, saw the new range and said that the blue was like the Cornish skies and the white was like crests of Cornish waves.

By the 1980s Cornishware had declined in popularity and the rights to make it were sold to Cloverleaf of Swindon and in 2001 to Mason Cash and Co.

Maker’s marks on the base aid identification and dating. Early marks from the 1920-1940s are printed in green. Most original Cornishware bears a printed mark in green or black, showing the church at Church Gresley and is crossed by the words ‘Cornish Kitchen Ware’.

Named jars are more collectable than plain jars and rare names like ‘Lard’ and ‘Meal’ are even more desirable. Always check the name is not a later addition. Although blue and white is the most common colour others were produced. Red is by far the rarest, because it was produced as an experiment in the 1960s and never went into full production.

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.

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.

Tinplate Toys

When I watch our older grandchildren playing with their toys they just don’t seem to cherish them in the same way that I remember cherishing my childhood toys. Now maybe I was just a sad old toy cherisher or maybe attitudes have changed slightly. If attitudes are changing and us oldies cared more for our toys, just imagine then how much those late Victorian and Edwardian children must have cherished their exciting new tin plate toys.

The best tinplate toys combine fine detailing, period styling and renowned makers and it was in the early 19th century that they began to exceed the popularity and manufacture of their wooden counterparts. They are amongst the earliest mass produced toys available.

The toys were made from sheets of tinplated steel which was cut out, shaped and then decorated, making them cheaper and easier to produce than the wooden toys of the period. The late 19th and early 20th centuries are considered the ‘Golden Age’ of the tinplate toy.

Many of the important makers were German, with the most sought after including Marklin and Bing although the American makers Marx and Strauss are also keenly collected.

Before the 1890s tinplate toys were hand painted which ensured a high level of detail. This detail included boats with portholes that opened and very realistic rigging and motor cars with lamps, doors that opened and rubber tyres. These examples, although inexpensive in their day, are amongst the most highly prized by collectors in the saleroom.

From the 1900s the painting was largely replaced by the printing technique of colour lithography which used a transfer. It was faster and more economical but it made the toys lighter and less complex. However the prices for such examples are still relatively high, depending of course on type size and condition.

As with most collectables the key to value is rarity, quality and condition and this coupled with the desire of ownership ensures that the tinplate market is always very buoyant.

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

Jennens and Bettridge

Last weekend saw my wife and I entertaining one of our grandchildren and me suddenly remembering papier-mâché at school. Out came the flour and water and in no time we had a couple of bowls covered with sticky strips of paper and a mess everywhere. I started to explain to our little charge about papier-mâché furniture, but interest in the subject soon waned.

Papier-mâché furniture became popular in the Victorian period of the 19th century. The decoration is japanned or varnished onto a mostly black background.

Papier-mâché furniture was produced by a number of makers but they largely remained anonymous. However, Jennens and Bettridge is one company whose name is synonymous with papier-mâché. In 1816 they took over the firm of Clays in Birmingham and from then on began the great age of japanned papier-mâché for which they are now famous.

Their earlier pieces tended to be smaller items such as bottle coasters, writing slopes, trays, glove boxes and fans. Once the market had accepted these smaller items they began to experiment with larger pieces which included furniture like dressing tables and cabinets.

Pieces by Jennens and Bettridge do carry the company mark, usually impressed on the reverse beneath a crown. No other papier-mâché companies are known to have signed their wares.

Decoration is usually hand painted and elaborate, showing flowers, birds or on occasion even full landscapes. Giltwork was commonly incorporated into the design and used on borders and rims of furniture. Mother of pearl inlay was another typical feature and this was introduced by George Souter at Jennens and Bettridge in 1825.

The condition of japanned papier-mâché items is a crucial factor in estimating their value. Papier- mâché needs to breath and is liable to crack and warp if not given sympathetic conditions. The effects of central heating can be truly devastating on a piece. Beware, because restoration is very difficult and often unsuccessful.

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