In the 1960s, when I was a boy in the saleroom, watching my father on the rostrum from inside my brown porters overall, nobody bought second hand pianos. I remember one of my boyhood tasks was to take the ‘Shepherds casters’ from the feet of pianos, before they were sent to their final resting place, because these were very saleable. As I grew, so did the demand for pianos. By middle age demand was strong and prices were high. As I approach late middle age nobody wants pianos again.

This romantic dip into my past life is just to illustrate how the demand for our chattels changes over the years. Put simply, the prevailing fashion trends influence the values of our antiques and collectables.

Before the well known downturn in demand for the ‘brown furniture’ of the Victorian era, nobody wanted to buy second hand teak in any shape or form. Now, however, the large mirror backed sideboard our grandparents polished within an inch of its Victorian life, is replaced in our affections with the low sleek lines of 1960s teak.

Almost more popular today than the low sleek sideboard of the 1960s, is the same period’s version of today’s Ikea shelving, Ladderax. What a great seller that is, everybody loves it. In short it is shelving, but shelving like never before, designed and created by Robert Heal in 1964. As the name suggests it consists of a collection of upright ladders. These then support shelves and cupboards on steel supporting rods, threaded horizontally in any desired combination. Hence the final look of your ladderax wall unit is an individually designed triumph. What more could an upwardly mobile 1960s house owner wish for.

Upwardly mobile or laid back relaxed, furniture from that wonderful period of my school days is back with a vengeance.

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.


I have a wife, who is female, three out of my four children are female and four out of my many grandchildren are female. It is fair to say therefore that I am familiar with the doll as a toy. There is one doll all my females, including my wife in her oh so distant childhood, all loved; enter Barbie.

Barbie was developed by the toy company Mattel, run by Harold Mattson and Elliot Handler. Elliot’s wife Ruth created the idea and made Barbie a success.

By the 1950s Mattel was enjoying great success. Ruth’s idea to produce a plastic doll which would aid imaginary play, having watched her daughter playing make believe with paper dolls, did not go down well with her male colleagues. The costs and scepticism at producing a doll with explicit adult features also met with resistance, despite that Ruth had observed her daughter recreating adult like situations with her paper dolls.

It was in Switzerland on holiday that Ruth noticed in a shop window a doll similar to her own idea. However this doll was targeting a purely adult market. Eventually Mattel acquired the patent for this doll and after an analysis of every technical detail of the body design, the doll we know today was born, named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara, finally arriving on the American toy market in 1959.

The first Barbie ever produced measured 11.5” and was available in both blonde and brunette. She wore a black and white swim suit, black high heeled shoes, white sunglasses and gold earrings.

Barbie’s initial success and prevailing popularity is not in her adult features, but in her wardrobe, her ability to be transformed simply with a change of outfit. There are endless accessories on sale today and Barbie still has the ability to inspire children’s imagination, the essence of Ruth’s initial vision.

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

Retro Gaming

With Christmas memories and waistlines starting to fade, the bright screens and click-click of the gaming handsets can still be heard across the bedrooms and dens of the country as the eagerly anticipated video console games of 2020 are bring played. The likes of FIFA 2020, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order are still pulling strong on the current generation of ‘gamers’.   

However, for gamers of an earlier generation there appears to be a resurgence of nostalgic times past and a passion to collect the video consoles and games of their youth.  The technology may not have been so advanced but the draw and thrill of rolling back the years is a fast-growing collector’s market. As the ‘gamers’ of the 1980’s and 1990’s grow a little older, they seem to have an urge to collect the technology they grew up with. 

So just how long ago did the video gaming age start? In pure terms electronic gaming goes back as long as the earliest computers and the time of Alan Turing and the years immediately after the Second World War. However, home video gaming as perhaps we now understand it, dates back to the mid 1970’s and the introduction of the wonderfully named ‘Home Pong’ by Atari which was a ping pong style game based on amusement arcade gaming concepts. By the 1980’s the advent of home computers in the form of such systems as the Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 gave a platform for home video gaming and by the 1990’s video gaming had console systems of their own such as Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64 and Sega Megadrive to name a few and the world of the gaming ‘fanatic’ came to be born. As the years have rolled on the technology continues to evolve until today and Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. But will any of these systems catch up with the biggest selling consoles of all time – Playstation 2 and Nintendo DS.  

The British Broadcasting Corporation Microcomputer System, or BBC Micro, is a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by the Acorn Computer company in the 1980s for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Designed with an emphasis on education, it was notable for its ruggedness, expandability, and the quality of its operating system. An accompanying 1982 television series, The Computer Programme, featuring Chris Serle learning to use the machine, was broadcast on BBC2.

The consoles are only part of the story, the other half is the games themselves. From the early days of the ‘Pong’ game developers have taken us to worlds of adventure, racing, puzzles, logic, sport among others and it is in these games that many a collector’s dreams are followed. Individual games can sell in for excess of £10,000 in the collector’s market. Do you have a hidden dust covered copy of ‘Air Raid’ for the 1970’s Atari 2600 or the 1990 Nintendo World Championship on the NES platform?????? In these, value is driven by rarity but what have been the most popular games ever sold? Who remembers the world of colourful tiles? Yes, ‘Tetris’ with over 500 million copies sold worldwide, is a leading contender along with ‘cubes’ of the world of Minecraft. 

If you are drawn back to the world of ‘retro technology’ a number of top tips may help clarify your thinking:-

  1. Always try to ensure the items you buy are working and complete. 
  2. Try to buy with original packaging intact especially if are thinking investment rather than ‘play’. Cables and instructions are often missing.  
  3. If the consideration is long term investment buy the items no one else is buying 
  4. Look out for promotional packaging or bundle deals that may have a short retail shelf life.
  5. ….and games currently on the up in value Cool World on Super Nintendo, Tintin Destination Adventure on original Playstation or what about Amazing Penguin on Gameboy…

The overriding advice as with all collecting hobbies is – enjoy it – as for your authors personal favourite – ‘Goldeneye’ on the Nintendo 64 – ‘I will be with you in a minute Miss Moneypenny, just got to finish level 3!’

The 20th February 2020 sees a specialist auction of Retro Technology taking place at Sheffield Auction Gallery where the likes of Super Mario, Grand Theft Auto, X-Box, Playstation, Atari, ZX Spectrum, Saga game Gear, Super Mario among others are being offered for auction. 

“The technology may be simpler, however, re-living the ‘gaming dramas’ of our youth is becoming more and more popular.” Commented Auction Gallery specialist cataloguer – James Mettam.     

If you have a collection or a single item you’d like to sell in our specialist auction, please contact us either on 0114 281 6161 or email us

Burleigh Ware Jugs

I have noticed lately that in many ‘trendy’ coffee shops these days there are very few handles on the milk jugs. Being brought up on handled jugs and had the importance of the correct use of a handle drilled into me from a toddler, I find this trend rather disconcerting. Also, as an auctioneer and valuer there is nothing I love more than a good handle. Take Burleigh Ware handles for example.

The period of the 1930s and onwards is generally considered to be the golden era for Burleigh Ware. During this time the factory employed over 500 people and among them were some of the most highly skilled potters and artists available.

During this highly productive era Burleigh Ware expanded into the very recognisable brightly coloured tableware, which sold in vast quantities. Probably some of the best known of these pieces were the bright yellow jugs with sculptural handles in the form of animals and humans. The jugs were all hand painted so each one was slightly different, with the most attractive being the most sought after.

Designers Charles Wilkes and Ernest Bailey are credited with much of the design work on these iconic jugs. They made a huge variety of animals from parrots and kingfishers to butterflies and squirrels and even dragons.

All these jugs can be purchased for very reasonable sums at auction these days, with the animals being particularly affordable. The human characters tend to be more sought after with examples such as the rare guardsman and the sporting designs of the golfer and cricketer being particularly popular.

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