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.

Candelabra

This Christmas , like many people all over the country, my wife and I will be basking in our own company. For us this will be the first time in our married life this has happened. The question on both our lips has been the same. Do we bring out the candelabra?

Candelabra follow the styles of the candlestick, but they are rare before the late 18th century and if found will generally only have two detachable arms. By the end of the 18th century candelabra are more common and fashion dictated that the number of arms found on their detachable tops increased, initially to three but by the middle of Victoria’s reign five, six and more were common.

The three branch candelabra was a common sight by the end of the 18th century. These were tall and they grew in size until their peak in the Regency period. The decoration, as explained, followed the candlestick and around this time decoration of fluting was enclosed by beaded borders.

It is important to ensure that the decoration of the main body matches that of the detachable branches, therefore ensuring the candelabra is all original and not a marriage of two parts. As in life there are good and bad marriages, but with the candelabra ever a top and bottom living together in complete love and perfect harmony will never be as good as a completely original example.

On the early candelabra the branches could be removed and the central stem used as a candlestick. On later examples this dual usage was impossible because the stems grew too high and the nozzles too wide to hold a candle.

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.

Shelley

Last week I looked at the incredible rise in popularity of 1960s teak furniture and this week I open with the demise in popularity of so many 19th and 20th century porcelain factories. Not however the products emanating from the doors of the Shelley factory, these have always kept their appeal.

The Shelley factory, established in 1872, was first known as Wileman & Co., then as Foley and as Shelley from 1925, becoming Shelley Potteries Ltd. in 1929 and finally Shelley China Ltd. in 1965.

Shelley, under the direction of Art Director, Frederick Rhead, produced a number of hand painted earthenware grotesques, animals and Toby jugs in the 1890s which were deliberately made to look ugly. These achieved great success, but it was not until the 1920s that Shelley pieces achieved their ultimate success. Their high quality Art Deco tableware became famous with the help of a national advertising campaign.

After the Art Deco success came the figures of fairies and other characters, as well as nursery wares based on the illustrations of Mabel Lucie Attwell.

Shelley pieces are always popular in auctions and the two main collecting areas are the Art Deco tea wares and the Mabel Lucie Attwell related pieces, which tend to represent children, the clergy and golfers.

Although Shelley figures are amongst the strangest ever produced they are still very collectable. The most interest tends to be in the chubby cheeked child studies accompanied by fairy folk. Many of these are modelled riding a variety of animals and birds, or standing on toadstools, sometimes with the addition of rabbits.

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.

Ladderax

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.

Music Boxes

I love listening to music. Anything from opera to punk, I love almost all of it. With the exception of a small vinyl collection my wife has, all this music is on my mobile phone. I find that absolutely amazing and incredibly convenient. I wonder if 18th century man found the music box just as amazing.

Musical mechanisms were first fitted in Swiss clocks and automata in the 17th century. However, the musical box, which was either powered by clockwork or operated by a handle, came into being in its own right in the 18th century. It comprised of a rotating cylinder that produced sound when raised pins plucked a row of fine steel teeth on a comb-like metal plate.

By the 19th century the musical box was firmly established as an affordable form of entertainment and was produced in large numbers. As techniques improved, seven or eight tunes could be set on one cylinder. The cylinders were housed in wooden boxes, often with plain sides and decoratively inlaid tops. The better the box, usually the better the mechanism was with more special effects like butterfly bells, cymbals and drums. Specialist makers like Nicole Freres also add value to a musical box sold in today’s mechanical market place.

The problem with the music box was that the cylinder could only hold so many pins and thus the number and complexity of the tunes, or “airs”, was limited. A simple, often rather basic model
( like a car without satellite navigation) would have less pins in the cylinder and so play fewer and simpler tunes. These are today the lower value models which can be purchased for much less.

A more complicated model with many multiple pin tunes together with bells, drums and cymbals by a maker like Nicole Freres will be at the other end of the money scale.

As a final thought, if contemplating the purchase of one of these beautiful boxes, always view with your ears.

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.

Teddy Bears

Many years ago when, believe it or not, I was young, I recall early evening searches through the garden shrubbery in search of our eldest daughter’s small panda, as she would not sleep without him. I wonder how many parents, over the years, have done the self same thing. Many, I think and mostly I suspect in search of teddy bears.

America has always laid claim to being the birthplace of the “Teddy Bear”. Why is this? Well on a hunting trip in 1902 it is reputed that the then president Teddy Roosevelt, when having a perfect opportunity to shoot a bear, declined the shot refusing to kill the bear. It is then said that Morris Michtom made a small commemorative bear and gave it to the president in commemoration of the incident. This was Teddy’s bear.

It is though Germany who can lay claim to the most famous teddy bear maker of all; Margarete Steiff, who was producing jointed bears from 1902. A Steiff bear has the trademark “Steiff” embossed on a small white metal button in its ear. Classic Steiff bears have ears that are small, cupped and set wide apart, noses with horizontal stitching joining an upturned Y-shaped mouth and paws featuring four (or five on very early bears) stitched claws. An early Steiff bear in good and original condition can realise many thousands of pounds.

When teddy bear mania arrived in Britain, existing toy manufacturers began to produce their own teddies. The banning of German imports during the First World War led to an increase in the number of British makers including Chad Valley, Farnell and Deans.

By the Second World War British bears had become plumper with shorter legs and fatter faces. Synthetic fibres replaced the mohair plush. British bears always realise less than their German counterparts but still are and always have been very popular with 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

Paperweights

Recently, while discussing cars I have owned with a friend, I was reminded of a 1995 Land Rover Discovery I was driving in 1997 when we spent one of the worst holidays of our married life somewhere in the middle of France. My wife ended up in hospital 40 miles away from our cottage for the whole of the second week, our youngest wet the bed and we had to buy a new mattress and on the way home we learnt of Princess Diana’s demise. I still, however, love France and particularly French paperweights.

The French glasshouses of Baccarat, Clichy and St Louis were responsible for some of the finest and most inventive paperweights produced between 1845 and 1860. A limited number of English paperweights were made at about the same time at George Bacchus & Sons in Birmingham and examples of these in good condition can often realise high prices.

The main types of decoration are millefiori meaning “thousand flowers” and lampworking. Millefiori requires glass rods or canes arranged concentrically, formally or randomly before being cut and imbedded within clear glass. Those that include silhouette canes featuring animals and birds are always at a premium, as are dated examples.

Lampworking involves individually sculpted flowers, butterflies, fruit and reptiles, including snakes, made in coloured glass using a direct heat source before being captured in glass. Some of the most desirable weights are then overlaid with white and or coloured glass and facet cut to reveal the design inside.

The condition of a paperweight is important. Bruises and chips will make a paperweight undesirable to collect and therefore they will limit its value. Size is also important, in particular magnums at 10cm and miniatures, which are less than 5cm, are the most popular with 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

Vinaigrettes

Recently, before Covid, on an Irish holiday of track, trace and view my wife’s relatives, the evening meal found her reminiscing long hot summers (we never seem to remember short cold summers) on the farm and the smell of silage that no one in the farmhouse seemed to notice. I said a vinaigrette would have proved useful, just as they were to the Georgian ladies as they traversed the smelly city streets.

At the end of the 18th century a combination of poor personal hygiene and disastrous sewage control made walking through streets a rather smelly business. Enter the vinaigrette. Used by many in polite society, it was a tiny hinged box which opened to reveal a decorative grill trapping a perfume soaked sponge. When held close to the nostrils the smell was considerably more pleasant than the surrounding odours.

The earliest vinaigrettes were simply the tiny boxes already described. The interior of the box was gilt lined to prevent the acidic liquid from destroying the metal. A side ring would be added, which enabled the owner to wear it as a pendant on a necklace or as part of a bracelet.

As the earliest vinaigrettes were so small their decoration was little more than simple engraving or bright cut patterns. However by the early 19th century vinaigrettes had grown somewhat and now at an enormous 4cms there was room for much more elaborate decoration. They were decorated with intricate scrollwork, flowers and foliage and figural and animal designs. The borders were often cast raised with flowers and shells and the lids could sometimes be engraved with initials or personal Coats of Arms.

The basic rectangular form was eventually abandoned in favour of more exciting shapes and designs. These varied widely from tiny purses and fob watches to books, flowers, fish, animals and shells. These are the details that make the collecting of vinaigrettes such an exciting and vibrant hobby for today’s collector and why they always sell so well in the saleroom.

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

Cutlery

With the advent of the dishwasher the demand for electroplated cutlery has sadly declined. I feel that today’s diners are missing out on the unprecedented joy (perhaps a slight exaggeration) of owning and using such fabulous flatware. That fact aside, the history of cutlery up to the development of electroplate is actually an interesting one.

In medieval Europe most people had a wooden or pewter spoon at home and if visiting friends or relatives they took it with them. The wealthy tended to do the same, but theirs were silver. Later a knife was added, but spoons, especially silver ones, hammered from a single small ingot, have survived in much greater numbers.

With the exception of Apostle spoons, spoons were not made in sets until the end of the 17th century. Many were, however, given as presents on special occasions, which could account for why so many have survived today.

When Charles II returned from exile in France in 1660, he brought with him the idea of setting a table for eating. This was a wonderful idea which not only dispensed with the embarrassment of forgetting one’s spoon when visiting, but also made the whole dining experience much more enjoyable. As with all good ideas though it took many years to catch on and it is unusual to find complete sets of cutlery that date much before the late 18th century.

Individual designs all have their own names. In Britain, the Trefid pattern gave way to the Dog Nose pattern circa 1702. Throughout the 18th century the Hanoverian pattern was followed by the Old English and finally the Fiddle pattern. The 19th century started with the Kings pattern. These patterns and their variants are still produced today.

Collectors have great fun collecting full canteens by matching patterns and periods. What is even more fun is to collect one maker.

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