Previous News - Christmas gifts and fine antiques find eager buyers at The Canterbury Auction Galleries


It drew waves of admiring glances when it starred in a 2004 BBC Antiques Roadshow programme recorded at Hampton Court, and when it led the toy section of the Two-Day auction at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, the tinplate model of the British gunboat HMS Terror made waves again. It sold for £3,600.

The gunboat, the terror of any park boating lake, was made at the Nuremberg factory of Gebrüder Bing (Bing brothers) at the turn of the 20th century, then the world’s largest toy manufacturers. It was sent for sale by a local collector who had traced its history back to 1905. The toy still had its original key and wheeled undercarriage, so the Suffolk collector who purchased it will be able to use it both in and out of the boating lake.

This being the last sale before Christmas, toys and other ideal presents teased bidders into spending freely. The chances of owning the full size No 1 “Blower” Bentley built to win the 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans are pretty remote – it sold for £5 million last year – but a replica by Stevenson Bros, registration No. MCG 1, appropriately with British racing green paintwork, wire wheels and working electric lights was the next best thing. Admittedly it had a fibreglass body and a little rusting to the metal trimmings, and of course, pedals instead of a supercharged engine, but it was enough to win a £1,750 bid for ownership, twice its local owner’s expectation. It was purchased by a local buyer bidding on the Internet.

The sale also offered a number of Victorian bisque-headed fashion dolls, pick of which was Simon & Halbig automaton, which played a drum held in her right hand. She had fixed blue eyes and open mouth and stood on a square box base which concealed her clockwork mechanism. Sent for sale from a local lady’s collection, she sold to a West Kent buyer for £1,300, a multiple of the estimate.

Whether it had ever been a Christmas gift to a chess player will never be known, but a good carved ivory "Staunton" pattern chess set by Jacques, sold together with a rare Victorian Cartonpierre chess board and contained in a matching box, produced a flurry of bids and counter bids. So called because its papier-maché construction imitates bronze, the gothic style board was set against a red leather ground, stamped in gilt by the retailer "Leuchars, Piccadilly", dating it to circa 1870. From another local home, the lot was purchased by a Midlands dealer for £5,300.

Another rarity was a rare Mauds 1895 Patent "Turncock" corkscrew, taken by its private local owner to one of the auctioneer’s free Friday morning valuation sessions. It sold for a double estimate £740 and will be put to work Down Under this Christmas, having been purchased by an Australian buyer.

Jewellery, silver, fine art and antiques of a more serious nature, fetched equally serious money, notably a modern platinum mounted diamond solitaire ring, the four carat stone shouldered to either side by two baguette cut diamonds. The top lot in the sale, it sold on estimate for £15,000 and was purchased by a lady in the room, so probably not a surprise Christmas present.

In silver, a pair of pretty Art Nouveau embossed photograph frames by J.C. Plimpton & Co, (Chester 1904) enamelled in green and blue and decorated with flowers had been sent for sale by an Italian collector and was purchased by a local buyer for £2,600.

The most valuable piece in the ceramics section sale was found, predictably, among the Chinese entries. A rare blue and white porcelain "Five Cranes" charger, from the collection of millionaire mining magnate, philanthropist and famed collector Sir Alfred Chester Beatty sold for £8,500, just shy of it presale high estimate.

It had been consigned by the Kent family of the late Thomas Horat Bradford, who was managing director of the mining company Selection Trust Ltd., founded by Beatty in 1913. It is thought he acquired the charger at the sale of the Chester Beatty estate, in 1953.

Cranes in flight are auspicious in Chinese iconography, signifying the epithet from the giver of the gift: “May you rise high and become an official of the first rank”. The charger dated from the Jiajing period of the Ming dynasty (1522-1566) and was purchased by the London trade.

In English ceramics, a rare mid 18th century salt glazed teapot finely enamelled with oriental figures in a landscape was probably by Thomas and John Wedgwood, uncles of the great Josiah. It sold to a local collector for £1,650 against an estimate of £700-900, while from the 20th century, an unusual Royal Doulton 'Sung' glazed pottery seated figure of a Buddha supporting a male and female figure in his upturned hands was thought to be a rare, possibly unique, trial piece or prototype. Dating from circa 1926, it sold to a Cheshire buyer for £4,800, a multiple of the estimate.

Elsewhere in the oriental section of the sale, a Chinese carved agate censer and cover carved as a crouching 'Bixi' – one of the Dragon king’s nine sons with the neck of a turtle and the head of a dragon – had been offered in three previous auctions but had remained unsold each time. Entered again with a greatly reduced reserve, it sold this time for £3,000, exceeding all previous estimates. It was purchased by a Chinese bidder in Sheffield.

In Japanese works of art, a matched pair of wooden or Bokken swords, termed a Daisho, literally “big-little”, on hardwood stand were of excellent quality. They sold to a local collector for £820, four times their estimate. Bokken were used by samurai warriors during training and combat.

There was a particularly happy outcome for one Scottish bidder who, with the aid of the Internet’s search capabilities, had discovered that an early Victorian mahogany longcase clock in the sale had been made by John Pirrie of Cullen, a distant relative. A James Pierrie (d. 1870) is recorded as working in the small Banffshire village in 1830, while John Pirrie (d. 1857) is recorded in Perth in 1820.

The clock had typically Scottish circular brass dial with subsidiary second dial, in a hood with bowed glass and arched and moulded cornice, and a well figured case with arched and panelled trunk door. It will be returning home having been secured with a winning bid of £780.

A purchase with a somewhat greater distance to cover before joining its purchaser was an impressive 19th century French ormolu and porcelain mounted mantel clock, similar to those which proved popular in last April’s inaugural sale in China by a consortium of UK regional auctioneers under the banner of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers. (Triple-A). The Canterbury Auction Galleries is a member.

A number of Chinese dealers were drawn to this example, competition among them driving the price beyond its £800-1,000, to sell to one of them for £4,800. Contained in an elegant case set with a porcelain dial decorated in royal blue and gilt and centred by Cupid, the clock had further panels decorated with Cupid, a young woman and landscapes and a bold two-handled urn.

Returning from its travels in France to be sold in Kent was a good, early 18th century figured walnut secretaire à abattant, sent for sale by a lady who is moving back to the UK from her home near Calais. The desk’s upper part was fitted with a central cupboard and 14 small drawers enclosed by a fall front, while the base had two short and two long drawers, the whole inlaid with herringbone and crossbanding. It sold to a local buyer for £3,400, while from the same home, an Eastern brass-mounted hardwood chest, the lid applied with pierced brass oval plaques and shaped panels, the front boldly carved with scrolled leafage, had once been a gift from Prince Feisal al Hussein to Colonel C. E. Wilson CMG CBE DSO. It sold to a Kent private buyer for £2,100.

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