Previous News - Internet is King as private and trade buyers bid to win at The Canterbury Auction Galleries


Private and trade buyers competed hard for the 1,000-plus lots on offer in the first Two Day Sale of the New Year at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, with more and more of them using the Internet to win purchases. More than 400 people registered to bid online - the largest total to date for the auctioneers - purchasing 8% of the sale total.

In addition to the UK and Europe, Internet bids came from Hong Kong, the US, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Turkey (one buyer securing a number of pieces of Blue Series Doulton ware) and, despite the political turmoil there, Egypt. Adding to the solid sale total were 240 commission bids, many on multiple lots, and 120 telephone bidders, as well as bidders in the room, including one man who purchased 18 lots of Georgian and Victorian furniture for a home he was furnishing for his son.

As anticipated, a charming charcoal portrait of Bobbie Gould Shaw the handsome but ultimately troubled son of Nancy Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent stole the limelight, selling for £23,000 against an estimate of £3,000-5,000. The portrait was of Robert “Bobbie” Gould Shaw III (1898-1970) wearing the uniform probably of the Blues and Royals. It was purchased on the telephone by Daniel Katz, the London dealer who specialises in European sculpture. He said he intended to add it to his own collection of 20th century British art.

Bobbie Gould Shaw was the homosexual son of Lady Astor from her first marriage to Robert Gould Shaw II, the nephew of the commander of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the American Civil War. Bobbie had led a troubled life. He barely knew his father and was sent away to be educated at Shrewsbury School. He had a brief army career, but his increasing problem with alcoholism and his suicidal tendencies meant his life was troubled from his early years. He was arrested and jailed for six months for homosexuality in 1931. He was badly affected by the death of his mother in 1964 and shocked by his half-brother’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1966. He took his own life in 1970.

Lady Astor gave the portrait to Bobbie’s partner, Alfred Goodey, and it came to light only when Alfred’s brother Jack took it to one of the saleroom’s free Friday valuation mornings. Jack Goodey said he was thrilled with the result. "My brother told me that one it would bring a lot of money,” he said. I was expecting it to sell for around £10,000 but the result is fantastic. It's my 69th birthday next week, so it's a nice birthday present but I expect I'll split the money between my nine children."

Another delighted vendor was the Thanet lady whose father Mr.? was a member of the cycling squad which competed the 1948 London Olympics. He had collected cycling ephemera from his youth and after completing his apprenticeship with the famous clockmaker Dent, he had taken a year out to cycle around Europe, collecting postcards on his travels. Their sale aroused a huge interest among both deltiologists and collectors of cycling memorabilia, with the result that prices were far in excess of their estimates.

A Devon collector who had travelled to the sale specially was rewarded with two lots, one comprising approximately 480 postcards of mostly black-and-white topographical views showing cyclists and bicycles and including five First World War embroidered silk cards depicting the coat of arms of the Army Cyclist Corps. It sold for £2,000 against an estimate of £250-400, while a selection of black-and-white studio photographs mainly featuring bicycles sold for £360.

In total, printed ephemera sold for £10,640, while a late Victorian nine carat gold time medal awarded by the Anerley Bicycle Club to E M Bowden for completing 153 miles in 12 hours in 1896, together with a nine carat gold fob "Wolverhampton Floral Fete Cycle Polo 1907" and a number of medallions, medals and badges sold for £620. Three late 19th or early 20th century acetylene-powered Lucas bicycle lamps: the Calcia Cade, Revenge and Silver King were sold together with a selection of other battery-powered lamps and other accessories for £290, taking the grand total to £11,550.

From a local deceased estate was a large collection of early printed maps depicting numerous English counties by such luminaries as Joan Blaeu (1596-1673), Robert Morden (1668-1703) and John Speed (1552-1629). They sold for a total of £5,850

Chinese buyers continue to pay handsomely to repatriate ceramics and works of art that turn up in UK sales. An Internet bidder from China paid £2,000 against an estimate of £200-300 for a group of three bronze two-handled censers, sent for sale from a Herne Bay vendor. They were reputed to have been purchased from the sale of the estate of the Edwardian male impersonator Vesta Tilley (1864-1952) as was a Chinese bronze spherical korro and cover with engraved dragon decoration, sold together with a further pair of two-handled censers. The purchaser was a UK-based Chinese buyer on the Internet who paid £400 against an estimate of £100-150.

The story was the same in the ceramics section of the sale. A pair of Chinese porcelain spherical ginger jars and covers enamelled in colours with figures engaged in various pursuits within a red and white blossom border had been estimated at £60-80 in view of their damage condition but sold for £1,350 to a London-based Chinese dealer. The jars had been sent for sale by a local couple who were about to emigrate, while another local consignor must have been pleased with the £5,200 received for a Chinese porcelain crackle glazed brush pot incised with bands of stylised archaistic dragons. It was purchased by a Beijing collector on the Internet against an estimate of £2,000-3,000.

However, Chinese buyers faced some competition. A London private collector secured a pair of late 19th or early 20th century Chinese porcelain figures of Dogs of Fo for £1,250 against an estimate of £120-160 and a Surrey phone bidder was the victor in the bidding battle for a Chinese School watercolour on silk depicting the presentation of items to an emperor which sold for £3,700 against the same estimate.

In European ceramics, a further group of tobacco jars from the extensive collection formed by retired Rainham schoolmaster, the late Mr Eric Rotherham and his wife sold for a total of the £4,190, while a Folkestone gentlemen chose the sale to thin out his collection of Doulton "Blue Children" pottery, the eight lots raising a total of £2,550. Interestingly, they caught the attention of a buyer in Turkey who secured all eight by bidding on the Internet.

Again illustrating the reach of new technology, a buyer in Czechoslovakia beat off a telephone bidder to secure Meissen figure of Cupid, sold with a Berlin porcelain figure of "Diana the Huntress" and a group of putti astride a dolphin. They sold for £780 against an estimate of £200-300.

Whether or not local private buyers were influenced by the approach of Valentine's Day was not clear, but some fine pieces made excellent prices in the jewellery section. A modern 18 carat white gold diamond ring, the 1.3 carat central stone cut as a teardrop flanked by baguette-cut pink diamonds sold to a local private buyer for a top estimate £1,500. An 18 carat white gold seven stone diamond half hoop ring set with seven brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of 1.2 carats sold for £1,050 and a white gold and diamond five band ring, each band set with a half hoop of diamonds, sold for £1,000.

An 18 carat gold mounted and all-diamond necklace comprising 95 brilliant-cut diamonds each graduating in size from .33 to .1 carats with a crucifix pendant set with 11 further diamonds weighing a total of 2.75 carats sold after the sale for £12,500.

Highlight in works of art was a good gilt, green and brown patinated bronze figure of Tiffany showing a young woman seated on a rustic stump with a scroll in her hand. Signed Mathurin Moreau (1822-1912) it sold on top estimate for £3,000. A 19th century Austrian cold-painted bronzed metal figure of a Moorish merchant went to a West Midlands buyer on the telephone for £1,450 and a 19th century Dieppe ivory wall mirror decorated with seaweed, angels, serpents and worded "Scotorum” was secured by a Hampshire telephone bidder for £700.

There was a great deal of presale interest in a 19th century marble bust of a young woman which, despite a slight chip to its base, sold for £900 against an estimate of £120-160. It was purchased by a local private collector who beat several telephone bidders.

There was no sign of a let-up in the enthusiasm on day two, when a strong selection of furniture caused a buzz among both trade and private buyers. Even there, the Chinese influence was felt when a trade buyer paid £1,400 for a late 19th or early 20th century Chinese carved rosewood display unit. Top priced lot however was paid by a private buyer who bid £2,000 for a George III gentlemen's figured mahogany wardrobe with a pair of oval panelled doors opening to reveal for sliding trays above too short and too long drawers.

A George III figured mahogany tallboy with two short and six long drawers and brushing slides sold for an above estimate £1,800 and a George II Cuban mahogany semi-circular card table, the baize-lined folding top with four recessed token holders sold for £1,500, or three times its presale low estimate.

A George IV figured mahogany chiffonier fitted with pleated silk and brass mesh doors went to the Cambridge trade for £1,150 against an estimate of £600-800 and the Sussex trade took a pair of Chippendale design George III mahogany open armchairs for £740. However, it was a private buyer who paid £700 for a late Victorian three-seat button-backed chesterfield settee against an estimate of £250-350.

Arguably the most historically interesting piece in the furniture section of the sale, however, was a single 19th century Gothic oak bar back dining chair designed by Edward Welby Pugin (1834-1875) for the Granville Hotel in East Cliff, Ramsgate. Pugin acquired the land for the hotel on the East Cliff from the Mount Albion Estates in 1867 together with Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnett Hodgson for £9,250. The partners had originally intended to create a terrace of luxury residences but in 1868, seeing this would not succeed as private houses, they turned the building into a private hotel. The overall furnishing was supervised by Messrs J D Davidson & Co. Ramsgate and the opening of Edward's Granville Hall in December 1869 was celebrated with a grand ball. The chair was estimated at £600-800 but sold to an Essex telephone bidder for £1,700.

The next Two Day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries is on Tuesday and Wednesday March 29-20 and entries are invited. Please contact the saleroom on 01227 763337 or by email at

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