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Menus and their holders can be tasty collectables

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Menu-10I’m on a diet, so there’ll be no stuffing myself with turkey, Christmas pudding and brandy butter or lashings of ginger beer this festive season. Thankfully we’ll be on a beach, so the temptation won’t even be there, which is just as well because will power was never my strong point.

It’s one of the reasons why I don’t fancy a winter cruise. According to reports that filter back from various other family members who have tried it, most of the time is spent in one or other on-board restaurant. Apparently, we’re told, it’s quite possible to eat right around the clock.

‘Twas ever thus. In 1947, dinner in First Class aboard the Cunard White Star flagship RMS Queen Elizabeth went as follows: for starters, it was oysters on the half shell, followed by clear turtle soup, turbot for the fish course and timable of ham. Main course was roast sirloin of beef accompanied by braised onions, fresh broccoli, globe artichokes and hollandaise sauce. Potatoes were “boiled, roast snow and Parisienne”.

Pudding was a choice of Seville soufflé, charlotte russe or praline parfait, or one could stick with the ices: vanilla, Neapolitan or pistachio. And to finish: fresh fruit, coffee and “Scotch Woodcock”. How do I know? Simple, among my cache of printed ephemera, I have a copy of the menu.

A couple of printed menus sold last week were out of my reach, though. Henry Aldridge and Son, the Devizes auctioneers who lead the world as auctioneers of Titanic memorabilia, secured a bid of £64,000 for the rarer of the two, pictured above. It listed the 24 dishes including roast Surrey capon, fresh lobsters, “Hodge Podge”, roast beef and ox tongue, served at the first luncheon served in First Class on board Titanic on her maiden voyage out of Southampton on April 10, 1912.

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My heart belongs to Chiparus Dolly Sisters

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Dolly-3THIS magnificent bronze and ivory figure by the great Romanian-born Art Deco sculptor Demetre Chiparus may not be unique – numerous editions would have been cast – but the two exotic vaudeville dancers it depicts surely were. They were the Dolly Sisters, the original dolly birds, alluringly naughty legends in their own lifetime on both sides of the Atlantic, who drove their fabulously rich suitors mad with desire.

The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, and his close friend Edward “Fruity” Metcalfe were both reported to have had affairs with the identical twins. Media magnate William Randolph Hearst and entrepreneur “Diamond” Jim Brady were captivated, while Harry Selfridge, the widowed American founder of the Oxford Street store, was said to “bat the Dolly sisters back and forth like ping-pong balls” between himself and newspaper tycoon Max Beaverbook.

Selfridge’s indulgence knew no bounds, He squandered millions on the twins who were

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Mourning jewellery–poignant and highly collectable

By Christopher Proudlove ©

mourn-10Queen Victoria ruled for almost 64 years, the longest in British history. The last 40 of them were spent in mourning for her beloved husband, Prince Albert, who died in 1861. And when she declared that mourning nationally should be for “the longest term in modern times”, it became not just a ritual but a fashion. Ironically, dressmakers and jewellers had a field day (as, no doubt, did undertakers).

So, while it may be a bid morbid, this week’s missive is all about collecting memoriam or mourning jewellery. Time was when such pieces commemorating the death of a loved one were treasured and passed down through the generations, but after the carnage of two world wars, relatives were often only too relieved to rid themselves of anything relating to death. The secondhand market became flooded with the stuff and only now is it being appreciated by a new generation of collectors.

It was the upper classes who made the most of mourning, a widow naturally bearing the burden more than most, although her children suffered too. Special bonnets, heavy “weeping veils” of black crepe, and gowns – her “widow’s weeds” – covered her almost entirely, which the rules demanded should be worn for at least a year and an a day and sometimes as long as four years after a loved one’s death. The universal colour was, of course, black.

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Chocks away! What better way to spend rainy days than collecting first editions of Biggles’ adventures

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Biggles-4I am grateful to Roger Harris to sell for  his assistance in writing this post.  Roger is the publisher of  Biggles.com and WEJohns.com, both of which I recommend highly.

HOW I hate the rain. Every time we plan to  go somewhere or do something, it pours. Even  Bonfire Night was a washout. There was a time, though, when I prayed for rain: I hated double sport lessons. If it was wet, they were spent in the library, where Biggles books were my refuge.

Roger Harris is another Biggles fan but with different, more painful, memories than my own. As a great admirer of the pilot-adventurer immortalised by author Captain W.E. Johns, Roger collected around 60 of the books but then sold them all for the grand sum of £12. That was in 1979. “Twenty five years later it would cost me in the region of £12,000 to buy them all back,” he told me ruefully.

Biggles-2At first he could afford to buy only pre-1942 first editions without their original dust wrappers. He now owns a first edition copy of every Biggles book published since 1942, all in their original, unclipped dust wrappers showing their original price. It took him 10 years to find a first edition of the first Biggles book “The Camels are Coming”.

I didn’t dare ask him what they set him back, but having watched a first edition copy of “Biggles Flies South”, published in 1938 sell for a sky-high £1,000 in a

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The potted history of collectable Victorian pot lids

By Christopher Proudlove ©

potlid-1oWho among readers of this weekly missive collects Staffordshire pot lids? Clearly no one who was at a sale I watched the other day because not one of 16 lots of the things, mostly with two lids in each lot, found a buyer prepared to pay the – generally – £80-120 per lot that the auctioneer was expecting.

Let’s assume the reserves were on the low estimate. Is £40 too much to pay for a colourful, ready-made (and often ready-framed) little work of art that once had collectors falling over themselves to own? Answer: a resounding yes. Fashions change and just like the Clarice Cliff vase that I know cost its owner £450 and she let go in the same sale for £260, it’s very easy to get caught out and left to count the cost.

Which I suppose means that now is the time to buy Staffordshire pot lids. They will probably never be cheaper. Read on and perhaps by the end, you’ll know what you’re looking for.

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Sotheby’s to sell the George Daniels Horological Collection, greatest watchmaker of 20th century

By Christopher Proudlove ©

back coverI’m not sure what George Daniels would have made of the iPhone. Apart from making voice calls and texts, for as little outlay as free, or 99 pence at worst, it’s possible to have the thing tell you the time or the weather anywhere in the world, the air temperature in Wirral and even when high tide will be tomorrow in Rhyl, constantly recalibrating itself to take into account leap years and phases of the moon. He’d probably have bought one just to take apart to see how it was made.

Dr Daniels, who died at his home on the Isle of Man in October last year, had that kind of inquisitive mind. When he was five, he opened up the back of a broken watch to reveal its complex mechanism of wheels and cogs, shedding a light on a new universe, which he said transformed his life.

On November 6, Sotheby’s will sell the personal collection of watches and clocks George built over a lifetime devoted to horology: unique timepieces George made himself, together with fine and important antique clocks and watches by makers who inspired him. They are expected to raise £3.8 to 5.8 million.

Proceeds from this landmark sale will be added to the £11 million raised for his collection of vintage cars, sold last June. The funds will go to the George Daniels Educational Trust, set up by him to further the higher education of pupils studying horology, engineering,

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Raise your glasses to the Jacobite cause – Amen

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Glass-1It’s not often a single, utilitarian domestic object like a wine glass can teach us a history lesson, but in the week that David Cameron and Alex Salmond have agreed there will be a referendum on Scottish independence, here’s a glass celebrating the Jacobite cause. It would have been used to toast the “king over the water”

and the romantic notion that Charles Edward Stuart would return one day to lead Scotland to freedom after the disaster of Culloden in 1746.

An example of the so-called “Amen glass” – a hymn or prayer engraved into the body of the glass concludes with the word “Amen” and one of fewer than 40 know to have survived – it comes from the Edward V. Phillips Collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century furniture, glass and works of art. It is one of the most significant collections to be offered in the region in recent times.

The late Mr Phillips was known in the Powys area near Knighton as a private and quiet man,

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James Bond 007: Licensed To Make Collectors Of Us

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Bond-5I grew up with James Bond. I read all Ian Fleming’s novels, I’ve seen all the Bond films. I even wear an Omega Seamaster wristwatch like my hero. Last week, in a Christie’s charity auction in conjunction with UK Bond film makers EON Productions, the watch worn by Daniel Craig in the new blockbuster Skyfall sold for a cool £157,250.

Out of most people’s reach, granted, but it was very special: a unique automatic Omega Seamaster Professional “Planet Ocean” watch made in titanium specially for the action scenes, sold to benefit ORBIS, the charity fighting blindness worldwide.

But even that paled alongside the star lot: the Aston Martin DBS used by Craig in Quantum Of Solace and sold to benefit

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On The Tiles: Why Collectors Love These Victorian Beauties

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Tile-4We were on holiday in Tunisia and if we fancied a break from lazing around the pool, the tourist rep said she was arranging a free trip to see some Roman remains. It wasn’t much of an trip – in the heat of the day we walked crocodile-style a few hundred yards from the hotel down a dusty road – but the pay-off was a sight that has stuck in our memory.
    The rep was carrying a bucket as we picked our way through the what looked like a building site but it wasn’t for donations for the tour guide. After asking us to stand aside, the guide dipped the bucket into a trough of water which he flung across the ground. As it washed away the sand, there revealed to us for the first time was a magnificent marble mosaic floor. A closer look showed that the ornate patterns were made up of tiny square-shaped pieces of coloured stone tiles, called tesserae. It must have taken hours of painstaking work to lay.
    Perhaps that’s why we collect tiles like the ones pictured here. After all, they owe their existence to the Romans. Ours are somewhat younger,
though, dating from Victorian and Edwardian times but, in our opinion at

(Pictured: A selection of tiles designed by William de Morgan

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The Atmos Clock–It Runs On Thin Air

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Atmos-4Saturday saw us drinking champagne outdoors at a wedding reception in Wirral. Last night we turned the central heating on for the first time this year. Talk about a change in the weather. Yes, this column is about atmospheric changes, but actually clocks, not barometers. They’re called Atmos clocks and they’re expensive when new, incredibly accurate and they run quite literally on thin air.

Click here to see a slideshow of Atmos Clocks

I’ve been fascinated by clocks ever since I was a boy. I used to take them apart in ham-fisted attempts to repair them – sometimes I actually got them to work again, but not often. I think I caught the bug from my father, an inveterate tinkerer. I remember the time he tried to get a cuckoo clock to work using bottles of tomato and brown sauce as weights to drive the going and striking trains. But I digress.

It’s possible to pay anything from £8,000-10,000 for a new Atmos clock, so well out of my reach. The nearest I ever came was a £95, so-called anniversary clock which dated from the

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Stuff U Sell makes eBay selling simple

By Christopher Proudlove ©

David-Brackin-Stuff-U-SellI wrote to a reader last week,  a lady who wanted to know how best to sell a silk head scarf from the 1976 Canadian Olympics. Either sold as a souvenir, or else perhaps given to competitors, the scarf was printed with the Olympic torch and listings of all the events.

Ironically, I came across the scarf, illustrated here, in a sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, also last week. Commemorating the "Olympic Winners of XIV Olympiad, London 1948", it was described as having been designed by Ena Pitfield, devised by Arnold Lever and printed

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Ibeji, tribal art borne out of tragedy

By Christopher Proudlove ©

Yoruba-1Manchester artist Geoffrey Key is widely regarded as one of the most important working in the country today. Auctioneers in the region are more used to selling his paintings for thousands of pounds, but now he’s set one of them another task: disposing of the characters pictured here.

He calls them his little army and he’s been collecting them for 25 years or more, but a house move has meant his collection of dozens of antique African carved figures and other tribal art has to go. The exotic and little known corner of tribal art collecting is known as Yoruba art.

The Yoruba are an ancient race of people, today making up one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, predominantly in Nigeria. Its craftsmen are noted for their artistic traditions of

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Rare Celestial And Terrestrial Pocket Globe Sells For £18,800 In Peter Wilson Auction

By Christopher Proudlove ©

The young auctioneer was ecstatic. He’d just sold the object illustrated here for a cool £16,000 on behalf of a client from Crewe who didn’t know he owned it. The rare and early celestial and terrestrial pocket globe – consider it a precursor (by about four centuries) of the sat-nav – was “found” by the auctioneer, Chris Large of Nantwich, Cheshire auctioneers Peter Wilson, in the bottom of one of 16 boxes of otherwise globe-1unloved and unwanted bric-a-brac from the man’s parents’ home. When told of the magnitude of the winning bid, the owner was naturally enough, “over the moon”. The auctioneer was happy too. “Something like this always cheers you up and makes you realise why you enjoy the job so much,” he said.

Less than three inches in diameter, the globe was concealed inside what was otherwise a dirty green-coloured outer case of the same shape that looked like it would have been more at home in a game of skittles. However, when the hinged outer case was opened, the colours of the globe nestling inside were almost as bright and vivid as they were on the day it was made. On the inside of the outer case, protected from sunlight and damage, was a “map” of the heavens. It was quite delightful. Not bad when you consider that it dated from 1710.

Clearly the globe was an early example. Its 12 hand-coloured printed “gores” – the term for the pieces of vellum covering its surfaces illustrating the various land masses – showed

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Teeth, Sheep, Apples And Cheese: An Age-Old Problem Solved

By Christopher Proudlove ©

By guest writer Geoff Smaldon

2 copy

Few of us look forward to a visit to the dentist, but we are now accustomed to a level of dental care unheard of in the past. It was not until 1858 that the first dental hospital
opened in the UK and the Royal College of Surgeons started to license dentists in the same year. Prior to that, ‘barber-surgeons’ and even blacksmiths performed
extractions on unwilling patients and it is likely that, away from major towns and
cities, dental care was very limited.

So, imagine how you would cope if your front teeth were badly diseased, painful or

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Car mascots – best in auto-bling, but watch for fakes

By Christopher Proudlove ©

The auto traders weren’t happy. One had paid £800 for his pitch, another £1,000 for a slightly bigger area, but the dealers in the area set aside for an autojumble had laid out just £200 apiece for arguably a more prominent position.

“That’s because they’re selling old stuff, collectables and that,” said the harassed organiser lady.

“But a lot of their stuff is brand new, the same kind of things we’re selling,” countered one trader as I eavesdropped on the conflict.

“Well yes, I know, but the new stuff isn’t selling,” was the organiser’s feeble response.

It didn’t go down well!

I wanted to butt in and suggest that the so-called antiques fair, also among the “attractions” in the “huge trade mall” in the centre of the field was another area where trading standards

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Taxidermy – the art of a devoted animal lover

By Christopher Proudlove ©

It was a Harry Potter moment. Standing alone in Douglas Coates’s shop in Llangollen, North Wales, I felt compelled to stroke the plumage of an achingly beautiful snowy owl.

Watching me all the while was the beady eye of a 13lbs 12oz brown trout, apparently a British record.

Click here to see more pictures

At my feet was a fox curled up as if asleep, unperturbed by a large, prowling mountain lion picking its way across a mountain outcrop, while a badger went about its business untroubled by either of them.

Douglas Coates, you see, is a professional taxidermist and a more fascinating man, passionate about natural history, collecting, acquiring knowledge and his love of Mother Nature and her creatures, I have yet to meet.

I admit, I thought long and hard about this week’s topic because I knew I would be writing about a sensitive subject. Douglas Coates treats his art with the utmost sensitivity.

Despite owning a large number of mounted and preserved wild animals, both pieces for sale

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Happy birthday, dear Barbie

By Christopher Proudlove ©

She has long blonde hair, slim waist, narrow hips and not a sign of a wrinkle, even at  50.

Parties will be taking place across the world today to mark Barbie’s 50th birthday  the occasion, and the world’s first store dedicated to the doll has been opened in Shanghai.

Her dolls are now collectors’ items, a 1959 model was sold for $27,450 at an auction in 2006.

More than one billion dolls have been sold since her inception, and according to makers, Mattel, 90% of American girls aged between three and 10 own at least one.

Read how Barbie came into being

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Precious pots raised from the deep

By Christopher Proudlove ©

There are two Vietnamese blue and white pots in our house, a bowl and a plate, decorated respectively with fantastical fishes and dragons. We purchased them from a street vendor on an unforgettable holiday and we’ve treasured them ever since.

Click here to see a slideshow of the Ca Mau porcelain

Brand new “antiques” they might be, but no matter. Ironically enough, in the same street was a tailor who made the Business Manager (Mrs P) a silk dress. While she was being measured up and fitted out, I was taken to a backroom to see the owner’s collection of real Vietnamese antiques.

The tailor’s wife explained that the pottery had been brought to the shop by fishermen who

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Charles Horner hatpins – get the point?

By Christopher Proudlove ©

This week found me researching the Suffragette movement, a term coined – according to – by the Daily Mail as a derogatory way of describing members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, headed by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Interestingly, the same newspaper carried a report of how a judge ordered a group of Suffragettes on trial to remove their hatpins in court, fearing they could be used as weapons.

Images courtesy of Charles Horner of Halifax by Tom J. Lawson, published by GML Publishing and distributed by the Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd., which supplied them.

By now off on a completely wrong tangent, I learned from another report, dated December 17, 1908, how a woman lost her sight in one eye after an accident in the rush on the first day of a shop

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Car boot sale buy is rare PenDelfin plaque

By Christopher Proudlove ©

A chance find at a car boot sale is set to hit the jackpot for a couple after auctioneers valued their £2 bargain at £1,000 or more.

UPDATE: The wall plaque sold for £1,350.

"The little ceramic wall plaque was lying in the grass underneath one stall and my husband walked past without giving it a second glance," said the woman, a local government officer who asked not to be named.

"I was following on behind and it caught my eye when I looked down, so I picked it up. I didn’t think much of it at first, but when I turned it over, I saw the name .

"There was no price on it, so I asked the stallholder how much she wanted for it and she said ‘£2.50’. I offered her £2 and bought it just like that.

"When we got home, we looked it up on the Internet but couldn’t find anything about it. The

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