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
officers could have had a field day.
Most of the stuff dated from around 1740 – that’s 20 minutes to six, probably the night before.
Instead, I thought better of it and went to check out the automobilia and autojumble for myself. I was looking for car mascots made from glass like the ones illustrated here. It was the same story.
Antiques? Amid the glitz and the glamour and the few genuine pieces for the connoisseur, the only antiques I saw were some of the cars and the folk driving them.
Yes, fake glass mascots have been known to turn up, but they are few and far between, compared to duff metal examples which are legion.
Glass mascots are among the most sought after and expensive of all car bling, the best being those made between 1915-30.
A number of companies produced them, including Marius-Ernest Sabino and Edmund Etling in France and Warren Kessler and Red-Ashay in this country.
The latter company was founded by Herman George Ascher, a Czech émigré who established his business in Manchester in the 1920s.
Coming from an area then known as Bohemia, which was renowned for the production of fancy glass products, Ascher was well placed to commission and import glass mascots, which he sold at motor car exhibitions in London and Edinburgh and from his premises in Chorlton on Medlock.
In all, Ascher built a range of 30 mascots, which he marketed under the name Red-Ashay. However, they were the preserve of only the well-heeled and the well-wheeled.
They retailed for between one to 10 guineas, the best being those which were illuminated by the car’s battery.
Even more novel were examples fitted with cylinders of coloured glass which caused the mascot to glow in shades of white light, red, orange, blue and green.
Some were controlled by hand, while others were driven by a small propeller fitted to the mascot mount.
As the car gathered speed, so the propeller turned faster, causing the coloured cylinder to spin, emitting a different colour as if did so.
Changes in taste and the nationalisation of Czech glass factories after the Second World War saw the decline and eventual death of Red-Ashay, the company closing in 1952, but the Nottingham-based company Crystal Art Glass continues to import and sell some of the mascots, produced by the original moulds used by the factory that made them for Herman Ascher. (So, beware new examples being passed off as antique).
Doyen of all glass mascot makers, however, was the master French glassmaker René Lalique (1860-1945) whose most famous mascot was commissioned by the Citroen (e with two dots over it) car company entitled Cinq Cheveaux (five horses) for the 5CV car first introduced in 1924.
Others include St Christopher, Archer, Coq Nain (cockerel), Perche (fish), Grand Libellule (dragonfly) Tete (first e acute) d’Aigle (eagle’s head), Sanglier (boar’s head), Chrysis (kneeling nude), Longchamps (horse’s head), Tete (first e circumflex) de Paon (peacock’s head) and Victoire (female head).
They were hugely popular. The eagle’s head, for example, which symbolised military might, was chosen by Hitler for his commanders’ Mercedes-Benz staff cars.
Rich British motorists bought them eagerly too, through Lalique’s London agents, the Breves Galleries in Knightsbridge.
Many were sold also as paperweights, but mascots are distinguishable by the heavy brass bases which allowed them to be mounted to car radiator or bonnet.
Lalique trained as a jewellery designer and maker but went on to spread his Art Nouveau and later Art Deco interpretations across most media including perfume bottles, porcelain, chandeliers and clocks.
Glass mascots also served to warn drivers of the temperature of the water in their car radiators which were often prone to boiling over.
These so-called moto-meters or calormeters comprised an illuminated glass tube sandwiched between discs of clear glass in a metal mount attached to the radiator cap.
When the temperature rose, the water level climbed inside the tube, giving the driver an ever-visible indication of engine temperature, even at night.
The glass and dials of these gauges were often engraved with decoration and they quickly sprouted wings and other adornment, although they were intended to be treated more seriously than the adornment of a car bonnet.
As a result, they are less expensive than most others and largely immune from the fakers.
Slideshow pictures show a handsome group of glass mascots sold by Warrington, Cheshire based vintage and veteran motor car auctioneers H&H Sales. The most valuable proved to be a Lalique St Christopher in perfect condition, which sold for £731. An amber version of Lalique’s Coc Nain sold for £315 despite a significant chip to the base, followed by a Red-Ashay style of a woman’s head, modelled after Lalique’s Victoire, which fetched £405. A rare Red-Ashay Pharaoh mascot sold for £191.