Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Monthly auctions, home of the bargain hunter

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IT'S A  bit like school. You study hard (in theory anyway), pass countless exams (hopefully) and over time, pick the subjects you like best. Then, if everything goes to plan, higher education beckons. Now's the time to specialise.

Be transported by slideshow to the saleroom

To the exclusion of everything else (well, almost everything) you're concentrating now on one subject alone. You're mixing with like-minded individuals and despite the competition, the tuition you received in earlier years pays dividends.

Ironically, so it is with fine art auction sales. With bidding sometimes rising at the rate of £1,000 a time, to the uninitiated, they can be as scary as the first day at a new school. So how do you become initiated? Actually, it's simple: like any learning, you start in the junior class, although in this case, they're called general sales.

Almost every auctioneer in the country has them. They might be disguised as something

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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Mysteries of Moorcroft mean money in the bank

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THERE were gasps of amazement ... and self-satisfied smiles from those in the know. Small, nondescript Moorcroft pairs of vases decorated with the ubiquitous pansies sell for around £200 in local auctions, £300 if you're lucky and dealers in the room want stock.

Click here for a Moorcroft mystery tour

So how come the two illustrated here fetched £2,400? After all, they are nondescript, yes?

Actually, not a bit of it. They might only measure a mere six centimetres in height, but these little rarities pack a punch above their weight.

The secret is in the background on which the pansies are painted. Instead of the usual deep

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Friday, 19 October 2007

Why not start to collect 20th Century Ceramics?

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YOU'VE SEEN them at countless car boot sales, and you've been embarrassed when you've  asked the stallholder how much he wants for the naff set of NatWest piggy banks, the SylvaC bunnies or the preserve pots shaped like onions modelled with faces on the sides.

Click here for a 20th Century Ceramics slideshow

But it's okay. Help is at hand in the shape of the latest glossy hardback to come from the stable of the Antique Collectors' Club, entitled "Starting to Collect 20th Century Ceramics". Author Andrew Casey is an acknowledged expert on the subject and his book has been produced specially with the novice collector in mind.

From the Lord of the Rings figures from the Middle Earth Series produced by Royal Doulton in 1980 to the Homemaker designs made in the 1950s for Woolworth's by Ridgway Potteries, Mr Casey's book is not just an exercise in "Do people really collect those?", but

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Monday, 15 October 2007

Antique music boxes are a joy to the ear

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I ASSURE you that listening to music as I write this is purely as an aid to concentration.  The fact that the music is being beamed to my desk via the Internet and coming from stereo speakers connected to my computer is purely incidental.

Click here for a music box slideshow

But it is worth stopping for a moment to consider the technological advances we’ve seen, even during the 20-odd years I’ve been writing this weekly column.

Time was when I wanted to listen to my favourite artist, I’d select the appropriate 12-inch plastic disc, place it on an electrically driven turntable, and set a needle on it. Talk about the dark ages (though I still cannot bring myself to part with my collection of plastic discs!).

When our grandparents and great-grandparents wanted the pleasure of having music in

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Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Lladró porcelain is a beautiful Spanish export

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IT HAS been over 50 years since Lladró products first came on to the market and whether you love them or loathe them, there can be no escaping the fact that they have become collectors’ items in a very short space of time.

See a Lladro slideshow

The company was founded in 1953 when Juan, Jose and Vicente, three brothers of considerable artistic talent, formed the small family company in the Valencian village of Almácera, on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast.

The Lladró brothers were born into a farming family, but they made their mark on the ancient tradition of Spanish porcelain manufacture by developing a range of products much closer to ordinary people which previously had been reserved for only the rich. They

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Love tokens that antiques collectors yearn for

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SUITORS have been giving love tokens to the apples of their eyes ever since Eve persuaded Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

For today's collectors, the tradition has created a wealth of collecting opportunities ranging from precious gold posy rings to glass rolling pins. Even pieces of furniture, such as wedding chests, chairs and dressers are found carved with lovers' initials and often dates of their betrothal or birth of their offspring.

Click here for a Welsh love spoon slideshow

More often than not, it was small domestic objects such as lace bobbins, knitting sheaths and stay busks that were more likely to be adopted as love tokens, while for sailors, Valentines made from shells, or carved whales' teeth made on long, lonely voyages were the gifts of choice.

The best were made personally by the hand of the giver but vast quantities were produced commercially and examples of such things as pottery inscribed with love messages or heart-shaped pincushions with girls' names or messages spelt out either in embroidery or pinheads are still relatively common and readily affordable.

Collectors of naive and primitive works of art are naturally drawn to the rustic love tokens carved in wood throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Collectively, such pieces are

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Friday, 5 October 2007

Royal Lancastrian - pottery born out of a catastrophe

COLLECTORS who are drawn to art pottery need not travel to South America for a  chance to own pieces from the valuable hoard of Pilkington's Royal Lancastrian pottery pictured here … dealer Alison Davey, who runs A.D.Antiques in Staffordshire has done it for you.

Click here for a Royal Lancastrian slideshow

It represents a hunt for that lasted more than six months and among more than 85 new pieces acquired by her from private collections are some from as far afield as Buenos Aries.

They include 18 pieces of the now scarce lustre-decorated pottery and coupled with her existing stock, this must be the largest collection of Royal Lancastrian offered for sale for a

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Thursday, 4 October 2007

'Chocolate antiques' are sweet collectors' items

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YOU'RE about as much use as a chocolate teapot! It’s a put-down that’s as old as the hills, but while teapots made from chocolate are as rare as rocking horse do-do, antiques related to the confection are still relatively plentiful.

Click here for a sweet slideshow

“Chocolate antiques” including 17th and 18th century Chinese pots for pouring the stuff and cups for drinking it, together with 19th and early 20th century English silver chocolate pots are sweet collectors' items.

Chinese chocolate cups and pots are described as rare by Oriental specialist exhibitor

Catherine Hunt. She says: “The popularity of chocolate exploded across the West when the secret of the drink escaped from the Spanish. They originally brought it back from the New

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Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Bumblebee puts sting into crime-fighting

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I have no idea whether or not  Chief Constables are readers of this column (if they're not, they ought to be) but I have a message for each of them: do homeowners a favour and get the Bumblebee on your team of crime fighters. It's a honey of an idea and it's designed to take some of the sting out of being the victim of a burglary.

It's all so simple: when police recover stolen property with no known owners, it is posted on an online database so that members of the public who have suffered loss can search and browse through the lists to try to identify their missing property.

Named after Operation Bumblebee, the huge roadshow in which hundreds of recovered

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There's more to Portmeirion than The Prisoner

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Black Key LIKE thousands of other schoolboys my age, I was introduced to the gloriously idiosyncratic folly that is Portmeirion by the equally bizarre ITV series The Prisoner. Not only did I want to live there, I wanted a Lotus Super Seven as driven by the star of the series, Patrick McGoohan, and a Mini Moke for bobbing around the town.

See a Portmeirion Slideshow

With the passage of time, we're talking the 1960s here, not one but three cults have grown up: a fascination with the Shangri-La created by architect Clough Williams-Ellis; The Prisoner Appreciation Society, which still holds its annual meetings there; and for us collectors, the eponymous tableware of such distinctive style that is so popular, it is still being made and can be found in homes throughout the UK, US and Asia.

A new book*, published this week to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the opening Williams-Ellis' holiday retreat for the upper classes, explores each of these cults and much more. But it is the chapter on Portmeirion Pottery, written by Mark Eastment,

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