Paul Martin and experts offer tips on antiques and collectibles. The Flog It! team delve into the world of erotic collectibles and see some stunning prices.
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Over the last 11 years on Flog It!,
we've helped you sell thousands of antiques and collectables
and over the years, we've seen a variety of astonishing things.
Please tell me where you got it.
-What do you think it's worth?
-I think more.
But as you know, it's not easy to put a value on all of them,
but there are some things that are always guaranteed to find a market.
Welcome to Flog It! Trade Secrets.
Flog It! valuation days play host to all manner
of pretty porcelain objects and dainty silverware.
And of course, there's a ready-made market for all of this stuff.
But there are a lot of you out there
that want to get your hands on something a little bit more playful and fun.
Coming up, we look at the risque and the downright rude,
and why it sells so well.
I think they should just be got rid of.
So, very rare, and of course, now very collected.
We discover it's not just the naked ladies that get our hearts racing.
-You liked your men big?
-Oh, I still do, even as an old age pensioner!
I'm still a bit that way!
1,000. And 50. 1,100.
It just went up and up and up.
And a little hand-painted snuff box causes a huge stir.
It wasn't till you opened it up that you got the shock of your life.
-Goodness gracious me!
-It was awfully rude.
Rodgers and Hammerstein put it very succinctly
in their 1949 musical 'South Pacific'
when they wrote "There's nothing like a dame".
Now, one thing I've learned over the years on Flog It! is,
a woman in a state of undress, in any antique form,
generally sells, and sells well.
Whether it's an Art Deco lamp base, an oil painting or a Parian-ware figure,
the collectors go mad for scantily-clad women.
But why is that? Here's our experts with their reasons.
I enjoy the naked female form!
Did that sound creepy?!
I think if a nude is done tastefully, it has huge value.
If it's poorly done,
and I think the human form is more difficult to replicate
probably than anything else...
So quality, quality-based
is the way forward if you're looking at nudes.
As regard to risque things, don't get too risque.
You find the market narrowing
if you get a little bit over the top.
Don't ever go and try and buy anything naked.
Unless you're stunningly beautiful, the price won't come down.
I think nudes proliferate in art
and it's not uncommon to see a nude on, say, a bit of WMF pewter,
and that will make it more valuable.
If you move into erotica, which is more suggestive and of a sexual nature,
that, ultimately, can limit the market for that object.
It tends toward the seedier side of collecting.
So unless you are that sort of person, I'd stay away from it.
I've got a little collection of nudes and erotica myself, actually.
So here are some of our very best finds
and what you can learn from them.
I see quite a few risque things in the auction business.
But the difficulty with Flog It!
is getting the directors to agree to put it on the show!
These are wonderful. Are these things that have been in your family for a long time?
Yes, it was my grandfather's. I think he must've sold postcards.
It was perhaps his, erm, his sample.
-It was in the early 1900s.
Very saucy, your grandfather!
You've got lots of gaps. What happened to the gaps?
Well, there were some that were a wee bit naughtier than others.
There were some rather dodgy postcards amongst those!
But I remember, the lady said she was looking through them
and she said, "My children came down the stairs
"so I took them away and threw them in the waste bin."
But she went to retrieve them and the binmen had been!
And there we have scenes of semi-dressed ladies,
typical of the period.
Every society is a rebellion of the society that went before it.
So, you know, there are times in the court of William III,
the women were topless in the court!
They would walk around with their breasts out.
Why? Because it was a rebellion against the Puritans that went before them.
So when we're looking at an Edwardian 1920s period of these risque postcards,
again, that's a rebellion against Queen Victoria, all trussed up in her black.
These are known as fantasy heads.
Each head is made up of bodies of naked girls.
We've got here Napoleon.
Another Napoleon there. Bismarck.
Now, these cards... And a donkey. How odd!
You couldn't imagine a less likely couple to own risque postcards.
It could've been the Blackpool Tower and her face would've been no different.
I looked at him and he was beginning to go a little bit pinker and pinker.
I think they should just be got rid of.
Well, that's my age!
Because, of course, their generation was a rebellion against the period that they were looking at.
It was their parents' generation that enjoyed the postcards. Very funny!
But were those postcards not quite saucy enough
for the risque-postcard collectors?
It's a lovely saucy postcard. A wonderful collector's item.
Start me at £100.
100 bid. 110. 120.
They're super. 130. 140. 150. 160.
160. 170. 180...
This is good. Great timing.
..220. 230. 240. £240.
All done at 240. 240?
She sold them. 240.
Just used a little bit of discretion there, I think!
The naughtiest ones had been taken out
because they didn't want the children to see them!
In actual fact, the naughtiest ones
are the ones of the biggest market value.
The very rude ones are often the rarest.
And if... And, also, the very rude ones are often -
how do I put this? -
action shots! Erm...
Erm, I'll leave it at that!
And, of course, when you get action shots -
it's common as anything today online -
but in the 1920s, 100 hundred years ago,
my word - just seeing somebody's leg or ankle or knee -
that was pretty much hardcore.
When you went beyond that, my goodness,
an action shot between two people was just unheard of.
So very rare and, of course, now very collected.
Back in 2005, Philip came across something fun
which called for great discretion.
-You've brought along this lovely little snuffbox.
It's about 1820. How did you come by it?
I found it in a shed in the back yard.
They're interesting little things. A lot of these are continental, possibly French or Russian.
This one looks like it's got a Scottish scene on there.
It's inscribed, which says
"The cudgel in my nieve did shake
"Each bristled hair stood like a stake".
That's quite nice. Let's just turn over and have a look.
It wasn't till you opened it up that you got the shock of your life. Goodness, gracious me!
And I have to tell you, they are terrible things to try and film,
because you've got to put your thumb in some discreet places
so you don't offend viewers.
I think I can show people at home,
but I've got to strategically hold it like that.
I couldn't possibly tell you what was under my thumb. It was awfully rude.
-You can understand why it was in the shed.
It's a secret thing. It's almost like "What the butler saw".
Because you look at this papier-mache snuffbox
and the cover is some chap walking her across a moor with his trusty staff,
and then you open it up and, lo and behold, his staff isn't what it seemed to be.
I think that the history of these things,
it's getting away from Victorian puritanical views. It's there to shock you.
If we look at the top,
that's all painted.
And if you turn this one over, you can just see a cut mark there.
I think this has been a cut-out,
possibly of a print or something, and been placed in there.
-I think we can put an estimate on it of £100-200.
I think if the inside had been right,
if this had all been original in here,
-I think it would've made perhaps £200-400.
There are serious collectors of erotica.
Quite how they display it in their homes, I do not know!
But were the erotica collectors at the auction?
100. And ten?
I think they're a talking point and I think they're the sort of thing that, you know,
people still like to shock, don't they?
People still like to, "Look at this. Isn't it lovely?" Bang! "You weren't expecting that."
People who collect these things, there's still that shock factor involved.
230. 240. 250. 260.
290. 300. And ten.
You better get back down the shed!
And here's another trade secret...
If you find a decorated box aimed at a gentleman,
make sure you look inside.
There could be some additional racy artwork,
and with that, additional value.
Some wonderful French Art Deco lampshades came in,
which had been thrown out.
John, I can really have no complaint today
because you've brought me four scantily-clad ladies.
I was working on a house, due for refurbishment,
and they were in boxes that were going in the skip.
I delved into it and found one, delved a bit further and found the four glass things,
-looked a bit further and found these and I thought...
-"Those must go with those."
I didn't, no. I brought them home and tried to fit them together
Well, I think it's scandalous that, at any time,
these were heading for a skip.
It was immediately obvious that they were rare and valuable things,
but they were also very good-looking things.
So unless it was a very prudish household,
I can't quite understand why they made it to the skip.
They are signed here. "Muller Freres Luneville".
Did you look that up or do any work on that?
Well, when I got them, I took them to a local antiques dealer to find out what they were.
He told me that "Muller Freres" was "Muller Brothers",
-"Luneville" was "Light City"...
..and that they were Art Nouveau, probably 1930s-ish.
Near enough. I can fill it out a little bit more.
You've got the fantastic glassworks, run by Emile Galle.
And Muller Brothers,
before they set up on their own, worked for Galle.
They left him in about 1905
and were working through the '20s and '30s,
and I think they closed in 1937.
The Muller Brothers, I think, began in the Galle workshop
although, I would say with those lampshades,
they were much more influenced by Rene Lalique
and his style of moulded glass.
We've got press-moulded glass
which is given this contrast by this acid etching.
We've got the acid-etched signatures on each one.
How lovely that we've got the original mounts, as well.
By the time these were produced, which I imagine is about 1925,
Lalique is the most fashionable glassmaker in France
and he's the one that they're imitating
and possibly, in some respects, surpassing.
But what did the skip-finds make at auction?
What am I bid for this lot here, ladies and gentlemen?
I'm going to start this at £200.
-And 225. And £250.
-Well, we're in.
At £275. I have 300 here.
At £320. At £340 on commission.
360 in the room. £360.
At 360. Are there any further bids?
-Come on, a bit more.
-Got him away.
-Well done, Michael.
Naked ladies and antiques go well together.
In art, on postcards, cigarette boxes and lampshades,
the female form appears time and time again.
Almost all of the things that you find,
in terms of nude bronze sculptures, nude enamelwork or nude paintings,
they're almost always copied.
So I would say that if you're going to buy nudes, make sure it's not a fake.
I would warn against reproductions or something that has been...
..I was going to say touched up but that's the wrong phrase!
When it comes to nudes or risque pieces for gentlemen, shall we say,
the key word is,
make sure it's a pretty, young lady that's nude or risque
because - I'm going to make a generalisation here -
but I would suggest that pretty, young ladies sell better
than, shall we say, ladies of the older generation
who may be, er, exposing themselves.
The same is true of, you know, men.
If you've got an ugly old codger in a powdered wig as a portrait,
he's not gonna sell as well as, say, a strapping young man who's nude.
Just look at the paintings of Henry Scott Tuke -
there's a big market for naked young men, just as there is for naked young ladies.
Thomas Plant fondly remembers one male figure he valued.
I recall Eve
and her muscular man, breaking his rods.
50 years ago, I was newly married
and I married a very young, handsome bodybuilder.
My mother bought this because she thought it was the image of him.
The marriage lasted two years, but this figure had been with her for 50.
-You liked your men big?
-I still do, even as an old age pensioner!
I'm still a bit that way!
Beautifully sculpted in bronze.
Quite big, as well, but his head was down.
Most people like their bronzes up and you can see the whole body.
Upright, head up, or, you know, them posing, doing something.
I did suggest you lay him on his back!
-Well, then you'd miss his buttocks!
And that seems to have impressed all of you chaps.
-All the ladies round here have been looking at his bum.
I'm going to be quite harsh on the value.
I think £200-300.
-Did George rise to the occasion?
-Went to auction, it was a long time ago,
and she'd upped the estimate. I don't think that mattered at all.
The bronze figure of the standing woodcutter,
starting us here at £400. And 20. 460. 480.
-500 already. 520. 540.
600. And 20.
It just went up and up and up.
And 20. 940, sir?
1,000. And 50. 1,100.
1,200. And 50.
At 1,350, then...
-That was fabulous, wasn't it?
-That was a super surprise!
-I'm so pleased.
And what was lovely was that Eve was going to see her family in Australia
and she needed money for the ticket.
This is the great thing about Flog It! -
sometimes this money makes their journey slightly more comfortable in life,
and I think Eve went club class at £1,350.
Here's what we've learnt so far...
Naughty sells well.
Don't be a prude when it comes to selling your antiques.
Things are not always what they seem.
Look inside, there could be a surprise.
Naked ladies and good maker's names are a winning combination.
And there's a growing, affluent market for male nudes.
Now could be the time to sell.
Flog It! regular and everybody's favourite joker Charlie Ross
is not only a celebrity auctioneer,
jetting off to glamorous locations around the world, gavel in hand...
14.9 million dollars! Sold! CHEERING
Ladies and gentlemen, you witnessed a new world record for a motorcar at auction,
right here, right now.
..he's also one of our most enthusiastic valuers.
Sometimes we get people who almost hit me when I tell them what things are worth!
And the thing that really gets him going is furniture.
That's what gets him up in the morning, that's where he started out.
He can recognise his Chippendale from his Thomas Mouseman,
but can he spot an antique of the future?
It all started by chance, really. I joined a firm
and the first auction I conducted was chickens - in a market!
But the company I was working for had a saleroom in Buckingham,
and I remember walking in there for the first time
and seeing these wonderful pieces of brown furniture
and getting really quite excited by them!
Why do I like furniture,
as opposed to china or silver or glass?
They're objects that you tend to tuck into a cabinet.
With furniture, you use it. You sit in the chair, you eat at the dining table,
you get your drinks from the cabinet, the clock tells you the time.
And the more you use these things, the more patination they get from polishing them,
the more wear they get, the more quirky they get and possibly even they get damaged.
But actually, I quite like to see something with the leg slightly wonky
or the handle falling off.
It just means it's old and it's been loved and used.
This piece of furniture is my favourite piece of furniture in the whole world,
largely because it comes with history or possibly baggage even.
It was given to my parents as a wedding present by my Uncle Mack,
who was a wealthier member than most members of my family have been through the years!
He obviously went into an antique shop and bought this,
what we know as the drinks cupboard.
And I've loved it ever since I saw it as a child.
I was always led to believe that this was a valuable piece of furniture,
and this was the bit that will be handed down.
Sadly, the drinks cupboard flatters to deceive
and it is not the 17th-century chest on stand that it should've been.
In fact, the whole thing is a complete mish-mash.
I was talking to a friend about this and he said, "You know the doors aren't right, don't you?"
I thought, "How come they're not right?"
Well, he opened up the doors and he said, "They're far too thin."
And actually, with a piece of period furniture,
they would've been far more substantial.
And looking at the panels, there is no real sign of age,
and the real true thing here
are the dowels holding together the door.
They're mean and probably 1930s.
Now, most of the timber here is 17th century.
A lot of early pieces of oak fell to bits because they were on flagstone floors.
They got damp, they got woodworm and so the bases rotted away. People would save what they could.
Here, they've saved two drawers from a chest on stand.
But the drawer bottom is new,
the handles, although they are old handles, have come off something else.
The more you look at it, the worse it is, from a purist's point of view.
When you look at something in a saleroom, look at it properly.
If you don't know yourself, ask advice of somebody.
Close the door and have a look at the base...
It's in two parts,
which, of course, a real... GLASSES CLATTER
..chest on stand should be.
But if we look carefully at the stand,
it's actually Victorian.
It's just rather sad to think that this piece of furniture,
instead of being perhaps worth five to 8,000 pounds,
is probably worth 300 or 400.
That shouldn't really matter, erm, because I will never let it go
and it will always be the drinks cupboard.
It's still just as lovely for me as a piece of furniture.
We're only 14 or 15 miles from Oxford here
and there are a lot of really talented people
making very special new furniture in Oxford today.
I'm going to go and have a look at some of it.
A cross between a Rubik's cube
and a 1950s Eagle Annual space rocket!
Isn't it wonderful? With an Art Deco influence,
you can see a 1920s look to what is, I suppose, a writing table.
I like that. Perhaps I'm not supposed to like things that aren't 18th and 19th century,
but I think that's a really stylish and obviously beautiful-made piece of furniture.
And I like the crisp lines.
You'd think it was Ercol, looking at it!
But there's a difference.
The quality of manufacture is absolutely wonderful.
And I imagine it's a dressing table or a wash stand, should I say?
And beautifully made. It reminds me of quite a lot of 1950s furniture
of similar sort of design, but the quality was horrible.
This is real craftsmanship. Beautifully constructed.
-Is this your handiwork?
-It is indeed, yes.
I'm probably being a bit ignorant, but is it a workstation?
Erm, kind of.
-Have you ever heard of the idea of hot-desking?
Right, it's basically a desk that has multiple uses.
-So you can stick it in an office,
-you can have someone that's just coming in for the day to work on it.
Or you can use it for break-times, meetings. That was the idea.
-It has a little compartment there. Would that be for a computer?
-A laptop, or even just a folder.
I'm showing my ignorance - looking at old pieces of furniture,
I spend my life looking at mahogany and oak.
I'm looking at some of these woods and wondering about what they are.
-What is that?
-That's ash veneer.
-It's ash. And it's veneered, is it?
-Yes. It's aeroply laminate.
It's the only way you can get that really tight curve.
This is eight or nine layers of aeroply
that's been glued together in a vacuum press.
-What have we got here?
-That's banana veneer.
I absolutely love the colour and the effect it gives,
so I thought I had to use it in the piece.
How much do you lean on old designs or other people's designs,
and how much is entirely your own design?
-I get a lot of my inspiration from nature.
-So a lot of this is my own.
The original idea for this came from coastal barriers,
-and then you have a wave that just rolls along...
-I could be on the seaside, couldn't I?
How the heck do you price it?
-It's very difficult, as a prototype.
-You kind of have to think realistically,
-"If I were to make it again, knowing how to make it now, how long would it take?"
You have to work out your hours, work out what you want to get paid.
-But then you end up with a hugely expensive piece of furniture.
There's no reason why it shouldn't be.
You can buy the most horrendous things for quite a lot of money, not a work of art.
This one is,
I've worked it out to roughly be between 1,700 and 2,000.
Right. I'll go and get my cheque book!
I'm totally in admiration of your handiwork.
-I'd love to have a little go myself, if I may.
-Of course, yes.
We can get you making a very basic dovetail box.
Now, I can remember doing a dovetail at school.
-45 years ago was the last time I tried a dovetail.
-I've forgotten everything.
-I can teach you the basics.
You've got to mark out the dovetail, the bit that's V-shaped.
And it's self-explanatory.
-It's called a dovetail because it looks like a dovetail.
-Because it's the same shape, yes.
-Just scribe across.
-Come down there? That's more or less all right.
-We've got two saws here.
-Any particular reason?
It's just personal preference, really.
Mr Gillow is never going to employ me, is he?
-And there we go.
-That's the first bit done.
-The next thing is to make the housing for it.
Oh, my goodness me. So we need the other piece of wood.
Right... JOLLY MUSIC
The dovetail joint is particularly strong.
It's been used for hundreds of years in the simplest of furniture
and also the most complex.
-There we are. Now the moment of truth...
-There we go.
-And there's the other component.
Do we say The Lord's Prayer as we do this?!
What do I get out of ten for my first effort?
Let's have a look.
I'd say it's at least a good 7.5 out of ten, maybe eight.
-Is that a pass mark?
-Thank you very much for showing me!
-You're very welcome.
Some of these pieces made by the young makers
could be worth a good deal of money in the future.
Here's a tip - visit colleges which run craft courses.
You can pick up some unique pieces at the end-of-term shows
at very affordable prices.
Well, that's it for today's show. I hope you've been inspired.
And remember, never underestimate the frivolous,
the naughty and the childish.
If it makes you smile, it's a fair bet somebody else will want it.
See you next time for more trade secrets.