Tips on antiques and collectibles. Paul Martin explores the history of the arts and crafts movement and looks at antiques from the servants' quarters.
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Navigating the world of antiques with its endless variety
can sometimes feel like you're walking through a minefield.
I want to share some of the knowledge that we've picked up
over the last 11 years of filming "Flog It!".
These are fabulous.
The quality is just breathtaking.
That's hundreds of programmes under our belt,
and many thousands of your antiques and collectables sold.
Are you all done?
There's a whole world of trade secrets out there for you to know.
'I love functional,
'well-crafted objects that look deceptively ordinary.'
Sometimes, everyday objects can be overlooked
but they all have a fascinating story to tell.
They may need more work in the research
and be less well documented than the items of the grand
and the wealthy, but they can all tell us something about our past.
'So, today, we're heading below stairs to see which items
'that were once workaday objects have real value today.'
I love collectable, domestic objects because they all tell a story.
They're all very accessible.
'Coming up, Catherine Southon sniffs out an unusual piece.'
'If you unscrewed the sections,'
you could even smell the spices.
This is something that I would desperately love to own myself.
'Philip gets into the upstairs downstairs spirit.'
'I think when it comes to collecting things like that,'
it's saddos like me who really sort of get into this sort of
social history element thing.
'And our experts have plenty of tips about what to look out for
'in the servants quarters.'
There will always be a stall in fairs and markets with kitchenalia.
'So, stay tuned to see what can make real money.'
Wendy, I really appreciate what you brought today.
What's the story behind it?
The story, as far as I know, is that ladies in large houses with cooks
couldn't get flour to make their game pies
-because of the Napoleonic Wars.
So Wedgwood made these dishes that looked like a game pie.
These were brought to the table with the game already cooked inside it.
They're not very commonly found these days.
I suppose they were practical, functional pieces in the kitchen
and would have been used lots, so were damaged and thrown away.
How have you come by it and what brought you to bring it today?
Well, I used to work in a little lock-up shop
that was next to a little antiques shop.
I used to have coffee with the lady owner
and she used to show me anything interesting she had.
As soon as she told me the story of this, I just had to have it.
Well, it is what's generically known as a game pie dish.
There were several factories that produced these.
The most famous were Wedgwood and Majolica made from the Minton's factory.
This one is by Wedgwood.
This very characteristic creamware is called caneware.
Caneware is a type of stoneware which Josiah Wedgwood invented
with the intention that it would be appropriate for being oven-proof.
'The history of Wedgwood is long and fascinating.'
It was founded in the 18th century by Josiah Wedgwood, who was quite a clever man, not just a businessman.
He was quite an alchemist and interested in the chemistry behind potting.
So he and his team patented
quite a lot of new forms of body of ceramic and pot.
Certainly, a very early 19th-century, early Victorian piece.
It would originally have had a little caneware liner inside.
Then around the outside reflects the intricacy of pastry cooks
who could make wonderful shapes and patterns on pastry.
Then the glorious lid, which has the little rabbit handle
and these trophies of game - birds, ducks
and the hares and rabbits round the outside, which add to the flavour.
I notice by taking the lid off, this has had some historic restoration.
-You say you bought it...
-In the '70s.
I think, looking at this, it's had two little repairs to the rim.
These have been quite neatly done.
But I think, given the passage of so many decades,
what was neat restoration then is beginning to discolour slightly
and show up in a way it wouldn't have done several years ago.
Although it's a shame it's damaged,
the fact that people can see the genuineness of the condition,
it's not restoration which makes it look as if it's perfect.
A collector can see that it's honest and that counts for a lot.
Restoration of any object is a thorn in the side of modern-day collectors.
Because if the restoration is so good that it's near perfect,
'it becomes a red herring for people
'who think they're buying something which is pristine.'
The modern-day concept is it's better to have something which has been damaged and preserved
so it doesn't deteriorate further, rather than having something
which is so good you lose trust in its authenticity as a whole.
-You paid how much for it?
-I paid £30 at £1 a week.
-How lovely! Have you got any idea what it might fetch now?
I'd have thought, given that it isn't complete
and there's a little restoration, that it would sell between £50 and £100 at auction at the moment.
-Would you like a reserve on that?
-Yes, whatever you think.
If we put £50, with auctioneer's discretion on it,
-you've got the peace of mind.
-Thank you for bringing it in.
'If you give the auctioneer discretion,
'he's able to sell just below the reserve,
'if he feels this is appropriate.'
The room is full of bidders. Let's hope they stick their hands up.
The Wedgwood game pie dish in terracotta,
with the little rabbit finial, rather a fun bid.
£20 to start. 20 straight in. 20 I'm bid. 22. 25. 28.
At 28 now. Take 30. Is that it? At £28. 30. Two.
At 32. 35. 38.
40. 42. 45.
-Going to sell it.
-On the stairs at 45 now.
Sell at 45. You're out down here.
-With the lady there at £45.
I sell on the stairs. All done at 45.
Directly above the former owner at 45...
'That pie dish had seen some use, but the buyer didn't object to a little bit of wear and tear.
'And she was getting a slice of domestic history
'for a very reasonable price.
'It's always worth checking out items of kitchenalia,
'as you never know what you'll find.
'It may not be the finest quality, but it's got stories to tell.'
-Judith, thanks for bringing in the pestle and mortar.
-What can you tell me about it?
-I can't tell you a lot.
We found it in my husband's parents' house when we were clearing up.
He can remember it since he was about the age of ten,
so it's about 55 years.
He thinks that it was to do with his grandparents.
Right. OK. It's certainly older than your husband remembers it.
I've been looking at it and it can be quite hard to date
this sort of treen or turned wood.
Treen tends to have more of a provincial feel about it.
More the farmhouse type kitchen table,
or perhaps even like downstairs with the servants and so on.
-I think we're probably into the 1700s.
His grandmother was in service at a big house in Tiverton.
This would have probably been used below stairs in the kitchen
or even for medicinal purposes,
for preparing medicines and so on, for mixing up certain ingredients.
I'm fairly certain it's a lignum vitae,
which is a well-known wood for turning because it's so dense.
-You can feel the weight, can't you?
-It's very heavy.
Lignum vitae would have been an expensive wood.
'It was fairly exotic. It's a very dense, hard wood.
The pestle, I think, is probably associated, to be fair.
I don't think they started off life together.
If you put it inside, you can see the proportions are a little odd.
-I thought that, yes.
-It's certainly done the job, hasn't it?
-Have you given a thought of what it might be worth?
-Absolutely no idea!
I'm going to suggest that we put it in the sale
-around the couple of hundred pound mark.
-How do you feel about that?
-Very happy with that.
-Let's straddle that £200. Let's put it in at 150 to 250.
-That would be fine.
-Who knows? On the day it could make maybe £400.
The 18th-century lignum vitae mortar and a treen pestle.
£150 starts it. 160. 170.
-180. 190. 200.
-Bid on the book.
220. 240. 260. 280.
£280. Where's 300?
At £280. Straight ahead.
-Now selling at 280...
-Come on. A bit more.
-It's gone. Top end, though, 280.
-We are happy, Judith?
-I'm very happy!
-That's very good!
'I love treen and I would have had that piece, given half the chance.
'Where should a novice treen collector start?'
The key word when collecting treen is the patina, the colour of a piece.
That's what buyers are looking for.
So, condition, colour and rarity, of course.
A nice pair of early Georgian salts, they're going to be worth more
than a mass-produced Welsh love spoon from the 19th century.
It's always lovely when you're working on "Flog It!"
to actually see something
that you want yourself, something that you've been looking for.
It is absolutely fantastic.
This is something that I would desperately love to own myself.
I have been looking for a lovely spice tower.
So when this lady came along with this spice tower
which was oozing charm,
I was very excited because it was in beautiful condition.
What you've got is a Victorian, 1860 in date, spice tower.
So we have these little sections,
which would have contained different types of spices.
At the top, we've got the paper label that's been applied for mace,
nutmeg and all-spice.
With something like this, condition is very important.
What was nice, the labels were intact
and, importantly, it wasn't split.
It's a fruit wood that could easily get split and chipped as well.
The little pieces on the top could easily be chipped.
'But it was in perfect, PERFECT condition.'
And if you unscrewed the sections, you could even smell the spices.
It belonged to my mother. It was in the house for a while.
But she didn't get it from any further back.
-She got it in a jumble sale.
-The legendary jumble sale, yes!
What did she pay for it in her jumble sale, does she know?
Well, can I tell you that your mother had a very good eye?
This is a fantastic piece.
If you imagine in late Victorian, mid to late Victorian times,
in a big country mansion,
something like this, this lovely spice tower being downstairs in the kitchen.
It was almost too good to be in the kitchen!
That should have been upstairs with all the paintings and sculptures.
To me, it's a work of art in itself.
Now, estimate-wise, we could put an estimate of £100 to £150
and I think it will do that all day long.
I'd like to be a little bit tentative and put 80 to 120,
just to pull everyone in.
I think this is going to make nearer £200. It's fabulous!
'But was Catherine getting carried away?'
Let's put it to the test. Here we go.
Lot number 600 is the 19th-century fruit wood spice tower.
Mace, nutmeg and all-spice. Lot 600.
Numerous commission bids here. Start me straight in at £160.
£160 I have for starters. £160.
At £160. 170 is there now? At £160. Straight in at 160 now.
At £160. Are we all done, then, at £160...?
Straight in. Straight out.
-That is amazing!
But they are incredibly rare in good condition.
'Catherine would have snapped that spice tower up as a work of art.
'What other tips can our experts offer?'
Things that relate to how we used to live, things that are redundant.
Kitchenalia, those can be very interesting.
Buy the objects which aren't used any more,
that have become redundant in our kitchens
like the mincer.
If you're going to collect something you need a theme. What better theme than booze?
-Enjoy a drink?
-Port, sherry AND Claret?
-All in one glass. Yeah.
Drinks labels. I really enjoy those.
One thing that I love about this job,
it's not so much what this chair's worth, but whose bum sat on it.
The drink labels, they tell a social history.
They've either come from
a really good 18th or 19th-century wine merchant's
or they've come from a big country house, from a fantastic cellar.
So my imagination builds up this fantastic picture
of who's owned them before and, for me, that's the joy of the job.
-Where did you get these from?
How much did you pay for them? £6.
-You're a man of generosity(!)
-Yeah. He wanted eight, actually.
-And you beat him down?
I think Barry was really cute.
Because those aren't obviously valuable things, are they?
He trawled round a car-boot sale, saw them for six quid,
grabbed his opportunity.
For me, one of the joys is, for a short period of time,
he's owned a really cool thing.
-Did you buy them cos you thought they were cheap or because they were nice?
-I liked them.
Plus, I knew they were a giveaway at £6.
-They were at eight as well!
-Aye. BOTH LAUGH
-Where do you think they were made?
-I imagine Staffordshire.
-I think so.
There's something on the back that could be Copeland.
-They're certainly English. And what date do you reckon?
Picture the scene. You've got Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs.
And Hudson walks down to the cellar, or sends his footman to the cellar,
to bring out his lordship's finest claret.
I think that scene is fantastic. "Bring out the Mouton Rothschild!"
Up the stairs it comes, this fantastic port or wine.
But he's got to identify it, so the cellar bins have those labels on. What a great story.
You can just see the remains, and it is very faded.
It would have had who the shipper was, the year,
which vineyard it came from, and these were next to each barrel.
I think they're really collectable. I think that we will put...
£40 to £60 estimate on them, all day long.
-I think we reserve them at £30.
-I think that's a real "come buy me" estimate.
-It should be.
It's a real "come buy me" estimate and if you have a bit of luck,
-they might just make £100.
-Are you pleased with that?
-I've a wife and eight kids, so I need some money!
Won't ask what YOUR hobby is!
'Moving swiftly on...'
-I think they'll do 100.
-They've got to.
-It's a good crowd.
I'm hoping for 150. You know what Philip wants.
-I know what I want!
-Yeah, the more the better!
Three earthenware wine cellar labels with two numbered bin discs.
Some nice 19th-century pottery. A lot of people like them.
A lot of interest on commission. I'm forced to start them at 140.
I'll take 150 from somebody in the room. 150, is it?
-With me at 140.
150. I'm out. Looking for 160.
150 at the top. Still cheap.
Finally, at 150. Have we finished?
-Yes! Hammer's gone down at £150.
-You were right.
'When it comes to collecting things like that,'
it's saddos like me who really get into this social history element,
because today, they don't have things like that, beautifully made things.
It'd be some little computer-generated bit of plastic
you just stick on with a drawing pin - who wants that?
'Philip's right. A piece of social history is beyond price.'
So here are my top tips.
'If you're starting a collection,
'it doesn't have to be an expensive item.
'Kitchenalia is a great entry point.
'You can even begin with downstairs and work your way upstairs.
'Good condition helps, but a bit of wear on domestic items is expected,
'so don't reject pieces on the basis of minor damage.
'These quality wooden items had double appeal -
'to collectors of kitchenalia and of treen.'
There are wonderful works of art out there, great names and superb antiques.
We want to give you more information on what makes them special.
'So far, we've seen items that highlight the class divisions
'of our nation's past.
'At the end of the 19th century, there was a movement
'which tried to break down barriers
'and marry the beauty and craftsmanship of the aristocratic
'with the practicality and usefulness of the domestic.
'I'm talking about Arts and Crafts,
'one of my absolute favourite periods of British design.
'Its very distinctive style can be applied to a variety of objects,
'from mirrors to jewellery...'
-Would you be happy to sell at £100, £150?
-That would be very nice.
Benson Arts and Crafts oil lamp, 190...
'..and extends to furniture and even houses.
'It incorporated simple forms and used medieval romantic patterns.
'This superb drinking cup brought in by Ken is a fantastic example
'of the hand-crafted simple style
'espoused by the Arts and Crafts movement.'
A little bit of green agate.
It hasn't been cut and shaped and stylised.
They were saying it was morally reprehensible to facet their stones
when you're talking about Arts and Crafts movement.
It's stamped - Guild of Handicrafts, CR Ashbee.
'CR Ashbee was one of the leading exponents
'of the Arts and Crafts movement pioneered by William Morris.
'The movement was a backlash against increasing industrialisation
'at the turn of the 20th century,
'and an attempt to move back to the honest work of the craftsman.
'The influence of Arts and Crafts extended far and wide.
'It was embraced in Glasgow by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
'Architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott applied its principles
'to the design of a whole house in the Lakes.
'It was truly international, spreading across America and Europe
'before finally emerging as the Mingei movement in Japan.
'With such a wide reach, how do you spot an Arts and Crafts piece?
'Look for simple forms and plain decoration.
'Pieces will emphasise natural materials.
'Arts and Crafts patterns are inspired by native flora and fauna.
'The construction of the item is often visible.
'Put simply, you can see the joins and, most importantly,
'they will be functional pieces.
'The Arts and Craft ethos can be best summed-up
'by its leading light, William Morris, who urged,
'"Have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful
'"or know to be useful."'
'Will Axon is one of our regular experts.
'When he isn't busy valuing objects for "Flog It!"
'you can find him in Cambridgeshire, doing his day job as an auctioneer.'
£50 and selling this time... Thank you.
'But as he's keen to point out, there's a lot more to do
'than simply climbing on the rostrum and wielding a gavel.'
The public sees most auctioneers during the sale or the viewings,
so they're unaware of what goes on between sales.
That's the one.
We have a huge number of items go through the saleroom day to day.
We have general sales every month. They will consist of 500, 600 lots.
There's a huge quantity of items that come through our door,
so we have to be aware of who they belong to, what sale are they in, what's the estimate.
This is what I like about a general sale. You've got a nice French wall clock there.
You've got a royal wedding brick. I mean, that's an unusual lot.
When it comes to sale day, that's almost the release.
When someone's got something to sell, they may not know what it is, they give us a call.
I'll have a chat, get as much information as I can,
make an appointment to see them.
Once they've decided they want to sell, it gets catalogued,
we photograph the item.
The next time we see it, I'm on the rostrum wielding my gavel.
Obviously, we try to get as much as we can for the vendor for it.
Part of my job is getting out and about on the road, really.
I'm off to see a couple of clients today.
Both of them I've visited before, so this is like a follow-up visit.
-So, mainly carriage clocks.
-Mainly carriage clocks.
One bracket clock and one grandfather, the one behind.
A nice Edinburgh, domestic regulator, wasn't it?
-That's what they call them, yes.
-Happy to sell that.
These are nice quality clocks. Some of them are by known makers.
They've got that decorative quality,
so I'm pretty confident we'll get most of these away.
Lord Hemingford, or Nick as I know him, he's actually down-sizing.
So he just needs a bit of advice on what's left.
He's dispersing some pieces between the family.
Just wants an idea of if we can help with what's left.
-Hello, Will. Morning. Nice to see you.
-How are you?
You've been doing a bit of sorting out!
Well, it's a bit of a jungle. CHUCKLES
We're down-sizing because we're getting on a bit.
And we really have no idea what it's worth.
So a bit of professional expertise was necessary.
-It that an Atmos clock?
-Yes, it is.
My father-in-law was presented with it when he retired.
Jaeger-LeCoultre, of course, a great name in clocks and watch-making.
I think that would do quite well in the sale.
'As a general valuer, people assume that you must know everything about everything, but it's not the case.'
If there is something that I don't know, I'm not afraid to ask a colleague
or even another valuer off "Flog It!"
-I suppose the most interesting logistical piece is this one.
I see! The old armoire.
-Would something like that sell?
-It would sell.
If someone's looking for one and they've got the space to accommodate it,
they'll be prepared to pay high hundreds, maybe even four figures.
I think it's nice that it goes to somebody
who is prepared to pay for it and therefore wants it.
That's better, perhaps, than going on the junk heap.
All good genuine pieces of family furniture, fresh to market,
just the way the market likes them, so there's plenty there for us.
We're into the hour before the sale so things start picking up.
People are arriving, double-checking something they maybe viewed yesterday,
just to make sure that it's still something that they want.
Bids are coming in. The phones are ringing.
People are registering on reception.
We try to keep general sales a bit more spit and sawdust than our fine sales,
because people like a saleroom where it's stacked high,
they have a rummage, gives them a feeling that they'll find a bargain at the bottom of a box.
Usually can pick up a bargain here because it's not got lots of jewellery.
A couple of lots that I'm interested in today.
I have a figure in my head that I will go up to.
Hopefully, I'll get it below that,
but you tend to go one over if it's something you really want.
The only tip I would give you as far as bidding is concerned
is have your limit.
Say to yourself what you're prepared to pay for something.
OK, go maybe one bid more. You don't want to lose it for a single bid.
But generally, if you've got your limit, stick to it.
Right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our first general sale of the new year.
Welcome to you all, as always.
He's really quick, keeps the auction going and a buzz in the saleroom.
£40 I'm bid now. At 40. Front row at £45...
'You see a lot of different styles of bidding.
'Someone might come for one specific item.'
They will march to the front of the room with their paddle in the air.
It's pretty obvious that they want to buy this lot.
£50 it is, then.
'Other people skulk at the back, hide behind a wardrobe.'
As you're going to bring the hammer down, they'll bid.
That psychological edge on the under-bidder might make them think,
"There's no point me carrying on." And they steal it at the back.
And lot 110 is a nine-carat gold five-stone ring.
£50 will it be? Straight in. 50, surely? 30 I'll take, if I must.
I'm looking round for you. 20 I have.
Saved you a tenner. At £20 I'm bid. And five. 30.
Five. 40. Lady's bid at £40. Is that all it's going to be?
I shall sell it. £40!
Your number today is 61.
The important part of my job, personally,
is the interaction with clients and the public.
These people coming to our sales want to be entertained, to a degree, but at the same time,
you're trying to persuade them to part with money.
You've got to do it in a nice way.
I think most clients who had something for sale were pleased.
As with any sale, some things do better and some do not as well,
but in general, people seemed happy.
A lot of it's clearing and finding its place in a new home.
Yeah, good day, all round.
For me, I've got the best job in the word.
-Those are nice.
-The dogs? They didn't sell.
Where's Dad? Ask him for a tenner and they're yours for cash.
Well, that's it for today's show and, as we've seen, everybody loves the grand,
but don't overlook the seemingly ordinary.
It could be worth a great deal more than you'd expect in today's market.
See you next time on Flog It! Trade Secrets.
The team take a look at antiques from the servants' quarters. Paul Martin also explores the history of the arts and crafts movement.