War Flog It: Trade Secrets


War

Paul Martin and experts offer tips on antiques and collectibles. The team offers advice on buying and selling militaria, with an exotic array of weapons on show.


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Transcript


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This is the show that aims

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to give you the inside track

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on buying and selling antiques and collectables.

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We've got over ten years of 'Flog It!' behind us

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That's hundreds of programmes and thousands

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of your antiques valued and sold.

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I have an automatic gold detector

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in my fingertips.

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So stand by for some top tips,

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this is Trade Secrets.

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On today's show we'll be exploring a theme -

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where it's the weight of history or the personal stories

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behind an item which determine its value.

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'And, like it or not, there is a lot of interest

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'in collectables associated with conflict,

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'so today we have the market for war memorabilia firmly in our sights.

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'Coming up...

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'our experts tell you how to value weapons of war.'

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Whether or not you know the culture where an object's come from,

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the one thing that is consistent is patination.

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And we'll learn about the wartime surgical instruments

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that have become collectables.

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-And this is actually

-the amputation saw?

-Yes.

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That's the type of saw that would have been used.

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At almost every valuation day, people turn up with weapons

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of some kind - bullets, guns,

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shields, spears, war clubs,

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this is where our experts really do need to know

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their stuff.

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When is an object a beautiful antique and collectable weapon,

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or when is it just an illegal and dangerous weapon?

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In Cirencester,

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we were fortunate enough to have one of these things that sometimes

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does turn up on 'Flog It!' - a wonderful Polynesian war club.

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My father initially bought it at a house sale, way before the war.

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So I've always known it.

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Your father was very forward-thinking

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because, before the war, this sort of tribal art wasn't at all popular.

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'Tribal arts are much sought-after now because the indigenous nations'

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that it was originally taken from have achieved a level of wealth

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and maturity that they want to reclaim these items.

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But also major institutional European and American collections

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want to buy these for their own collections.

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Now, I will always be corrected by an expert in their field,

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but I've always regarded these as Oceanic.

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So, basically, Fijian war clubs.

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Especially when they're this paddle form.

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'Whether or not you know the culture where an object's come from,

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'the one thing that is consistent is patination'

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and that's what we look for, the build-up of grease and dirt

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and polish and wear and handling that shows that an item is either

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18th or 19th or 20th-century.

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The club certainly wasn't a tourist-made piece,

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it was an authentic, early, tribal club.

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I've had a look at it, I like the surface patination at the end

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and on the handle.

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So I'm quite happy to say that this is...

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early to mid 19th-century.

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The class of wares that people want are those that are original

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to the culture, not made when Europeans went over

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for the tourist trade.

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And the club was 18th-century that we saw at Cirencester,

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so that's, you know, it was carved for decorative pieces

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but also for bashing somebody's brains out.

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We'd be safe putting this in at, I think, £400-600.

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-Yes.

-I'll be interested to see myself what it makes.

-You'll be at auction?

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Oh, I will. Within a club's distance!

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So I will be sweating furiously.

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Did anyone at the auction also recognise that the club

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was a unique antique piece?

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We know these things are really hot right now

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because they're going back to their countries of origin.

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Museums are buying them up and they're paying top money, which is good news for you.

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Watch this, watch this, see what happens.

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Fijian carved wood tribal club. Super looking piece there.

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-Got to be one of my favourite pieces in the sale.

-Oh, that's nice!

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Who will start me? 500 to get on.

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520. 540.

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560. 580.

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600.

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620.

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640. 660.

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680. 700.

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720.

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750.

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780. 800.

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820.

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850.

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880. 900.

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950. 1,000.

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-At 1,000.

-The magic number.

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1,000.

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And 50 if you like, on the phone. 1,050.

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1,100. At 1,100.

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1,150, if you like now. 1,150 on the phone now.

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At 1,150.

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It's on the phone now. At 1,150...

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-I'm happy with that.

-£1,150.

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Of course you're happy with that!

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Collectors should look out for me

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and not take my advice when they're selling tribal clubs.

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Well, thank you, Michael.

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But I can tell you, if you have an old weapon, look at its patina

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and the materials to date it. But be aware, these can be copied

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so you should get some expert advice.

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Our expert Charlie Ross knew exactly what he was looking at.

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Nick, you look absolutely terrifying.

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Fancy coming into the Sheldonian in Oxford with these!

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When I saw the Zulu spear and shield,

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I immediately thought back to Rorke's Drift.

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-My grandfather went to the Sudan in the 1880s, 1890s.

-Yeah.

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-He wasn't in the Services, so...

-Was he not?

-No.

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So he didn't win it as a trophy at Rorke's Drift.

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Not as far as I know! He never mentioned it.

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It's from South Africa.

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It's a Zulu shield and I think that dates from 1880, 1890,

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which of course is the time pre-World War, the Zulu wars.

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It's an extraordinary part of history, really.

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And in remarkable condition.

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I thought, in a rather whimsical way, that perhaps this had come back

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from Rorke's Drift, one of the great battles in British history.

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More VCs won at the Battle of Rorke's Drift than in any other battle in history.

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About 150 British and colonial soldiers withstood an attack

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by over 3,000 Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879.

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I'm intrigued by the latticework of weaving more skin into it,

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which also has a functional purpose.

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It provides the handle, doesn't it?

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Which is really interesting.

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Just leaving out a couple of notches forms a handle.

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-It's incredibly hard, isn't it?

-It is.

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You think, all right, it wouldn't have stopped a bullet going through

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there, but I think if you chucked a spear at it,

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it would have to be thrown pretty hard to get through that.

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'It was a zebra-skin shield. I hadn't picked that up.'

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When I first saw it, I thought, "It's a shield.

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"It's a Zulu shield."

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But it was a zebra-skin shield, which I was told afterwards.

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It meant that it was ceremonial, so it was a rare shield.

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All the other shields were made out of cowhide,

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so this was a particularly...

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It was the Rolls-Royce of shields, if you could use that expression.

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And it was quite obviously over 100 years old

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and I think we can accept what happened 100 years ago.

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Had that shield represented the killing, for example,

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of a zebra last week or the week before, we certainly,

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in no way, would countenance that.

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The spear is also Zulu. Beautifully made, actually.

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And look at the age on it, it's amazing, isn't it?

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And it's become rock, rock solid hard. Value - any ideas?

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-You hoped it was worth something when you brought it in.

-Of course.

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-Yes.

-I think you've got a value here of between £100-200.

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-Really?

-Yeah.

-That has surprised me.

-Has it?

-Yes.

-That's good.

-Yes.

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Because sometimes we get people on the programme who almost hit me

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when I tell them what things are worth!

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Watch out, Charlie, few of those people were armed.

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Will he be any safer at the auction?

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-I've checked with the auctioneer.

-Yeah.

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-He said it could do a little bit better.

-Oh, really?

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-Just a little bit.

-That would be pleasant.

-That would be.

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The zebra-skin shield. Zulu one.

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And what can we say for that -

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a couple of hundred pounds start me for it.

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500 I am bid. 550 anywhere?

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£500. 550. 6.

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650. 7. 750. 8.

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850. 850. At £800, then.

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Coming to you now, Pat, at 850.

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£850.

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-I can't believe it!

-850.

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850.

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900. 950.

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1,000.

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1,100 I'm bid. 1,150.

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Oh, no.

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£1,100 then, with Alan.

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All done. then? It's with Alan at £1,100,

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are you all done at £1,100?

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All finished?

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Yes! £1,100!

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I told you something fabulous was going to happen today, didn't I?

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Not 100-200, but 1,100.

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How do you guys manage it?

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'I was absolutely astonished by the sale price.'

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I think if somebody had pointed out to me that it was

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a particularly rare ceremonial shield, then I might have put

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400-600 on it, but £1,100 seemed to me a huge amount of money.

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Authentic tribal items dating from before they were produced

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for tourists are highly sought-after.

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But be careful. There are subtleties in this specialist field

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that can stump even our most enthusiastic experts,

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so get some advice.

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But sometimes the expertise we are looking for can come

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from those of you who appear on Flog It!

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I have to be frank with you.

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Whenever I see weapons on the show, I'm terrified.

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As I have very little knowledge of them.

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Fortunately, when this Smith and Wesson revolver came in

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to Herne Bay, the owner knew all about it.

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It's a Smith and Wesson.

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It's a .310-calibre rim-fire.

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It's what is also called a lock-up.

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So rather than me educating him, he actually educated me.

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-Explain that. Can you show us what that is?

-Certainly.

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What you do is you cock the gun, take out the barrel...

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You then push out the old cartridges with that piece, reload.

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Put it back in again, lock it up.

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And it's got what they call the hidden trigger as well,

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-so it's safe in somebody's pockets.

-So you don't blow your leg off.

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-Exactly.

-Smith and Wesson are a very iconic American gun manufacturers.

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Started in the mid-19th century, they were very inventive

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throughout that time in the manufacturing

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and design of weaponry, which really puts them up there

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with Colt for well-known gun collectables.

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Where did you get it from?

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I had a very good friend, he was ex-Navy, same as I was.

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And when he left the Navy after the war, he became a bookmaker,

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a London bookmaker,

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and he got friendly with another bookmaker

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who was quite older than him.

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He asked him if he would like this when this bookmaker was retiring,

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and he said that he was issued with it by the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

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-Really?

-Yes. For his own protection. He carried money.

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And that was in the 1890s.

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-HE GASPS

-Straight out of Agatha Christie.

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I think a sensible estimate is £300-500.

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-Is that something you'd be happy with?

-Oh, yes.

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-It's better than being in the safe.

-Of course.

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The Smith and Wesson lock-up patent five-shot calibre revolver.

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Good thing, this. Several bids. Starting at £360.

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I'm looking for 380. 380. 400.

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And 20.

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-440. 460.

-This is good.

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480. 500.

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No? It's at £480 on my right now. Any further offer?

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Any further bid in the room?

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If not, I'll sell at £480, the bid is on my right. At 480.

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If we're all done, at 480...

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-Top end of the estimate.

-We're happy with that.

-We're very happy.

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-Thank you very much.

-Are you, Ted?

-Yeah, not half!

-Good.

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The thing that helped us

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make such a good price at auction was the fact that it had

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never been fired, therefore it was in pristine condition.

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What do we always say whenever you are buying?

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Condition, condition, condition.

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An iconic name like Smith and Wesson will always secure a good price.

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And, as Mark says, condition is everything,

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so let's have a look at some of those trade secrets in detail.

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Weaponry really is a very specialist field,

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with complicated laws around its use. So listen carefully.

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Authentic tribal pieces have much greater value,

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so try to date it from the materials.

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By all means do some research.

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But get expert help to be sure and look out for classic names

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and great condition for a sure-fire piece.

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As far as guns go, you don't need a licence to buy an antique,

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but as antique isn't defined by law, how can you tell what you've got?

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One rule of thumb is that if you can get modern ammunition for it,

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it's not an antique.

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And make sure you only keep it as a curio

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and never use it as a firearm.

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It's always a good idea to buy from a reputable dealer

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and make sure you have the paperwork describing the weapon,

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but it's always best to check the law with a firearms specialist

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or the police before parting with your money.

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As we saw with the Zulu shield made from zebra skin, there are items

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that come to us on 'Flog It!' that can seem distasteful today.

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Some of these are made from ivory.

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In a moment, we'll be giving you some tips about how to spot

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the real thing, when it is and isn't OK to buy it.

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But first, here's a little bit about its murky history.

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It became popular in Europe

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when 19th-century colonialists made their way deep into Africa.

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There, they became enamoured with the smooth,

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creamy coloured tusks of elephants, which they called white gold

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and which came to be known as ivory.

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Soon, demand exploded, as rich westerners enjoyed the trend

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of all sorts of carved ivory trinkets.

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The repercussions were disastrous -

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a brutal trade in which human life was cheap,

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as local people were hounded to capture and kill elephants.

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Finally, in the late 1980s, there was a worldwide ban

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on the ivory trade,

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with a few exceptions made for stockpiled ivory.

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Here in Europe, the law says it's illegal to buy or sell ivory

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if it was carved after 1947,

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but whatever you think of it there's still a market for ivory

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carved before this date, like this beautifully carved box

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which appeared on 'Flog It!', having been turfed out of an attic.

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-So, do you like it?

-Yeah. It's different. I like it.

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It's very intricate, isn't it? It's amazing carving, actually.

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-It's carved from ivory.

-Yeah.

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And it dates from the end of the 19th century, so over 100 years old,

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and it's Cantonese, made for export, export ware.

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-Any idea what that's worth?

-No.

-20 quid?

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-Higher.

-£50?

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-Higher.

-£100?

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I'm not sure.

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I think that's where I'd put the reserve, about 100, 80-100.

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And I think it'll make 100-150.

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So, how did it do at auction?

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460, 480.

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-500.

-Well...

-500.

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-520. 550.

-THEY LAUGH

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-£550! Megan, they love this.

-Oh, my God.

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-600.

-My goodness me.

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-680.

-Didn't you find it in a house?

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-Yeah.

-What is Auntie going to say?

-She'll go absolutely mental.

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780, on Jocelyn's phone. 780.

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Would anyone else like in at £780?

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She has just put the hammer down at £780.

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£780 is an incredible price.

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If ivory is old, at least pre-1947, collectors won't be put off,

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sometimes paying big money to enjoy a piece of exquisite

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craftsmanship and artistry.

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So, if you come across a piece of ivory,

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what should you be looking out for?

0:17:210:17:23

One of the things ivory can be mistaken for

0:17:230:17:25

is the less valuable bone,

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but there are ways to tell which you have,

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as our expert, Michael Baggott, explains.

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-As you might know, most of these are ivory.

-Yes.

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They're actually all from Japan.

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-Right.

-And the earliest one is this one here,

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and funnily enough, he isn't ivory.

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He's bone.

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And you can tell that because you've got that very coarse

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open-work grain.

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Plastic is used as a cheap modern copy. Try sticking a hot pin in it.

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If it's ivory, the pin won't penetrate.

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And some people might try to fake the age, so in this minefield

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find an expert to help you make sure your ivory dates from before 1947.

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We've all got something at home, that one special item

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that we're particularly attached to

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but I want to know what's the one thing our experts would

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rescue from a burning building?

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If there was a fire,

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apart from my children and my husband,

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it would be my great-grandfather's war medals, definitely.

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He was in the Somme from 1914 to 1916.

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It must have just been the most unimaginable hell

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and my granny, God bless her, is 102,

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his daughter, and still around today.

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She only has the very, very briefest of memories of him

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but that he sacrificed so much for us to be here today, really,

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is just a daily reminder that we shouldn't take everything for granted that we do.

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I think it's important for us to remember the past

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and what people have given and sacrificed so we can be here today.

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Our team of experts can tackle most things you put in front of them

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at a valuation day

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but they also have their own individual specialisms and passions.

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Now, Catherine Southon has a keen passion for the tools of war

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and navigation instruments.

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Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but it is hers.

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So she jumped at the chance of killing two birds with one stone.

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HMS Victory, one of our most famous ships in British naval history,

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commanded by the great war hero, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.

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In 1805, he successfully drove Napoleon's French forces away

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in the Battle of Trafalgar and lost his life on board his great ship.

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What a perfect setting for Catherine to indulge her passions.

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I think my interest with the sea probably stems from my father

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being in the Navy.

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I've always had an interest in ships,

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not so much because of the construction but I think,

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really, because of what really went on on ships, the adventure.

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I started working at Sotheby's as a junior

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and I was just helping out doing the filing

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and writing all the letters, but I was actually drawn towards

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the maritime items and the scientific instruments.

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I was absolutely fascinated by this area and I went on to

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become head of maritime works of art and scientific instruments.

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Today is such a treat for me

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because I'm coming to visit HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship.

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Well, last time I came here, I was armed with a clipboard and a pencil.

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I was about 11 and I was on a school trip.

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But, just coming and looking around now,

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what really would have gone on here during the Battle of Trafalgar?

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Can you just paint the picture for me?

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This would've been a hive of activity.

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You could imagine during a battle, all the men manning the guns.

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You would have men up in the rigging, OK, sailing the ship

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cos the ship still has to manoeuvre, even during the battle.

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It would have been organised chaos.

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There would have been smoke, musket fire, splinters flying everywhere.

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As you can imagine, not a very...

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The noise, the blood everywhere and just these figures,

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just dancing around.

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-We're now standing on the poop deck?

-Yes.

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And officers would have been up here?

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You would have had officers up here.

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This is like the bridge on a modern-day ship.

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But the senior officers would have been down on the quarterdeck,

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like Lord Nelson and Captain Hardy,

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because there was a lot more protection down there.

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In fact, down on the quarterdeck is actually where he was shot

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and you can see it's marked by the brass plaque on the deck.

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So he actually fell here?

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-Yes. Yes.

-And then afterwards, down...

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He was carried down below to the orlop deck, where he died

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about three hours later.

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-And the orlop deck is where I'm heading next.

-OK.

-See you later.

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Thanks, Alan. Thank you.

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Today I'm meeting Mick Crumplin, who is a retired surgeon

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and curator of the Royal College of Surgeons' collection.

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-Mick, hi.

-Hello, Catherine.

-Good to meet you.

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So, when the casualties were brought down from the upper deck,

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this is what they were faced with. All these gruesome instruments.

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Well, of course, they had gruesome wounds, that's the problem.

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Here on the cockpit on the orlop deck was where they all congregated

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and, as you can see, we're very cramped in our operating style.

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I've got this vision of these casualties literally being...

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coming down the steps with their arms all bleeding. What was it like?

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Absolutely horrendous.

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You've got to remember, there were three surgeons, two juniors

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and the main surgeon of the ship, William Beatty,

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to do all these procedures on the patients who had been injured.

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Some of them would bleed out and die and were discharged dead

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before they could be treated, because they just overwhelmed the surgeon.

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So what are the most common injuries that the sailors had?

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Well, the commonest type of wound was an injured limb

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or a body cavity penetration by round shot or a shard of wood.

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So the men, when they were brought down bleeding and in pain,

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would need the bleeding controlled, the wounds trimming and dressed

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and perhaps closing up the wounds with needle and thread

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or adhesive or sticky plasters - we still use those today.

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We would then think about limbs that were so badly smashed

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that they had to be removed.

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But one of the things you did learn was how to control bleeding.

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10% of Nelson's crews were trained in the use

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of the field tourniquet, which was just a strap you put on the limb.

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So what you do is, you put the tourniquet on,

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having sat your patient on the end of a table.

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And you have people to restrain the poor fellow,

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and then you make an incision with a capital knife,

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which means a large knife, to...

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..go right round the limb to divide the muscle, the fat and the skin.

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Right down to bone, and then you use a tenon saw to divide the bone

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and that leg has to be steady during the procedure.

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-And this is actually the amputation saw?

-Yes.

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That's the type of saw that would've been used.

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-Really?

-It's just really like a carpenter's saw.

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That's the thing. Looking at it, that's exactly what you think.

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-It's the sort of thing you'd have in your tool box today.

-Absolutely.

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Then you've got to stop the bleeding

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and then close the wound over the skin with adhesive tapes or stitches

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and bind it up in a linen bandage

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and put the patient down to rest and perhaps give him a cordial afterwards,

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some wine and water dilute.

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I think he'd probably need more than some cordial!

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-I'm sure he would think that, yes!

-Something very stiff.

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When Nelson was brought down here, and presumably brought down

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to William Beatty because he was the senior surgeon,

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what would he have been faced with?

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I mean, there wasn't an awful lot they could do for him, obviously.

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No, I think he... Lord Nelson and William Beatty knew

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that his spine had been shot through and he had a severe chest wound

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and Beatty didn't spend all that long, he would have looked at him,

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looked for an exit wound, had him undressed.

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And as far as I know, he wasn't even given painkiller at that time,

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which is amazing.

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And he took him three and a quarter hours to die

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with his spinal cord divided and he had paraplegia, of course.

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So, Beatty and he agreed that his wound was mortal

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and nothing more could be done.

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Have you built up all this collection over a number of years?

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Yes, probably over about 40 years.

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But the thing is, the collection is not for hoarding and value.

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The value of a collection is using it

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so that you can teach people what it was really like.

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Right. But we have to say how beautifully some of them are made.

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I'm particularly focusing on this little shagreen set here

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-of the little lancets.

-The thumb lancets.

-I mean, that's just...

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For quite a gory little set of instruments, it's just... Oh!

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Oh! Beautifully made. It's lovely.

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Why do you think they're so important, though?

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It's not everyone's cup of tea.

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I like them because what we can do is teach people how surgery

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has developed, and it wasn't as crude as people thought,

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-given the time that we're working in...

-Not at this time, no.

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The results at the end of this war that poor old Victory was involved in

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were absolutely amazing,

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with mortality rates around 11% in one hospital

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after a big battle, which is phenomenal.

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89% of patients walking out of hospital,

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so they must have known something and it was using instruments

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like these that contributed to that success.

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Well, it's been...

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..just fantastic. Absolutely brilliant.

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I could talk all day long about every single instrument,

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-but sadly we haven't got time. Thank you very much, Mick.

-Not at all.

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-Lovely to meet you.

-And you.

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What a fascinating, if gruesome, collection

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and a vital part of our maritime history.

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If you find one of these instruments and you're too faint-hearted

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or squeamish to keep it, as the professor says,

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there will be someone out there to take it off your hands.

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Well, Catherine's voyage of discovery

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proves that war memorabilia

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is about so much more than guns and medals.

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There are all kinds of items out there

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with a connection to conflict,

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and each one has a fascinating story to tell.

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So if you think you have something which might interest the collectors,

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dig it out and take it to your local auction house

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or, better still,

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bring it along to one of our valuation days.

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I hope you enjoyed the show.

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Join me again soon for many more trade secrets.

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This edition is on the theme of war and conflict, and the team offers tips and advice on buying and selling militaria with an exotic array of weapons and a grizzly selection of antique medical instruments on show.


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