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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This is the show that aims
to give you the inside track
on buying and selling antiques and collectables.
We've got over ten years of 'Flog It!' behind us
That's hundreds of programmes and thousands
of your antiques valued and sold.
I have an automatic gold detector
in my fingertips.
So stand by for some top tips,
this is Trade Secrets.
On today's show we'll be exploring a theme -
where it's the weight of history or the personal stories
behind an item which determine its value.
'And, like it or not, there is a lot of interest
'in collectables associated with conflict,
'so today we have the market for war memorabilia firmly in our sights.
'our experts tell you how to value weapons of war.'
Whether or not you know the culture where an object's come from,
the one thing that is consistent is patination.
And we'll learn about the wartime surgical instruments
that have become collectables.
-And this is actually
-the amputation saw?
That's the type of saw that would have been used.
At almost every valuation day, people turn up with weapons
of some kind - bullets, guns,
shields, spears, war clubs,
this is where our experts really do need to know
When is an object a beautiful antique and collectable weapon,
or when is it just an illegal and dangerous weapon?
we were fortunate enough to have one of these things that sometimes
does turn up on 'Flog It!' - a wonderful Polynesian war club.
My father initially bought it at a house sale, way before the war.
So I've always known it.
Your father was very forward-thinking
because, before the war, this sort of tribal art wasn't at all popular.
'Tribal arts are much sought-after now because the indigenous nations'
that it was originally taken from have achieved a level of wealth
and maturity that they want to reclaim these items.
But also major institutional European and American collections
want to buy these for their own collections.
Now, I will always be corrected by an expert in their field,
but I've always regarded these as Oceanic.
So, basically, Fijian war clubs.
Especially when they're this paddle form.
'Whether or not you know the culture where an object's come from,
'the one thing that is consistent is patination'
and that's what we look for, the build-up of grease and dirt
and polish and wear and handling that shows that an item is either
18th or 19th or 20th-century.
The club certainly wasn't a tourist-made piece,
it was an authentic, early, tribal club.
I've had a look at it, I like the surface patination at the end
and on the handle.
So I'm quite happy to say that this is...
early to mid 19th-century.
The class of wares that people want are those that are original
to the culture, not made when Europeans went over
for the tourist trade.
And the club was 18th-century that we saw at Cirencester,
so that's, you know, it was carved for decorative pieces
but also for bashing somebody's brains out.
We'd be safe putting this in at, I think, £400-600.
-I'll be interested to see myself what it makes.
-You'll be at auction?
Oh, I will. Within a club's distance!
So I will be sweating furiously.
Did anyone at the auction also recognise that the club
was a unique antique piece?
We know these things are really hot right now
because they're going back to their countries of origin.
Museums are buying them up and they're paying top money, which is good news for you.
Watch this, watch this, see what happens.
Fijian carved wood tribal club. Super looking piece there.
-Got to be one of my favourite pieces in the sale.
-Oh, that's nice!
Who will start me? 500 to get on.
-The magic number.
And 50 if you like, on the phone. 1,050.
1,100. At 1,100.
1,150, if you like now. 1,150 on the phone now.
It's on the phone now. At 1,150...
-I'm happy with that.
Of course you're happy with that!
Collectors should look out for me
and not take my advice when they're selling tribal clubs.
Well, thank you, Michael.
But I can tell you, if you have an old weapon, look at its patina
and the materials to date it. But be aware, these can be copied
so you should get some expert advice.
Our expert Charlie Ross knew exactly what he was looking at.
Nick, you look absolutely terrifying.
Fancy coming into the Sheldonian in Oxford with these!
When I saw the Zulu spear and shield,
I immediately thought back to Rorke's Drift.
-My grandfather went to the Sudan in the 1880s, 1890s.
-He wasn't in the Services, so...
-Was he not?
So he didn't win it as a trophy at Rorke's Drift.
Not as far as I know! He never mentioned it.
It's from South Africa.
It's a Zulu shield and I think that dates from 1880, 1890,
which of course is the time pre-World War, the Zulu wars.
It's an extraordinary part of history, really.
And in remarkable condition.
I thought, in a rather whimsical way, that perhaps this had come back
from Rorke's Drift, one of the great battles in British history.
More VCs won at the Battle of Rorke's Drift than in any other battle in history.
About 150 British and colonial soldiers withstood an attack
by over 3,000 Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879.
I'm intrigued by the latticework of weaving more skin into it,
which also has a functional purpose.
It provides the handle, doesn't it?
Which is really interesting.
Just leaving out a couple of notches forms a handle.
-It's incredibly hard, isn't it?
You think, all right, it wouldn't have stopped a bullet going through
there, but I think if you chucked a spear at it,
it would have to be thrown pretty hard to get through that.
'It was a zebra-skin shield. I hadn't picked that up.'
When I first saw it, I thought, "It's a shield.
"It's a Zulu shield."
But it was a zebra-skin shield, which I was told afterwards.
It meant that it was ceremonial, so it was a rare shield.
All the other shields were made out of cowhide,
so this was a particularly...
It was the Rolls-Royce of shields, if you could use that expression.
And it was quite obviously over 100 years old
and I think we can accept what happened 100 years ago.
Had that shield represented the killing, for example,
of a zebra last week or the week before, we certainly,
in no way, would countenance that.
The spear is also Zulu. Beautifully made, actually.
And look at the age on it, it's amazing, isn't it?
And it's become rock, rock solid hard. Value - any ideas?
-You hoped it was worth something when you brought it in.
-I think you've got a value here of between £100-200.
-That has surprised me.
Because sometimes we get people on the programme who almost hit me
when I tell them what things are worth!
Watch out, Charlie, few of those people were armed.
Will he be any safer at the auction?
-I've checked with the auctioneer.
-He said it could do a little bit better.
-Just a little bit.
-That would be pleasant.
-That would be.
The zebra-skin shield. Zulu one.
And what can we say for that -
a couple of hundred pounds start me for it.
500 I am bid. 550 anywhere?
£500. 550. 6.
650. 7. 750. 8.
850. 850. At £800, then.
Coming to you now, Pat, at 850.
-I can't believe it!
1,100 I'm bid. 1,150.
£1,100 then, with Alan.
All done. then? It's with Alan at £1,100,
are you all done at £1,100?
I told you something fabulous was going to happen today, didn't I?
Not 100-200, but 1,100.
How do you guys manage it?
'I was absolutely astonished by the sale price.'
I think if somebody had pointed out to me that it was
a particularly rare ceremonial shield, then I might have put
400-600 on it, but £1,100 seemed to me a huge amount of money.
Authentic tribal items dating from before they were produced
for tourists are highly sought-after.
But be careful. There are subtleties in this specialist field
that can stump even our most enthusiastic experts,
so get some advice.
But sometimes the expertise we are looking for can come
from those of you who appear on Flog It!
I have to be frank with you.
Whenever I see weapons on the show, I'm terrified.
As I have very little knowledge of them.
Fortunately, when this Smith and Wesson revolver came in
to Herne Bay, the owner knew all about it.
It's a Smith and Wesson.
It's a .310-calibre rim-fire.
It's what is also called a lock-up.
So rather than me educating him, he actually educated me.
-Explain that. Can you show us what that is?
What you do is you cock the gun, take out the barrel...
You then push out the old cartridges with that piece, reload.
Put it back in again, lock it up.
And it's got what they call the hidden trigger as well,
-so it's safe in somebody's pockets.
-So you don't blow your leg off.
-Smith and Wesson are a very iconic American gun manufacturers.
Started in the mid-19th century, they were very inventive
throughout that time in the manufacturing
and design of weaponry, which really puts them up there
with Colt for well-known gun collectables.
Where did you get it from?
I had a very good friend, he was ex-Navy, same as I was.
And when he left the Navy after the war, he became a bookmaker,
a London bookmaker,
and he got friendly with another bookmaker
who was quite older than him.
He asked him if he would like this when this bookmaker was retiring,
and he said that he was issued with it by the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
-Yes. For his own protection. He carried money.
And that was in the 1890s.
-Straight out of Agatha Christie.
I think a sensible estimate is £300-500.
-Is that something you'd be happy with?
-It's better than being in the safe.
The Smith and Wesson lock-up patent five-shot calibre revolver.
Good thing, this. Several bids. Starting at £360.
I'm looking for 380. 380. 400.
-This is good.
No? It's at £480 on my right now. Any further offer?
Any further bid in the room?
If not, I'll sell at £480, the bid is on my right. At 480.
If we're all done, at 480...
-Top end of the estimate.
-We're happy with that.
-We're very happy.
-Thank you very much.
-Are you, Ted?
-Yeah, not half!
The thing that helped us
make such a good price at auction was the fact that it had
never been fired, therefore it was in pristine condition.
What do we always say whenever you are buying?
Condition, condition, condition.
An iconic name like Smith and Wesson will always secure a good price.
And, as Mark says, condition is everything,
so let's have a look at some of those trade secrets in detail.
Weaponry really is a very specialist field,
with complicated laws around its use. So listen carefully.
Authentic tribal pieces have much greater value,
so try to date it from the materials.
By all means do some research.
But get expert help to be sure and look out for classic names
and great condition for a sure-fire piece.
As far as guns go, you don't need a licence to buy an antique,
but as antique isn't defined by law, how can you tell what you've got?
One rule of thumb is that if you can get modern ammunition for it,
it's not an antique.
And make sure you only keep it as a curio
and never use it as a firearm.
It's always a good idea to buy from a reputable dealer
and make sure you have the paperwork describing the weapon,
but it's always best to check the law with a firearms specialist
or the police before parting with your money.
As we saw with the Zulu shield made from zebra skin, there are items
that come to us on 'Flog It!' that can seem distasteful today.
Some of these are made from ivory.
In a moment, we'll be giving you some tips about how to spot
the real thing, when it is and isn't OK to buy it.
But first, here's a little bit about its murky history.
It became popular in Europe
when 19th-century colonialists made their way deep into Africa.
There, they became enamoured with the smooth,
creamy coloured tusks of elephants, which they called white gold
and which came to be known as ivory.
Soon, demand exploded, as rich westerners enjoyed the trend
of all sorts of carved ivory trinkets.
The repercussions were disastrous -
a brutal trade in which human life was cheap,
as local people were hounded to capture and kill elephants.
Finally, in the late 1980s, there was a worldwide ban
on the ivory trade,
with a few exceptions made for stockpiled ivory.
Here in Europe, the law says it's illegal to buy or sell ivory
if it was carved after 1947,
but whatever you think of it there's still a market for ivory
carved before this date, like this beautifully carved box
which appeared on 'Flog It!', having been turfed out of an attic.
-So, do you like it?
-Yeah. It's different. I like it.
It's very intricate, isn't it? It's amazing carving, actually.
-It's carved from ivory.
And it dates from the end of the 19th century, so over 100 years old,
and it's Cantonese, made for export, export ware.
-Any idea what that's worth?
I'm not sure.
I think that's where I'd put the reserve, about 100, 80-100.
And I think it'll make 100-150.
So, how did it do at auction?
-£550! Megan, they love this.
-Oh, my God.
-My goodness me.
-Didn't you find it in a house?
-What is Auntie going to say?
-She'll go absolutely mental.
780, on Jocelyn's phone. 780.
Would anyone else like in at £780?
She has just put the hammer down at £780.
£780 is an incredible price.
If ivory is old, at least pre-1947, collectors won't be put off,
sometimes paying big money to enjoy a piece of exquisite
craftsmanship and artistry.
So, if you come across a piece of ivory,
what should you be looking out for?
One of the things ivory can be mistaken for
is the less valuable bone,
but there are ways to tell which you have,
as our expert, Michael Baggott, explains.
-As you might know, most of these are ivory.
They're actually all from Japan.
-And the earliest one is this one here,
and funnily enough, he isn't ivory.
And you can tell that because you've got that very coarse
Plastic is used as a cheap modern copy. Try sticking a hot pin in it.
If it's ivory, the pin won't penetrate.
And some people might try to fake the age, so in this minefield
find an expert to help you make sure your ivory dates from before 1947.
We've all got something at home, that one special item
that we're particularly attached to
but I want to know what's the one thing our experts would
rescue from a burning building?
If there was a fire,
apart from my children and my husband,
it would be my great-grandfather's war medals, definitely.
He was in the Somme from 1914 to 1916.
It must have just been the most unimaginable hell
and my granny, God bless her, is 102,
his daughter, and still around today.
She only has the very, very briefest of memories of him
but that he sacrificed so much for us to be here today, really,
is just a daily reminder that we shouldn't take everything for granted that we do.
I think it's important for us to remember the past
and what people have given and sacrificed so we can be here today.
Our team of experts can tackle most things you put in front of them
at a valuation day
but they also have their own individual specialisms and passions.
Now, Catherine Southon has a keen passion for the tools of war
and navigation instruments.
Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but it is hers.
So she jumped at the chance of killing two birds with one stone.
HMS Victory, one of our most famous ships in British naval history,
commanded by the great war hero, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.
In 1805, he successfully drove Napoleon's French forces away
in the Battle of Trafalgar and lost his life on board his great ship.
What a perfect setting for Catherine to indulge her passions.
I think my interest with the sea probably stems from my father
being in the Navy.
I've always had an interest in ships,
not so much because of the construction but I think,
really, because of what really went on on ships, the adventure.
I started working at Sotheby's as a junior
and I was just helping out doing the filing
and writing all the letters, but I was actually drawn towards
the maritime items and the scientific instruments.
I was absolutely fascinated by this area and I went on to
become head of maritime works of art and scientific instruments.
Today is such a treat for me
because I'm coming to visit HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship.
Well, last time I came here, I was armed with a clipboard and a pencil.
I was about 11 and I was on a school trip.
But, just coming and looking around now,
what really would have gone on here during the Battle of Trafalgar?
Can you just paint the picture for me?
This would've been a hive of activity.
You could imagine during a battle, all the men manning the guns.
You would have men up in the rigging, OK, sailing the ship
cos the ship still has to manoeuvre, even during the battle.
It would have been organised chaos.
There would have been smoke, musket fire, splinters flying everywhere.
As you can imagine, not a very...
The noise, the blood everywhere and just these figures,
just dancing around.
-We're now standing on the poop deck?
And officers would have been up here?
You would have had officers up here.
This is like the bridge on a modern-day ship.
But the senior officers would have been down on the quarterdeck,
like Lord Nelson and Captain Hardy,
because there was a lot more protection down there.
In fact, down on the quarterdeck is actually where he was shot
and you can see it's marked by the brass plaque on the deck.
So he actually fell here?
-And then afterwards, down...
He was carried down below to the orlop deck, where he died
about three hours later.
-And the orlop deck is where I'm heading next.
-See you later.
Thanks, Alan. Thank you.
Today I'm meeting Mick Crumplin, who is a retired surgeon
and curator of the Royal College of Surgeons' collection.
-Good to meet you.
So, when the casualties were brought down from the upper deck,
this is what they were faced with. All these gruesome instruments.
Well, of course, they had gruesome wounds, that's the problem.
Here on the cockpit on the orlop deck was where they all congregated
and, as you can see, we're very cramped in our operating style.
I've got this vision of these casualties literally being...
coming down the steps with their arms all bleeding. What was it like?
You've got to remember, there were three surgeons, two juniors
and the main surgeon of the ship, William Beatty,
to do all these procedures on the patients who had been injured.
Some of them would bleed out and die and were discharged dead
before they could be treated, because they just overwhelmed the surgeon.
So what are the most common injuries that the sailors had?
Well, the commonest type of wound was an injured limb
or a body cavity penetration by round shot or a shard of wood.
So the men, when they were brought down bleeding and in pain,
would need the bleeding controlled, the wounds trimming and dressed
and perhaps closing up the wounds with needle and thread
or adhesive or sticky plasters - we still use those today.
We would then think about limbs that were so badly smashed
that they had to be removed.
But one of the things you did learn was how to control bleeding.
10% of Nelson's crews were trained in the use
of the field tourniquet, which was just a strap you put on the limb.
So what you do is, you put the tourniquet on,
having sat your patient on the end of a table.
And you have people to restrain the poor fellow,
and then you make an incision with a capital knife,
which means a large knife, to...
..go right round the limb to divide the muscle, the fat and the skin.
Right down to bone, and then you use a tenon saw to divide the bone
and that leg has to be steady during the procedure.
-And this is actually the amputation saw?
That's the type of saw that would've been used.
-It's just really like a carpenter's saw.
That's the thing. Looking at it, that's exactly what you think.
-It's the sort of thing you'd have in your tool box today.
Then you've got to stop the bleeding
and then close the wound over the skin with adhesive tapes or stitches
and bind it up in a linen bandage
and put the patient down to rest and perhaps give him a cordial afterwards,
some wine and water dilute.
I think he'd probably need more than some cordial!
-I'm sure he would think that, yes!
-Something very stiff.
When Nelson was brought down here, and presumably brought down
to William Beatty because he was the senior surgeon,
what would he have been faced with?
I mean, there wasn't an awful lot they could do for him, obviously.
No, I think he... Lord Nelson and William Beatty knew
that his spine had been shot through and he had a severe chest wound
and Beatty didn't spend all that long, he would have looked at him,
looked for an exit wound, had him undressed.
And as far as I know, he wasn't even given painkiller at that time,
which is amazing.
And he took him three and a quarter hours to die
with his spinal cord divided and he had paraplegia, of course.
So, Beatty and he agreed that his wound was mortal
and nothing more could be done.
Have you built up all this collection over a number of years?
Yes, probably over about 40 years.
But the thing is, the collection is not for hoarding and value.
The value of a collection is using it
so that you can teach people what it was really like.
Right. But we have to say how beautifully some of them are made.
I'm particularly focusing on this little shagreen set here
-of the little lancets.
-The thumb lancets.
-I mean, that's just...
For quite a gory little set of instruments, it's just... Oh!
Oh! Beautifully made. It's lovely.
Why do you think they're so important, though?
It's not everyone's cup of tea.
I like them because what we can do is teach people how surgery
has developed, and it wasn't as crude as people thought,
-given the time that we're working in...
-Not at this time, no.
The results at the end of this war that poor old Victory was involved in
were absolutely amazing,
with mortality rates around 11% in one hospital
after a big battle, which is phenomenal.
89% of patients walking out of hospital,
so they must have known something and it was using instruments
like these that contributed to that success.
Well, it's been...
..just fantastic. Absolutely brilliant.
I could talk all day long about every single instrument,
-but sadly we haven't got time. Thank you very much, Mick.
-Not at all.
-Lovely to meet you.
What a fascinating, if gruesome, collection
and a vital part of our maritime history.
If you find one of these instruments and you're too faint-hearted
or squeamish to keep it, as the professor says,
there will be someone out there to take it off your hands.
Well, Catherine's voyage of discovery
proves that war memorabilia
is about so much more than guns and medals.
There are all kinds of items out there
with a connection to conflict,
and each one has a fascinating story to tell.
So if you think you have something which might interest the collectors,
dig it out and take it to your local auction house
or, better still,
bring it along to one of our valuation days.
I hope you enjoyed the show.
Join me again soon for many more trade secrets.
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.