The Flog It! team explores some of the more unusual items seen on the show. Paul Martin meets stonemasons who are breathing new life into Oxford's dreaming spires.
Browse content similar to The Unusual. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The great thing for me about Flog It!
is there is no limit to what I can learn,
and I hope to what you can pick up, too.
Amongst the thousands of antiques and collectibles
we have valued over the last 11 years,
there's always something
that pops up that is completely new to me or to our experts.
This is the strangest item I've ever had to value.
Thank you, thank you for bringing these in.
So, today, we are going to be taking a closer look at the rare
and different things,
or sometimes the just plain baffling things.
This programme is dedicated to all the weird
and wonderful things you no longer want in your homes.
We'll be giving you the inside track on what is worth buying
and what is worth selling - although sometimes,
quite frankly, we are stumped.
Really, the unusual now
is what everybody wants.
People want things that no-one else has.
Our experts share their thoughts about some of the wackier
collectibles we have seen on Flog It!.
I mean, they have got to be worth £100,
£200 just for the novelty value, haven't they?
They have got to be worth that all day long, surely.
And the experts get it wrong.
It's when it starts to spiral
out of control and it gets higher
and higher and higher and you think,
"Oh, no, what have I done?"
So here are some tips from our experts about why you should think outside the box.
The market for quirky things is probably better now than it's ever been.
If you don't know what it is,
it's likely they don't know what it is
and you can spend that time researching it, and that's the fun.
Think creatively about the object.
Don't take it just at face value.
Think of its potential in another context.
There's no doubt these are conversational pieces,
so I have dried-out sea horses,
stuffed tortoise, a warthog's head.
Buy it if you can.
So here are some of our very best finds
and what you can learn from them.
In Edinburgh, in 2006, I was presented with something that,
at first glance, looked like a kid's toy.
Can you guess what it is? It has got form, it has got sculptural form.
Take a closer look.
You can just make out. It's an elephant, isn't it, Bill?
-That's exactly what it is. Are you a modernist?
-No, I'm a bit old-fashioned.
-You are a traditionalist.
-You like your proper antiques.
-Yes, I do.
-Do you know what this is?
-Yes, it was a promotion
by Liam Williamson of Faith, early '70s.
'73, yeah. This was designed by the British artist Eduardo Paolozzi.
In fact, he is a Sir, Eduardo Paolozzi.
It's for the Nairn Flooring Company.
-Cushioned floor and plastic flooring.
And I'm a floorer, as well.
And the reps would keep their paperwork in there.
And it's made of the same material that was used in the flooring.
But when you look at it, for me,
that really does sum up that
sort of cubic block work
of the '60s, you know, the late '60s.
It's sort of the brutal architecture of the South Bank.
You can see a signature there.
Just at the bottom there.
This is number 244
out of a limited range of 3,000,
which is striped into the base. I think it is fantastic, I really do.
The fact that it's limited-edition will add to the value of it.
-Have you any idea of what this is worth?
I said to my wife, "If it's a couple of hundred pounds,
"well, it's always something."
It's been sitting in the attic for 31 years.
It is not going to be everybody's cup of tea.
-What does the wife think?
-She doesn't like it at all.
She never has.
I think it is quite rare. I don't know how many have survived.
I know the Victoria and Albert Museum have one.
-Um... So, it's in good company, isn't it?
-Oh, it is.
I think it's great. I really do think...
It's one of the quirkiest things I've seen on Flog It!.
It's definitely good, contemporary, 20th-century modern.
Let's hope - big money spent on this little elephant, Bill.
We'll just have to wait and see.
And big money was spent.
That elephant stomped through its estimate on the auction day.
We are starting the bidding at £240.
260. 280. 300.
And the bids kept coming,
showing how hard it is to place a value on an unusual object.
Oh, are we going to get the 1,000?
Bidding on the other side?
950 beside me on the telephone.
All done at 950. At 950...
So, Bill, God, you must be so happy, surely.
Yes, that will be for the new washing machine.
Well, it just goes to show how it is the rare
and the quirky that often attract a premium.
So, go for the limited edition pieces, which have rarity
built in, or even things that you can't quite identify.
Really, the unusual now is what everybody wants.
People want things that no-one else has.
-Liz, you have made my day today!
Thank you, thank you for bringing these in.
I think in Winchester, I think it was 2007,
something so unusual came in.
These wonderful sulphur crystals had been grown
with these Solomonic columns and VR
for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
I've never seen anything like them before or since, to be honest.
Where on earth did you get these from?
They were given to a great-great-uncle of my husband's...
-..who was a bespoke tailor.
And a gentleman had a suit made and he wanted another pair
of trousers, but didn't have any money to pay for them.
So he gave him these instead.
-So they cost the price of a pair of bespoke trousers.
The fact that they were a payment for a pair of trousers
might seem odd today, but in times gone by, often debts were settled
with objects, usually objects of high-value, usually a pocket watch
or a piece of silver. So, you know, sulphur crystals is odd.
But that is probably why they were accepted in the first place.
The poor chap didn't know what they were worth and just thought
he'd have a punt.
-We've got the VR, and they appear to be grown sulphur crystals.
And I have been asking my colleagues how on earth this is done.
And we either think it's a plaster base that has been
carved with the initials and the Solomonic columns at the front...
-..that's been dipped and dipped and dipped,
or even a piece of string
that's been corded into shape and then dipped and dipped and dipped.
And they have been left to grow.
-But over a very long period of time.
And I am sure that these were made for her Golden Jubilee.
-Being yellow as they are. Over 100 years old. Fantastically rare.
When you value items like this,
you really are taking a stab in the dark.
And this is where the whole world of antiques takes off,
because everyone that looks at them will have a different value.
So, again, you put them in at a figure that is sensible.
They are rare, you will never see them again.
So, they have got to be worth £200. Are they worth 2,000?
You put them to an auction and you wait and see what happens.
I think we should put these into auction
at £200 to £300.
I think, if they don't make £200, you should have them back,
-because they are that unusual...
-..And that quirky.
One-offs. That's what antiques is about, finding these one-off things.
These things, they are so quirky,
I don't really know what they are worth.
It is just a shot in the dark. You either love them or hate them.
This is unusual, Victorian sulphur crystals.
At £300, are you sure?
At £300 then.
-320. 340. 360.
£340 for the last time.
-Oh, Liz, wonderful!
Its uniqueness, its rarity...
So very much the more unusual, the better.
A pair like this, probably the same ones,
sold at auction in 2009 for over £1,600.
Now, that is a bit more than the price of a pair of trousers.
If something is truly unusual,
then an auction room may be the best place to sell it.
There is nothing like putting something under the hammer
to find out what it is worth.
Valuations are not a science, they're a bit of an art,
so it's hard for us to get them right 100% of the time.
Argh(!) It's not that heavy, but they ARE heavy.
The one I remember most is the...
I think my favourite lot still to this day that
I've come across on Flog It!,
which was the giant pair of boots at Wells Cathedral.
I would not like to meet the guy who's wearing these in a dark alley
at night. Have you got the BFG at home or something?
Anything like the giant boots, which is quirky, unusual...
You know, you get dealers who are after the unusual.
I mean, what size are these?
I'm only a size seven, or eight when I'm lucky,
-and I'm feeling bigger than I am. What size are these?
From memory, I think we put them in at sort of £100 to £200,
which, I think, sounds, you know, on reflection,
maybe a little bit cheeky. I was coming in low.
I mean, they've got to be worth £100,
£200, just for the novelty value, haven't they?
-They have got to be worth that all day long, surely.
Here we go,
a pair of size 42 black leather Balmoral boots.
Wonderful items. And I start away at £75. At 75.
Do I see 80 anywhere?
The bidding actually started at £75 on the book,
went up to about 200, I think, on commission.
440. 460. 480. 500.
Then someone in the room came in at 500.
They took it up to about £900, £1,000.
Took it up to say 2,000, I think,
and then a fresh bidder altogether came into the fray.
Now, even this beggars belief.
And took it up to 3,500.
3,600 it is then.
Are you sure? 36.
It's exhilarating as a valuer.
Because you are involved in some way in getting
this great result for the contributors.
I think it's actually the only Flog It! lot
that I've got a round of applause,
though I'm not quite sure what I did to deserve that.
It was more for the item and Liz and Conrad.
All the regulars on the Flog It! team of experts are experienced in their field,
either as auctioneers, dealers or collectors
and for the best part, you can arrive at one of our valuation days with anything you want
and one of them will be able o tell you everything you need to know about it.
But we are only human and every now and then
you will arrive with something that catches us out.
I love French prisoner-of-war work,
and this is a beautiful model that you have brought along to us today.
I saw this wonderful hull which was in lovely condition,
lovely details to it, nice figurehead, nice case.
Where did you get hold of it?
It has been in the family for quite some time.
It belonged to my mother's family.
Her father, apparently, was a mariner,
and whether he actually had it purchased and made, I don't know.
During the Napoleonic War, from 1799-1815, prisoners,
French prisoners, were kept in Britain in terrible conditions.
And they tried to make whatever they could from items that they
had around, perhaps bone, mutton bone,
wood, whatever they could find,
sometimes human hair,
to make items that they could then sell on.
The detail is incredible.
If you look very closely at the hull, you can see all
the individual planks and where they have been pinned together.
The real problem that I saw was with the rigging.
The rigging was in such a bad state.
The rigging does deteriorate and, obviously,
as these pieces are moved from one display cabinet to the next,
they are going to get damaged.
I looked at that model and I thought about that and that's why I thought,
"Right, I'm going to put a low estimate on it,"
because I was very concerned about getting that re-rigged.
And I know that potential buyers would look at that
and think about how much it would cost to re-rig it properly.
I'll put it in at £600 to £800,
protect it with a 600 reserve, and let's hope that it makes money.
Well, we are always going on about the importance of condition,
but did that matter in this case?
Starting here, £500.
-And 50. 600. 650.
750 with me. £800 now.
It was interesting, because as the price creeps up,
it's OK all the time it's around your sort of high estimate.
And as it sort of goes beyond the high estimate,
it is still sort of OK.
800. 850. 900.
But in this case, it just kept going up.
And 50. 1,100.
It's when it starts
to spiral out of control and it gets higher and higher and higher
and you think, "Oh, no, what have I done?"
And then it changes from,
"Oh, that's wonderful," to, "Oh, no, that's really embarrassing."
I'm lost for words. I don't know.
Selling at £4,400...
I mean, perhaps if I had put a high estimate on,
if I'd have put £4,000 or £3,000, nobody would have looked at it.
It is just one of those things,
and that's one of the reasons why we all love the auction business,
because it is so unpredictable.
A low estimate doesn't necessarily mean a low sale price.
Catherine was a long way out,
but it pays never to underestimate the determination
of a collector. Speaking of which...
This is the strangest item I have ever had to value on Flog It!.
Can you tell me a little about it?
I can... I am slightly undecided what it is.
Well, we believe it is a two-headed kitten,
and it belonged to my husband's grandfather's father.
So it was his great grandfather. But they used to sew two heads together.
But when he took it...the skin and all the stuffing out,
he said, no, it was just the one head.
One head. Rather interesting.
It has this sort of slightly freak-show element that the
Victorians absolutely loved.
You know, they were permanently going around circuses and fairs
seeing the tallest man, the shortest man, the fattest man and whatever.
So, suddenly, to get a two-headed cat
is almost the sort of stuff of Greek mythology, isn't it?
I have no comparable whatsoever.
So, £50 to £200, who knows,
but I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't go up over £200.
That is the beauty of these peculiar items,
you never know what someone might be willing to pay.
Come now to the Victorian preserved double-headed kitten. 900.
-This is good.
We are going to do 1,000.
1,000. At £1,000, are we all done?
I'm going to sell it at £1,000.
Last time. Are we all done?
-Here it goes!
Yes! That is Flog It! for you!
Well, they say two heads are better than one,
and when it comes to Victorian taxidermy,
that couldn't be more true.
Here on Flog It!,
we've met enough examples of taxidermy to recreate
Noah's Ark - everything from ducks to cows' hooves
to bison horns.
Look at the size of these buffalo horns!
The art of preserving animals can be traced back as far
as the ancient Egyptians.
But the golden age of taxidermy was during the Victorian era.
The stuffed and mounted trophies of the great hunters
and collectors of that period
form the basis of the Natural History Museum in London.
Taxidermy became popular among the upper classes, who displayed
their impressive collections to show off their thirst for knowledge
and interest in the Empire.
You know, I have to show you these elephant feet.
Now, I have seen these used before as plant pots,
stick and umbrella stands, or even a litter bin in a gentleman's library.
These antique elephant feet from the Victorian era
are on display at Tatton Park.
And I know some people find taxidermy quite macabre
but I quite like it, and it's making a comeback.
The work of the great 19th century taxidermists like Peter Spicer
and Rowland Ward is highly prized by collectors,
and their birds of prey are especially sought after.
I am told a rare golden eagle by Peter Spicer
might command a price of up to £20,000.
Spicer often signed his pieces on a pebble in the tableau,
so make sure you look closely.
But beware of fakes.
Unscrupulous dealers may replace trade labels falsely,
attributing the work to renowned taxidermists.
If in doubt, get a second opinion.
Taxidermy can be prone to damage and decay, especially the older pieces.
Look out for signs of infestation.
Drooping tail feathers suggest the presence of museum beetle or
missing fur may indicate skin mite.
And pieces that haven't been carefully displayed
are likely to have faded.
So with taxidermy back in fashion,
it pays to keep your eyes peeled when rummaging in junk shops.
But remember, condition is key.
butterfly collections aren't classified as taxidermy.
But if you are embarking on a career in collecting,
it could be a great start.
And we have seen some great antique collections over the years
on Flog It!.
These came from Singapore.
-Did he personally collect them?
-Yes, he did.
-So, running around the jungle with a net?
-Yes, yes, indeed.
-Let's just have a quick look.
Nine trays altogether.
I've never counted them accurately,
but I suspect there are about 300 or so there.
In the balcony, they go for ever.
That wasn't a bad price for such a pretty
and unusual collection.
So, here is what we have learned so far.
It is always wise to hunt out oddities.
Limited editions really can attract a premium.
And unusual one-off pieces celebrating big historical events
are always extremely popular.
Of course, some items may not be to your taste.
But respected names
and celebrated manufacturers can mean big bucks in the sale room.
So, here are some of our experts' tips
on seeking out the quirky.
Look out for pigs, owls and elephants.
They are always very popular and can make a lot of money.
Don't be put off by odd things.
If you look at something and say, "I don't know what it is,"
that shouldn't put you off buying it.
Sooner or later, given the right advertising,
you will find the person that knows what it is
and therefore wants to buy it.
I suppose you've just got to have a good eye for what is quirky
and what is unusual and go around the fairs and make sure you
are not just buying things that have been churned out by the million.
Lots of you have a keen eye for a bargain or you're a canny investor.
Well, come closer, here is a tip from someone who knows.
What I would advise people to be collecting today,
and it's very dangerous to give people advice, really,
as I'm sure you will appreciate, but what I am thinking
really about here is something I think might have potential
to grow in value. But that is not what it is all about, really, is it?
I think what it is about is trying to find something that you like
and you can buy as cheaply as you possibly can.
And I think English engravings from the late 19th century through
to the 1930s are underrated and cheap.
And I have with me an example of an etching by a man called
Kenneth Steele, who was a poster designer, amongst other things.
And as a poster designer, he's very well known.
This is original in the sense that he cut or at least he etched
the block from which this print was taken.
And it's signed by the artist, signed in pencil.
This particular print, which depicts Stirling Castle,
probably could be bought for £70 or £80.
I'm not going to say that it is going to necessary be worth
twice that or three times that in five years' time
or ten years' time, but I think they are good fun.
I love their understatement, their coolness
and I like the fact they're cheap.
The quirky and the unusual are all around us,
you may have to look hard to spot them.
But when I travelled to Oxford, I came face to face with some
quirky stone creations.
Oxford's long and distinguished past has resulted in such
a stunning city, with a myriad of architectural styles.
And you can find examples from almost every period
throughout history, dating right back to the Saxons.
But as you wander around, everywhere you look, you are being watched.
Dragons, demons and a whole array of other mystical creatures
and quirky characters stare out from the buildings.
For 1,000 years, gargoyles
and grotesques have stood guard over Oxford.
And you can't help but admire them.
One of the finest collections of grotesques adorns
the walls of the University's world-famous Bodleian Library.
But being so high up, these fantastic creations
are constantly under attack from the weather and pollution.
And in 2007, while doing restoration work on the roof,
the University discovered a row of grotesques
had crumbled away beyond recognition.
They wanted to replace them,
but they had no historical records to work from,
so a competition was launched among local schools,
asking pupils to come up with new ideas.
There were 500 entries, from which nine were selected
to be immortalised in stone.
The sensitive task of translating the original drawings
into the finished stone carvings was given to local sculptors
Fiona and Alec Peever,
who began by making clay models.
And I have come to their studio to find out more.
-This is fabulous, Fiona.
-Oh, thank you.
What sort of challenges did the children's designs give you?
Transferring the two-dimensional drawings into something that
will work three dimensionally,
and also very high up, at an angle on the building.
Have you got some examples?
Can I have a look at what this originally looked like?
-Yes. Well, here are the original children's drawings.
This is the one for Narnia.
This is good. I was just about to ask you, what does the N stand for?
-Aslan the lion and it's Narnia.
Once you get the depth and the relief
and you get those dark patches,
that does look really good, doesn't it? It creates...
That's what gives it impact when it is on the building.
But, also, when you are carving, you have to make sure that you
don't have any areas where the water will settle
-and crack the stone.
-Yes, because the frost would crack it.
The new designs for the Bodleian aren't strictly speaking gargoyles.
Gargoyles have a spout to gargle water from the gutters
clear of the walls.
These are in fact grotesques, which are purely decorative,
but with a character of horror or humour.
I think that is beautiful.
So, what else was there? Show me some of these.
This is lovely. This is three men in a boat.
I think it is a really great Oxford story.
-And you've got some photographs, haven't you?
-I have, yes.
-These are the clay models.
-Isn't that fabulous?
Here is the...
-Oh, I see what you have done to it.
-..the final clay model.
That's very clever. Look at the dog's leg,
it's just about to jump out.
-We have also got Gimli.
-From Lord Of The Rings?
That's right, yes.
-Which is that one.
-Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
And there they are.
There they are, yeah.
And then we have also got Thomas Bodley.
I gave him rather sort of baggy eyes.
-Why did you do that?
-Because I imagined him...
He'd sit up reading books all night for his library.
They are beautiful. They are absolutely beautiful.
What do you do with these now that you have finished with them?
-Just leave them at home?
-Put them away.
You can't do that!
No, because they are made in just ordinary clay,
-not with the intention of firing.
We just made them so we could measure off for the stone.
To find out more about the actual carving of these wonderful
grotesques, I've cornered the other half of this talented partnership,
Alec Peever, working on something of his own.
What are you working on?
This is a head in Portland stone.
I am just taking off a little bit at a time,
without taking any measurements, just discovering whatever
is inside it, as Michelangelo is famous for saying.
When you choose the block of stone, do you look at it from all
angles, see if there are any fault lines running through it?
-Yes. The thing you always have to do is to tap it.
And if it has a ring like that, it's fine.
If it has a dead noise, like that,
-there is a flaw in it.
So you don't touch it.
And the chisels you use are the same on the grotesques as you do on this?
Very much. These tools have not changed in 5,000 years.
They're exactly the same tools the ancient Egyptians used,
the Greeks and so on throughout the centuries,
so it is an absolutely basic process.
Must be a good feeling knowing you are following in the footsteps
of some great craftsmen that lived around Oxford.
It's not what I went into it for, but once you...
once you've made something and you see it go up there,
you think, "Well, gosh, that's going to be there for hundreds
"of years." My little boy, who is nine,
his grandchildren will be able to say,
"Great-great-grandfather made that."
It is tremendous to see such continuity between the past
and the present. And for hundreds of years to come,
those brand-new grotesques will sit neatly
alongside their ancient cousins on the Bodleian Library for all
to marvel at.
And that is a testament to the skills of Alec and Fiona
and the people whose footsteps they followed in.
If today's programme tells us anything,
it is that odd often equals rare.
And if something is rare, it could be worth a small fortune.
So why don't you have a look around your sitting room
at that unidentified antique object
and bring it into one of our valuation days.
You never know, we might be able to tell you what it is.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd