Paul Martin and the Flog It! team share some trade secrets on when damage definitely doesn't have to mean disaster. Plus Adam Partridge reveals a hidden talent.
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Over the years on Flog It!, we've seen thousands of items.
And we're always going on about condition. It's so important.
Things that have been looked after, unrestored and look good for their age, tend to be more valuable.
It's also fair to assume that items of beauty are more likely to find a willing buyer.
But, in both cases, it's not necessarily so.
Today, we're lifting the lid on what difference the appearance of an object can make to its value.
Coming up, we find out where chips and cracks matter.
-It is in a bit of a state, isn't it?
-Was it like that when your husband got it?
Which is why he was heading for the skip with it.
I think so.
And when buyers will still stump up the cash even when something is badly damaged.
-800 I'm bid, please.
-Come on. We want more.
And our experts give us their best tips for antiques with a chequered past.
There's a difference between "damage" and "wrecked".
Now, picture the scene. A busy Flog It! valuation day
and a visitor at the head of the queue begins to unwrap their item.
Our experts' hearts beat faster and faster as the protective layers
reveal what looks like a work of art in perfect condition.
But, after closer inspection, it's cracked, damaged or, even worse, a complete fake.
It's something that happens a great deal of the time, as our experts on the ground can testify.
You've got a chip out of the glaze there. And a five-line star crack coming from the centre.
One, of course, is completely smashed to pieces.
One has a massive chunk out of it and it's been re-glued.
So you have been warned on these.
There are two main times when one can
ignore damage with a clear conscience.
One of them is if it's such a rare opportunity to buy something
and it's very unlikely you would find a more perfect example anywhere else.
Of course, the other time is when your pocket is not deep enough
to be able to afford one that isn't damaged.
Collectors often start by buying cheaply things which are damaged
just to have an example in their collections.
Personally, my way of looking at it is,
anything pre-18th century, it's fine.
If it's damaged, you can forgive that. Post, ignore.
Gosh, that's tricky. I'm an 18th-century teapot collector.
I ignore damage all the time. I can't afford teapots that have lids.
So I've got about 20 or 30 teapots and about two lids between them.
So that's when I ignore damage personally. When you can't live without it.
Where did you get this pocket watch?
It's been in the family a very long time.
Great-great-great-great-grandad, that's all I know.
'I remember the very early days, years ago on the Isle of Wight,'
the most fantastic watch or part of the most fantastic watch came in.
A superb enamelled case.
And it was something that I was more used to seeing from my previous life at Sotheby's.
It's a familiar thing to me at the top end of the market
but it's not something you expect to see on a Flog It! valuation day.
I was quite taken aback.
If you look at the outer case, the shagrine case, and this gilt metal outer case,
they're from about 1760-1765, they're English.
So, that's absolutely right with your idea of date.
But the treat is when we turn it over, the back of the case,
these wonderful rich coloured enamels.
-And this is actually French enamel.
-It's the Blois school.
And that flourished from 1660 up until about 1680.
Gosh! So it's really old. It's really old. It's 300 years old.
To see an English movement in a French case is uncommon.
But it's this whole thing of something being of superb quality,
a fragment being reused.
This has got into the hands of a London watchmaker,
probably in the 1750s, and it's such a wonderful case
-that he's made a movement that fits into it.
If we open it up, we can see that it's signed Samuel North, London.
I don't know his dates but, from the style of the watch
and the fact that it's a verge escapement,
it can be dated to about 1740-1750.
The major problem is that the case has had a few chunks taken out of it
when, I suppose, someone was wearing it in the 18th century.
It's incredibly fragile.
The damage to the watch case was basically at the bottom of the case.
It's obvious to me that it fell on the floor and just got damaged.
And the enamel flakes off and there's nothing you can do.
But it's a testament to the rarity of the thing in the first place
that when that did happen it was still treasured and kept.
It's a bit of a mismatch in terms of style and of how it's put together.
That makes it interesting from my point of view.
The fact that the movement was later and it was a fragment
made an enormous difference to the valuation.
It was mentioned about £400 about two years ago.
-I think you could pop it into auction at £400 to £600, if that meets with your approval.
If that had had its original movement in it and its perfect case and its perfect enamel cover as well,
I didn't tell the vendor on the day, but it would have been in the region of £30-50,000.
Good luck, everybody. This is it.
1,000. Yes. 1,100.
-1,300 we're selling to the white phone.
At £1,300. All done in the room at 1,300.
-Yes, it's gone. That's more like it. £1,300.
-Thank you very much. Gosh!
There's a whole movement now that perfection is what's sought after.
Once it's lovely to have a perfect object, it always is,
you shouldn't dismiss something because it's damaged.
Quite the reverse. It's more affordable.
I think the damaged market is neglected except by the poor and the academic.
And being both I give it my full concentration.
So the watch's rarity and beauty outshone its imperfections.
But it can be harder to disguise broken ceramics.
Phil was excited when he spotted a special piece of Worcester porcelain back in 2005.
But there were problems.
It's marvellous. I'm from Worcester.
-And so is this. There are Worcester porcelain artists
and there are Worcester porcelain artists.
And one of the top three, in my view,
is a man called CHC Baldwin. Charles Henry Clifford Baldwin.
He specialised in painting swans on this powder-blue background.
And this single swallow, a Charlie Baldwin trademark, on the back.
There are lots of painters in the 20th century,
English porcelain painters, who produced a scene.
But no-one painted swans like Charlie Baldwin.
I do admire it now. I can see the beauty, the exquisite workmanship.
But I think it deserves an appreciative home.
You see that little lug just there?
It's missing on this side. That's our first bit of damage.
The second bit of damage is we've got this lovely protrusion just here.
-On this side, it's come off.
-A tiny little bit.
Condition is everything for porcelain.
One of the things we almost got away with that Charlie Baldwin vase
is that the little nibbles on it could be restored in almost an acceptable way.
It's not as though there was a great big crack right across the swans.
So, I think, it was damaged.
It wouldn't be overly expensive to put it right. Perhaps 3 or £400.
But Charlie Baldwin, I think he was just the best.
At £3,900 in the room. At £3,900.
£3,900. That is a classic Flog It! moment.
No one painted swans like Charlie Baldwin.
He was the best.
Remember that name. Luckily, this artist is so much in demand
that the damage didn't detract from the vase's value.
But there's nothing subtle about the damage to this lovely charger.
-Nice to see you coming along with this great big plate in several pieces.
In Cheltenham, I took in a great big maiolica charger that was very badly damaged.
I took it in because I thought it could show people that,
just because things were damaged, it didn't necessarily mean they were worthless.
-You're spoiling us here.
-Where did you get it from?
Actually, it was given to my husband.
There was a pub opposite that was being demolished. This was going to go in the skip.
Damage is never acceptable. Damage is acceptable on certain wares
that are know to be quite brittle and subject to damage anyway.
Such as this maiolica and majolica, they're tin-glazed or lead-glazed earthenwares.
They're brittle, they easily break, and chips come off them.
That's another reason why I still took this charger in because
you expect to see majolica and maiolica with an element of damage on it.
If it's perfect, it arouses suspicion because you think,
"How could it have survived 100 years, 200 years with no damage at all?
-It is in a bit of a state, isn't it?
-I know, yes.
-Was it like that when your husband got it?
-Which is why, I guess, he was heading for the skip with it.
-I think so.
It looks to us 19th-century Italian. A type of maiolica, tin-glazed earthenware.
Some know it as Delftware.
We've got a signature, M Rodriguez.
And we've got this sort of Baroque-style earlier period.
Today's restoration techniques are amazing.
Cutting-edge technology. They can mend anything and make it look like it's never been damaged before.
So the right restorer could have made that charger look wonderful.
Only trouble is, it would've cost hundreds of pounds, which is more than the final value of the item.
There we go. Bid me for that lot. Start me off. Bid me £100 to start.
Bid me 100. Bid me 50.
'I thought it was a lovely thing.'
I thought it was quite decorative.
But there's a difference between "damage" and "wrecked".
And this was properly wrecked. It really had been through the mill.
And there comes a point when acceptable restoration...
There's a massive difference between that and complete renewal.
Any more? The maiden bid will take it.
At £50. And it's done and sold at £50 and away.
-No reserve, that's fine.
We had one bid and it was £50 and that was it.
I was surprised. I thought it might do better than that.
But there's no doubt its condition really was the all-prevailing factor.
No kidding. Sometimes, the cost of restoration is just too much.
But even if an item is badly damaged, don't throw it away
without getting an expert's opinion.
Judith, you've brought this monstrosity in to show us.
Before we have a proper look at it,
can you give us any information about it yourself?
Yes, I bought it in Tamlyns Auction House
in Bridgwater about five years ago.
I paid about £25 or £28, I'm not sure.
Do you know, I look back very fondly at Weston-super-Mare
when that lady brought in that rather sort of deformed
Clanger-looking lamp by Guy Sydenham.
-I bought it because it's quirky.
It's certainly quirky, isn't it?
But did they know exactly what it was?
I don't think so. I honestly don't know.
It was tucked in the corner and nobody looked at it.
It was tucked right away. It was only me and a lad that was bidding for it.
Fortunately, I knew exactly what it was
because I worked for a large London auction house a few years before
and we'd sold one exactly the same with a bright colour.
And I knew they were worth a lot of money.
And, of course, it's Poole Pottery designed by Guy Sydenham.
We've got this lovely little brochure of him making one of these.
I believe he only made a handful, is that right?
As far as I know, he only made four.
So it's quite a rare object as well as being quite a funky shape.
We have got some problems with it, haven't we?
Oh, yes. It was broken when I bought it.
'Absolutely shocking. It was cracked through the middle. There were several bits of restoration.'
'There was some glaze flaking and losses.'
Some of the little nodules had come off.
But you have to remember he made a handful of these.
You know. So, of their type, they are very rare.
I contacted Guy Sydenham, the actual potter. He offered to restore it for me.
But, because of family problems, I couldn't get over to see him.
-And it's been in the cupboard ever since.
Guy Sydenham was a very interesting designer.
He worked for Poole Pottery in the '60s and '70s.
And produced these wonderfully bizarre creations.
I'm not sure about it. I think Mark's right with his price.
A price difficult to determine because of the extensive damage.
It is an unknown quantity. Yes, we've asked on the condition of this
to have the reserve reduced to have a sensible price which we believe this will be sold.
The auctioneer called you and said, "I don't think it's going to do it. Let's make it £100 to £200."
That must have disappointed you.
-It did a bit. But, on the other hand, I don't feel too bad.
I was also surprised when Paul mentioned to the vendor that the auctioneer had been in touch.
They'd tried to reduce the estimate to 100 to 200
but they'd settled on a happy medium of 2 to 3.
Not surprising, I suppose, when it was bought at the same salesroom a few years before for 28.
I had every confidence it was going to make my estimate and more.
We'll go slowly. 120.
120. All done with then? 200.
300. 400. 500.
-700 bid on the phone.
-800 I'm bid.
-Yes, a late bidder.
-Fresh bidder. 900.
1,000 now, sir. 1,100. Phone's out?
£1,200. Hasn't gone down. How about that?
I wasn't at least surprised when it rocketed past
even my modest estimate of 3 to 500 to sell for what it did.
Because there's a handful of these known.
And if you're a collector and you want one,
you either have one damaged or you don't have one at all.
While the condition is of paramount importance, most of our experts agree that, if you love something,
it's OK to buy an antique that's less than perfect.
I found in a house clearing in Worcestershire the most beautiful Delftware 17th-century cat.
He was wonderful but he was missing an ear.
It didn't seem to matter because he went on to sell for 52,000.
He was rather lovely.
The main thing is, if you're going to buy something that's broken,
do it with your eyes open.
Here's a tip and please, please, do remember this.
Don't be frightened to look at things you want to buy. Turn them upside down, pull the drawers out.
Look at the construction. Look at things with a magnifying glass.
And, also, if it's dark, shine a torch on them.
Always ask about damage or restoration as sellers
may not volunteer details they'd rather you didn't spot.
If there is damage and you still love it, try and strike a bargain.
The most musical of Flog It! regulars is, without doubt, Adam Partridge.
If an instrument comes in to one of our valuation days, it usually has his name on it.
Adam admires the beauty of the music and the aesthetic design
of the instruments themselves.
And it breaks his heart to see them abandoned, broken and unloved.
Today, we're taking him to see a man after his own heart.
-How do you do? Thanks for inviting me.
I'm glad I got directions. It's a great spot, isn't it?
The first thing I noticed was the smell. Takes me back to being 10 years old.
Michael, this is where all the magic happens. How long have you been doing this?
Well, I started taking instruments apart when I was aged about 11.
I used to enjoy taking it apart, cleaning it and putting it back together more than playing it.
I was the opposite. I was better at playing it. When it came to anything practical, I was useless.
If I took one apart, it would never get back together.
My grandad was an amateur restorer of violins.
It's in my family. Both parents were professional violinists.
Are you using traditional methods?
I use the methods of Antonio Stradivari, which means no electricity.
How did you learn? You're not self-taught. You must have had formal training.
I was self-taught to a degree. Then, at the back end of the '90s,
-I decided to get some formal training.
-So now I'm qualified to work on Stradivari violins.
-While we're standing here talking, we could be doing a bit of work. Shall we crack on?
-If you think so.
I need serious direction. My wife won't even let me hold a paintbrush in the house.
Let alone hand tools and stuff like that.
If you make mistakes, it's because of the quality of the teaching.
-OK. That's very kind of you to say so.
All we're doing, these holes are too big on the instrument.
Peg goes in, gets turned and slowly the hole gets bigger.
What we have to do is close the hole and then re-drill.
This is a tricky one for you because it's your business
but would you advocate restoration prior to sale?
Always. Yeah. I always give an example, it's like a car.
if it isn't fully MOT'd and it hasn't got four good tyres,
somebody's going to knock you down on price.
OK. But what if the cost of getting the car roadworthy outweighs the final value of the car?
-You've got to weigh that up.
-If they came in with a £100 German violin
and it needed 300 quid's worth of work on it?
-There's no point.
-Unless it was sentimental. Not for resale.
-There you go.
Well, that looks simple.
Let me show you how it's done.
Then you're going to turn it clockwise. But don't force it.
-When you turn it, feel it resisting.
-That's because it's not round.
-Yeah, keep going. You're not forcing it.
-There's less resistance.
Push it right the way through. Give it a little turn. Brilliant.
-can you feel it biting?
-That'll be good for 300 years.
The next step will be to trim them back and then pare it back with a chisel, then re-drill the hole.
Obviously, this time we'll drill it smaller.
-Then we'll cut it down.
-That will be cut down to go through there.
We trim that end, polish it and dome it. That's a sign of a quality job.
Look at the other end of the peg and see if it's polished.
I hope I've done a decent job and you won't call me back to do it again.
I'll leave this with you.
What I'd like to do is see you in action making a real Michael Phoenix violin.
OK. If we set off now and go to Bluecoats in Liverpool,
we'll have a look at how to make a violin.
-OK, let's go then.
MUSIC: "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Make yourself at home.
This is one you're making at the moment?
This one is for my eldest son.
-So, don't worry if there's any mistakes made.
-It's not like it's important.
-If it was a customer, we couldn't do it.
-When I'm making an instrument, I'm going for perfection.
-And so it's slow when you're making it.
250 hours, then another 250 hours
for varnish but over a period of six to nine months because there's drying time.
If I was interested in purchasing one, how much would I be looking at?
Don't do me a favour. How much would the public be looking at to buy a violin? What's the range?
You'd be looking at around about £8,000.
Do people come and order bespoke and say, "I want one like this"?
-It's all by commission, yeah.
Michael's so passionate about using the same method as Stradivarius
that he even crafts his violins by candlelight.
So, do you find there are benefits of using candlelight?
Or is it just your aspirations to be as close to Stradivarius as possible?
There's practical reasons for it.
When you use natural daylight, the light seems to spread all over the instrument.
Makes the instrument look very flat.
-When you use a candle, it's just one single source of light.
-And it picks up every bump.
-Yeah, things I hadn't noticed at all.
Sandpaper tears the fibres of the wood. What we use is,
-we use a scraper and that works like a plane.
-It actually cuts the wood. If I do on this side.
It looks like dust but it's actually very fine shavings.
-I see. It's coming good.
-It's got to be blended out now.
No pressure. I'm not taking my eyes off you.
-Oh! What are you doing? No, go on, carry on.
-How are we looking?
Probably just a little bit on this side.
-On that edge?
Adam's done well so far. But Michael feels safer with the lights on
as they get started on the inside of the violin.
What we're going to do is pretend this is a field and you're just going to plough it.
We start on this inside line, which is six millimetres.
For a man of your calibre, no problem, Adam.
-Want have a go?
-Yeah, go on then.
Just take it easy. Get the angle right.
That's it. Go on. Bit deeper.
That's it. That's better. Now you're getting it.
-Use that one.
-You're having a laugh.
-No. Go on. That'll be better.
-This is your son's violin?
-No, it's OK. Just don't go deep.
As long as you've got the angle right, you're OK.
That's it. Go on.
Oh! That's all right.
I'm actually really enjoying myself.
-It's as you get nearer to the front.
-When the skill comes.
Then you'll have to use the small planes.
Here's the smallest plane that we use.
-Have a go with that. It's a little baby plane.
-Ah! A little baby plane.
Perhaps I'd have been a better maker than a player after all.
-I hope your son is pleased with the final result of the violin.
-I'm sure he will be.
Just to remind him that you were involved in the making of this instrument.
-You've not done a special label? Oh, my goodness.
-I've done a special label.
OK. My top tips for old violins.
Don't be put off if there's no strings on it and it looks in a general state of disrepair.
You could bring it somewhere like this and get it sorted out.
Whatever you do, please don't try and mend it yourself.
I've seen so many people have a go and ruin perfectly decent instruments
by using basic products from hardware shops.
They need to be seen by a specialist.
-I'm not in form.
-Ah, very, very good.
-Need to practise more.
I always suspected Adam had hidden talent.
It's not only violins that need special attention if they're damaged.
It's always worth getting an expert's opinion
if you have a musical instrument that's been neglected.
Like you, I want to know more about how an object can change the life of its owner and their family.
So we caught up with some past successful Flog It! owners.
Sandra, I really became quite excited when I saw these two wonderful tiles.
I always say to people to look for items in good condition.
But there are occasions when items which are not perfect
will make high prices in the saleroom.
And one such item was a pair of De Morgan tiles.
I found them in the late '60s up in Scotland where I used to live.
My sister and I... There used to be a lot of burned-down Victorian villas.
And we just found them lying on the ground.
They were so beautiful that I had to bring them home.
De Morgan was one of the most prestigious designers in the Arts and Crafts movement,
who specialised in stained glass and the manufacture of these wonderful, wonderful tiles.
Now when you think of the function of tiles, they are to decorate a wall.
To get them out, by necessity, you have to wrench them out.
So it's difficult to get these things in perfect condition.
The condition isn't wonderful.
We have some damage here and here.
Someone has tried to do a wee bit of restoration. Was that yourself?
-It might have been my mother.
-It might have been your mum.
-And we have some damage here and this is quite a big chip.
I would date these tiles from about 1890 to late 1900s.
If we look on the back, we can see the back stamp, which is an embossed back stamp.
And we have W De Morgan and Sands End Pottery.
I would estimate these tiles, to be sold as a pair,
-between 2 and £300.
-Oh, good grief.
Why do you want to sell them now?
Unfortunately, I need a new chainsaw.
-You need a new chainsaw?
-Yeah, for the garden.
Well, I desperately needed a chainsaw because, as you can see,
I've got lots of trees around here.
Whilst I can get a man to cut them down, he won't take them away.
So, as I have a coal fire, I put the wood on that.
So I chop the wood up myself.
And 330 now. 330 again showing.
The De Morgan ties there for you.
-They love it.
And 50. At 550 I'm bid.
No, thank you for your help. At 550, original bidder still.
-This is actually the fun part.
-That is wonderful.
-Not only can you get the chainsaw,
you can get the safety goggles, the helmet, the boots, everything.
A new garden possibly.
They were the Rolls-Royce of tiles.
They fetched 550, which I wasn't expecting.
She was astonished when the tiles made 550.
And because I loved my tiles so much,
when I was at the William De Morgan Centre, I bought these replicas.
They aren't replicas of the ones I sold
but they're still that beautiful blue colour.
What a great reminder for action woman Sandra when she's sitting beside her blazing fire.
Maybe you've got a few ideas yourself from today's programme.
Do join me again next time for more memorable moments and top tips from the team.
But, until then, it's goodbye.
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