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'In the last 11 years, we've valued thousands of your items'
and helped you sell
around £1 million of antiques and collectables.
-You've turned your £32 into at least £200 to £300.
-I'm very happy with that.
-That is amazing!
In this series, I want to pass on some of the knowledge we've learnt
from having those wonderful objects pass through our hands.
Welcome to Flog It! Trade Secrets.
History tends to reflect the lives of the people who write it.
Great generals, proud monarchs and intrepid explorers,
and the houses and objects they leave behind,
are a source of wonder and inspiration.
It's not so much what this chair's worth, but whose bum sat on it.
'Coming up: Our experts share their thoughts
'about some of the poshest items we've seen on Flog It!'
Two really nice quality decanters. It's a very posh thing, this.
A really good example of how life used to be.
-I think this is just about the business. It really is lovely.
Tortoiseshell tea caddies are a red-letter day for an auctioneer.
It could easily top the £1,000 mark.
We have a collection of the most glorious gaming pieces.
These are made for the upper classes.
The Jane Austen crowd.
-Where we were before.
-You didn't see that coming, did you?
When you visit grand historic houses or castles
it's usually the splendour and the grandness of the state rooms that you gravitate towards
to admire the gorgeous tapestries and the priceless furniture.
Because, let's face it, that's not how most of us live.
'Over the years, objects from these places have been sold or gifted
'and many have turned up at our valuation days.'
Here's how the other half live.
'Get ready for a tantalising array of quality items.
'One of our experts who had an eye for the finer things in life
'was the formidable David Barby, a true gentleman.'
Of all the things that have been brought in today, Sheila,
this is one that I wish to take home with me.
-Is that right?
-Absolutely. It's in such lovely condition.
And beautifully polished, as though you only did it this morning.
-I bet you did, didn't you?
-It was brown.
-Was it brown?
-Not stuck in an attic?
-Yes, till last night.
-So you've never used it?
-I used to use it.
It used to be on a sideboard, but I'd got a big place then.
Since I've moved, it's been up the loft.
-Right. What do you use it for?
-Nothing, really. Just decoration.
-It did have a purpose when it was made in 1806.
It's solid silver and this would have come from a very affluent home.
-If you read books by Mrs Gaskell...
-North And South, Cranford, this fits into that sort of society.
-Yes. It really is quite an interesting piece.
The design, if you look at it, it has a classical appearance.
-It's a pedestal form.
-Yes. A nice shape.
Let's think in terms of a Regency dining table.
We'd have fresh cut chunks of bread in there.
-And passed round by the servant or the butler.
'A quality piece, the serving basket was valued £350 to £500
'and was sold at Adam Partridge's saleroom.'
It wouldn't have been something that most of us would have had.
You would have been a company owner or a politician or military man
or a semi-aristo type to have owned something like that.
You'd have never polished it yourself! You'd have someone to do that for you.
'Are silver items with little practical use still sought after,
'or are they bought for scrap?'
People buy silver for condition, for what it is, for the maker, the age,
The only things I imagine go for scrap are the ones that are damaged
or the ones that no-one wants any more.
'That was more for the serious collector.'
I've got four bids. Shall we cut to the chase and say we've got 460?
Is there 480? 460 bid. Is there 480 now?
At 460. If you're all done. We'll sell it. Short and sweet at 460.
Blink and you'll miss that one! £460. Well done, David.
'And that wasn't the only fine item we've seen.'
I think this is just about the business. It really is lovely.
Tortoiseshell tea caddies are a red-letter day for an auctioneer.
You have to be mindful with tortoiseshell and ivory.
They have got to pre-date 1947, but that was a 19th-century caddy.
I don't know which half of the family it's come down from.
What often happened is you find that back at the latter end of the 19th century,
someone might have been in service.
When they retired, they were given a present for the house.
I think, on my father's side of the family, they were in service.
It's an area I've got to explore.
So this could have been a present from a house that he worked at?
'It's almost like a class thing.'
Tea was an expensive commodity,
so tea was locked up in this little box.
The more elaborate and expensive the box was,
the better the household that it came from.
And you locked it up so those nasty servants couldn't get at your expensive tea!
Regency tortoiseshell tea caddy.
Silver wire mounts in here.
Little silver escutcheon.
There's just a hint of damage.
-Can you see just there?
-And on that corner, a little bit missing.
A certain amount of minor blemishing I always think is acceptable.
Some people would prefer to restore it.
What happens then is you get...
You clearly can't use modern ivory or tortoiseshell.
So people will buy old items that are damaged
and they will use them to repair other items.
So, if you've got an old piano with ivory keys,
you might be able to buy the piano for nothing, take the ivory keys
and use that in the restoration of something else.
What's it worth?
-You don't know.
-Not a clue. No.
-If it made over £100, you'd probably be quite pleased.
-Mm. I think so.
Well, I think we ought to estimate that at...
-£500 to £800.
Yeah. And I think...
..that it could easily top the £1,000 mark.
The thing about anything is that you're going to get different ends of the spectrum.
You can buy a tea caddy today for £5 or £10.
Tortoiseshell tea caddies are still massively collectable.
They're not quite worth the money they were, but they're up there at the Rolls-Royce end.
Things go in vogue in this business.
At the minute, tortoiseshell tea caddies are the thing.
Do you like it or not really? That's why you want to sell it?
I don't dislike it, but I have...
-You'd like £1,000 more?
-Yes, probably! Yes!
'It's off to the saleroom, but will quality always out?'
You've done some research on this, haven't you?
Talking to Philip, he said it was the kind of thing that would come from somebody in service.
-Big grand house?
-Yes. I've started doing genealogy on my father's side of the family.
I've discovered that my great-grandfather was a butler.
The rumour within the family is that he worked for Sir Titus Salt junior,
-the salt mill with the David Hockney exhibition.
A great thing about Flog It! is that it sparks an interest.
Someone comes to the valuation day, we tell them something,
they take it home and, whether they sell it or not, they find out more about it.
What we discovered is it could well have belonged to Sir Titus Salt.
He would have come from that great age of Victorian invention and money.
Industrialists set up businesses and made huge sums of money.
What do you do with huge sums of money? You buy a very trendy, at the time, tortoiseshell tea caddy.
A single caddy in very good condition.
Very little to quarrel about with this.
I have to start on my sheets at £900.
Do we have £950 in the room? 950. 1,000. And 50.
1,100. And 50. 1,200. And 50.
1,300. And 50. 1,400. And 50.
1,500. And 50. 1,600 in the room?
1,600 on the phone?
1,600 is it anywhere, then?
We finish 1,550. All done and finished. All done.
-I'll calm you down.
-I need a bottle of gin never mind a glass of gin!
There are certain things that just go, "Ker-ching!"
You get the three bells that light up across here.
Tortoiseshell tea caddies are one of those things, but...
When that was sold, and I can't remember exactly when,
but it wouldn't make as much now because there are peaks and troughs.
I think that we sold it at the peak and now it's probably a trough.
'The trick of this business is to do your research.
'If you can learn to pinpoint the peaks and the troughs,
'you could be onto a winner.
'Over the years, we've seen hundreds of decanters at our valuation days.
'But in 2010, Adam found a rather striking set.'
-Steve, welcome to Flog It!
-How are you doing?
-You've got a nice thing here.
-Yeah, it is.
-I hope so.
-Is it precious to you, sentimentally?
-In a way, yeah.
But it's been in the loft for 20-odd years, doing nothing.
-So might as well...
-If we could clear every loft in the land,
-I think we'd solve the economy!
This pair of decanters in their wonderful coromandel fitted case
are a really good example of how life used to be.
With the divide of the upstairs and the downstairs
in these country houses with their servants.
How did it come to be in your family's possession?
My grandfather and granny and me mother worked in a hall.
-So they were in service?
Last of the upstairs and downstairs people.
Me granny was a cook and me grandfather was a butler and me mother was a maid.
-And where was that?
-That was in Thornby Hall.
People watching now will wonder, "What's all this 'in service'?"
It just doesn't happen any more. Very few people are butlers any more!
I can't remember ever having met a butler or a maid.
I've met a few cooks, but not private, really.
All you get nowadays is the odd nanny here and there.
-How do you think they got these?
-I think they were given to them.
-As a thank-you gift or retirement gift?
-Could have been.
Well, it's a very posh thing, this.
It's made out of a... Look at the thickness of the wood!
It's made out of coromandel, which is an exotic and expensive timber.
It was mainly used to make small things.
You don't see much furniture made out of it, it was all boxes
and small things like this.
Fitted with two really nice quality decanters.
-Is it English-made, do you think?
-Yes, it is. Definitely.
Another sign of quality, you've also got the key, which is unusual.
Most have lost their keys by now.
And you've got this special type of lock, Bramah patent lock.
These locks are a special secure lock.
I remember you saying before we started, "Don't shut it because it's a terrible thing to open."
That's because of this lock.
It's wonderful quality, a Bramah's patent.
You only see it on fine things, so it's another sign of quality.
Decanters aren't the easiest things to sell any more.
Of course, there are collectors, but there are many on the market
which means, generally, prices are pretty low.
You have to have something pretty special, in decanter terms, for it to have a considerable value.
These were a nice decent pair in their fitted case.
If you took those pair of decanters out of that coromandel box,
they'd be worth £30.
The value was as a parcel, I think.
-What do you think it might be worth?
-What do YOU think it's worth?
I haven't a clue, to be honest.
Realistically, in that order - because the glass isn't perfect.
-There's a few minor grazes, aren't there?
-I would have thought between £100 and £200 is your likely realised price.
Bids all over the book on this one.
-Whoa! Straight in!
-That's the lot number.
The auctioneer read out the lot number, which I think was 450 or something.
"Right, 450!" And Paul went, "Oh, my goodness! It's amazing!"
I said, "Calm down, Paul. It's lot number 450."
You've got to keep alert at auctions!
70, if you like. 170. 170. 180. 180 bid.
Is there 90? At 180. 90. 190.
Phew! Better not fan. I might bid!
Level money at 190.
-That's a good result.
-Top of the estimate.
-We'll settle for that. That's drinks all round, £190.
'Adam was right. It was the box that sold those decanters.
'A top tip is look for complete sets of things in original boxes.
'Bits missing will generally affect the value.'
And here's another trade secret.
'Look for fine, well-crafted items, no matter what it is.
'Quality should always hold its value.'
'In 2011, Flog It! visited the beautiful Bath Assembly Rooms.
'In the Georgian era, they would have seen the aristocracy at play.
'David Barby found a very appropriate object to value -
'a set of George IV gaming boxes.'
Janita, I was hoping when we were filming at Bath,
that something would come along that would evoke
the late Georgian Regency period.
And these boxes fall into that category.
-Where did these come from?
-My mother was a great collector
of Victorian treasures and she particularly loved mother-of-pearl.
Inside, we have a collection
of the most glorious mother-of-pearl counters.
When you had the Assembly Rooms like this in Bath,
you would have an element of gaming or assignations for gaming later.
These would have been the gaming pieces they'd have used.
They date from, let's say about 1800, 1820, that sort of period.
These are made for the upper classes.
-The Jane Austen crowd.
On the outside, they look as though they've suffered along the line.
Of course, they would do. These are Oriental boxes.
They're lacquer. Lacquer is not a stable material.
Clearly, you never want to see damage.
But I'm a great believer that if something's been around 150 years,
then the damage that it has, it's the lines on its hands, it's the wrinkles on its face.
It's patina, it's what we look for.
'It was valued as two lots, but would the damage to the lid
'put the bidders off as they went under the hammer?'
320, my bid. 320. 340. 360.
-Another bid in the room, look.
440. 460. 480. 500...
Auctions. Don't you just love them?
-..700. 750. 800...
-'And the bids kept coming.'
-This is what auctions are all about.
-This is just the first lot.
And selling at £2,500, then.
The hammer's gone down! Such a tiny tap. It should have been...
£2,500. That's the first one. That is incredible.
'And the other one did even better.'
-This one's even more desirable.
-3,400. Late legs.
-No. £3,600, then.
-Where we were before.
-Plus your other. £6,100!
-That is marvellous.
-That's beyond my expectations.
-You didn't see that coming, did you?
'If two people have their eye on an item there can be real money made.
'But if you're buying at auction, don't get carried away by the excitement.
'Set yourself a budget and stick to it.'
So here's what we've learned so far.
'Always look for quality because quality always sells.
'In some cases, damage will not deter a buyer.
'But that's not always the case, so get some advice.
'Provenance is important.
'If you can trace an object to a particular stately home or a family,
'it can seriously add to its value.'
'Over the years, I've been to some wonderful historic homes.
'From Arley in North Cheshire to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
'One of the most interesting is a place I visited back in 2006.'
One great thing about antiques is it's not just about appreciating the detail and beauty and craftsmanship,
but it's also about the stories and history that lie behind them.
That's why I brought you here to Lanhydrock House
set in 900 acres of parkland on the River Foy,
just a few miles up the road from St Austell.
This country mansion house
isn't just a stunning example of 17th and 19th-century architecture.
With all the trappings and atmosphere,
its very fabric tells the story
of the socially and sexually divided life for the Victorian family.
In 1881, the house, which had stood for almost 250 years,
was severely damaged by fire.
The then owners, the Agar-Robartes, had the house rebuilt
by architect Richard Coad and he used this book on this table,
a book by Robert Kerr called The Gentleman's House,
to design a new layout,
based on the strict morals and principles of Victorian living.
-With me is curator for Lanhydrock, Paul Holden. Hi, there.
What did this book actually tell the architect to do?
The book acted as a guide to show how a house could be designed
and how it could be segregated.
For example, we're in the drawing room now
and the farthest room from this room is the nursery.
Children and adults didn't mix, apart from when the family were ready for them.
It's not even a case of "be seen and not heard" it's "not even be seen"!
-# Oranges and lemons
# Say the bells of St Clement's
# You owe me five farthings
# Say the bells of St Martin's. #
'This day room is one of several in the nursery quarters.
'Here, the children would play and eat their meals under the supervision of a nanny,
'only seeing their parents when they were sent for.'
That is a strict moral code. Surely, all houses weren't built like this?
I'm sure all houses weren't designed like that, but certain people picked up on Robert Kerr's ideals.
This family, being high Anglican, wanted to put those morals into this house.
I think it was very important for the High Victorian period
that they set those moral codes.
-We got gender separation in the house as well.
That is such a harsh word! Tell me what you mean by that.
Obviously, you're talking about the family.
It was very important for the High Victorians.
The drawing room was a very feminine space.
We have very masculine spaces,
particularly the dining room downstairs and the billiard room,
and smoking room in the male quarters.
I've come to the smoking room, which Paul was telling me about.
As soon as you walk in, you can tell it's a man's room.
You can imagine them sitting here, supping a glass of brandy
and reminiscing over a recent shoot or a bygone hunting party.
All the rooms we've seen so far would have been used by the Agar-Robartes family themselves.
What was life like for the servants?
Did the segregation of the sexes apply below stairs?
I'm in the kitchen to ask the question to Paul. What was life like for the servants?
Life was very good, in general, they had their own accommodation.
But compared to the opulence of the main house, it was very different.
Mind you, looking around this marvellous kitchen, there's a wow factor. Look at the size of it.
It's gorgeous. Surely, males and females worked together here?
It was an area where male and female mixed in the kitchen.
But the servants' hall was the only place they could relax together,
talk generally and have their annual servants' ball.
There were two separate staircases away from the servants' hall.
We had a wooden staircase leading up first to the females' accommodation on the top floor
and secondly the male servants' accommodation on the top floor.
Male and female servants' accommodation met at a right angle,
and the butler had the key for that door in between.
Quite a few mod cons. You've got hot and cold running water.
Very modern tiling for its day, and grouting, and a steam oven.
Mm. The tiling was for hygiene. It could just be wiped clean.
-But there is steam equipment in this kitchen.
-Look at that apparatus.
-What a fireplace! What an oven.
-It is an amazing spit.
It is, isn't it? Look at the size of it!
The pulley system involved, and all the linkage.
It's all generated by this smoke jack,
which is generated by the heat of the fire
and the smoke going up the chimney that would revolve the apparatus.
You would have had roasts on there, your rotisserie for your chickens.
You've got mechanical jacks, so the whole thing would turn by its own momentum.
Gosh. It's wonderfully preserved. It really does take you back in time.
-You can just imagine a spit roast going on now.
This beautiful house perfectly evokes a bygone era of class divide,
and the wealth and the power of the upper crust.
If you could choose any beautiful antique, what would it be?
I put that question to our experts.
'And today, it's Philip Serrell.'
It's funny, you think about all the things you see in Flog It! One thing keeps homing back to me.
It was a country house stationery box or letter box.
It was in rosewood lattice, like a lattice box with open panels
or open gaps, so you'd post your letter into it.
I think it's absolutely lovely.
Answered postcards in this side. Unanswered in this side.
Just lift that flap up, there's a maker's name, Thompson.
I think that refers to the maker of this hidden brass handle,
rather than the whole lot.
I would think it's about 1840 and it's made out of rosewood...
'This is a box that would have sat'
on a table in the hall of a large country house.
When you were stopping there, you'd put your letters in it.
A footman would have opened it up and taken the contents to the post for you.
You've got a great bit of social history, almost like Downton Abbey.
It's all there for you.
This was just clean. It hadn't been touched or stripped clean.
It was just honest. It was just absolutely lovely.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
Have you any idea what it might be worth?
Well, I thought, possibly, £50 or £60.
-Would you take a cheque?
-Oh, I see! LAUGHS
I think it's lovely. I think that will make £300 to £500.
-That is a surprise.
-Put a reserve on it of 250.
I have to say that if you get two ardent collectors there,
I think it could way exceed that.
-I really like it.
-I'm glad I brought it.
This is one thing that I would really love to own. It is absolutely beautiful.
'It wasn't just Philip who loved it.'
At 560, 580, £600.
-That's absolutely amazing.
£640. 660. 680. At 680.
-740. On the telephone at £740.
-I can't believe it.
At £740. At 740.
That is fantastic. You were right.
I have to say, I'd really rather have the box.
'Must have been ten years ago.'
Out of all the things I've seen, it was just a lovely, honest lot.
'It just goes to show how much we still love objects
'from our country's aristocratic past.'
As we've seen, there are plenty of items
that were the preserve of the rich, but as times change,
they've become valuable collectables.
So, if you have an object that's been handed down to you,
dig it out!
You might not own a stately home,
but it could just bring you riches too.
See you next time on Flog It! Trade Secrets.