Antiques series. Flog It! Trade Secrets explores the enduring appeal of antiques and collectibles which feature animals.
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One of the things I love about "Flog It!" is seeing and hearing
about the thousands of interesting, beautiful and sometimes valuable
items you bring along to our valuation days.
-It's called Adam.
-That's very kind.
The Scarlet Pimpernel would have needed one of these
during the French Revolution!
Over the years, we've made hundreds of trips
to auction rooms all over the British Isles.
That's £120. For the very last time...
Bang! That is a big "sold" sound!
Now, in this series, I want to share some of the knowledge
we've picked up with you
to let you in on some of our trade secrets.
The natural world has been a source of inspiration to artists
ever since humans first started daubing images
on ancient cave walls,
and in more recent times, makers and writers have continued to find
their muse in the world around them.
As an nation of pet lovers,
we have a particular affection for collectables featuring animals,
so today, we're casting a beady eye on antiques inspired by
our furred and feathered friends.
This lovely glowing light that is falling on their backs
-It's nice, isn't it?
-Lovely. Lovely piece.
On today's show, we've got a colourful cast of creatures
from our valuation days.
Well, I said tortoise and Beryl said turtle
and to this day, I still think I'm right.
A cheeky monkey causes a sensation in the saleroom.
And I'm at London Zoo
on the trail of an unlikely avian artist.
I'm not a bird expert, but that looks real.
The exotic fauna from all over the world has intrigued travellers
Intrepid explorers have brought back tales of the creatures they've seen,
and their stories have inspired makers of fine things
to reproduce animal images in their work,
but which are worth a closer look today?
Some animals do appeal to collectors more than others.
Cats! Pigs. People love to collect pigs.
Farmers, of course, will buy Beswick cows and Beswick bulls
so, yes, some animals are more collectable than others.
For me, it's horses.
But for someone else, it might be dogs.
For someone else, it might be ducks.
Some of the more obscure animals will appeal to people -
emus and koalas and penguins and things like that,
so I think any animal is good news, really.
We see dozens of animal-themed antiques on "Flog It!"
and as we're a nation of animal lovers,
these items tend to sell well.
Whether it's cats, dogs, horses, cows, we've all got our favourites.
At a valuation day on HMS Warrior in Portsmouth,
Will Axon showed that he clearly values a bird in the hand.
Russell, tell me, how have you come by this?
This really caught my eye when I saw you in the queue.
-I bought it in an antiques store in West Sussex.
About six months ago.
I thought at first it was a print.
-But my other half is a picture-framer
and had a good look at it and we thought
maybe it is a painting.
There's no doubt that you've bought yourself what I think
is a rather nice watercolour.
Most of the painting is actually exposed paper.
The whole body of the cockatoos, we'll call them,
is actually where he's left the paper.
He hasn't painted that,
so I think that, in turn, helps accentuate
this lovely glowing light
-that is falling on their backs and shoulders.
-It's nice, isn't it?
I think it's a really nice watercolour.
And signed - HSM.
Now, I think you've done a little bit of research.
-What have you come up with?
I believe it's Henry Stacy Marks,
-who did lots of bird paintings.
You've got to be careful
because a little bit of research can be a dangerous thing.
It takes you off on a tangent.
All of a sudden, you think, "Oh, my days!
"I've got the crown jewels here.
"There's an example of this painting hanging in the V&A,
"and I must have another copy of it."
If that's the case, the original's probably in the V&A,
and you've got a print of it.
Russell did a bit of research on the cockatoo picture
and so he would have seen that Stacy Marks was a well-known artist.
His most famous work is of birds,
and hangs in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool,
so he is well known for this subject matter.
He's an artist, sort of mid-19th century,
he was actually working for Minton, for example,
painting on ceramics and doing more decorative works
-and things like that.
-But this was really his love.
He took a real interest in birds, mainly parakeets,
I suppose for the exotic flavour of them.
You looked at it and you believed it,
whereas other bird pictures, when they're perched on a branch
or in a tree, they almost look like they're floating.
They don't quite sit, you know?
He's got gravity right. They stand well.
Really, you've just got to go with your gut instinct.
Does the picture work?
If it does, then it's probably something.
If it doesn't, maybe a lesser artist or someone trying to copy.
For me, it was the light around the heads. It was quite stunning.
Yeah. Cos it's something that is very effective,
looks simple, but I'm sure it's very difficult to get right.
You just get the form of the body, don't you?
Like I've said before, there's no painting here to suggest that.
-It's purely done on the highlighting.
Lovely. Lovely piece.
You say you bought it in an antiques shop.
-What was the price ticket?
It was 55, and I got them down to 50.
Listen, Russell, I'd give you £100 for it now
if you wanted a quick profit!
But we're going to work in your interest.
I'm going to say, let's put it into auction
and I'm fairly confident, with that name,
you'd get a price of at least £300 to £500.
So, did those cockatoos ruffle a few feathers in the saleroom?
-We have one, two, three, four commission bids here.
-I will start the bidding at £500.
£500. Is there 20 in the room?
And £500 and selling. Is there 20?
At £500. Commission bid.
At £500. Any more? All done?
At £500 for the very last time...
Well, that was short and sweet.
I don't think Russell minds how short it was!
You could say those birds flew away, couldn't you, at £500.
-You've got to be happy with that?
-I am indeed.
I think Russell did earn his money.
He took a chance,
cos I know he was thinking of pursuing
a career in the antiques trade,
and I hope he has, you know?
With an eye like that,
I think he's got a head start on all of us.
I dare say Russell has gone from strength to strength.
He spotted a quality piece and, as we say time and time again,
quality always sells.
Now, a survey in 2013 claimed to answer definitively
the question of whether we British prefer cats or dogs.
By a slim margin, it's dogs.
And that comes as no surprise to us on "Flog It!".
Dogs are extremely popular, not just as man's best friend
going back generations, but in antiques and art,
we see dog paintings, dog sculptures.
Anything dog related always commands a premium
because, like me, there are thousands of people out there
that are absolutely passionate about dogs.
-So, who spotted them?
-Do you think he's clever, spotting them?
-How much did he pay for them?
£5? Do you think that's lot?
You've done very well for a fiver,
because these are early-20th-century Austrian
cold-painted bronze dogs, bookends of course,
that sit on these onyx bases.
-They've both come detached from the bases.
Onyx was a very popular material used particularly in 1920s
and 1930s sculptures, bronzes and spelter figures.
It's typically green, but it does come in other colours.
A lot of the time you see it polished and highly finished,
but these ones were left in the rough of it
and I think that was quite charming.
They've been through the wars a bit but they're
getting on for 100 years, or thereabouts.
As I say, they're Austrian and cold-painted bronze.
A lot are made in spelter as well, which is a cheaper alloy,
but if you have a look underneath here,
this yellowness shows us that they're bronze.
Also, the weight. They're nice and heavy.
-You wouldn't like one to drop on your toe, would you?
Or that, actually.
Sometimes, we also see cast-iron figures,
which are simulated, pretending to be bronze as well.
People say, "Look, they're very heavy, they must be bronze."
That's when you need to get your magnet out,
because bronze is not magnetic.
What do you want for 'em? Tenner?
-That's a good start.
-I'd like to think that they'd make £100 or maybe a bit more.
Because they cost so little,
let's go for it. Put a big estimate, see what happens.
So, will the bidders BITE at auction?
80 for these?
80, thank you. 85 anywhere?
85. And 90?
-85, with you, sir.
110. 115. 120.
125. 130. 135. 140.
180. All done?
Hammer went down on that.
That is a lot of money, isn't it?
They were on the cute end of things,
the Scottie dog bookends. They always had a great story.
They were picked up, I think, for a nominal sum
at a car-boot sale.
They're not my favourite breed of dog,
but they're a very cute thing
and I think that's undoubtedly why they appealed and sold so well.
Yes, the "Ahh" factor often adds value.
The cuter it is, the more collectable.
But I'm not sure this quality can be applied to the item
James Lewis found at one of our Scottish valuation days.
Of all the things I was expecting to find here in Fife,
a Turkish prisoner-of-war-work snake dated 1919
is not one of them!
When the Turks were over in England
as prisoners of war,
these were things that they could go into the local community and sell
to raise a bit of money.
What's it doing here and where did you find it?
I found it in a market in London
when I was eight years old
and bought it for £1.
No, that is ridiculous. That is a really good bargain.
Well done, you. It's an interesting thing
and I don't know why the Turkish prisoners of war
decided that it would be a really good thing to make snakes.
You can imagine, you're sitting in your prisoner-of-war camp
thinking, "Hmm. What can I do?
"I know, I'm going to make a beadwork snake!"
But they made them in their hundreds and thousands.
I think there are two quite distinct categories of what was made
in a prisoner-of-war camp -
those that were made by the prisoners for the captors
and those that were made by the prisoners
for themselves to sell on.
But both have a significant collecting area.
So, when you got it home, did you have sisters to taunt with it?
-I did. I have two.
-That'd be good fun.
Stick it in their bed, and things?
Got played with for a bit.
Oh, great fun.
I don't know.
£40 to £60?
-Something like that?
-So your £1 investment's done all right.
-Not too bad.
They come in various sizes
and this is a particularly long one,
so that's in its favour.
Shall we put a £40 reserve on it?
That sounds good to me, yeah.
How Andrew found that for £1, I really don't know.
I wish I could find those for £1!
It was a great investment.
It was a great buy.
The Turkish prisoner-of-war beadwork snake.
I'm going to start this at £25.
25. 30. 5. 40.
45. 50. 5.
I'll come to you. 60. 5. 65. 70. 5.
80. £80 on my left. At 80...
-85. 90. 5.
120. 120. Standing at 120.
Anyone else want in at £120?
-Yes, the hammer's gone down. That's good.
-A good result.
-The condition was very good on that, though.
-It was a good, big size.
-Very good condition.
-Excellent condition. Well done, you.
Andrew deserves double the praise.
You couldn't have wished for a better example
of prisoner-of-war craftsmanship.
A great return for a £1 investment!
Elizabeth was on slightly shakier ground in 2007
when she caught up with a creature which turned out to be
remarkably tricky to classify.
Now, I think this is a tortoise, Beryl. What do you think it is?
I would have said a turtle.
I said tortoise, and Beryl said turtle,
and to this day, I still think I'm right.
But Beryl knew the piece far longer than I did
and I shall bow to her better decision.
-It was given to my mother.
-And when she died, she passed it on to me.
She'd been looking after someone that was sick,
and they gave her that before they died.
And so she did the same.
So he's always been loved and cherished to this point.
-Can I demonstrate him now?
-Is that all right?
If you just touch his head, like this...
-Isn't that great?
Over the years, I've seen a few novelty table bells
or shop bells,
and they come in a variety of guises.
I have seen pigs and little dogs and things,
but I don't believe I'd seen a turtle or a tortoise before.
Do you know where this one started life?
-I think it was in a shop.
-In a shop. Yes.
I think it was.
A lot of these were.
I've seen them as pigs and all sorts of things,
where you actually press the curly tail
and it makes the bell sound.
The tortoise ones, or the turtle ones,
often were found in shops,
-butcher's or haberdasher's, things like that.
And if we turn him over,
we'll see that he's very cleverly but very simply made.
He's made of cast iron
but he's absolutely pristine and in very genuine condition.
These bells are much rarer in finer metals
so bronze are rarer than cast metal,
and silver ones would be top of the pile, really.
Silver ones are less likely to be found for use in shops
or public places. They tend to be for the refined environment
of grand houses or wealthy families.
I would like to see him make between £80 and £120.
If you are happy to enter him with that sort of estimate,
it doesn't sound frightening, but it sounds achievable,
-and if two people...
-Really want him.
-They could keep going.
-That would be lovely.
-Is that all right? Can I ring him again?
I'm sorry, Beryl, but I have to side with Elizabeth.
I think it's a tortoise.
But did it make slow progress at the auction,
or end up winning the race?
Fingers crossed. It's going under the hammer now.
Fun little lot.
Let's start, what, 30 quid.
30 I'm bid. 32. 35. 38.
At 38 now. Done, then, at 38?
-40. 42. 45.
55. At 55.
65. 70. 75.
80. At 80.
Sell over here at £80.
I sell there, at £80. Done at 80...
Yes. Right at the lower estimate.
-It has sold, Beryl.
-He's hit his clipboard.
That was a little bit of fun, that really was.
A gorgeous little thing.
Little bells like this are not overly common.
They're rare enough to be quite an interesting thing
to seek out and collect, but still accessible
and, therefore, within a budget of £50 to £80,
you can pick up some lovely examples at a very reasonable price.
If you fancy an animal-theme collection,
that's a fun place to start,
and at entry-level prices.
Talking of fun,
what could be more entertaining than the wacky world of majolica?
Majolica is fun, funky and so very Victorian.
The Victorians loved this colourful and hugely decorative ceramic,
which was often inspired by nature's bounty.
Kate Bliss was lucky enough to come across a great example
at a valuation day in Bangor.
That's a family piece.
It belonged to my great-grandmother
and she had it and passed it to my grandmother,
and when my grandmother died,
my cousins and I were asked to choose things from out of the house,
and that was my first choice.
You find animals are used a lot in majolica.
Sadly, I suppose, there is this element of
the monkey and humanity, if you know what I mean.
So, it was quite interesting to place a monkey as a finial
or as a handle or as the feet of something.
The first thing I will do is just take the lid of carefully
and have a look at the bottom.
But we haven't got anything at all on there, have we?
We can see the little marks where it's stood in the kiln,
but there's no impressed mark to tell us which factory.
So, we can see from the quality of it and the moulding
and the way the glaze has been put on that it is by
one of the leading factories.
In the 19th century, there were three factories
producing this sort of ware - George Jones, Minton
and the third one was Wedgwood.
And as it isn't marked,
it could be one of the three.
Now, my gut feeling is that it's George Jones,
but we can certainly look at the pattern of it,
and I'll do further research.
This particular teapot was made by George Jones.
It was part of a tea service,
in simple blue and white.
They can be much more exuberant with many colours,
bright turquoise, blues and greens.
This one was nice because the monkey formed the handle,
and it's a typical piece of Victorian quirkiness, really.
Now, one thing that is a shame is the condition,
and if we take off the lid,
we can see we've got quite a chunk taken out of the corner.
The finial is badly cracked, isn't it?
And we've got a funny little repair here
to the spout, which is, of course, a very vulnerable piece.
Tell me about that. Did you know that had been repaired?
Well, I believe it was done in the 1920s
-by a local blacksmith.
-He's just soldered on a spout.
I believe that was a usual repair that the blacksmith did.
Damage, of course, is important when you're collecting something,
but there are some areas, and majolica is one of them,
where collectors will be a little bit lenient,
particularly if it's a rare shape.
I think, even in this condition, you're going to be talking
a significant amount at auction.
I'm going to put a conservative estimate of £200 to £300.
-What do you think about that?
I think that's very nice, yes.
I think the monkey might attract quite a few people.
Kate wasn't wrong about the appeal of the monkey,
but nothing could have prepared Graham and Lesley
for what unfolded once the bidding commenced.
200 I'm bid. £200.
Straight in at 200.
After smashing the estimate,
it kept climbing higher and higher.
I can't believe it.
You've gone, have you?
I can't believe it.
-I can feel you shaking.
£2,400. Anybody else in the room wants to come in?
What do you think about that? Bang! There it goes.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well done, Kate.
Well done. £2,400.
There's a tear in your eye. Look at this, he's crying.
-That was fantastic.
-I can't believe it.
It's moments like that that live long in the memory.
The teapot did so well because the majolica market
was particularly buoyant at that point.
And timing is key.
Prices rise and fall in the world of antiques,
so take advice from your local auction house.
If it's a bad time to sell, keep hold of your item for another day.
When it comes to collecting animal-themed antiques,
always examine the workmanship
and look for finely executed decoration and good condition.
But in the end, it comes down to horses for courses,
so to speak.
Go for what appeals to YOU.
If you fall in love with something,
just enjoy it for what it is.
That is until the next piece catches your eye.
At our valuation days, we often see beautiful artwork
that's been inspired by nature
and in 2012, I had the privilege of finding about
one of our country's more intriguing 19th-century artists.
An artist who is better known for his poetry.
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea...
In a beautiful pea-green boat...
They took some honey, and plenty of money...
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl And The Pussy-Cat is one of the world's most famous
and best-loved children's poems,
and it's brought its author Edward Lear fame and fortune.
His limericks and nonsense poems
have secured his place in literary history,
however, as a young man,
he had a very different plan for his future.
He was an extremely talented artist,
and an animal-lover, so there was only one place he could come to work,
and that was right here at the newly opened zoological gardens,
and he began his career painting parrots.
London Zoo was established in 1826
for the scientific study of animals,
and as photography had yet to be invented,
the zoo employed artists to document their growing collection
of exotic wildlife that was arriving on a weekly basis.
And amongst these daubers was a very young Edward Lear,
with brush in hand.
He was eager to show off his artistic skills.
He spent two years here at the zoo,
sketching and painting parrots,
and, uniquely, many of them were drawn from life.
What he would do is actually get inside the aviary,
this very aviary, and join them,
and paint them and sketch them.
In 1832, Lear published the results,
Illustrations Of The Family Of The Psittacidae,
containing 42 lithographs
hand-coloured by Lear himself.
It immediately secured him
a reputation as a supremely talented ornithological draughtsman.
175 books were made, of which about 100 survive today,
and one of them is here in the zoo's archive.
I'm meeting up with natural history artist Rebecca Jewell
to take a closer look at it.
They are exceptionally good.
I'm not a bird expert, but that looks real.
Well, it is. It's absolutely stunning
and I think what makes Lear stand out
as bird artist
is that he did many of his...well, most of his drawings from life,
-so he went to London Zoo...
-Inside the aviary, basically,
-with the birds.
-..and he was sketching from the live birds
and he did many, many sketches.
There's a lot of work that's gone into that.
He would have drawn with the pencil
and then done layers of watercolour,
probably with gum arabic in it, which is...
OK. Which is like a glue with colour.
-And it gives it this beautiful luminescence.
And rich, rich colours.
It's just beautiful. Can you turn a page?
Can we see some more?
Is there a big difference between drawing these birds
when they're living and when they're dead?
It's easier to draw something dead.
If you compare him to, say, Audubon,
who was the equivalent,
absolutely amazing artist,
in America drawing birds,
he did sketch out in life,
in the field,
but he then shot his birds
and he strung them up and put wire in them
and so his birds are slightly more constructed
-And awkward looking.
-Yes. They're still beautiful
but the thing about Lear is,
he was recording the parrots scientifically, correctly.
My eyes are gazing over towards that eagle owl. It's an eagle owl, yeah.
But you can see the expression on the face now.
You can see where Lear would develop his characters from, can't you?
And Lear adored owls...
He thought he was one!
He did, yeah. He often did a caricature of himself as an owl.
This is just absolutely fabulous,
the colours of the feathers.
Sadly, due to failing eyesight and lack of financial success,
Lear gave up bird painting in his mid-20s
but he never gave up his love for birds.
They're a theme all of his nonsense poems and his sketches
and he often caricatured himself as an owl
so perhaps there is more to his famous poem after all.
# And hand-in-hand On the edge of the sand
# They danced By the light of the moon
# The moon The moon
# They danced By the light of the moon. #
Animal collectables are such good fun,
it's hardly surprising that they never go out of fashion.
And with a huge variety of things out there,
you don't have to spend too much to start a collection.
Dogs, cats, pigs and horses are all popular subjects
but rarity adds value
so it is also worth looking out for pieces featuring more unusual breeds.
So, if you have any antiques and collectables that need re-homing,
well, then I hope you come and see us at one of our valuation days.
That's it for today's show, join me again soon for more Trade Secrets.
Flog It! Trade Secrets explores the enduring appeal of antiques and collectibles which feature animals.