Antiques series. This episode is dedicated to the decision to restore or not to restore. Paul Martin visits Gwydir Castle in Wales to hear about a restoration project.
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You've been coming to our Flog It! valuation days
for well over a decade now, and you haven't disappointed.
And with around 950 shows under our belt
and thousands of your antiques and collectibles valued,
you've certainly put our experts through their paces.
What's in there, then?
I brought it along for someone to tell ME what it was.
I have seen these in books before, but never in real life.
-Commission bid is £500.
And now, we want to share some of the knowledge we've
learned from the items you've shown us.
Welcome to Trade Secrets.
There are all sorts of ways in which the novice antique
buyer can be tripped up. Knowing when to spot something
that's been restored or when it's a fake is a vital tool.
So in today's show, we're going to be looking at
when restoration is a good idea and how not to be taken in by the fakes.
We'll be looking at collectibles that cause controversy.
Fake or real? That's the question for Anita.
I just got a feeling that it wasn't right.
You could turn a £60 replica into a £600 antique.
We find out how to avoid being taken in.
If you spend £120 on something like this, you've lost your money.
And we see when reproductions can still be the real deal.
-You didn't think it was worth that, did you?
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
and that's certainly the case of makers of all fine things.
They attract copycats.
But when is a copy a fake, made to deceive,
and when is it an homage to a master of their art?
Very often, you can use the word reproduction,
or you can use the word fake. The fake is an intention to deceive
someone into thinking that it IS original.
If something is particularly rare, it could well be a fake.
If something is in wonderful condition, it could be a fake.
Caution, I think, is important. Don't act with your heart
if you're going to regret it with your head later, particularly
if it's involving laying out quite a lot of money initially.
It's exciting when a reproduction or fake crosses our tables.
It adds intrigue, sparks debate and, let's face it -
our experts love a bit of detective work.
And these skills can be very useful
when it comes to antique wood furniture.
You can often find recent pieces purporting to be much older.
I've seen many and Philip Serrell came across a perfect
example in 2005.
In my eyes, the joint stool was a reproduction
because it was intended to be a copy of the original.
-Where did this come from?
-It came from my mother-in-law's house.
We were quite surprised to find there because she wasn't
the kind of lady who liked anything that looked old.
How old do you think this is?
Well, that's what I was dubious about because it looks...
-How old do you think it should be?
-I think it should be 1600-something.
-So this is a 17th-century stool, yeah?
What type of stool do we call it?
-A joint stool?
-A joint stool. And what's it made of?
Do you want to stand here and have my job?
If this has been around for the thick end of 300 years,
wouldn't there be some wear here? More wear?
'You can't fake age.'
You don't get to look like this if you're only 20.
And if you look at a stool that's perhaps only 100 years old,
you can see that it's not 200 or 300 years old
because it hasn't been around for long enough.
People would've sat on this and perhaps put feet on here.
There'd be more wear here.
Can you just see that this dark pattern here,
it almost suddenly stops there, like it's been painted on.
-So this is oak, it's almost a joint stool,
-but I think it's 19th-century, rather than 17th-century.
In terms of value, if this was 17th century, I think it would
have been £600-900.
-So I'm afraid we're going to have to take a nought off.
I think we need to put £60-90 and we'll reserve it for you at £50.
That will ensure that it will sell.
-And I actually think that represents cracking value for money.
-So let's keep our fingers crossed.
So, Philip confirmed Helen's suspicions,
but did the bidders agree with our expert's estimate?
40, I have. 45 with me. And 50, sir.
50. I'll go five and 60 is with you.
60 and it's there. At £60. Five anywhere else?
We all done at £60?
-Yeah, hammer's gone down. 60 quid. Spot-on.
Ooh! That was touch and go for a second, starting at 30 quid.
Philip was right on the mark.
If you're going to go and buy from a dealer or an auction room
a piece of 17th-century furniture,
first thing you should do is make sure that the receipt
that you get says 17th century,
not 17th-century style, or 17th-century manner,
but it says 17th century.
And if your catalogue description or the label in the shop doesn't
say "this is 17th century", circa 16-whatever, take a step back.
And don't be afraid to ask.
Because if you don't, you could come unstuck.
A report that was published in September 2013 alleges that
a significant amount of antiques that are bought in the UK are fakes.
Whether that's true or not, it does pay to be on your guard.
If you're thinking of splashing out some cash on some antiques,
make sure what you're buying is authentic.
If the price is too good to be true, it usually is.
A fascinating period in history is the settling of the American West.
And inextricably linked with that is the Colt 45 revolver.
The primary US military sign-on until 1892.
It's known as the gun that won the West.
At a valuation day in Glasgow, James Lewis was sure
he was looking at two famous pieces of Americana.
The Colt revolver is the archetypal symbol of the American West.
What are they doing here in the centre of Glasgow?
Well, I used to collect them many years ago, about 20 years ago,
but I just decided I've got too many now and want to get rid of some.
I love the Wild West and I love Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp
and all that, so for me, there was an interesting history there.
This one is the Colt Army pattern, this one, the Colt Navy pattern.
Both of them 1850s, 1870s or so in date.
Classic six-shot cylinder and both of them have ivory slab-sided grips.
And here, the wonderful verse - "Be not afraid of any man,
"No matter what his size,
"Call on me in your need
"And I will equalise."
The verse that was on that handle is one that is very, very famous.
The Equaliser for the Colt was the one that made them almost iconic.
The wonderful early colour on this one
indicates it's never been changed. On this one...
..I don't know.
'When it came to those two pieces,'
the ivory isn't actually the biggest telltale sign because, especially
with a weapon, you can damage the grips and they can be replaced.
So the fact that they were paler colour
just indicated that they could have been replaced.
But, again, they could quite simply have been put away.
Values? Do you have anything in mind?
-Obviously, you know a lot about them.
-I know what they cost me.
-That's a good starting place.
-What did they cost?
-I think this one was about 600-something.
-This one, I think, was about 400-something.
-Are you happy to put a 600 and a 400 reserve on them?
And put 4-5 on that. And 6-8 on that. Gives us a fighting chance.
But an Anita Manning's saleroom, research suggested
there might be more to one of the guns than first appeared.
When these two guns came in to auction,
we look at them very carefully. The first one, everything seemed fine.
When I looked at the second one...
..I just got a feeling that it wasn't right.
The handle was too fresh.
The surface of the barrel just wasn't consistent with it
being 150 years old. Guns can be a difficult area.
You have firearms laws which you must comply with.
So, we looked at that gun more carefully.
-In the 1960s, they started making replicas in Italy.
Now, these weren't made to be fakes.
They were meant to be replicas of the item.
But the marks, the Italian serial marks could quite easily
-be taken off...
-And then re-stamped.
-..and fake marks put on.
So you could turn a £60 replica into a £600 antique.
'So, to be on the safe side,
'the second gun was withdrawn from the sale.'
I'm still not 100% sure that it was as wrong as it was said.
But with guns, you have to be so careful.
And I agree 100% with what Anita did by withdrawing it
because if you have an element of doubt, then you must withdraw it.
We have one in the sale. We're looking at £400-500.
-Are you happy with that?
-Yes, reasonably happy.
-Hopefully, we'll get the top end.
-That's what we want.
Here we go.
-Oh, I thought it was going to be more.
300 with me. 320.
The bid's with me. The bid's on the books at £500.
520, fresh bidder. 550 on the books.
580. I'm out.
It's on the floor. At £580.
Could've belonged to Wild Bill Hickok!
Or Jesse James!
580. Any advance on 580?
All done at 580. 580.
-Sold. £580. We're happy. You're happy, aren't you?
-Yes, of course.
Smiles all round.
Do you know, I sell about 2,000 lots a week.
Between us, we try and get most things right.
But have we ever been fooled by a fake? Yeah, of course.
It happens to the best of us, James!
High-value items are often copied.
Most copies aren't done to deceive but to fill a legitimate market.
And these turn up at our valuation days in all shapes and sizes,
as Mark Stacey discovered.
It was my first Flog It! I had no idea what to expect.
But I wasn't expecting such a large clock coming in, with its pedestal.
It was a reproduction, but it had high visual appeal.
This is a very decorative clock and pedestal you've brought in with you.
-How did you come by this?
-We bought it from a shop.
-When was that?
-About 42-3 years ago.
-You know, of course, it's a reproduction.
It's modelled in the style of Louis XVI, French, 18th century.
But probably made around the time you bought it.
'Probably one of the biggest reproduced areas is'
Louis XV, XVI, even XIV, because they're very, very opulent pieces.
And the originals cost many hundreds of thousands.
So the style has been reproduced through generations.
Even though it's a reproduction, we still have to look at the fact
that the item is very decadent and should sell quite well at auction.
-And do you like French-type furniture?
-You like the rather flouncy nature of it?
-That's right, yes.
-Cos it is rather flouncy, this, isn't it?
The original style of this, we refer to now as rococo. Typically French.
Over the top. There's shells, there's scrolls, leaf scrollage,
and probably would've been in tortoise shell.
-Why are you thinking of selling it now?
-We've moved to a smaller place.
We had it in the hall and it tends to keep you awake,
-so we switched the chimes off.
-We shouldn't really do this,
but wind it on a bit till two and we can have a quick listen.
Well, a very pretty chime there.
I've got a clock at home that keeps chiming
and I turn the wretched thing off cos it wakes me up at night as well.
But it's still a very decorative-looking clock.
We'd be looking at an estimate of something like £400-600.
-Is that something you'd be interested in doing?
-Yes, I would, yes.
-And hope it makes a striking success at the sale!
If you're a modest collector
and you can't afford £200,000 for a Louis XVI clock,
to pick one up for £300-400, £500-600, is in your budget.
And it was a very visual clock, very decorative.
What shall we say to start me, ladies and gentlemen?
I have two commissions. I start the bidding at £300.
-What does that mean?
-The bid's left.
At 350. Do you have 360?
At £350 with me.
That was so short and sweet, but it was over with very quickly.
Yeah, but it's good.
-It's sold. I'm quite pleased with that, actually.
It's a difficult thing to sell, a reproduction. It's not
-everybody's cup of tea.
-And we got it over the reserve,
-which was nice as well.
-That's right. I'm pleased.
When we talk about something like the Louis XVI period,
you are talking about manufacturers that were
producing for the King of France, so the quality is outstanding.
The reproductions obviously are not going to be like that.
You can get good reproductions.
But they will never be like the originals
and you cannot fake 200 years of age.
Now, we've all heard of the violin maker Antonio Stradivari
whose incredible craftsmanship in Cremona, Italy,
in the 17th and 18th centuries, brought him wealth and fame.
Since then, hundreds of violin makers have striven to
emulate his work.
Some more successfully than others.
Fortunately, Flog It!'s musical expert, Adam Partridge,
knows the difference.
-Well, it belonged to my mother.
It was bought for her when she was about 11, 12 years old.
OK. Did she play, then?
-I'm not sure. I've never heard her play it.
-So you've never heard this violin played?
Now, I think this is...
Well, we've got a label inside it, first of all,
and the label reads Carlo Storioni, registered Cremonensis Faciet, about
1912, which basically means Carlo Storioni made this in Cremona,
which is in Italy, of course, in 1912.
And I'm not sure that's exactly the truth.
I'm automatically suspicious any time
I come across any violin with a label
until I've had a good look at it and assessed whether I think it's
actually by the label or not, cos there's so much jiggery-pokery
going on in the violin trade over the centuries.
Storioni was a family of violin makers dating
back from the 18th century and they were Cremonese violin makers
and it's generally accepted that the Cremonese or Cremona-based
violin makers... It's the home of violin making.
And they were the best violins.
So lots of violins pretend to be from Cremona.
We've sold a few of these Storioni violins that have in fact
There was an eminent maker by the name of Lorenzo Storioni,
who died in 1799.
So I think what they're trying to imply with this
Carlo Storioni that we had here was that perhaps
he was some connection with the great master, one of the great
makers of the 18th century, where in fact, there's no connection at all.
They're almost good enough to be taken as Italian and sometimes
people think they are Italian and they make quite a good price.
But I think this is a German example.
'If my name's Thomas Muller, something typically German,'
it doesn't sound that glamorous, but if it says Carlo Storioni, you think
your violin's made by one of the Italian masters, whereas in reality,
it's just a really decent-quality German workshop violin.
We've got the table here, the front, which is made from pine.
Very good condition.
No cracks, which of course is vital, cos that affects the sound quality.
And on the back, we have a two-piece back, down the middle there,
which is made from maple.
The date we know because that's correct,
the date of the label, there's nothing wrong with that.
Have you got any idea what an instrument like this might be worth?
-None whatsoever? Not even a guess?
-Not even a guess.
Normally, we'd expect this sort of violin to realise £200-400
And a reserve of £200. So it doesn't go for less than that.
I'm convinced it's worth that. And it'll find its value in the sale.
-What do you think of that?
-Well, it's beyond my expectations.
-Is it beyond...? I thought you were disappointed for a minute.
Georgina was a lovely lady and she was visibly moved, I think,
by the valuation and the hammer price, and that's a real joy.
That's what makes the job worthwhile.
120. 140. 160.
Yeah, this is good.
At 550, are we all done? On Tom's phone at £550.
Bang - yes! 550 quid.
-You didn't think it was worth that, did you?
No, I didn't think we'd get anywhere near that.
A wonderful result for Georgina.
So here are a few things to bear in mind.
If the Wild West appeals,
my first suggestion wouldn't be firearms.
Not only are there strict licensing laws,
but the fakes on the market can be difficult to spot.
And, as we've seen in the past,
there are plenty other fascinating pieces of Americana to collect.
Reproductions are worth considering -
they're a good way of owning something in the style
of a piece that would normally be out of your price bracket.
And if it's a well-made quality reproduction,
it can still make a pretty penny at auction,
as Georgina discovered.
A clever forger or faker will always manage to convince someone
that he's looking at the real McCoy.
So we asked the "Flog It!" team for some sage words of advice
on how to avoid being taken in.
These two items are both Staffordshire flatback figures.
They look fairly similar at first glance.
One is real and one is a fake.
But can you tell the which one?
This one is the fake.
It has actually been deliberately made to look old.
If you look closely at this, you'll see it's crazed all over
and that's done to make it look old,
so it's got far more crazing than the original piece.
This original one can be top hundreds, I would say,
whereas this can be bought in the UK now for £10 or less.
Is this really a milk jug
or might it have been something else?
It is, in fact, a christening mug that has been converted.
And it's been converted by the addition of this spout.
What's particularly worrying is that the spout is not hallmarked,
which means it's an illegal conversion
and as an illegal conversion, we can't sell it.
It's as simple as that. So it's valueless.
If you spent £120 on something like this,
you've lost your money.
I think this is a lovely painting, actually,
and it's signed LS Lowry, the signature looks good,
the subject looks quite good, too.
It's very much in his style, with thick layers of paint, etc.
But I'm not convinced it's a genuine one, I'm afraid.
One of the things with Lowry
is you'll never really, fully know 100%,
whether it's absolutely genuine
unless you've got a cast-iron provenance
linking it to Lowry himself.
So, at the moment, it's "Style of LS Lowry", £500-£700,
but if it was the real thing, and we could prove it,
I'd have thought it would be £30,000-£50,000.
This is, ostensibly, a little Georgian dessertspoon
that dates to London 1790
by the partnership of George Smith.
And I bought it at an auction because I felt
there was something just slightly...awry with the hallmark.
When it came, I was delighted to find out
that it's not actually a genuine Georgian spoon, but it's a fake.
But it's not a modern fake.
It was made by famous forgers at the late Victorian period
Lyon and Twinam.
as a Victorian forgery of a Georgian spoon,
is actually rarer than the Georgian spoon itself.
I wouldn't legally be able to sell this.
I can own it, that's fine.
But if I wanted to sell it,
I'd have to submit it to the Goldsmith's Hall,
to the Antique Plate Committee.
They'd consider it,
they'd come to the conclusion that it's an 1890s forgery
and they'd erase the marks here
and either offer me the value of the silver on the day
or return it to me, hallmarked, with modern marks.
The sad thing is then, of course, you've lost the history of it.
100 years ago, Kilburn in North Yorkshire
was home to a man whose work regular Flog It! viewers will recognise.
Thank you so much for coming in. You have made my day.
It's a Robert "Mouseman" Thompson, little joint stool.
Original pieces by Robert Thompson, the Mouseman,
can command huge prices in the saleroom.
But perhaps less well-known is the work of his apprentices,
the so-called Yorkshire Critters.
Flog It! expert Caroline Hawley
had the pleasure of returning to her home county to find out more.
The Yorkshire Critters are a bunch of craftsmen
who make solid oak pieces of furniture
all with their own individual critters on them.
There's the Lizardman, the Rabbitman,
the Gnomeman, the Wrenman, to name but a few.
But they all hark back to the originator,
which was Robert "Mouseman" Thompson,
based in Kilburn.
And I'm here today to see some of his furniture.
I'm so thrilled to see it, as a Yorkshire lass, born and bred -
there isn't a Yorkshireman worth his salt
that hasn't heard of Mouseman.
Robert "Mouseman" Thompson was born in 1876
and dedicated his life to the art of making English oak furniture.
Using traditional tools,
he made furniture in the style of the 17th century.
And it's his great-grandson, Ian Thompson-Cartwright,
who's showing Caroline around today.
This is where it all starts, with the raw material.
Yes, it is.
Those are our oak logs that have been purchased in the British Isles and...
-You call that a log?
-That is a log, yes.
That particular one is about 300 years old.
I'm going to take you to the workshop so we can see what happens next
after we get our hands on the tree.
What we see here, Caroline,
it's one of our Thompson traits, or Mouseman traits -
it's the adzed surface on the tops of the tables.
We create this with one of the oldest carpenters' tools in existence.
It's called the adze.
It's like an axe blade, but the blade is the other way on.
What you get is a lot of undulations -
it's almost like beaten copper or a honeycomb effect.
After he's adzed it by hand, he'll then have to scrape it by hand
and then, of course, it has to be sanded by hand.
So very, very labour-intensive.
How long would it take Dave to do a table this size?
There would be about four hours in total, half a day,
to adze and sand and scrape the top.
So, Ian, how do you spot a genuine piece of Mouseman?
-Are there signs that I can look for?
-Yes, there are.
We've been using certain designs for over 100 years.
One of them is the octagonal leg -
that shape has been used for literally over 100 years here.
It was one of Great-Grandfather's early designs.
It's timeless, really, isn't it? The methods you use and...
It's very arts and craft.
The most obvious way to tell any of our pieces of furniture
is by the mouse trademark.
Great-Grandfather was working on a piece of furniture
with a fellow craftsmen
and the fellow craftsman happened to mention he thought they were both as poor as church mice.
He thought how alike he was -
the church mouse is working away with its chisel-like teeth
and no-one knows what it's up to.
And here was he, working away on the edge of the Hambleton hills,
and really not making a song and dance about it.
the mouse has appeared on every piece of furniture ever since then.
Adam is actually creating a mouse on the inside of a fruit bowl, here,
and he's busy carving the ear at the moment.
I thought Caroline would maybe like to put
the indentation into the earlobe, there.
Really?! Once it's been taken out, you can't put it back in!
Oh, gosh - something's coming off! Oh, no!
-This one's going to have big ears!
-Yes, very big ears!
-We have an ear.
-Oh, wow - thank you!
-Adam will show you how we put the tail in as well.
One of the beauties of Mouseman things, to me,
is that every mouse is unique.
It's the same as asking 25 people to sign a signature -
everybody's is going to be slightly different.
The same with a mouse -
it's their own interpretation of a mouse.
So we can tell who's carved what by the style and shape of the mouse.
Can you recognise your own mice, Adam, after you've done them?
-Yeah, very easily.
As you can see, we've got a rather nice fireplace,
which was Great-Grandfather's,
but this particular mantelpiece he carved himself.
Interesting to note the mice on here,
which have got front legs with raised heads - very early mice.
These are from the early '20s, because they were streamlined -
we lost the legs in the later '20s.
So it's a good way of dating early pieces of furniture.
And the patternation on this oak is just gorgeous.
Everybody that wants to come in wants to rub it.
I've been thinking about the Yorkshire Critters,
who actually imitate your great-grandfather's work -
do you ever have people that deliberately, out-and-out,
try and fake or imitate, copy?
We have in the past.
We had a case not too long ago where we had 250 cow stools
that were made in China, brought back into the UK
and then were distributed quite quickly
and ended up being offered for sale on the internet
-and through auction houses the length and breadth of the UK.
We've got an example here that I'd like to show you -
this is the genuine item.
-This is a milking stool, our cow stool, with three legs.
We never make a milking stool with a jointed top.
-It's out of one solid piece.
-And obviously, the mouse is carved out of the sold as well.
But the ones that were coming in from China
were made out of three and four pieces
and the mice weren't carved by hand.
They were actually carved on a CNC router.
So without knowing what the original is like,
seeing and handling the original,
I'd presume the machine-made copy, at first glance,
to an untrained eye, would have looked roughly all right.
Well, I mean, we're in a fortunate position,
because we can verify our own work.
People can always send images in to us here at Kilburn
and we'll verify the authenticity of the piece.
Ian, thank you so much for today. I have enjoyed myself enormously
and I really have learned an awful lot about Mouseman.
I could stop here all night.
The prices are really fascinating -
it's just dependant on what type of critter
is on your piece of furniture.
There was a Mouseman dresser that made 3,500,
but a dresser in the very same style, almost identical,
but with a rabbit on, made £1,400.
That's a huge difference in price,
but it all harks back to the originator,
Robert "Mousey" Thompson -
that is the one to look for
if you want the best and the most expensive.
But they're all fascinating - wonderful field to collect.
Still to come, we see what happens when an antique has been restored.
I've got a bit of bad news for you.
And we find out how to become restoration savvy.
The best way of learning the lesson
is to buy a piece that you think is perfect
and you subsequently discover it's restored,
cos you'll never forget that one.
And discover what the bidders make of a recently restored heirloom.
You're on the phone, you're out...
The hammer's gone down - yes!
Your husband had a good eye, didn't he?
At our valuation days,
the restoration we see is usually so good,
you can barely spot it.
Back in 2010, I took a trip to the foothills of Snowdonia
to find out about a monumental restoration job everybody can see
at Gwydir Castle -
one of the finest Tudor houses in Wales.
A house like this just echoes of the past.
The walls permeate history.
You can't help yourself - you want to touch them and soak it all up.
It was once a fortified house.
The castle was the ancestral home of the powerful Wynn baronets,
a significant family in North Wales
throughout the Tudor and Stewart period.
Today, as you can see, the house has evolved over the centuries,
but inside, it's full of character and charm and atmosphere -
all the perfect ingredients for a fairy tale.
This modern-day fairy tale started in 1994,
when a young couple - Judy Corbett and Peter Welford -
followed their dreams.
Throwing caution to the wind, they bought Gwydir
with the money they raised
from the sale of an inherited cottage and a bank loan.
It was totally dilapidated at the time -
a crumbling ruin with a wild, overgrown garden.
With the help of the Welsh Historic Monuments Agency,
they started what will probably end up being their lifetime's work -
I'm going inside to catch up with Judy to find out all about it.
What was it like when you first came here?
Um...it was pretty derelict, yeah - roofless in parts,
horses and chickens living in here.
-Really? In this particular room?
Yes, it was really quite bad.
Obviously, no plumbing or wiring to speak of.
I had a walk around the grounds before I came in
and they're beautifully landscaped now.
Lots of formal plantings, lots of clipped yew and box -
gradually, it's all coming back together.
There's one particular tale I know you haven't mentioned yet
and that's how you managed to do a bit of detective work
on your dining room.
Yes. A neighbour turned up with a sale catalogue...
-Of the contents of this castle.
-The contents of the castle from 1921.
Basically, to cut a very long story short,
it transpired that William Randolph Hearst,
whom you'll know as Citizen Kane, in the famous film,
had bought two rooms of the sale here in 1921.
The rooms had been destined for San Simeon in California,
the castle he was building for himself here.
We started doing some detective work and, gradually,
traced the room to the Metropolitan Museum in New York
and that is where we found it.
Was it on display, or was it just in storage?
It was actually still in its packing crates from 1921.
-They'd never done anything with it?
-Never done anything with it.
Were they pleased to sell it back to you?
Well, it took us two years to negotiate with them.
We went over to New York to see the room, in fact,
and went to this extraordinary house in the Bronx.
-This whole new world was opening up for you.
There, in the middle of it, was our panelled room,
and they literally gave us a hammer and chisel, and said,
"Go ahead and open the crates."
And the most astonishing thing was,
when we started opening the crates and saw this amazing room,
it still smells of Gwydir, after all those years, 75 years.
Only you know what that smell is, really.
It moved us enormously, just to have that piece of..
-Did you have a tear in your eye?
-I did, I'm afraid.
Can I have a look, do you mind?
Yes. Here is...
Of course, all the furniture, all the contents were sold.
-All the contents went.
-Why was there a big house sale?
Hard to say - 1921, just after the war.
Money was tight, no heir -
same old story, it was happening all over Britain.
-Was that the start, really, of the decline?
I mean, in Sir John Wynn's day, the estate was huge -
the deer park alone was 36,000 acres.
It was a massive estate.
So this is lot 88, the remarkably fine 17th-century panelling.
How much did it sell for back then?
Ah, well, quite a lot of money, actually.
Something like 1,000 guineas, which is a lot of money.
But it attracted a lot of attention.
Was it a puzzle, putting it back together?
Or was it all carefully marked, joint-to-joint?
Unfortunately not -
that's why it made our job that much more difficult.
It was very hard because they came in great big sheets of panelling and...
There are very loose markings on the back,
but we were really working from just the sale catalogue,
these sepia photographs.
Whilst we were working on the room, we hardly left the place for two years.
It was that intense, really,
just making sure everything went back together again.
You really live and breathe this.
Yes! We're very passionate about it and love it very much.
Gosh, here we are.
Wow. I love the carvings, I love the trailing ivy with the grapes.
Yeah, they're very intricate and very elaborate.
When was that carved? When was this made?
Well, the panelling was made for this space
in about 1640 for Sir Richard Wynn
and then it's been embellished and played with a bit over the centuries,
but really, yeah, 1640.
Was the leather panelling part of the package out the crate as well?
Yes, everything came back except the moveable furniture,
so even the window shutters came back.
And this leather frieze up here is actually quite important.
When it came back from America, it was completely black.
We took advice from the V&A
and they said the best thing to clean it with is spit.
So we spent six months, I'm afraid...
And a lot of spit later, it now shines.
But we both ended up with very bad sore throats at the end.
What a wonderful tale.
It's a great detective story, isn't it?
Another little piece is that,
if William Randolph Hearst hadn't bought this room,
it would have burned in a fire the following year,
so we're very grateful to him, also.
To restore or not to restore?
That's the quandary that presents itself
to lovers of all antiques and collectables.
Damage can detract from an item's appeal,
yet it's true to say collectors prefer authenticity.
Now, clearly, there are arguments for and against,
so if you haven't quite yet made your mind up, maybe we can help.
If you have a teapot, and the spout's broken,
I wouldn't necessarily have the spout restored,
just so you can sell the teapot,
because you might find there is an imbalance
between outlay and suitable income.
Restoration is always acceptable.
But, you have to mention
that it's been done.
The best way of learning the lesson is to buy a piece
that you think is perfect and subsequently discover is restored.
Cos you'll never forget that one.
We see all types of restored items on Flog It!.
For some, the restoration comes as an unwelcome surprise.
In other cases,
the objects have been lovingly restored by the people we meet.
Claire Rawle had the pleasure of the latter at a valuation
day in Hertfordshire.
My husband bought it, we reckon, about 20 years ago, not quite sure,
for scrap at an antique fair for £15.
And then he took it to a local watchmaker man and he said,
"It's worth repairing,"
so we spent about £350, which seemed a lot of money then.
So we'd be interested in knowing a bit more about it.
Right. It's a lovely thing.
This watch had been very, very sympathetically done.
Basically, the restorer had restored the movement and made it work,
which is what you expect them to do,
but hadn't gone in for polishing and cleaning
and tidying up of the dial and the hands, which spoils it completely.
If you open it up, nice set of hallmarks inside,
which gave you the date - 1838.
The thing I really love is when you get into the back and you
open this last cover, and there we have just the back of the movement.
Beautifully made, quite understated, but you've got
this nice engraved cog here, which covers the escapement inside.
Most people that buy watches, don't expect them to be working.
They'll either do it themselves or they get it done professionally.
There are very few people that will ask, "Does it work?"
The one thing they will ask is whether it ticks,
because that means that the mainspring is still working.
So, as long as that still goes, it's got more value.
I think anybody who knows anything about chronometers would
look at that and think, "That's really nice."
-Yeah, I think so.
The more I look at it, the more I think it'll do very well.
I think if you put a £500 reserve on it, fix it...
-Is that OK?
-Yes, that's fine.
Estimate £500-£600, and, yeah, I think it should go well.
It was lovely that it was in working order.
I think it probably put a little bit on but not a tremendous amount.
It was a good watch anyway.
This is where it gets interesting.
This is the beauty of an auction - anything can happen!
-Could have a big surprise.
There we are - lot 216.
We ought to be close to 500 for this one.
300 bid. Thank you, sir.
300 I'm bid. 400, he says. 400 I am bid.
500 we're bid for it.
You're going well. Are you going to finish?
At 500, then, I'm going to have to sell it.
-Thank you very much.
-I'm happy with that £500.
Yes, it's wonderful. From £15 it's not bad.
Yes. And you got the money back from the repairs,
and you've had all these years of enjoyment and use.
I think you need to be very careful
if you're thinking of restoring a pocket watch.
An awful lot of them, actually, are not worth restoring because
the cost of restoring is totally going to outweigh its value.
Where you've got a nice one, then, yes,
you want to think about having it restored.
Less called-on for pocket watches,
an area where restoration is more commonly seen,
is with Royal Worcester china, which was established in 1751.
Because of the pottery's vast output,
and the popularity with collectors of this fragile porcelain,
restored pieces often crop up.
Some even have replacement parts.
The trick is,
as our own Worcester-born boy Philip Serrell knows, is spotting it.
I just wanted to know if it was genuine, actually.
Why do you want to know if it's genuine?
We bought it from a national exhibition centre,
and I liked it because of the roses - I'm a roses person,
a pink person, and really fell in love with it.
And after I'd bought it I just wondered if it was genuine.
This is shape number 1286, and it's called a crown top potpourri.
And it's got this dot system that started in 1891,
and there are 16 dots there.
So we can date this quite precisely to 1907.
It just strikes me as being a little bit odd.
Can you see this is like an ivory
and what we call shot silk decoration in those intervals there?
-And yet there it's totally different.
I have thought that myself...
And I just wonder whether it may have been that this
cover has been a replacement at some point in time.
-I think Pat was spot-on, really,
and it goes back to this thing about trusting your eyes.
If you look at that, you can see that the rim around the bottom
of the top didn't quite match the rim around the base.
That should tell you that, perhaps, something doesn't quite marry up.
So I think she was spot-on with her instincts that top
and bottom didn't quite match.
How much did you pay for it?
We think about 180.
I think it will show you a profit on that,
providing there's no restoration and everything's A-OK on that.
My estimate for it would probably be £200-£400.
I'd put a reserve on it of £200, on the basis that it's not restored.
It looks very crisp around here - it looks OK,
but it's difficult in these lights.
If you're buying a perfect piece for a perfect price, that's fine.
If you're buying a restored piece for a restored price, that's fine.
What you don't want to be doing is buying a restored piece
for a perfect price.
And restoration can be that good that a dealer or an auctioneer
just might not spot it.
As you can imagine,
we were all intrigued to see what the sale room made of Pat's vase.
I've been all over this, top to toe, it's absolutely sound.
There is not a problem at all.
Is the cover right for the pot?
That's where we fall down.
It is, what we've termed in the catalogue, an associated cover.
It has a marginal effect on the price, but not phenomenal,
because, at the end of the day, these things are rare.
These are very expensive and also, for anyone out there,
if you've got a smashed pot and got the cover,
don't sling it out, because people are desperate to buy the covers -
these are often the first thing that gets broken.
-We're going to sell, no problem.
-Going to sell it?
Oh, yeah. It's just that cover that's just going to hold it back.
But did the Royal Worcester collectors agree?
-I open at £450.
£450 on a maiden bid clears everybody else.
I've got 450 on my right.
Do I hear 460 in the room?
It's on a commission bid then - opening and closing at £450.
All sure? All done?
Hammer's gone down. Short and sweet - £450.
Great result - top end of Philip's estimate.
Although the lid wasn't a perfect match,
the fragile nature of Royal Worcester means associated covers
are more accepted by collectors.
However, if you want to avoid a restored piece,
Philip has a top tip.
If you go to an antique fair or you go to an auction room
and you see people picking up pieces of porcelain and biting it,
they're checking for restoration.
Now, if a pot has been restored and you bite into it,
it's just like biting into soap
and you almost feel like it's going to come away in your mouth.
If you bite onto a piece that's not been restored,
it's like biting on a piece of glass, it's really quite hard.
That's a way of looking for restoration.
But of course, in the world of ceramics, other big
names like Moorcroft also have a low threshold for bumps and scrapes.
The joy of Moorcroft is it's fairly easy to restore,
because a lot of the ground colours are very plain.
So you can get a big chunk out and it's just blue.
So to restore a lot of Moorcroft is very easy.
And the financial benefits are really good.
though, can come as a bit of a shock,
as Jim and Betty found out in 2010, with their Moorcroft trinket dish.
Thank you so much for bringing this little trinket dish along.
Now, you must know a little bit about it if you watch Flog It!.
I think it might be 1930s.
Absolutely spot-on. And do you know the name of the pattern?
-Not really. Is it Mushroom...?
-Nearly! No, Mushroom is Claremont.
This is Hazeldene.
It's very similar.
If we turn it over, there we've got the "made in England",
which tells you it's made after 1925.
"Potter to HM The Queen."
So that would have been Queen Mary.
And the W Moorcroft facsimile signature there.
So, a little dish that is very sought-after at auction.
I love this Hazeldene pattern,
especially with the sunset-red ground to it.
I've got a bit of bad news for you.
It's been restored at some stage.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it has been done.
It looks like a 15 or 20-year-old restoration -
it's starting to show through.
When restoration's done when it's brand-new,
it's very difficult to tell.
The restoration fades and it doesn't last,
so you might think you've restored something
and spent £100 restoring it for ever, it's not the case.
The restoration will come back and it will change in time,
so you'll have to do it again.
-Is it a family piece?
-Where'd you find that?
-Well, where did we pick that up, Jim?
-At a boot sale.
-How much did you pay for it?
Well, for £2, you know, it's still a great buy at £2.
If it had been perfect, I think your £2 would have transformed into £200.
With the restoration, you've still made a really good investment,
cos I still think it's going to make 60-100.
-That's still all right, isn't it?
-That's more than I thought initially, you know.
Just thought it was just a wee dish.
Well, it is a wee dish, but it's a great wee dish.
If you've got a rare piece of Moorcroft,
and you can't afford 5,000 for the perfect one, you can
sell it for 2,000 and get one that's damaged.
But because Moorcroft is so easy to restore, it will look fabulous.
And the potential to make restored Moorcroft look as good as new
might explain what unfolded in the sale room.
The very nice Moorcroft flambe-designed pin tray.
And I've two very close bids...
I'm going to start it at £210.
210. 210. 210.
20 against you.
Anyone else want in...?
Who'd have believed that!
We keep saying it's a rollercoaster ride of emotions
here in the auction room - you just don't know what's going to happen.
We keep saying it's not an exact science.
Damaged - yes, it was it.
But did the bidders on the phone care? Clearly not!
When two people really want something,
you can't predict the result.
Now, in 2012, an elderly woman in Spain took the art world by storm,
when she popped into her local church
and tried to restore a century-old fresco.
That was an obvious case of what not to do!
But botch job aside,
even professional restoration of artwork can be controversial.
In Brian and Maria's case, the jury's still out.
-It was passed to my father from his uncle.
So it's been in the family quite a few years.
Father passed away in October.
Before that, it was always his wish to take the family abroad.
So it's passing the legacy down to try and use this as our leverage to,
-hopefully, get abroad.
-Oh, that's a lovely thing to do.
I'm sure he'd have approved of that.
-Up until recently, you couldn't see much of the picture,
and we had it restored round Christmas time,
so you can actually see the detail.
I mean, you can virtually see the people at the front of the boat.
My first thought was,
"If they have so recently spent good money having it restored,
"is there a hope they can reclaim that,
"over and above the value of the picture?"
And sometimes, people are caught out by believing that every time they
spend on restoration or conservation, it will automatically
add value to the hammer price in the case of the auction.
That isn't always the case.
I would say, as a general rule, I would advise against that.
If you're going to sell something, what people like to see is
something that looks like it's been hanging on a fireplace for 20 years.
-I'll start off on a negative but that would be the general advice.
Having said that, it does, as you say,
reveal what a strong image that is, and walking towards it,
it really stands out as being a lovely composition.
It was a good image, lots of interest,
well placed on the canvas, so it was a lovely painting in its own right.
The signature is not an easy one to read.
You don't know anything about the artist?
-Nothing at all.
I think it's by one of the Grebe family,
and certainly, stylistically, it looks very much
late 19th-century Dutch school - it is very much of that ilk.
Standing where I'm standing now, I can see the restoration.
I can see the patch here and I'm not meaning to be too negative,
but just realistic.
It was quite a textured finish to the artwork,
but the restoration interrupted that - it looked thicker
and it looked wrong and it had a sort of sheen to it,
which was different to the rest of the painting.
I think we have to be realistic.
I think we've got to look at it as being 200-400, 300-500.
It may well be that I'm being too pessimistic about it,
but if you're happy to bracket it in that region, and I think then you've
got your holiday almost booked and everything else is a bonus.
-Does that make sense?
Having already spent £300 on restoration,
they needed the painting to make at least the top of that estimate.
So did Brian and Maria get the holiday they wanted?
320 on the net.
360? I've got 340 on the net.
340 in the UK. At 340.
360 in Holland.
Could be going back to Holland.
At 400. 420 now.
Net has it at £400.
We'll go to the telephones next, then.
420. 440. 460.
460 anyone? 460.
£500 anyone? 500 on the telephone. 550 on the net.
Incredible - there's a battle between
the telephone and the internet.
Six on the telephones. 600 bid.
600. 650 now.
650. 700 now, may I say?
£700 surely? 700 on the phone.
Hear that?! £700!
800 now do I see?
Who's coming in first at 800?
I have 750 - commission bid has it.
800 on the telephones.
At 800 bid. 850 now?
-Telephone bid coming in...?
No! At 850 on the net.
1,000 now do I see?
He's working this very well.
Yes, it's brilliant.
1,000 on the telephone. Any more bids now? 1,100.
Do I see 1,200? I do. 1,300 now?
It's not unlucky, you know.
-Someone's going home with a lot of money!
1,300 bid. Thank you.
Do I see 1,400? 15 now surely? 15?
1,500 may I say now?
You know you need it.
At 1,400 then.
At £1,400, we're on the phone.
You're out on the net, out in the room.
-Last call then.
-Selling at £1,400...
The hammer's gone down.
Your husband had a good eye, didn't he?!
He liked that. He saw the value in that.
He did like it, yeah.
That is marvellous - your first auction, £1,400.
I was so excited when there was so much interest about that
painting, because I did like that painting -
it was a very strong, dynamic picture.
I was delighted. It obviously went
to a good home and I'm really pleased.
Well, that result was due, in no small part,
to some excellent marketing by the auction room.
The painting by the Grebe even attracted bidders
from its homeland, the Netherlands.
The question is, would Brian and Maria's painting have fetched
even more money if it hadn't been restored?
Well, we'll never know.
Now, here are a few things to consider
if you are thinking about restoration.
The decision on whether to restore, often comes down to taste.
If you're keeping a piece,
it needs to be aesthetically pleasing to you.
And sometimes, that means conservation is necessary.
But bear in mind, restoration is not a cheap job.
It's an investment in its own right.
And if you're planning to sell, think carefully,
cos that outlay may not necessarily be returned at the auction.
Fortunately, the Grebe painting hit the market at the right time,
and attracted international interest.
Which meant Brian and Maria got that long-planned holiday.
They took the whole family to Ibiza, and had a fantastic time.
And that's what I call a result.
Well, that's it for today's show.
I hope you've enjoyed it, so get out there,
get buying and have some fun with antiques.
Join us again soon for more trade secrets.
This episode is dedicated to the decision to either restore or not to restore. Presenter Paul Martin visits Gwydir Castle in Wales to hear about a restoration project on a huge scale, and the Flog It! experts explain how not to get taken for a ride by the fakers.