Antiques series. This episode looks at science and music. Presenter Paul Martin explores the world of collectable automata, and there is advice on musical instruments.
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Have you got more stuff in there?
-No, that's my lunch.
-Is that your lunch?
Probably all rubbish.
OK, next, please.
Have you seen anything nice yet?
-I'm not telling.
-You're not telling!
It's been well over ten years
since you first started coming to our "Flog It!" valuation days
and during that time, we've seen, valued and sold
thousands of your unwanted antiques and collectibles
and I've discovered there's so much more to learn
about the world of fine art and antiques that we all love,
so if you want to know more, you've come to the right place.
Welcome to Trade Secrets.
In today's programme, we're taking a close interest in instruments,
both scientific and musical.
You bring us a great deal of both varieties to the valuation days,
so today we are sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
Coming up, Amanda serenades Philip...
I'll name that tune in one, absolutely!
..head master Charlie gets firm with the Flog It contributors...
-He's being rude, can you put him off?
We can't have him on Flog It!
..and Adam Partridge shares some tricks of the trade.
And that also has a built-in light.
Whenever I see a musical instrument at a valuation day,
I can't help but smile.
I absolutely love them.
Not only do they represent a pinnacle of human achievement,
but they also reflect a nation's culture, language, art,
So if music's your thing, what do you need to know?
My tip would be vintage guitars.
I've seen from some of the rock and pop sales that we've put on,
prices and interest have rocketed.
If you look at some of the Gibsons, Fender, Hofner,
these things are just going up and up in value.
If you've got a guitar that was John Lennon's,
suddenly, it adds massive value.
There is also a very strong market in concertinas.
Some people call them squeeze-boxes.
Those are the sort of things that you might be able to find
in car boots and bric-a-brac shops where they've been discarded
and some of them can be worth hundreds,
even thousands of pounds, depending on which model you find.
Some of these instruments are valuable
because people want to play them,
so if they're not in a playable condition,
you really have to be a specialist in the area, I think.
Yes, Adam shares my passion for music and we view him
as our resident musical instrument authority here on "Flog It!"
Our valuation day's instruments, from the run of the mill
to the weird and the wacky, gravitate towards his table.
Wow, that was really good.
But there's one musical instrument above all others
which regular "Flog It!" viewers will associate Adam with.
HE PLAYS HUNGARIAN DANCE NO. 5 BY JOHANNES BRAHMS
I come from a violin-playing family.
Both my parents are professional violinists, I grew up around it.
From being a baby, I thought that everybody did that
and once I was five, I picked one up and started learning it.
It's got a one-piece back, there.
Sometimes you have a two-piece back or a one-piece back.
This is a one-piece back made from maple.
On the front, there, we call that the table, violin people,
rather than the front. That's made from pine.
Try to avoid cracks on the front, the table, or on the back,
because a crack will affect the resonance and, therefore,
when you get it set up and you spend your £100 getting your bridge
and your strings put on, you'll hear this buzzing where the crack is
and the sound quality's not very good.
Now, we always check the bows as well,
because sometimes the bow can be worth more than the instrument.
Let's have a quick look at that one.
Bows, of course, are a separate art form on their own.
They're made from pernambuco, a valuable Brazilian hardwood,
they're often mounted in silver and ivory,
they're often stamped with a maker's name.
We've had bows make many thousands of pounds
that have come in with violins that are worth 200 quid.
You haven't got any special individual value with the bows,
so this is pretty good condition.
People looking at this will think, "Oh, it's no good,
"it's got no strings", but it really doesn't matter.
You can pick up a violin pretty cheaply, really,
and even if it hasn't got the strings and the bridge
and everything on it, people say,
"Oh, it's no good, it's got no strings on it." Just not the case.
It's going to cost you £80-100 or something to get it all set up.
Inside, there's a label.
I can just glimpse a label there and it says "M Costelli, Paris."
-Luthier Artistique, 1895.
-So it's French?
-She's smart, isn't she?
-Yeah. Oh, yeah.
-Now, this Costelli sounds like an Italian name.
And the Italians are very well known for the finest violins.
French violins are also quite highly regarded
and then usually another step down to the German violins,
which are more mass-produced.
Never really believe a violin label.
95% will say Stradivarius in any way
and they'll be a German factory-made violin
on the lines and the models of the Stradivarius shape.
Costelli of Paris, I think, was just a name
to make it sound more glamorous than saying
"Made in Markneukirchen factory in Germany",
which is where I think this was made.
It was a slightly better quality German factory copy
than any others, but I don't think...
My violin books show no record of an M Costelli in Paris.
This Costelli isn't a very well-known or highly regarded maker.
-So I'd go on the cautious end and I'd put 100-200 estimate.
-And put a reserve of 100. It's definitely worth £100.
But did the bidders agree with Adam's estimate?
-500 on the phone.
No second thoughts?
£525! That ended in a crescendo, didn't it?
In my view, it's worth maybe £200-300
and I think it made a bit more
because you've got speculators online and in the room -
"Oh, a French violin's better than a German.
"It's got an Italian-sounding name, Costelli, goodness me.
"This might be something really exciting,"
and, in fact, it wasn't that exciting at all.
So it was a good price.
The label may not have fooled Adam,
but the bidders were obviously wooed
by the Italian-sounding maker's name, Costelli.
If you are considering buying a musical instrument as an investment,
then please do take care.
A large proportion of violins, for example, purport to be made
by celebrated makers, but they are, in fact, fakes.
If you want the real thing, it will cost you dearly.
There's only around 600 violins that survive today
that were made by the great Antonio Stradivari.
Now, one of those sold recently in auction in 2011
for a staggering £9.8 million.
Now, Philip was in for a treat when he met Amanda,
who knew what to do with her musical instrument.
So are you an accomplished saxophonist?
-Is that the term?
-Not really, I can get a tune out of it sometimes.
-You can get a tune?
-Is this going to be a "sometimes"?
-Sometimes I make it squeak.
Go on, girl, go for it.
SHE PLAYS "CONGRATULATIONS"
That's a bit of Harry Rodger Webb, isn't it?
-That's the one!
-Is that Congratulations?
-I'll name that tune in one!
-At least you recognised it.
People bring the strangest things,
so I wasn't overly surprised to see a saxophone there,
but I must admit, it is different from the usual massed ranks
of Beatrix Potter figures
and Clarice Cliff and all that sort of stuff.
-Did you buy this?
-I did, yes.
-And did you save up?
-No, I had to sell my bike.
-You sold your bike?! Oh, that's sad.
-You sold your bike?
-I sold my bike and I bought the saxophone.
So you've had it all this time and now you want to get rid of it?
-Was it a phase that passed?
-It hasn't passed, it's still there.
I just need the right saxophone so I can do it properly.
-That's not the right saxophone?
-The fingering's different.
They improved it?
They actually improved it to make it easier to play.
Which now means that somebody who is used to teaching a new instrument
finds it very, very difficult to teach you to play the old one?
And I didn't realise this when I bought it,
not that it would have made a difference,
because it's just beautiful to look at.
I put what I thought was a fairly low estimate on it,
because I felt that if she thought
that it wasn't suitable as an instrument,
then other people would think the same.
I think an auction estimate for this is about £80-120.
-Fingers crossed we get the top end.
-I hope you're right!
It's going under the hammer now, this is it.
-260, 280, 300...
-They absolutely love this.
-We're hitting all the high notes right now.
440, 460, 480,
£500, to my left at £500. Are we all done?
Yes! Hammer's gone down. £500!
What are you going to put the £500 towards?
I'll probably get another saxophone, a tenor saxophone,
and lessons to play it.
The proceeds of sale meant that she could go
and buy an instrument that suited her and she could learn to play it,
so what a great result that is.
Here's hoping Amanda's sax-playing skills
have gone from strength to strength.
Now, over the years
we've seen all manner of musical instruments on the show.
But you've haven't just brought us your instruments
which make sweet music.
Singing the blues, there.
We've also seen fantastic examples
of instruments which play back music too.
In 2009, Charlie Ross was fortunate enough
to stumble across one of the earliest prototypes.
-Shall we dance?
-Put the music on.
I love your phonograph. How long have you had it?
-About 55 years.
-Yeah, it was in the family.
-It was my father's, originally.
-You inherited it, did you?
From Father, yeah.
-You know who made it, don't you?
Edison, it's the Edison Gem,
which was his standard model, if you like.
-First patented in about 1900.
And this, I would think, dates from about 1910.
It was completely revolutionary
to have something that could reproduce...
A, record and B, reproduce sound,
whether it be the spoken word or music.
Thomas Edison really had come across something
that's been dictating our lives ever since.
What I really like about it -
not only, obviously is the carrying case here,
but that is the original sound box.
It's a delight to see either a phonograph
or a record player with its original tin trumpet
and particularly with the original patination.
Sometimes they've been repainted,
more often than not, they've been lost,
damaged and thrown away and then you get a replacement one
and that knocks the value.
The absolutely marvellous, quirky thing I like about this
is the original cord that held it up
from the stanchion I see someone has replaced with a chain,
which looks distinctly like a gold watch chain to me.
Are you guilty of that?
-I am fully guilty.
-Well, may I say congratulations?
You've considerably added to the value of it.
The horn had been held up by an old piece of wire.
His wife had said to him,
"You can't take it to Flog It with that old bit of wire on there!
"Put something else on there!"
What did he put on?
A gold chain!
I think that's charming. How many cylinders have you got?
We've got about nine or ten four-minute cylinders.
Yes. Could we have a quick go?
The three I've got left are all chipped and scratched.
'When I was going up the stair last night the...'
"Is that you, John?" I said, "Aye, it's me."
-He's being rude, can you put him off?
We can't have him on Flog It!
I thought it was going to be a nice, old Scottish ballad.
-No, I'm sorry.
-You naughty man, David.
-How much do you think it's worth?
Do you know, I think it would have been 200-300 a few years ago,
possibly a bit more.
I think it's now 150-200.
Two types of collector, really -
the really academic collector who's always looking for the rarity...
..the one that he hasn't got in his collection.
The other collector is someone like you and me who actually likes it
as an object and it's really quite good fun
to have at a party to put it on.
"Look what I've got." It's a fun object.
Sounds like it's a "Come and buy me."
It's going under the hammer right now. Good luck, you two.
Edison Gem phonograph, straight in, 100.
100 bid, 100, 110.
-We're making sweet music now.
You in on the phones?
At 370. 380.
Back at 380.
At £380, I sell at the very back.
-380, you're all out down here.
-Yes, thank you very much.
There are two reasons why it sold well.
One is, it had its original horn.
the price reflected the fact that the horn was held up
by a gold chain and I'm sure whoever bought the object
would have done something else with the gold chain,
probably sold the gold chain
or wore the gold chain and put another wire on it.
So there's a top tip for you -
if you want to bump up the auction value of your antique instrument,
offer the bidders a buy one, get one free deal.
Now, seemingly, James Lewis had an easier job when he valued
David's concertina, as it didn't come with any hidden extras.
Let's have a look at this.
"C Wheatstone and Co, inventors, patentees and manufacturers
"of concertinas, aeolas." Based in London.
Now, I'm not a specialist in the concertinas,
so I've phoned a few friends
and I looked it up on the internet before coming to the table here
and Wheatstone's first concertinas are listed between 1842 and 1847.
This one is slightly later than that,
probably made between 1860 and 1890.
You take something in on a valuation day and at the end of the day,
we can see anything from a Roman coin through to a 1960s lamp base
and it can be anything in between
and we can't know everything about everything.
It's just really important to...
..just do that research.
The value really depends so much on how many keys
and the quality of the materials.
This one is ebonised rather than rosewood
and the front and the back plates are pierced chrome
rather than pierced silver,
but it's still a very good model.
There is a huge following for musical instruments.
You tend to find that the buyers of the antique instruments
also have an interest in modern music
and they often play them themselves.
Whatever I get for it will go to restore an old guitar that I've got.
-Why not buy a new guitar?
Cos I like the one I've got.
It's from the '60s and it's a wee bit damaged.
-I think it's going to make between £150 and £250.
James admits he isn't an authority on concertinas,
so did his auction estimate prove to be on the money?
Anita Manning was the lady whose job it was to wield the gavel,
so what did she make of the concertina?
These concertinas come up on a fairly regular basis
and when you see that name Wheatstone,
you know that's it's good. Wheatstone is the Rolls-Royce...
I don't know if James had been talking to Anita,
but when it came to the auction,
he had second thoughts about his estimate.
On the valuation, I looked at it and thought, "Is it a good one,
-"or isn't it a good one?"
-It's a great make, it's the best.
Great make, but I didn't know if it was a really good one,
so we checked up on the internet.
We thought, "Fabulous."
Yes? "Found that one, that one, they've all sold around £200.
"Let's put 150-250 on it."
A week last Friday...
A week last Thursday, I was taking a sale
where I'd put exactly that estimate.
-I'm not going to tell you. I've written on here what it made.
We're going to have a grand reveal later on.
So what was the final outcome?
Had James under or overvalued David's Wheatstone concertina?
1,100 with Lara on the phone.
Any advance on 1,100? All done at 1,100. 1,100.
Why didn't you say that on the day?
Because it was only a week last Thursday.
But the end of it, I think he had enough money to buy a new guitar!
He didn't need to restore the old one.
It was a lovely story, that he had an old musical instrument
that meant something to him, that he was going to get restored
and, yeah, I hope he knows more about guitars
than I know about concertinas!
To be fair to James, it's easy to get things wrong
when it comes to musical instruments.
Prices are unpredictable.
There are many things to be aware of.
Always check condition. Concertina bellows are prone to splitting.
You've got a little bit of damage, obviously, on the actual pull-outs.
The other thing you have to look for is the number of keys.
They can be as low as 14 for quite poor quality ones
and over 30-something for the very high quality machines.
This one is mid-range.
-There's 25, I think, here.
Only the finest concertinas make big money,
because any inadequacies will affect the sale price.
300 standing. Any further bids? All done?
At 300 I'm selling, here.
That was sort and sweet, wasn't it? £300.
But what other things do you need to be mindful of
when investing in different types of musical instruments?
If you want to play the saxophone and are buying at auction,
check out the fingering on the instrument,
which varies on models of different ages.
David demonstrates a nifty trick to increase the value of your antique.
Add a second valuable collectible to the lot.
And if you're in the market for a violin, there's a lot to consider.
Check the table for cracks, which will affect the sound quality.
Be wary of labels.
Violins can purport to be something they're not.
Examine the bow, as it can be worth more than the violin
and don't fret if the strings or bridge are missing.
These are easily replaced.
Adam Partridge is firmly established as Flog It's resident musician,
so he's bound to have something intriguing in his own collection.
Well, I've always had an interest in musical instruments of all sorts,
specifically violins and stringed instruments
and I couldn't resist it
when I saw this coming up quite cheaply for sale because it is
quite a rare thing, it's an early 20th-century phonofiddle.
These were invented when the age of the gramophone started kicking in
and people were recording music onto records for playing in the home
and recording techniques weren't that strong
so they decided that they'd make a violin with a horn on the end of it.
It was a novelty item as well and I think they were quite cheap
to produce and to buy and people... they were used in music halls
and on the streets and busking and everything else.
Now, I've never really played it before,
so it doesn't make a very nice sound.
I will warn you, it doesn't sound good. How about this?
SQUEAKY VIOLIN/CELLO SOUND
Do you recognise that?
It's my attempt at a bit of the Flog It theme tune on a phonofiddle.
The main maker was Howson of London
and there on the side of this one here
you can see the circular brass disc that shows his name.
There were a range of models and this was the basic one-string model.
But they did do a four-string model
which would have been a lot easier to play
and it would have been a lot more helpful
if it was under the chin as well
because that's more what I'm used to,
I'm not used to this between-the-legs business,
very tricky indeed.
But quite a curiosity.
I think I paid about £50 for this one
but I've seen them make £100 to £150 at auction before, so,
hopefully, one day there will be a small profit for me,
although I don't plan on selling it any time soon.
The 18th century was dominated with a new spirit of curiosity.
This was the Age of Enlightenment,
when serious thinkers believed in shedding the light of science
and reason over the world, questioning old ideas
and ways of doing things, pushing the boundaries of new technology.
Many great inventions took place during this period.
The first mercury thermometer for instance, the diving bell.
There are many, many more
and lots of fun things too, like a clock that's in this room.
And here it is, albeit a clock hanging from the ceiling,
obviously designed to put a smile on your face,
exactly what this little room does as well, designed to titillate.
But let's take a closer look at the clock.
It's got a 4.5 inch enamel dial with Roman numerals.
Now, clocks weren't new in the 18th century,
they go back a lot further, but this is a first
because the timepiece has a mechanical singing bird.
This enchanting type of antique is known as an automaton.
The term refers to an object which is self-operating
and works mechanically.
Automata can be split into two broad categories,
functional objects such as clocks or collectables
which are decorative,
or entertaining like the bird-cage clock.
Many of the automata we've seen on the show
have had a musical component.
These are singing bird boxes and they...
they are part of the sort of automaton tradition.
So it sort of flips up
and then you've got this pretty songbird
-which actually should be moving and flapping its wings.
-My estimate for this would be £500-£700.
At £1,100, I'm selling in the room
it's going to be sold in the room at £1,100.
Yes! £1,100. Carol, fantastic.
Not all automata play a tune, though.
Those that don't can be just as captivating.
Most of the automata made in recent centuries
operate by clockwork, but automata have been around since ancient times
and some of the earliest examples were set in motion by water,
falling weights or steam.
Today, there is a massive worldwide market for all types of automata,
musical or otherwise.
Delightful objects from the period 1860 to 1910
are especially sought after,
as this was really the golden age of automata.
But be wary, our experts have a word of warning.
I think if you're going to look into collecting automata
you want to go for the very best French makers
from the mid-to late 19th century,
although they will be incredibly expensive.
Some of the finest ones can be £30,000, £40,000, £50,000 plus.
As a starter piece, why not have a look
at one of those birdcage automata
where you can pick up even a later, a 1950s one,
mechanical movement, clockwork bird in a cage, you wind it
and it tweets and it moves about
and you can probably get one of those for between £100 and £300.
The number one thing is that it is working correctly
and that the musical movement is in really perfect working order.
They are very, very expensive to have restored
so get one in as good condition as you can find.
That will mean spending a bit more but it's usually worth it.
I would recommend choosing an automaton
which will leave you spellbound.
Everyone on the Flog It! team has their own way of sniffing out
quality antiques and collectables.
But this show is all about getting you in the know
so we've asked Adam Partridge to reveal
the secrets of his success as a collector of fine things.
Most days in the course of my day job, running an auction house,
I'm out on the road visiting people, doing valuations in their homes.
You never know what people are going to show you
so there are a few essential instruments or gadgets,
tools of the trade that I need to take with me.
And they are all contained in this little box here.
And now I'm going to show you what those instruments are,
so that you can take similar things with you
when you go out buying or antiques hunting.
Well, I would say the most essential tool of the trade is the loupe
or the eyeglass and being quite forgetful, being very busy,
I have to actually get dressed in the morning and put one on.
I always wear one around my neck,
which sometimes causes a funny, unsightly bulge in my stomach
but there it is there, and obviously this is used
for having a look at things in greater detail
whether it be a gemstone, a diamond,
a silver hallmark or any other thing that you might come across.
Bring the object close to you, right up to the eye
and then you can very clearly see the hallmark.
This one's a fairly standard loupe,
it only magnifies by 10 times, but you can get stronger ones here
and I have my special one here
which is a 20 times triplet magnification
and that also has a built-in light.
But it doesn't fit round my neck so comfortably.
It's very useful for looking at silver hallmarks.
And obviously some of them are very small
such as jewellery ones,
it's an absolute essential for any amateur collector of silver.
When you're looking at a diamond
you have a look under the loupe, you can weigh it.
But another important and very affordable piece of kit,
this is just a few pounds, it's a simple plastic diamond gauge
and you sit your diamond through until it fits the right hole
and there we go, that one looks as though it's 3.5 carats
which is quite a substantial diamond, actually.
Typically, you'd have a set of these balance scales
as well as digital scales for lighter things
and you simply hook this around here
and the silver is in troy ounces
and that tells me that that is 17 ounces.
If you're wondering what a troy ounce is,
it's a unit of imperial measure
which is most commonly used for weighing precious metals.
One troy ounce equates to just over 31g.
Another useful tool that you may wish to take with you
when you're going looking for antiques is a simple pocket torch.
It's particularly useful when you're looking at very dark pieces of furniture
because a lot of oak furniture from the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries
has had modifications, has had changes made,
and a torch just might pick those out
where the naked eye might have failed in doing so.
Check for telltale signs that the drawers have been running in and out
for hundreds of years.
Check on locks, handles,
any replacements in the construction of the piece.
So, very handy to have a little pocket torch, I think.
I have a device which blows pure air over watch parts
to make sure that they are working correctly.
Rather than blow using your breath
that emits moisture over the watch parts,
it's much better to have pure air.
I collect watches and take this to all the auctions.
We often look at watches and pocket watches
and things like that, and you need to open them up to have a look
at the back of them to see what they're made from
and any makers' marks etc.
I tend to keep this thumbnail quite long.
My son calls it my pocket watch nail,
and I tend to grow that
and dig it in and there you go, it normally works.
But in the absence of a special long nail,
a watch opener might be a good idea.
Lots of people use a penknife
but a proper watch opener is a better tool to use
because it's not going to scratch the material that you're opening.
And what have I got here? There it is. What's that?
It looks like a pen, doesn't it? But it's a magnet.
What on Earth would you want a magnet for?
Well, firstly when we're looking at bronzes,
some bronzes are patinated cast iron to simulate bronze.
Bronze is not magnetic, cast iron is.
A magnet is quite a useful piece of kit.
It's also useful when you're looking through job lots of jewellery.
For example, you've cleared a house
and there's a whole drawer full
and you think, "Oh, what's gold, what isn't?"
Well, you go through it with your magnet - well, that's not.
Anything that's not is usually picked up by your magnet.
This is telescopic, as well.
There we go - all of that, costume jewellery, not gold.
Restoration of ceramics and porcelain
shows up much better under a UV light.
If you just see here, this torch really helps show up
the fact that this handle has been replaced on this little cup, here.
All these tools and instruments I've shown you
are very accessible items, they're all easy to get,
all pretty reasonable, as well.
It's important to have a little tool kit with you
when you're going out looking for antiques.
It depends, of course, what you're interested in -
different tools are suitable for different interests and disciplines.
But it does give you that head start
on the buyers that have come unprepared
if you manage to spot the restoration
because you've got a little UV torch, if you've noticed something
because you've got your loupe with you and others haven't.
It just keeps you that one step ahead of the others.
Still to come, Philip has some fun with Dorrie and Pat.
This will make you laugh, Dorrie!
And there are plenty of delighted people at auction.
-Wasn't that good? Wasn't that good?
Everybody is giving you a round of applause in the auction room.
Of course, it isn't just musical instruments
that turn up at our valuations days.
Those from a more technical background are hugely popular, too.
And whilst Adam may be our expert on all things melodious,
Catherine Southon's passion
is for instruments of a scientific background.
Now, you may look at this and think "What is it?"
And that's actually what I thought when I first saw this,
when I saw a picture of it.
This was actually sold in a French auction house
and this is covered with shagreen, which is a wonderful, rich material,
and it's actually dyed ray skin, or shark skin.
You can see that it's signed by a maker called Thomas Ribright
and he was a maker to the royal family
in the third quarter of the 18th century,
so this piece probably dates to about 1760.
But what is it?
Well, this has magnifiers at either end,
and inside, we have a little set of instruments.
We have a little pair of scissors.
..this little ivory...almost like a note pad,
that you could scribble on in pencil.
And we've got a set of tweezers.
We've got some other bits and pieces as well.
But they're just beautiful.
And they fit in here so neatly.
Then you can take the top off...
..and have a little peep through it.
..and magnify your little specimen
or anything else you might like to see.
The sort of person
that probably would have carried something like this
could have been a surgeon or maybe a doctor.
It would have been a gentleman, a very wealthy gentleman,
which would have kept something like this in his pocket
when he was out travelling.
You're probably wondering how much it cost -
well, I did a telephone bid for it, in French,
which was a bit tricky,
and I spent £2,000,
which you probably think is quite a lot.
But I've seen these now sell for nearer £3,000.
But I'm never going to sell it.
It's a great investment and a wonderful piece of history.
We see lots of instruments of a scientific nature
turning up at our Flog It! valuation days.
Marvellous compasses and barometers and slightly rarer items,
such as microscopes and sextants.
So, which scientific instruments should you be looking out for?
A good entry-level piece for a collector of instruments
might be a simple, extending telescope that you can pick up.
They were made in large quantities, end of the 19th century
and you can pick up a decent telescope for £50.
Microscopes, that often came in big cases,
they would have a number of eyepieces and slides
and things that went with them
and lots of individual accessories like tweezers -
people like to see things in good, original, complete condition.
You can pick up a barometer pretty cheaply today,
and what could be better than going off to work in the morning,
walking down the hall
and just tapping the barometer as you pass.
I think there's something charming about that.
The pitfalls with early scientific instruments
are that they're being forged on a large scale,
and very convincingly, by the Chinese,
and have done for the last five or six years
and they're able to forge them to quite a high standard.
So if you were at a car boot fair and someone shows you something
that looks like an 18th century brass pocket dial
and it's £30,
it's probably come off the boat last week.
Back in 2004,
an exquisite example of a pocket sundial
thrilled two of our experts,
who were confident it hadn't just come off the boat.
The late, great David Barby had the pleasure of valuing the item
whilst Charlie Ross wielded the gavel.
As an auctioneer, you are always thrilled to see quality
and dear David didn't let us down on this occasion.
I saw you in the queue and you brought this out of a paper bag
and I was absolutely amazed to find an object of such quality.
-It is a lovely example of what we term as a pocket sundial.
What is so good about it is the case, the original case.
and then covered in a fish skin that we call shagreen.
The fact that it had its original shagreen case was wonderful -
shark skin or fish skin case, sometimes stingray skin case.
To have that - and, of course,
the fact that it had still got its case -
meant that the instrument itself was in such good condition.
Inside, you've even got the original maker's label,
which is "J Abraham - Optician, Bath."
He actually made things for the Duke of Wellington,
so the highest, highest order.
Early 19th century, workmanship was fabulous -
you look at this thing, it's just superbly made.
I'm going to turn it upside-down,
because it's important to see, on the bottom...can you see that?
Engraved, you have various destinations -
London, Dublin, Paris,
Petersburgh, Bath, Edinburgh.
-And against that are all the latitudes.
So when this is on a flat surface and you can adjust it -
because there are two little spirit levels inside -
by turning those, you can adjust the feet.
So it's absolutely level.
-Now, all the way around here, you have an indication of time.
So you adjust that section with this lever.
This is the actual sundial section.
When it's pulled up, it is always facing north.
So once you've got the position north, the sun will shine,
and on this scale here, you'll be able to tell the time.
The ingenuity and the thought processes
for somebody to be able to make something like that,
that's A, accurate, and B, portable, and C, hard-wearing...
It's really quite remarkable.
If it goes up to auction.
I think it's going to sell between...£500-£800.
-It could go well over.
How does that feel?
- That's wonderful. - Comfortable.
-I hope I'm right.
So when it came to the auction,
were the buyers as enamoured of the sundial as David and Charlie?
It came as no surprise at all to me
that by the time we got to the auction,
we'd already had huge interest.
People had, to a certain extent,
shown their hand by booking the telephone.
You wouldn't expect somebody to book a telephone
to bid for something
unless they were going to go at least up to your estimate,
probably a bit more.
The bid's now in the room at £1,400. £1,500, may I say?
1,500 on telephone one.
At 1,500, and I sell then at £1,500.
-Yes! How about that?
-I cannot believe it!
I cannot believe...
-Wasn't that good? Wasn't that good?
Sale price was splendid.
It certainly thrilled David,
David was jumping around like there was no tomorrow when it sold.
I can only say it must have been a tremendous auctioneer.
Modest as ever, Charlie!
'I love it when we exceed everyone's expectations.'
The bidders were clamouring to get their hands on the sundial,
whose precision engineering was out of this world.
Sometimes, it's the more fun and frivolous item
which can catch the eye of our expert, though.
A "magneto-electric machine."
And it says here, "For nervous" - that's me - "and other diseases."
"This machine has been designed especially for the use
"of the medical profession
"and for invalids who are unable to take exercise,
"suffering from rheumatism and various nervous complaints."
You've got this huge, great magnet, there.
Then, you've got this lovely little...almost like a fly wheel,
that's cranked here, and that...
You turn that round and round and round,
but with this magnet, it creates an electric shock.
Picture the scenario, OK?
You're feeling slightly unwell, just a little bit under the weather,
and you book an appointment at the doctor's.
And you walk in and he hands you these two brass things and says,
"Hold these while I give you an electric shock."
Then you plonk that...down in there.
And you plonk that in there.
And then you hold it...
-I don't want my finger in there.
-Look, do I look like I'd hurt you?
-Well...I'm not sure!
I think Pat was pretty sound,
I'm not sure that Pat needed this device attached to herself,
but...it's always a good threat, isn't it?
If they start getting out of line,
you can just threaten to crank them up to the machine.
We should carry that around with us on valuation days.
Come on, now...
This will make you laugh, Dorrie.
There was no way I was ever going to hold those things.
Quite happy for them to have a go, and I'll crank it up,
but, no, no...I don't like shocks.
-It's no more than about 100V, honestly.
-Oh, no more than 100?
-That's all right, then.
-You won't feel a thing.
-Doesn't do anything, does it?
-Nothing's happening, no!
The Victorians did believe that the electric shock
actually produced some sort of benefit for you
and if you think about it,
there's a certain electricity running through your body,
your nerve endings. It operates muscles and the like.
And I suppose that must all be interconnected.
But it doesn't do it for me.
I think, girls, that this is going to make probably £20-£30.
Put a reserve on it of a tenner
and I just think someone'll have a bit of fun with it.
Medical instruments, or even items of torture,
there's a massive area of collectability for these.
Now, our little electric shock machine,
I think this was just a little...I've got to say,
probably a Victorian gimmicky thing, really.
Enough to make your hair stand on end!
Let's see what the bidders think of this.
It's going under the hammer right now.
10, 12, 15, 18, 20,
20, 20 - 22. Five, eight, 30.
And bid two - 32?
£30, the bid in the room, selling on £30, then...
-Well done, yeah!
Dorrie and Pat were absolute stars, you know, and for me,
that's what makes a programme - very often,
the contributor is more important than the item they bring.
They were just great to talk to.
Whilst Dorrie and Pat's electro-magneto machine
was mostly a bit of fun,
there is, in fact, a huge market out there for medical instruments.
'And many of the collectables we see on the show
'are a darn side more grisly.'
It's a field surgeon's kit.
Let's pick up the most obvious one, shall we?
-The most gruesome one?
This is definitely for amputation, isn't it?
Oh, dear - that is sharp,
and there's about seven teeth to the inch, there.
That would rip through anything.
It does make me feel slightly queasy, handling these. Ugh...
Not the sort of thing that every house should have.
But I tell you what,
there are a lot of collectors that would be interested in this, yes.
'Collectors of medical items
'often tend to work in the field themselves -
'think doctors, pharmacists, dentists and the like.'
'But did any of them turn up to bid on the field surgeon's kit?'
280, I'll take a fiver, at £280 for the last time?
'And there are other medical collectables which turn up
'at our valuation days. A good example is the apothecary cabinet.
'If you're in the market for one, what do you need to consider?'
Originality is vital.
So if you've got an apothecary cabinet with
its original maker's label,
its original bottles, its original scales,
its original weight, pestle and mortar,
then it's going to be more desirable than one with replaced parts.
'And the age, the size and the quality of the cabinet
'are hugely important too.
'Jethro Marles came across a fantastic specimen back in 2006.'
It's a wonderful little cabinet.
And of course you've got everything in here,
all of the bottles are here.
If we open up this drawer here, we've got the scales
for weighing out your powders and all your chemicals,
the funnel for funnelling it into the different tubes.
A secret drawer, there's nothing secret in that one at the moment.
And it all fits beautifully.
So beautifully made, beautiful.
It's mahogany, of course, and date-wise,
it's probably going to be,
I would have thought about 130 years old.
-It's a late 19th century one,
probably about 1870-1880, something like that.
Start me at 1,000. £1,000, someone?
800 I am bid, 900.
-1,000, 1,100, 1,200 here...
1,300 to move on, 1,300, 1,400, 1,500.
-16 behind, 17?
£1,600, you're all done at £1,600.
How it's gone down, £1,600, Katie!
That is a fantastic result!
'So if you're thinking of starting a collection of medical instruments,
'make sure you do your homework.
'Now, Caroline Hawley had to go back to school
'when she came across an early type of calculator.'
I have never seen a cylindrical slide rule for sale before,
and I've been on the lookout since because, you know,
it sparked a bit of interest in me.
This is like the centre stadia line on your...
this type of slide rule, that is that.
-That's where your answer comes up when you're finished.
And this goes up and down to pick up...
There's this notch in here where you pick up your numbers at the bottom.
Multiply by something, pick it up off that one at the top,
and that's how you retrieve your answers,
and this moves up and down that.
Lionel did try and explain to me a little bit,
and I'm afraid I'm still none the wiser.
Years ago, my father tried to explain a flat slide rule to me.
Fortunately, calculators came in very soon afterwards
so I didn't ever have to use them.
So, no, for me, it was too complicated.
This particular model is from 1927, and it was invented,
the cylindrical slide rule, by Professor George Fuller.
It really is wonderful quality and fabulous condition.
Professor George Fuller was Professor of Civil Engineering
at Queen's University in Belfast.
He patented the cylindrical slide rule in 1878.
It's a magnificent instrument, very, very complicated,
an extraordinary piece of engineering.
As you can see, this is in a most beautiful box, a mahogany box,
made by a very good London maker, Stanley,
which was established in 1854, which all adds to the value.
I mean, it's a boy's toy, and it would look good,
it would look quite fun and quirky on somebody's desk.
Not mine, I hasten to add, but I think it has a fairly limited market.
'When it came to the auction,
'Caroline combined the Fuller cylindrical slide rule with
'a second, smaller sliding scale into one lot,
'and put an estimate of £200-£300 on the pair.'
I would not know how to use one of those.
No, you were lucky, you were born in the push button age.
Two bids, I'm bid £210 exactly,
at 210, at £210. 20 if you want it.
At 210, 220, 230, 240.
-Come on, come on, come on...
At 240, then.
You're finished at 240? Quite sure?
Lionel, it's gone.
The hammer went down just under mid-estimate at £240.
'Caroline may not have known how to use Lionel's unusual
'cylindrical slide rules but she obviously knew how to value them.
'But it's not always that straightforward to put an estimate
'on a scientific instrument, as Claire Rawle discovered.'
-Well, hello, Florence.
-Nice to meet you, and you've brought
a really attractive polished mahogany box here, haven't you?
When it opens out, hey presto!
A rather magnificent looking microscope in there
with a huge collection of objectives. So, quite a superior item.
Oh, Florence, oh, she was a star.
She carried that great heavy thing all the way to the valuation day,
erm, and it really was a sizeable lump of machinery, that!
-Well, my husband bought it about 54 years ago.
-So he used it?
-He did use it, yes.
Yes, he used to go past puddles, do it in puddles.
-Pick a jar up and come home...
-Oh, and take it home and look at it?
..and then a drop of water on the slide and look through it.
Then say to me, "Come and have a look at this,"
you know, and he was so thrilled.
It was a serious instrument, it wasn't a student's instrument
because it had all those different objectives in it.
It was a high-quality, beautifully made instrument,
so it would have been used for somebody
that was really into their science.
You've also brought in a couple of rather nice boxes here
of slides to go with it.
-Botanical subjects, mainly, aren't they?
Yeah, and so they've got all their little cards and things there.
Nice sort of late 19th century ones.
'Definitely, slides are worth looking out for, especially decorative ones'
like these with those wonderful lithographic prints round the side.
So if you see any slides like that, if they're in boxes,
and they're always in ver plain boxes,
so always open up and see what's in there, definitely worth buying.
-I think an estimate of 300-500?
-Nice, broad estimate there?
-Does that sound good to you?
-I'm happy, yes.
'Did auctioneer Stephen Hearn agree with Claire's estimate?'
We've got a value of £300-£500.
Now, I know you've changed that, haven't you?
Yes, I've moved that on, Paul, because I think it deserves
an estimate somewhere between £500-£700.
'The auctioneer adjusted the estimate.'
Well, that's fine because everybody knows their market.
It wasn't adjusted in a huge manner up.
And I think it reflected the response he'd had
and the feeling that he thought it was a good item,
so it's quite positive.
It's better that way than down.
'But had the auctioneer over-egged Florence's pudding?
'Or did the bidders prove to be as keen as mustard?'
1,800 in the room. 1,850, new bidder.
-Some fresh legs.
-1,900, and 50. 2,000...
..and 50. 2,100, and 50.
'You get quite excited, you get caught up in it.'
I mean, you go to auctions all the time, but it's great
when something starts making money.
2,008. And 50.
-2,009. And 50...
-This is incredible.
3,5, 3,6. No?
At £3,600 in the room.
I'm selling, then, it's going down at £3,600.
Thank you, sir.
That's a sold sound, isn't it? Wow!
everybody is giving you a round of applause in the auction room.
OK, so someone says, "Wow, you rather undervalued that, didn't you?"
You never know, that's the great thing about auctions,
because in the world of collecting,
you're never quite sure what people are going to spend on things,
and it's really exciting when it makes money.
Wow! It exceeded all our expectations.
That is a great result. Oh, look, enjoy it, won't you?
-Well done, Claire.
-Fantastic, thank you, Claire.
-Oh, thank you.
It's been an absolute pleasure. I'm so pleased for you.
It was the sheer quality of the piece and the extensive
and unusual range of accompanying slides
that put Florence's microscope in a class of its own.
But at the end of the day,
the result was really down to two bidders in the sale room
who were reluctant to let it go.
So, what other scientific instruments can cause a stir?
'If you're interested in pocket sundials, a good maker's name,
'great condition and original case
'will almost guarantee a sunny result.'
-Yes, how about that?
-Cannot believe it.
'If you own an instrument that's complicated to use
'and could even leave our experts scratching their heads,
'then please keep hold of the original instruction booklet.
'You'll be doing a good deed to any future buyer,
'and it may even bump up the sale price.
'Medical instruments come in all shapes and sizes,
'and items can start at a few pounds.
'If you have the stomach and the pocket for it, you can progress
'to those costing a few hundred or even a couple of thousand.'
That is a fantastic result!
The 18th century was a time of great interest in all sciences.
Now, expert Michael Baggott had a real treat when he met up
with Linda at a valuation day near Lincoln back in 2012.
-Are you a collector of scientific instruments, Linda?
-Well, not really.
I am a collector of older things.
We've got, oh, that's marvellous, a drawing set.
Look at that, beautiful ivory rule.
Wonderful scales on it, and we've got the maker there,
E Hulce & Son of London.
I was given the scientific instruments by an old gentleman.
Erm, it was back in 1984, '85.
I've always sort of had a mathematical bias,
and so I was very interested in the instrument.
It can be dated from the middle of the 18th century
-up to about 1820-1830.
I think this one, from the style of the instruments,
probably falls at about 1790 to about 1800.
'It sat on the edge of the bookshelf
'for those...about 26 years,'
and, erm, apart from the odd occasion
when anyone expressed an interest in it, then that's where it remained.
It was unused. Not unloved, but unused.
-I think we would put this at £100-£150.
-And we'd put a fixed reserve of £100 on it.
And if it does well, what do you plan to spend the money on?
Well, I am quite a keen walker and so I think I would put that
-towards some walking in the Lake District.
-Oh, that's marvellous.
I'm set to go trekking to Everest base camp in October,
and so I need to get some practice in.
-So we'll be sending you up and round the mountain...
..when she comes! Thank you very much indeed, Linda.
'So were we able to raise the money at auction
'to send Linda hill walking?'
At 95 bid, at 95 bid. 98 now, do I see?
At 95 bid, are we all done at 95? So near, yet so far.
At 95 bid, are we all done? I'm finished at 95. Last call, then.
98 bid, do I see 98 bid? At 98 and 100, £100 bid.
At £100 bid, at 100, 110 now, do I see? £100 bid. At 100...
I would have been amazed if it hadn't have sold.
At £100, any more bids?
-Sale's gone down, did it.
-Ooh, just, though, wasn't it?
Paul said that someone had bid on it from France,
so I was really pleased that someone must really be interested in it
and actually want it, and so I felt it was going to a good home.
-Excellent, really pleased about that.
-Bit of money towards the trip.
-Thank you, Michael.
-It's a pleasure.
I suppose from a very early age I've been walking,
but it's been more recent, probably the last ten years,
when I've taken that interest up again.
I have walked in many places in the UK,
but really felt that I wanted an even bigger challenge,
and so decided to take the Everest base camp trip.
It was absolutely special from beginning to end.
The bridges over the gorges, the depth of the gorges,
the snow-capped mountains,
it was just so beautiful wherever you looked.
The money that we made on Flog It went towards
one of the training ventures,
where we went off to the Yorkshire Dales, and that certainly helped me.
I feel very proud and humble in some ways
that I managed to get to Everest base camp.
I know lots of trekkers do go up there,
but certainly feel that, erm, as an older person,
that it was a real achievement
to actually get to the top, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you need to raise some funds to achieve a burning ambition,
you know where to find us, a Flog It valuation day.
Well, that's it for today's show.
Do join us again soon for more Trade Secrets.
This episode looks at science and music, with presenter Paul Martin exploring the world of collectable automata while the Flog It! experts offer tips and advice about buying and selling musical and scientific instruments. Regular expert Adam Partridge divulges the contents of his antiques hunter's toolkit.