Antiques series. David Fletcher reveals some top tips for identifying wooden furniture, and Thomas Plant demonstrates the trick behind spotting an authentic piece of amber.
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One of the things I love about "Flog It!"
is seeing and hearing about the thousands of interesting,
beautiful and sometimes valuable items
you bring along to our valuation days.
Tell me the history. Where did you find it?
In a junk shop in Chingford.
-Where has it been for the last few years?
-In a drawer upstairs.
Over the years, we've made hundreds of trips
to auction rooms all over the British Isles,
putting our experts' valuations to the test.
This is what auctions are all about. When it goes like this...
Now, in this series I want to share some of the knowledge
we have picked up with you to let you in on some of our trade secrets.
The natural world has been a source of inspiration to artists
ever since humans first started daubing images
on ancient cave walls.
And in more recent times, makers
and writers have continued to find their muse in the world around them.
So in today's programme, we're going to be looking at antiques
and collectables that have found their inspiration from the wonders of Mother Nature.
Coming up on our nature-inspired show, something new.
I've not seen the like before or since.
It's a lovely, lovely set.
And something VERY old.
That about 50 million years old.
Plus, the pieces that made us laugh.
You've put a smile on my face today.
There's a tear in your eye. He's crying.
As a predominantly urban society,
we have always tended to bring nature into our homes.
Not just real plants and flowers, but objects, and designs too,
that reflect the organic forms of Mother Nature.
There is a lot to choose from, so what deserves a closer look?
Nature inspires the human mind.
It inspires the artists and craftsmen
and we see it everywhere in their work.
You are in luck, really, because there is so much out there,
isn't there? You think of William Morris.
I think of William Kent-style side tables with lion's masks
and ball and claw feet. You can practically hear them roar.
Probably the greatest period that used it was the Art Nouveau period,
where you have this wonderful,
sinuous plant design and that's very collectable.
If you're not inspired by nature,
I think there's something severely wrong with you.
It is a constant delight on "Flog It!" valuation days to see
so many objects that are inspired by nature.
Artists the world over have celebrated
the beauty of the natural world for centuries.
And in Japan, it's been going on since ancient times.
And you won't just find nature in fine art.
It can turn up in everyday objects too, as James Lewis discovered.
When I first saw these, I thought
they were just a standard string of beads,
but they are actually a lot more interesting than that, aren't they?
Well, so I believe. I've been told that they may be Japanese.
Ojime are tiny little beads,
normally either cylindrical or spherical,
but they come in squares and rectangles and different forms.
The ones that we saw, I have never seen anything like it.
A whole string of beads like a necklace.
Each one of these would never have been anywhere near the others.
They are normally made from bronze and they are part of a Japanese dress
because, of course, in a kimono, you don't have pockets.
Here's one I prepared earlier. There we go.
That's a very plain ojime bead, there. And this is known as an inro.
And this bead could go down to hold the pieces in place,
to stop them falling apart, like that, and at the top
would be a toggle called the netsuke
that we have seen a lot of times on "Flog It!".
That's basically the use of it.
These are all individually cast out of bronze.
Some have got little silver flowers on them.
That one appears to be a leaf with a crab crawling all over it.
The Japanese, as a whole, are almost obsessed with symbolism.
So you could find a bat or a chrysanthemum
and each thing would mean something different.
So they are all wonderful little individual works of art.
There we go - there is a little frog on that one.
-Super, aren't they?
I love looking at them,
but it's time to start clearing some junk out.
Junk! Throw it my way.
Because I think these are great.
And thank goodness they're still together, all those years later,
to make a very tempting bounty for those keen bidders.
We have four commission bids and a telephone bid.
I shall start the bidding at...
-Is there 470 in the room?
470. Commission bid is out. 470 in the room. 500.
-And 20. 650. 670.
-Bang! That is a big sold sound. £720, Janet.
With such a strong Oriental market, I wouldn't be surprised
if some of those phone bids weren't international.
I would like to think that Janet's nature-inspired ojime beads
made it back to Japan.
Artistic interpretations of nature can be found in the earliest
of cultures and the most recent.
The dawn of the 20th century saw the flowering of Art Nouveau,
with its desire to bring natural forms into art.
This was famously interpreted in ceramics by William Moorcroft,
whose organic designs flowed over the curves of his pots.
It also inspired Morris Ware,
which was developed in 1918 by George Cartlidge,
and Catherine Southon was quick to spot one of his collectable pieces.
Now, when I first saw you,
you said, "This is a piece of Moorcroft that I have got."
But it is actually Morris Ware. They do look very similar.
But Morris Ware was actually produced over a much shorter
period of time, but really, one of the main ways to look
is to turn the piece over and have a good look underneath.
We can see on the bottom it is actually stamped here "Morris Ware",
which is a type of style that was done by Hancock & Sons.
This particular piece will date to probably early 20th century,
sort of 1910, something like that.
I don't know if you can see, but that is actually the signature
there of the designer, which is George Cartlidge.
It is a really beautiful piece. I just love the colours.
Wonderful stylised tulip design.
It is very much in keeping with sort of Arts and Crafts and William Morris.
One of the most popular motifs of Morris Ware was the tulip pattern
and I think because it was so simple,
it was so stylised,
and I think the way that it's actually used, these red, vibrant
colours, that is probably one of the reasons that makes it so popular.
Why do you want to sell such a lovely item?
I don't want to take it with me because of a breakage or...
-Because I'm going away.
-Right. Where are you going?
-I'm going to Sri Lanka.
-Not something that you want to take with you.
-It can break very easily.
I would probably put an estimate on of about £300-£400,
but I really hope that there are a lot of people like me in the
crowd at the auction that just go mad for it and it makes a lot more.
500 I'm bid, then. 500 bid.
520. 550 bid. 580, is it? 580.
600 we're bid now.
It's like a game of Ping-Pong, isn't it? Backwards and forwards.
-This is getting exciting.
650. Give them time.
No? At 650. 650. 680, I've got it.
-680 is left.
-He's missing a bid over here.
At 720 I am bid. 750...
780... At 780, on the right. £780, then. I'm selling in the room.
-780, it's going. 790.
-That is a lot more than what you were expecting.
-What's the first thing you're going to do
-when you get out there?
And I am sure Lourdes enjoyed doing just that.
So look out for the name George Cartlidge.
His richly coloured designs,
which formed the core of the Morris Ware range, are highly sought-after.
At the end of the 19th century,
another movement was emerging in Cornwall.
The Newlyn School was a colony of artists who
settled near Penzance, taking advantage of the fantastic
light and rugged beauty of their surroundings.
As Antonia discovered, it's a subject close to my heart.
I absolutely love this.
You have brought this to the right guy as well
because I am from Cornwall and I just love the Newlyn School.
I really do. I think it's one of the best art movements.
Right, let's start with Lamorna Birch.
Really, his name is Samuel John Birch, OK?
He is born in Cheshire and he is really known as a northern artist,
but he did move to Cornwall.
Which is where he did some of his best work.
Something auctioneer Claire Rawle was quick to spot.
The light in it, the quality, the impressionistic style,
was beautiful because I have sold a few of his in the past and they
tended to be rather sombre woodland views, but this was just delightful.
-Really, he adopted the name Lamorna after Lamorna Cove.
It's a beautiful little spot in Cornwall.
-And it is signed in the corner.
-Yes, it is.
-SJ Lamorna Birch.
There you are. Samuel John Lamorna Birch. It's absolutely beautiful.
I personally like this a lot.
I'd like to put it into auction with a value of £300-£500
-with a fixed reserve at £300.
-Well, that sounds wonderful.
-So you won't get a penny less.
-Yes, well, thank you so much.
You've put a smile on my face today.
As we ran up to the sale,
I had a feeling it was going to do quite well.
I was really hoping it would.
Unfortunately, Antonia was unable to join us for the auction day.
She didn't see the packed house
-and the expectant bidders waiting on the phones.
-420 on the telephone.
-Good. We have got a phone bid.
-We've got interest in the room.
-This is great.
-At 650, the bid still in the room at 650.
-Top money for his work.
At £650, then. You all sure? Selling, then, at £650.
I'm very pleased with that.
£650, the hammer has gone down. Antonia, enjoy this moment.
That was good money and it was a lovely painting.
It was the sort of thing I would love to have had on my wall. Absolutely lovely.
And you are not the only one, Claire.
Paintings from the Newlyn School do fetch large sums of money at auction.
But many are still proudly kept on the walls of local Cornish families.
Some of these were originally used by the artists as payment
for board and lodging.
Not a bad exchange, as it turns out!
Now, from the southwest to the far north.
Wemyss Ware, famous for its free-flowing hand-painting,
was born in Scotland in 1882
and this unusual set, featuring an earthy profusion of nature's harvest,
caught the eye of Thomas Plant.
Wemyss is so collectable.
I mean, because it has got this Scottish pull, and anything Scottish
goes back home, and this dressing table set was really special.
-Where has it come from?
-Originally it was from my grandmother's house.
-It was on display there for many years.
-It is great.
I mean, it's a lovely, lovely set.
You are missing one item.
-Which is the cover to the buckets, the water bucket here.
This dressing table set was so unusual.
I've not seen the like before or since this filming.
The black ground and the grape and the vine design.
They are very bacchanalian, really.
On here we've got the Wemyss stamp, and this T Goode & Co, London.
Now, that is the retailer.
-I would like to put this in at about £400-£600 for the set.
-How does that grab you?
-Yes, that's lovely.
-More than I expected, I think.
-What were you expecting?
-I don't know.
To me, it's just not very attractive.
They really looked after it, so it was in brilliant condition,
so that's why it made so much money.
Wemyss, rare, perfect.
320 I'm bid for it. 350 bid.
380 bid, £100 bid.
420 I'm bid. 450.
A rapid climb.
700...and 50. 800 and 50.
-I love these moments.
1,050 I'm bid for it.
-It's quite comical, isn't it?
-Debbie, it's gone. 1,100. Hammer's gone down.
-That's great, isn't it?
-Twice what you were expecting.
Wemyss Ware has to be the most highly collectable
and sought-after Scottish pottery.
I was confident that set would smash Thomas' conservative estimate.
A great result for Debbie.
The most collectable pieces of Wemyss are pigs, cats...
Obviously being Scottish.
..with mauve colours in them.
So anything really Scottish, really, makes it very collectable.
Of course, this dressing table set or toilet set...
it was its rarity value, the background
and having something unusual to it.
If a piece of Art Nouveau pottery appeals,
bear in mind that for both Moorcroft and Morris Ware,
simply but stylistically interesting flower patterns are more
collectable. Look out for designs that feature tulips or lilies.
Some Newlyn School artists are more desirable than others.
One of the greatest is Walter Langley,
the first of the painters to settle in the town.
But do your research and see which artist's style appeals.
Before you know it, you might own a work that really captures
something special about the great Cornish outdoors.
There are many ways in which nature has inspired
the makers of beautiful things.
Take these two 17th-century Italian collector's cabinets on stands,
for instance. They were the height of fashion
for the connoisseur back in the 1680s,
but it's not the construction we're interested in. It's the artwork.
The cabinets themselves are constructed of mahogany,
which has been ebonised so it looks like it's a dark black,
which contrasts beautifully with the gilding that picks out
all the mouldings and the architectural detail.
But it's the exotic birds that we're interested in.
This technique is known as pietra dura,
which literally translates from Italian meaning "hard stone".
What you have here is a craftsman at the very top of his genre.
It looks like these birds have been painted on, but they're not.
This has been inset into the wood...
with little pieces of stone.
You've got agate, quartzes, jaspers, marbles, granites.
You've even got fossilised petrified wood.
In fact, all of these stones have such varying degrees of hew,
you have an almost limitless supply of colour.
Now, that is the beautiful thing about it.
This technique was around in Rome in the early 16th century,
but it flourished in Florence towards the end of the 1600s,
where these cabinets were made.
This is one of the nicest cabinets I've ever come across in my life.
Not only has it got architectural proportion and detail
but it is so decorative and it's all down to nature.
Look at that lovely bluebell wood.
'When you come to our valuation days across the country,
'sometimes the items you bring aren't just inspired by nature...
'they are formed by nature itself.'
Ooh, look at that. Wonderful amber necklace.
This is timeless. This is amber and it's millions of years old.
Let's see what it looks like. Shall we put it on?
Yes, there we go. Look at that.
Amber is one of these magical mystery stones.
It's from nature, carved by man.
Amber is actually fossilised tree resin
which oozed out of the cracks in the bark millions of years ago.
It was used for decoration in the Stone Age...
and has been transformed into jewellery for thousands of years.
Although most of the world's amber comes from the Baltic
regions of northern Europe...
it can also be washed up on the British coast,
including the beaches of Suffolk.
And it was there, in Southwold, that I visited the Amber Museum
back in 2004 to chat to the owner, Robin Fournal.
Look at this crown.
Well, it's probably the most popular piece in the museum.
Everybody mentions it.
It's beautiful. It was made in about 1920 for a German family.
Dare we talk about value today?
Well, it's frightening, this.
Yes, this is actually insured for £20,000,
but it is... It's a wonderful piece.
There are many factors affecting the value of amber...
including the presence of animal life inside.
As a sticky resin, it often trapped insects and other organic matter,
and these pieces are especially sought-after.
This is a stunning piece
because the insect is quite large.
The smaller insects were the ones that usually got trapped
because the bigger ones could usually fight their way free.
-Yeah, or lose a leg.
That's about 50 million years old.
That has been identified by the Natural History Museum in London.
And people like them because they are a contact with pre-history.
Before man walked the Earth,
some of these tiny insects were trapped in the amber.
Amber is a wonderful substance.
It's got a warmth and a quality about it.
But be careful.
There's an awful lot of stuff about on the market today that's
modern and they push interesting insects and things into it,
so be careful if you're buying it as an investment.
There are many forms of imitation,
with fakes being made out of anything from glass to plastic.
It can be very hard to distinguish the real deal,
but Thomas Plant has a handy trick to share.
What I have here are two amber coloured beads.
It could be plastic. It could be amber.
How does one tell the difference?
The easiest way is to use this cola and drop one in.
The other floats.
The one which floats is amber.
The cola is the same consistency to sea water
and amber floats on sea water,
and therefore all amber floats in cola.
And if you're fortunate enough to own a piece of genuine amber,
there's some good news.
We have seen the price of amber rise dramatically within the salerooms...
and it is literally worth its weight in gold.
I was at an antiques fair not so long ago
and they were pricing amber up by the gram,
like they do with gold and silver.
So with the market clearly on the up,
what should you bear in mind?
Large, completely clear pieces are very collectable.
But amber containing ancient bugs is very sought-after too.
This rare necklace with a collection of mosquitoes, ants and spiders
encased inside each bead recently sold at auction for £11,500.
But watch out for imitations.
Buy from reputable sources
and check with your local auction house for advice.
If you follow these tips,
you could soon have in your hand nature's very own time capsule.
An item that we frequently see on the show is treen, small
household objects that have been turned out of wood.
Now, normally these wonderful little items
are made from fruit woods grown
here in this country, but every now and then
they turn up with exotic hardwoods from overseas, and I love them all.
You've made my day. You really have made my day.
This is absolutely stunning.
-Collectors really go for these.
So, how do these exotic hardwoods find their way to our shores?
And how do you identify them all?
Well, expert David Fletcher shares my passion for all things wooden
and he went to investigate.
David's meeting Adam Bowett, a friend and wood historian,
at Tennant's Auction Rooms in Leyburn...
..where they're at a preview day for a furniture sale.
It can be extremely difficult to identify wood.
I hope we're going to crack some of the conundrums today
and make it easier for people,
but it is difficult. But it's important that we know.
Any piece of furniture is more than itself.
It's more than somewhere where you hang your clothes.
It's more than somewhere where you write your letters.
It tells us about the people who made it.
It tells us about the time it was made.
What's going on in the world at that time and how interesting is that?
So, it's more than just that thing.
It's so much more than that.
We start here with a piece of oak furniture.
Now, oak, for many people, is typically English, isn't it?
What can you tell me about this?
Well, oak is really the default wood for any British furniture maker
because it's a great all-rounder.
It's commonly available. It's relatively cheap.
We can tell where this chest comes from
because it's of a style associated with the Lancashire Pennines
and, actually, this one is dated.
So, we've got the owner's initials here, IB,
and then the date, 1706, which is nice to see.
If we look inside, the first thing you notice is that it's very
dark, and that's because it's high in tannin.
The second thing is that the grain is very wild,
so it's fast-grown, it's knotty,
so this is quite a struggle to work with this kind of wood.
It's typical upland oak, and you can bet that the joiner only used this
because he really didn't have any choice.
So, what you're saying, really,
is although this is quintessentially English,
the maker is making the best of a bad job, really.
In a sense, yes, because he wouldn't use this wood
if he could get anything better.
At the same time as these more primitive pieces were being made,
for those with deeper pockets,
oak was being used in quite a different fashion -
as a carcass for a more expensive veneer.
You use a good, stable wood like oak
and you lay the veneers onto it, which is what they've done here.
-And this is walnut?
This is figured walnut. What you've got is a...
a sort of a pale brown ground with the smoky dark grey streaks
running through it.
Almost certainly at this stage, we're thinking about 1700.
This is going to be imported from France.
-It has an amazing visual effect, doesn't it?
And don't forget that it's now relatively faded,
so when this was new, it would have been very, very striking.
And this is the gentlemen's piece of furniture.
Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is quite an expensive object,
probably between £10 and £12 in 1700, something like that.
A hundred years later, it was a gentlemen
of an entirely different sort who was
responsible for a new species of wood
arriving at these shores - Napoleon.
Nothing to do with roses, of course, but nevertheless called rosewood.
That's right. This is a Brazilian hardwood.
It has a deep purple-ish brown heartwood
and then you get this very strong, very black, marking in it...
and it's really almost unmistakable.
And it suddenly arrives in Britain at the beginning of the 19th century
and becomes the quintessential regency in early Victorian wood.
And, really, if there's one person we have to
thank for the advent of this wood, it's Napoleon Bonaparte.
Until the early 19th century, Brazil was a Portuguese colony
and nobody could trade with Brazil except the Portuguese.
But when Napoleon invaded Spain and Portugal,
the British, in return for military help,
extracted a concession from the Portuguese,
which was that they would allow British ships to Brazil,
so we brought back wood.
I find that absolutely fascinating.
Not only does it answer the question -
what did Napoleon ever do for us? -
it also tells us about the significance
of socioeconomic factors.
World events were also responsible for introducing the defining
wood of English furniture making in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mahogany was a product of colonisation
and of the infamous triangular trade.
Under terrible conditions, enslaved Africans in Jamaica harvested
the wood to satisfy the high demand in Europe.
When do we first find mahogany in English cabinet making?
It begins to come in in the 1720s,
and from that period on to the 20th century,
it was not only Britain, but probably the world's cabinet wood.
Tell us a bit about this flame veneer.
This is very typical of the way the Victorians used mahogany,
so this essentially comes from the part of the tree where it branches.
So this disturbed grain here is the wood between the two
-branches of the tree.
-What would this have cost?
When this was made, probably around £25, £30.
Certainly, you know,
perfectly affordable for a middle-class professional.
But if you are looking to invest in a piece of antique furniture today,
here's a tip from David.
It's all down to quality,
so you might find a fine quality piece of mahogany furniture
and you might find an indifferent piece of rosewood furniture,
so look for quality. But if you can identify your timbers,
this can make it easier for you to make that quality judgment.
Why not take David's advice and be brave? Visit the salerooms.
Antique wood furniture is generally better quality than new
pieces on the high street.
It can be picked up for a reasonable sum
and you could be buying yourself a slice of British history.
Still to come, we look at the veritable Noah's Ark of animal
antiques you bring to our valuations.
This lovely glowing light that is falling on their backs
-It's nice, isn't it?
-Lovely. Lovely piece.
There are thousands of people out there that are absolutely
passionate about dogs.
In fact, most us prefer them to real people.
Elizabeth and Beryl fall out of a reptile.
Well, I said tortoise and Beryl said turtle,
and to this day I still think I'm right.
And the magic of majolica wows the bidders.
At our valuation days,
we often see beautiful artwork that's been inspired by nature.
And in 2012, I had the privilege of finding
out about one of our country's more intriguing 19th-century artists,
an artist who is better known for his poetry.
The owl and the pussycat went to sea.
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money.
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl And The Pussycat is one of the world's most famous
and best-loved children's poems,
and it's brought its author, Edward Lear, fame and fortune.
And his limericks and nonsense poems
have secured his place in literary history.
However, as a young man, he had a very different plan for his future.
He was an extremely talented artist and an animal lover,
so there's only one place he could come to work
and that was right here at the newly opened Zoological Gardens,
and he began his career painting parrots.
London Zoo was established in 1826 for the scientific study of animals,
and as photography had yet to be invented, the zoo employed artists
to document their growing collection of exotic wildlife that was
arriving on a weekly basis.
And amongst these daubers was a very young Edward Lear with
brush in hand. He was eager to show off his artistic skills.
He spent two years here at the zoo, sketching and painting parrots,
and, uniquely, many of them were drawn from life.
What he would do is actually get inside the aviary, this very aviary,
and join them and paint them and sketch them.
In 1832, Lear published the results, illustrations of the family of the
Psittacidae, containing 42 lithographs
hand-coloured by Lear himself.
It immediately secured him
a reputation as a supremely talented ornithological draftsman.
175 books were made, of which about 100 survive today,
and one of them is here in the zoo's archive.
I'm meeting up with natural history artist Rebecca Jewell
to take a closer look at it.
-They are exceptionally good.
I'm not a bird expert, but that looks real.
Well, it is. It's absolutely stunning, and...
I think what makes Lear stand out as a bird artist is that he
did many of his...well, most of his drawings from life.
-So, he went to...
-Inside the aviary.
And he was sketching from the live birds,
and he did many, many sketches.
There's a lot of work has gone into that.
He would've drawn with the pencil and then done layers of watercolour,
-probably with gum arabic in it, which is...
-A glue with...
-Yeah. And it give it this beautiful luminescence.
And rich colours.
It's just beautiful. Can you turn the page? Can we see some more?
Is there a big difference between drawing these birds
when they're living and when they're dead?
If you compare him, say, to Audubon, who was the equivalent
and an absolutely amazing artist in America drawing birds,
He did sketch out in the field, but he then shot his birds
and strung them up and put wire in them.
So, his birds are slightly more constructed and angular and...
I mean, they are still beautiful, but the thing about Lear is
he was recording the parrots scientifically correctly, so that...
-It's not just a pretty image.
And, really, if you look at them all,
they are absolutely perfect, because he was drawing from life.
So, he's captured the expressions and the bird being puffed out
-and sort of ready to go.
So, Lear's an absolutely wonderful record...
My eye's gazing off towards that eagle owl.
It's an eagle owl, isn't it? Yeah.
But you can see the expression on the face now.
You can see where Lear would develop his characters from, can't you?
Yeah, absolutely. And Lear adored owls. And...
Thought he was one.
He did, yeah. He often did a caricature of himself as an owl.
-And this is just absolutely fabulous. The detail...
..the speckling, the colours of the feathers.
Sadly, due to failing eyesight and lack of financial success, Lear gave
up bird painting in his mid-20s, but he never gave up his love for birds.
They're a theme in all of his nonsense poems and his sketches.
And he often caricatured himself as an owl,
so perhaps there's more to his famous poem after all.
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
They danced by the light of the moon.
The exotic fauna from all over the world has intrigued
travellers for centuries.
Intrepid explorers have brought back tales of the creatures
they've seen and their stories have inspired makers of fine things
to reproduce animal images in their work,
but which are worth a closer look today?
Some animals do appeal to collectors more than others.
Pigs. People love to collect pigs.
Farmers, of course, will buy Beswick cows and Beswick bulls.
So, yeah, some animals are more collectable than others.
For me, it's horses. But for someone else, it might be dogs.
For someone else, it might be ducks.
Everybody knows someone who collects elephants or frogs,
or something like that.
And also some of the more obscure animals will appeal to people,
emus and koalas and penguins and things like that,
so I think any animal is good news, really.
We see dozens of animal-themed antiques on "Flog It!"
and as we're a nation of animal lovers,
these items tend to sell well.
Whether it's cats, dogs, horses, cows, we've all got our favourites.
At a valuation day on HMS Warrior in Portsmouth,
Will Aksen showed that he clearly values a bird in the hand.
Russell, tell me, how have you come by this?
Cos this really caught my eye when I saw you in the queue.
-I bought it in an antique store in West Sussex...
..about six months ago.
-I thought, at first, it was a print.
But my other half is a picture framer,
and we had a good look at it and thought maybe it is a painting.
There's no doubt you've bought yourself here what I think is
a rather nice watercolour.
Most of the painting is actually exposed paper.
The whole body of the cockatoos, we'll call them,
is actually where he's left the paper. He hasn't painted that,
so I think that in turn helps accentuate this lovely,
glowing light that is falling on their backs and shoulders.
-It's nice, isn't it?
-I think it's a really nice watercolour.
And signed as well. HSM.
Now, I think you've done yourself a little bit of research, haven't you?
-What have you come up with?
I believe it's Henry Stacy Marks,
-who did lots of bird paintings.
You've got to be careful
because a little bit of research can be a dangerous thing.
It takes you off on a tangent.
All of a sudden, you think, "Oh, my days.
"I've got the crown jewels here.
"There's an example of this painting hanging in the V&A
"and I must have another copy of it."
If that's the case, the original's probably in the V&A
and you've got a print of it.
Russell did a bit of research on the cockatoo picture, and
so he would have seen that Stacey Marks was a well-known artist.
His most famous work is of birds
and hangs in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool,
so he is well-known for this subject matter.
He's an artist. He was sort of mid-19th century.
He was actually working for Minton, for example, painting on ceramics
and doing more decorative works and things like that.
But this was really his love.
He took a real interest in birds, mainly parakeets,
-I suppose for the exotic flavour of them.
You looked at it and you believed it, whereas other bird pictures,
when they're perched on a branch or in a tree,
they almost look like they're floating.
They don't quite sit. You know, he's got gravity right.
They stand well.
Really, you've just got to go with your gut instinct.
Does the picture work? If it does then it's probably something.
If it doesn't, maybe a lesser artist or someone trying to copy.
For me, it was the light around the heads. It was quite stunning.
Yeah. Cos it's something that is...
very effective, but looks simple, but I'm sure is very difficult
to get right, because you just get the form of the body, don't you?
And like I've said before, there's no painting here to suggest that.
It's purely done on the highlighting. Lovely, lovely piece.
-You say you bought it in an antiques shop.
-What was the price ticket on it?
-It was 55 and I got them down to 50.
Well, listen, Russell, I'd give you £100 for it now
if you wanted a quick profit.
But we're going to work on your interests.
I'm going to say let's put it into auction
and I'm fairly confident, with that name,
you'd get a price of at least £300-£500 at auction.
People love birds.
I don't know what it is about them, but everyone knows a twitcher.
And you hear stories of people travelling thousands of miles
just to see one bird that maybe got lost on its migration route.
So, you know, there's a passion there for birds.
So, did those cockatoos ruffle a few feathers in the saleroom?
We have one, two, three, four commission bids here.
I will start the bidding at £500.
Is there 20 in the room?
At £500 and selling. Is there 20? At £500. Commission bid.
At £500, any more? All done at £500, then, for the very last time.
That was short and sweet.
I don't think Russell minds how short it was.
You could say those birds flew away, couldn't you, at £500?
-You have got to be happy with that.
-I am indeed.
I think Russell did earn his money. He took a chance.
Because I know he was thinking of pursuing a career in the antiques trade, and I hope he has, you know.
With an eye like that, I think he's got a head start on all of us.
I dare say Russell has gone from strength to strength!
He spotted a quality piece and, as we say time and again,
quality always sells.
Now, a survey in 2013 claimed to answer definitively
the question of whether we British prefer cats or dogs.
By a slim margin, it's dogs!
And that comes as no surprise to us on "Flog It!".
Dogs are extremely popular, not just as man's best friend going
back generations, but in antiques and art we see dog paintings,
dog sculptures, anything dog-related always commands a premium.
Because like me, there are thousands of people out there
that are absolutely passionate about dogs.
In fact, most of us prefer them to real people.
-So, who spotted him?
-Did he think he was clever spotting them?
How much did he pay for them? £5. £5?
Do you think that is a lot?
-What about when you got it home?
Nothing, really, apart from the wife moaning about getting another
-load of junk coming into the house.
-I know that feeling.
You have done very well there for a fiver.
Because these are early 20th-century Austrian cold painted bronze dogs,
bookends, of course, that sit on these sort of onyx bases.
They've both come detached, haven't they, from the bases?
Onyx was a very popular material used particularly in the 1920s
and 1930s, sculptures, bronzes and spelter figures.
It's typically green, but it does come in other colours.
A lot of the time you see it polished and highly finished,
but these ones were left in the rough a bit
and I think that was quite charming. They've been through the wars,
but they are getting on for 100 years or thereabouts.
As I say, they are Austrian and cold painted bronze.
A lot of these are made in spelter, which is a cheaper alloy,
but if you have a look underneath,
this yellowness shows us that they are bronze.
Also the weight, they're nice and heavy.
Wouldn't like one to drop on your toe, would you? Or that, actually.
Sometimes we also see cast-iron figures which are simulated,
pretending to be bronze as well, and people say, "Oh, look,
"they're very heavy and they must be bronze."
That's when you need to get your magnet out,
because bronze is not magnetic.
-What do you want for them? A tenner?
It is a good start.
-I'd like to think they would make £100 or maybe a bit more.
So, because they've cost so little, let's go for it,
put a big estimate, see what happens.
-So, will the bidders bite at auction?
-80, please. 80, thank you.
85 anywhere? 85. And 90?
-85, with you, sir.
110. 115. 120.
125. 130. 135. 140.
145. 150. 160. 170.
180. All done. £170.
£170. The hammer went down on that.
That is a lot of money, isn't it?
They are on the cute end of things, I think,
the Scotty dog bookends, they also had a great story,
they were picked up, I think, for a nominal sum at a car-boot sale.
They're not my favourite breed of dog, but they are a very cute thing
and I think that is undoubtedly why they appealed and sold so well.
Yes, the "ahh" factor often add value.
The cuter it is, the more collectable!
But I'm not sure this quality can be applied to the item
James Lewis found at one of our Scottish valuation days.
Of all the things I was expecting to find here in Fife,
a Turkish prisoner of war work snake dated 1919 is not one of them,
I have to say!
When the Turks were over in England as prisoners of war,
these were things that they could go into the local community
and sell to raise a bit of money.
What is it doing here and where did you find it?
I found it in a market in London when I was about eight years old.
-I bought it for a pound.
-That is ridiculous.
That is a really good bargain. Well done, you.
It's an interesting thing and I don't know why the Turkish prisoners
of war decided that it would be a really good thing to make snakes.
You can imagine, you are sitting there
in your prisoner of war camp thinking, "Hmm, what can I do?
"I know. I'm going to make a beadwork snake!"
But they made them in their hundreds and their thousands.
I think there are two quite distinct categories of what was made
in the prisoner of war camp.
Those that were made by the prisoners for the captors,
and those that were made by the prisoners for themselves to sell on.
But both have a significant collecting area.
I've seen the snakes all over the place. They always sell well.
So, how you found it for a pound, I really don't know.
At aged eight, what attracted you to that?
-The looks generally.
-The mad colours. Beautiful green.
It is completely bonkers, isn't it?
-It doesn't even look slightly realistic.
-Not at all.
-So, when you got home, did you have sisters to taunt with it?
-That would be good fun.
-Did you stick it in their bed and things?
-It got played with for a bit.
-Great fun. Value...
I don't move. £40-£60. Something like that.
-So, your £1 investment has done all right.
-Not too bad.
They come in various sizes,
and this is a particularly long one, so that is in its favour.
-Shall we put a £40 reserve on it?
-That sounds good to me.
How Andrew found that for a pound, I really don't know.
I wish I could find those for a pound. It was a great investment.
It was a great buy.
The Turkish prisoner of war beadwork snake.
I am going to start this at £25. 25.
30. 5. 40. 5. 50. 5.
I'll come to you. 60. 5. 65.
70. 5. 80. £80 on my left. At 80.
90. 5. 100.
110. 120. 120, standing at 120.
Anyone else want in at £120?
There's the hammer. That's good.
The condition was very good on that, that is...
-And it was a big size.
-Very good condition.
-BOTH: Well done you!
-Thank you very much.
Well, Andrew deserves double the praise - you couldn't have
wished for a better example of prisoner of war craftsmanship.
A great return for a £1 investment!
It's probably fair to say nobody loved nature
quite like the Victorians.
The publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On The Origin Of Species
in 1859 caused an upsurge of interest in animals
and animal-themed items in the home.
This is a piece of Victorian beadwork
I bought many years ago at an auction. It formed
the door of a very, very tatty pine cupboard and it was filthy.
So, you open the door of the cupboard
and this was actually set into it.
It's a piece of, I would say, mid-Victorian beadwork.
Each of these tiny beads is sewn on by hand, one at a time,
it is beautifully done and intricately done.
And it shows the form of a bird, here, caught an insect,
and bringing it back down to the babes in the nest, down here.
I think the whole cupboard cost me something like £70.
And I took it home, took this door out of the cupboard,
sold the cupboard, got my money back on the cupboard and kept this.
And I can imagine a gentleman making the cupboard for his wife,
and his wife sewing this to put into it.
So, it would be a very popular subject.
My tip would be to go for something that you like,
because ultimately it has got to hang on your wall or sit in your
living room, so buy something that you like and pleases you.
Wise words, Caroline.
Going for something you like might not mean reptiles.
But many of us would make an exception, I think, for the
piece Elizabeth Talbot uncovered at a valuation day in King's Lynn.
I think this is a tortoise, Beryl. What do you think it is?
-I would have said a turtle.
I think we are going to disagree on that one.
-But we both think it's rather special, don't we?
He's very special.
I said tortoise and Beryl said turtle.
To this day, I still think I am right, but Beryl knew
the piece far longer than I did and I shall bow to her better decision.
It was given to my mother. And when she died, she passed it on to me.
She had been looking after someone that was sick.
And they gave her that before they died. And so she did the same.
How lovely. So, he has always been loved and cherished to this point.
-Can I demonstrate him now?
-Is that all right?
If you just touch his head like this...
-Isn't that great?
Over the years, I have seen a few novelty table bells or shop bells
and they come in a variety of guises.
I have seen pigs and I have seen some little dogs and things.
But I don't believe I'd seen a turtle or a tortoise before.
-Do you know where this one started life?
-I think it was in a shop.
-I think it was.
-A lot of these were.
I have seen them as pigs and all sorts of things,
where you actually press the curly tail and it makes a bell sound.
The tortoise ones, or the turtle ones, often were found in shops.
Sometimes butcher's or haberdasher's and things like that.
If we turn him over, we will see that he is very cleverly,
but very simply made, he's made of cast iron.
But he's absolutely pristine and in very genuine condition.
These bells are much rarer in finer metals.
Bronze are rarer than cast metal
and the silver ones would be top of the pile.
Silver ones are less likely to be found for use in shops or
public places, they tend to be for the refined
environment of grand houses or wealthy families.
I would like to see him make between £80 and £120.
If you're happy to enter him with that sort of estimate,
it doesn't sound frightening, but it sounds achievable.
-And if two people...
-Really want him.
-..they could keep going.
-All right, that would be lovely.
-All right. Can I ring him again?
I'm sorry, Beryl, but I have to side with Elizabeth.
I think it's a tortoise!
But did it make slow progress at the auction, or end up winning the race?
It's going under the hammer now. This is it.
Fun little lot.
Let's start, what, 30 quid. 30 I'm bid. 32, 35, 38.
At 38 now. Done, then? At 38. 40. 42.
-He is behind me.
At 55. 58. 60. 65.
80. At 80. Sell over here at £80.
I sell there at £80.
-Done at 80.
-Yes. Right at the lower estimate.
It has sold, though.
He has hit his clipboard!
That was a little bit of fun, that really was.
A gorgeous little thing.
Little bells like this are not overly common.
They are rare enough to be quite an interesting thing to seek out
But still accessible, and therefore within a budget of £50-£80,
you can pick up some lovely examples.
That is a very reasonable price.
If you fancy an animal-themed collection, that's a fun place
to start, and at entry level prices.
And talking of fun,
what could be more entertaining than the wacky world of majolica?
Majolica is fun, funky and so very Victorian.
The Victorians loved this hugely decorative
and colourful ceramic, which is often inspired by nature's bounty.
Kate Bliss was lucky enough to come across a great
example at a valuation day in Bangor.
That's a family piece, it belonged to my great-grandmother
and she had it and passed it to my grandmother, and when my grandmother
died, my cousins and I were asked to choose things from out of the house.
And that was my first choice.
You do find animals are used a lot in majolica.
Certainly I suppose there is this element of the monkey in humanity,
if you know what I mean, so it was quite interesting to place
a monkey as a finial or as a handle or as the feet of something.
And the Victorians, I think, found it rather jolly and fun.
The first thing I will do is just take the lid off carefully
and have a look at the bottom.
We have not got anything at all on there.
We can see the little marks where it stood in the kiln,
but there is no impressed mark to tell us which factory.
So, we can see from the quality of it and the moulding and the way
the glaze has been put on that it is by one of the leading factories.
In the 19th century, there were three factories producing this
sort of ware. George Jones, Minton and the third one was Wedgwood.
As it isn't marked, it could be one of the three.
My gut feeling is that it is George Jones.
But we can certainly look at the pattern of it
and I will do some further research.
This particular teapot was made by George Jones,
it was part of a tea service in simple blue and white.
They can be much more exuberant, with many colours,
bright turquoise, blues and greens.
This one was nice, because the monkey formed the handle.
And it is a typical piece of Victorian quirkiness, really.
Now, one thing that is a shame is the condition.
If we take off the lid,
we can see we have got quite a chunk taken out of the corner.
The finial is badly cracked, isn't it?
And we have got a funny little repair here to the spout,
which is a very vulnerable piece. Tell me about that.
Did you know that that had been repaired?
-I believe it was done in the 1920s by the local blacksmith.
He's just soldered on a spout.
Yes, I believe that was a usual repair that the blacksmith did.
Damage, of course, is important when you're collecting something.
But there are some areas, and majolica is one of them,
where collectors will be a little bit lenient,
particularly if it is a rare shape.
I think in this condition, you're going to be talking a serious amount at auction.
-I am going to put a conservative estimate of £200-£300.
-What do you think about that?
-I think that's very nice, yes.
But I think the monkey might attract quite a few people.
Kate wasn't wrong about the appeal of the monkey, but nothing could
have prepared Graham and Lesley for what unfolded
once the bidding commenced.
-200 I am bid. £200.
-They are straight in at 200.
'After smashing the estimate, it kept climbing higher and higher.'
-I can't believe it.
-Good God. Two grand.
-2,100. Oh, you've gone, have you?
-I can feel you shaking.
Anybody else in the room wants to come in?
What do you think about that? Bang, there we go. Yeah!
Well done. Well done. 2,400. There is a tear in your eye!
Look at this. He is crying.
-That was fantastic.
-I couldn't believe it.
It's moments like that that live long in the memory.
The teapot did so well because the majolica market
was particularly buoyant at that point.
And timing is key.
Prices rise and fall in the world of antiques,
so take advice from your local auction house.
If it's a bad time to sell, keep hold of your item for another day.
When it comes to collecting animal-themed antiques,
always examine the workmanship
and look for finely executed decoration and good condition.
But in the end, it comes down to horses for courses, so to speak.
Go for what appeals to you. If you fall in love with something,
just enjoy it for what it is - that is,
until the next piece catches your eye!
So, if you have any antiques and collectables that need
re-homing, I hope you come and see us at one of our valuation days.
That's it for today's show. Join me again soon for more trade secrets.
Objects relating to the natural world are central to this episode of Trade Secrets and the Flog It! team offers advice on buying, selling and collecting in this field.
Expert David Fletcher reveals some top tips for identifying wooden furniture, and Thomas Plant demonstrates the simple trick behind spotting an authentic piece of amber.
Presenter Paul Martin delves into the remarkable story of poet Edward Lear's passion for birds.