Antiques series. There's a look at the auction of a very rare object at Adam Partridge's saleroom, and Paul Martin explores some strange structures on the south coast.
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In over a decade on "Flog It!" we've valued
thousands of your antiques and collectibles,
and we've helped you sell them
in auction rooms all over the British Isles.
And during that time, we've learnt a great deal about the items
that are passed through our hands.
-A great thing to have on "Flog It!"
-Thank you so much.
In this series, I want to share some of that knowledge with you,
so sit back and enjoy, as our experts divulge their trade secrets.
There are certain things that turn up
time and time again at our valuation days, like items of silver,
snuff boxes, Clarice Cliff, Royal Doulton - we love them all.
But then there are the more unusual things you bring in.
Rarities that sometimes defy valuation.
And they certainly create a buzz amongst the "Flog it!" Team.
In today's programme, we'll be celebrating the rare
and the extraordinary, and shedding some light on their mystery.
On today's show, surprises for Charlie.
Christina finds something unusual down a rabbit hole.
Rare as hen's teeth.
And I'm blown away by some astonishing sales.
I'm not joking - listen!
Two thousand three, anyone else?
And Adam discovers a very rare and valuable book
hidden in a soup packet...
My jaw dropped.
..which gets the international market in a bidding frenzy.
Time and time again we find that rarity can add a premium to the
value of an object.
Poor condition and damage can be trumped by something that is
rarely seen, so how do we know
when we've got something that's extremely unusual?
And where is the best place to start looking?
If I'm looking round an antiques fair
and I see something I don't know, I love buying them.
Because it's where you learn about things,
sometimes it turns out to be quite an interesting thing.
More often than not, of course, it turns out to be nothing at all.
But if you get that wee sort of buzz from it,
that feeling that it might be something,
then it is occasionally worth having a go at it.
You can always do your research afterwards.
It's always worth taking a punt on something,
because if you don't know what it is, perhaps the person who's
selling doesn't know what it is,
and it might well be that little secret find.
But identifying that secret find
- something that's unusual or even rare - isn't always easy.
That's where our experts come in.
Experts like Charlie Ross, who discovered that a big surprise
awaited him in a small package.
I'm expecting to find a carriage clock in here,
there's a little button that releases the top.
What you can do is leave it in here
and still have the benefit of the clock itself,
as it is, just by pulling that panel up there, isn't that neat?
'The size was exciting,'
because most carriage clocks are...let's say,
that size, and this was a miniature one, half size.
And also, what I didn't know of course,
until I took it out the box,
was those wonderful pietra dura panels on it.
Pietra dura - "hard stone",
literally translated from the Italian,
they are panels from Italy, and I think it's absolutely sweet.
'Pietra dura are pieces of rock put together rather like a jigsaw
'and glued together, so you don't see the joints, the glue,'
so the skill is in the cutting - rather like a jigsaw puzzle -
to make sure that one bit fits exactly into the next.
I can see that there is a little bit of damage on the back panel here.
That's an expensive job to do.
Somebody doing this will need to repair that, otherwise, bit by bit,
the pieces of stone will fall out and you'll be left with nothing.
But the side panel is absolutely perfect. I think it's worth...
Well, it would be worth 3-500 all day long in perfect condition,
I really think 2-300 is the right estimate,
and the auctioneer should work hard on this because it'll certainly be,
even if he's got six carriage clocks in his sale,
the best carriage clock in his auction.
Charlie was obviously charmed by such an unusual piece,
but would rarity outweigh damage?
-£2-300 put on this by our expert Charles here.
It's going under the hammer now.
Pretty little late 19th century carriage clock,
-and significant interest...
-The lowest commission bid is £500.
I was quite bowled over when the auctioneer opened the bidding
and said, "I have commission bids here" and whatever he said,
"600 - 50, 700 - 50."
And there wasn't a bid in the room!
£750 is what I have with me, may I say £800?
Is there 800 in the room?
With me and to be sold then, all happy, at £750...
Straight in and straight out, blink and you'll miss it. £750, Richard!
I was astonished by the price. I think the rarity was the thing.
In hindsight, how many miniature carriage clocks have
I seen with pietra dura panels?
The answer is very few,
and therefore there's an extra premium, over and above
the extra cost of making the object is the rarity value.
Go for something unusual!
It seems a rare design or size can sometimes matter more than damage.
But if you have an unusual object in pristine condition,
you really could hit the jackpot.
Christina came across some objects she wished she'd had
the pocket for. A rare collection that marked the very early
beginnings of a very well-known maker.
You've absolutely made my day bringing these in.
I have seen these in books before, but never in real life,
-do you know how rare they are?
-Rare as hen's teeth.
-Or should we say, as rare as a rabbit teapot.
The designs were developed by a nun called Barbara Vernon.
Now, she was the daughter of a man called Cuthbert Bailey,
who was one of the managers at Royal Doulton.
Her father, in 1934, decided that he wanted
to produce a line of nurseryware for Royal Doulton,
and his first idea for a designer was to go to his daughter,
because her drawings were so endearing,
she used to make her animals into caricatures.
-This is the end result.
-These are also the precursors to the Bunnykins.
So it all links together,
and these are just a Bunnykins collector's dream.
They really are the first Bunnykins figures, if you like,
but in a utilitarian teapot, creamer and sugar bowl.
The Bunnykins range are very collectable,
they're still being made now,
and they have crossed the 20th century,
cos you get very early Bunnykins,
which were taken from the original sketches of animals,
and now you get Bunnykins which are wearing helmets and space hats,
so they really have grown with the generations.
So let's have a little look to confirm my suspicions,
we'll take the cover off there, look at the bottom.
Yes, lovely mark there,
Royal Doulton mark with the Bunnykins either side,
great that we've got that, collectors are going to love that.
When the war came, 1939, production stopped,
-and it never started again, so these are incredibly rare.
-We do have a problem with this, don't we?
The sugar bowl, we've got
a crack that runs from the rim right down through the body.
That is going affect the value,
collectors want them in absolutely mint condition.
I think perhaps at auction, I still think it will fetch
-something in the region of £5-700.
Damage worries me, but...
We're going to find out, because this is our lot, here we go.
Bunnykins three-piece tea set, somebody bid me £800 for it.
-850, 880, 900...
-They are rare.
..980, 1,000 - and 50, any more?
At 1,050 - 1,100.
There's the bid at 1,100 - 1,150,
1,200, 1,250, 1,300.
At 1,400 then, there's the bid, and I sell at £1,400, done, thank you.
Well, £1,400, the hammer's gone down.
-I'm shaking, I've learnt something.
Bunnykins, that's where the future is.
The sugar bowl had a crack,
which I was incredibly worried about at the time, but I think
because it was such an early set,
and because Bunnykins collectors do want those early pieces
and there are so few around, in that instance it really did not
matter hugely that there was a little bit of damage.
Once again, the bidders decided to overlook
the state of repair for the pleasure of owning a rare prototype.
Bunnykins have bred prolifically since the 1930s,
and there are plenty to choose from.
But keep an eye out for rare pieces
like Mother, Billy and Farmer Bunnykins.
If they're in tiptop condition,
they can change hands for around £1,500.
Let's not pretend it's easy to find something very rare.
After all, there's not much of it around!
But there are things you can do to improve your chances.
Find a traditional collection with a more unusual theme,
like this most enchanting set I came across by Britains,
one of the leading manufacturers of lead toys since the 19th century.
I've not seen this particular set before. The gardening set.
The condition, I've got to say, is 100% perfect.
It's absolutely fantastic.
And what I love is you've even got the little glycerine bags,
look, and it says "Geranium" on there. "15 Plants".
And that's two pence, that little packet,
which you could buy separately. I'm going to tip that out.
Look at all those little geraniums in there! Isn't that brilliant?
You can pick one up and they pop...
..into the soil.
I'm going to put it into auction with an estimate of £180 to £250,
but in no way let them go any cheaper than that,
because these are quite rare.
It was not only delightful but rare,
and, in a triple whammy, was in great condition.
So I knew this would have buyer-appeal,
and so did auctioneer Will Axon.
Most of the time at the auction house,
when toys are brought in, certainly lead toys, it is
usually soldiers, cars, or vehicles, or figures, that sort of thing.
It's not as usual to see a gardening set come through the door.
And I've got interest here, where? At 130, 140. I'm bid 150.
At 150, I'm bid, on commission. 150. 160. 170. 180. You're in now.
-180 in the room. At 180. 190. Fresh blood.
-We've sold it.
320. 340. I shall sell them at 340.
All done at 340?
Hammer's gone down, Eric. Well done.
Some Britains sets are very collectable.
I mean, the standard sets that you get coming through the sale, maybe
six figures in these long boxes, can make £200, £300 regularly.
Then if you start getting into rare figures,
you've got a Flying Corps box set, which includes a little
zeppelin and so on, I think one of those sold for £3,000.
And Salvation soldiers, again, is a very rare set,
and I think another set at auction did sell for £8,000.
Quite astounding, isn't it? What someone will pay to buy back
that childhood that perhaps they never had?
This is a great example of how a classic collection
with a twist on a theme can be hugely desirable.
But this was nothing compared to the extraordinary collection
Kate Bliss found in 2009.
-Which is your favourite here? Which one do you like best?
Um, I've got to say this one, I think.
There's just something about him. He's a proper little character.
He is, isn't he? That's what strikes me about all of these.
They've all got their personalities,
their quirkiness, if you like.
Let's look at these two quirky figures first because, if you look
-closely, as you can see, on their hats, there's a little mark.
An F and an M.
And they stand, those two initials, stand for Fernand Martin,
who was French.
They're never in very good condition, his characters,
because they were made from scrap metal that was
scavenged from the streets of Paris, literally. So those are interesting.
Then we have three very different ones here,
and if you go a little way across Europe from France,
you come to Germany,
and these three are by one of the best-known German manufacturers
of toys at that moment, a company called Ernst Lehmann.
And one of the characteristics of the toys produced by the firm
were the bright colours they used, and the lithographed designs.
We can see that, I think, beautifully,
on the wheels of this cart here.
So what about value? This lovely collection?
-All in all, you've got several hundred pounds here.
And I think with the right collectors at the auction,
-they could significantly surpass my estimates.
Bashed about a bit, but would that bother the collectors?
I love these tin-plate toys. I know the condition's poor
on some of them, but who cares, because they're early ones.
Let's find out what this lot in the room think, shall we? Here we go.
Lot 734. We have to open the bidding at 500...
Oh, late bids for this.
-Straight in at 680!
Be still, my beating heart.
'Be still, our beating hearts. These tin characters flew out the door.'
'We could hardly believe what was happening, as the bids went up
I'm not joking. Listen.
2,300 anywhere else? Finished?
2,200... Do you know something?
That's taken us to a total of £4,990.
Just under five grand.
Give us a hug! Come on!
I'm totally gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked.
Nearly five grand for those clockwork tin-plate toys.
Didn't matter about the condition. The collectors loved them.
They were so rare.
'We realised these were special, but not quite how special.
'Luckily for Stephanie, the collectors knew.'
We're always telling you on Flog It! about the importance
of condition, but inevitably, there are exceptions.
Those marvellously eccentric tin figures were so unusual that our
mantra of "condition, condition, condition"
was thrown out the window.
for me, the fact that they were a little bit battered
really did add to their charm.
So what else can you do to have a better chance of finding rare
and unusual items?
Get to know the field you're interested in
so you can understand the history and the story.
And then you'll know what's ubiquitous and what's rare.
Collectors will pay a premium for their favourite
collectable in a rare size or colour.
It can be challenging and very exciting to look for prototypes
and experimental pieces by a well-known designer.
These can be very sought-after by the aficionados.
But you'll need to make sure you have some
evidence of its provenance.
So look out for marks or documentation to prove its pedigree.
And remember that while damage can be a turn-off it may be
overlooked if a piece is of such exceptional rarity,
quality or historical value that a collector just has got to have it.
So when you see something truly individual,
keep something in mind that the wear and tear can be
part of its charm, and might well add to its value.
Like you, our experts are great rummagers in their pursuit
of finding interesting antiques and collectables,
and Caroline Hawley is no exception.
And occasionally, her rummaging throws up something
I found this about 30 years ago in a box of junk,
probably at an auction sale,
and I had absolutely no idea what
it was, except for the fact
that the missing part of it was inside it.
Now, this is made of pottery, no maker's mark on it at all.
It is probably Staffordshire pottery. It's got a hole
at the bottom of it. It's got a little bit of damage here.
And if we lift it up, it has got a hinged metal lid,
complete with holes pierced in the top,
and you open it up...
-And it closes like that.
-'So what is it, Caroline?'
So, here's the answer.
It's a toothbrush holder.
Taylors Drug Company Ltd, The Special.
And by golly it is. It's enormous.
And it pops into the toothbrush holder just like that,
keeping your toothbrush clean and healthy for another day.
Since he joined the Flog It! team back in 2003,
Adam Partridge has grown in stature from the rather overconfident
young chap of those early days...
Everything I touch turns to sold.
Yes, I remember that. The Midas touch thing.
..to the mature auctioneer of today.
And I can start the bidding at £100,000.
We've come to know and love Adam as a man of many parts, and
one of his myriad of interests is religious paraphernalia, so you can
imagine his delight when something extraordinary fell into his lap.
I have a great interest in Judaica.
I think this boils down to, perhaps, right back to my childhood.
I'm half Polish, so I think there's a slight connection there,
and I grew up in a very musical background,
so I met lots of Jewish violinists
and I was in Jewish houses, and I felt part of the whole culture,
and it all evolved that we started doing a Judaica sale.
So we've got a very big auction tomorrow with a very
good representation of Judaica in it.
Judaica refers to the ceremonial art that Jewish people use
in their rituals in synagogue or in the home, and Adam's brought
in for sale a wide variety of pieces relating to various festivals.
One of the most important of these is Passover, where Jews
retell the story of Moses from the book called Hagadah.
They also sample symbolic food from a special dish,
and Adam had a fine example.
Oof! Solid silver. I'm not faking this.
It's extremely heavy, about 200 ounces of silver.
It depicts Moses, here, parting the Red Sea, which is
very symbolic for the Passover festival anyway.
And these alcoves or recesses are where the various items of foods
would have been placed.
It's designed by a very famous
sculptor, really, George Weil. 1979.
So, not antique, as such, but George Weil is major name in the art world.
Comes also with a matching cup, the Cup of Elijah, here,
and our estimate's only £1,000-£1,500.
I actually drove about 200 miles to go and get these from a customer.
I think they are going to make towards £3,000,
but we'll see what happens when they come under the hammer.
Apart from all these wonderfully-interesting things here,
we've got extra special. Something that was found in really, really,
unusual circumstances and is going to be extremely
valuable and important.
I don't take much time off work.
I'm a real workaholic. I'll do all hours.
I get home late at night and I took a week holiday. One week!
And these clients of ours phoned up and Bill went out.
-Normally, it would have been me.
-He was sunning himself
and I found myself up in north Manchester.
I was being toured around the house.
The lady just kicked along this box,
along the floor, and said, "Well, there's a box of Jewish books there.
"Is there anything in there?" And this was the box, itself.
A chicken soup box. Rummaging around in it,
perhaps the most modest-looking is this little manuscript.
But on leafing through it, I opened it up, and it is quite apparent
that someone with a very skilled hand has created this.
When Adam returned from his holiday, the first question he asked was...
"Anything good come in while I was away?" He presented me with this.
And my jaw dropped. Neither of us knew exactly what it was.
I'm not pretending that we would be experts straight away, but we both
had the instinct, I suppose, the gut feeling, to know that it was
something very important and worth investigating further.
Bill and Adam's hunch was right. This wasn't any old manuscript,
but a rare Passover Haggadah, by Aaron Wolf, the chief Jewish scribe
of the Imperial Library, working in Vienna in the early 18th century.
It was an incredible find.
At that point,
I took it out to certain Jewish colleagues of mine,
mainly in north Manchester and that is how I came up also
seeking Dr Wise's advice about it.
Dr Yaakov Wise, an historian at the Centre for Jewish Studies
at the University of Manchester, examined the book.
This is a very rare survivor. It's a hand-illuminated
and illustrated Haggadah from the middle of the 18th century.
It was written in Pressburg, which is now called Bratislava,
and it is an example of the finest-quality Haggadah that has been
made in the last two or three hundred years.
Jewish families value their simple Haggadahs,
much like people might have a family Bible.
But most have no financial value, which makes this hand-written
and hand-painted work, created in 1727, quite extraordinary.
So this was always a, sort of, premium example, I suppose?
One that was just for the very wealthy?
It would have been very, very expensive when it was made.
If you think about it,
the text has got to be hand-written, the illustrations have got to be
hand-drawn and hand-illuminated and, if we look at one of the...
-The illustrations are wonderful, aren't they?
Here, we have got the story
-of the baby Moses, about to be put in the river.
-Do you think that
Aaron Wolf did both the calligraphy and the drawings?
Well, we don't know, actually. It was quite common on those days
to have a partnership between a Jewish scribe and a Christian artist.
-Because there were very few, if any, trained Jewish fine artists
of that period.
-So, if you look at this page, which is Moses...
..petitioning Pharaoh. This is medieval costume and the scenery,
the buildings, are all medieval - some, possibly, Christian artist's
-idea of what Jews would look like, but using medieval costume.
Could you tell me a bit more about Aaron Wolf,
-the scribe and calligrapher here?
-He was one of the top scribes
in 18th-Century Europe.
He was employed by the best families, the most wealthy families,
-such as the Oppenheimers, for whom this Haggadah was written.
The Oppenheimers married into the Rothschild family,
because, as we say in Yiddish,
-money goes to money.
-And in a very famous name, of course.
And I suspect that it moved across Europe with the Rothschilds.
Having survived the Napoleonic Wars, the upheavals in Germany
in the 19th century, the First World War,
apparently, it arrived in Belgium just before the outbreak of
-the Second World War.
-It's amazing to think what events this has survived,
-what its seen over almost 300 years of its existence.
So, Belgium at the beginning of the Second World War?
And it, apparently, came to England in 1940.
Over 100,000 Jews fled Germany
and Austria in the two years before the outbreak of World War II,
heading for safety across Europe, America and the former Palestine
- and taking only their most treasured possessions.
Dr Wise thinks the owners of this precious Haggadah
may have kept it concealed on the way to Britain.
Once here, it remained with a distant relative,
who apparently had no idea of its significance.
How do you feel having this so close?
It's exciting, because, you know, you never come across...
People have loved their whole lifetimes and never come across
a Haggadah of this quality and this age and this significance.
In terms of value, we've put
an estimate on it of £100,000-£150,000 -
an awful lot of money. What really makes it so valuable
and how many people do you think would be actually interested in it
at that, sort of, level of price?
Well, it's extremely rare, it's probably one of the five or six
-oldest Haggadot in Europe.
-I would like to see it go to a museum.
-I agree with you.
I think it would be lovely for it to end up in a museum.
I'd quite like to go and visit it again one day.
We have, encouragingly, had some interest from the Jewish Museum
in Vienna, which I think would be particularly appropriate.
Exactly. That is where first used, in Vienna. That is a very good idea.
There is a lot riding on it and a lot of pressure on us all, as well.
But with a sale like this,
we have to trust our research and, ultimately, trust in the object.
It is a wonderful, wonderful, thing to be offering for auction.
I ma quite sure it will achieve a superb price.
Just what price exactly? We'll find out a little later.
Coming up, Philip plays the guessing game over a mystery object...
-What is it?
-I brought it along for someone to tell me what it was.
Our experts do some detective work...
-It's so intriguing.
And the sale of that rare Jewish manuscript leaves Adam overcome.
What I love about Flog It! is that, much as we love them,
it's not all about antiques! Sometimes the buzz can come from
the mysteries that surround the things and places all around us
and are even in the very landscape.
I've brought you here to Greatstone, near Dungeness, to show you these -
the strange-looking concrete structures
that lie abandoned at the edge of a waterlogged gravel pit.
They look like early forms of abstract art, but they are not.
They played a significant part in the history
of Britain's defence system.
After the First World War, the biggest threat to Britain's security
was from the air. What the country needed was an operational edge -
a way of pin-pointing incoming enemy bombers before they reached
the English coast. The old system relied on sight, using spotters
30 enemy aircraft over the Channel, flying due west.
But it wasn't effective at night or in bad weather conditions.
The solution lay with one man, Lieutenant William Tucker.
Tucker had spent much of the First World War in trenches,
using listening devices to search out enemy locations.
By the 1920s, he decided to apply the same listening techniques
to the skies. The result was a series of concrete structures,
like these, along the South Coast. They reflected the sound waves
of incoming aircraft onto carefully-placed microphones.
And various sound mirrors survive, dotted along the South Coast,
but this is the only place you can see all three designs side by side.
To explain how the work, I've come to meet Owen Leyshon,
who is warden for the Dungeness National Nature Reserve.
-Pleased to meet you and thanks for meeting today.
-These are absolutely fabulous.
-Brilliant, these sound mirrors.
-How does the technology work?
-Well, it's pointing
out into the English Channel, it's collecting soundwaves from
-the enemy aircraft or potential enemy aircraft.
-So you had a guy
standing where I am, with a sound trumpet, pointing back
in to the 20-foot dish, so he has got his back to the sea.
He would have a stethoscope on
and he's moving that trumpet around, trying to get a bearing
of where the aircraft is. And, remember, with this one,
-it is very, very...
-It's very vertical.
-It's vertical, indeed.
-It's almost picking things up that are low. not way up there?
So, if the planes were coming in very high, they were in trouble.
What they did then was designed the 30-foot mirror.
They tilted the dish higher up into the sky, to get the higher aircraft
as they were coming in.
-Can I go and look at the big one?
-Let's go and have a look.
-It's amazing, isn't it? How big is that?
-That's 200 foot.
Incredible size when you get up to it, isn't it?
Concave lengthways, but also vertically, as well.
I can see that when you look at the edges.
How does this one work?
You have got a set of microphones in a big arc around the forecourt
of this 200-foot mirror. And you would have had a guy in the office,
-out this window up here.
-I'm so pleased they are still here.
This is a real eye-opener for me.
-What was the down side?
-Radar came along in the late 1930s,
so, quickly, the range they could pick up the aircraft
was much better than these sound mirrors and they became obsolete
-quite quickly. Impressive structures.
-They are, aren't they? Yeah.
I'm pleased they are here today. I really am.
These structures do stand as a monument to a man whose work
was to have a profound effect on the outcome of World War II.
The communications systems that Tucker developed between his mirrors
and HQ were so effective that it was copied by the radar team
and led directly to their success.
The world of antiques and collectables
is full of rare and limited editions and stories of lost works
by famous painters. And it is not unusual for you to bring in to one
of our valuation days, something that we have not seen before,
yet we know all about it. But every now and then, you present us
with something shrouded in mystery.
An item with a bit of mystery is always appealing.
If it is something that we don't know about
or something that we can't quite see or something that we can't quite
-You do get the odd mystery item,
I suppose, when you just don't know what it is.
It's lovely, actually, when that goes into the saleroom,
because the key thing is somebody might know what it is
and they could be incredibly rare.
When Philip Serrell came across a mystery item,
he thought it was time to play his own form of parlour game.
What's in there, then?
I brought it along for someone to tell me what it was.
It came from my father, presumably came down to him from somebody else
-in the family, but it's always been a mystery.
-It might still be!
'When I first opened that box,'
you didn't know what was in there and those strange little objects.
And it's really, in a way, a process of elimination.
Your first thought is, perhaps it's a game.
It can't be that. Then you look at the way it's formed.
It's quite clear that they were darners.
-It's almost like a child's, or a miniature, sewing accessory set.
Some of these are like sock darners or darners for the end of gloves
and that sort of thing. These different shapes - eggs and ovoids -
they are all different darning tools, I think.
'It was just a really'
fun thing and I love things that are just a bit different
and a bit of fun and just a talking point, really.
They are in different... Box wood, possibly bits
of mahogany. I think it's really, really cute.
You've got marquetry and parquetry. Both of them are inlaid woods.
Marquetry is basically a picture and parquetry is a geometric design.
The best way to remember it is, if you think of a parquet floor,
it's just wood blocks that are geometrically laid down.
So, parquetry is a geometric inlay of wood.
-I think it's probably about 1900-1910.
Yes, I think you can estimate this at auction at, sort of, £30-£50.
I'd put a £20 reserve on it and it will sell all day long,
-cos it's a really sweet little thing. Happy to put that in?
Thanks for bringing it.
19th-Century Continental beach parquetry box, containing a set
of miniature parquetry balls and implements. £20.
20, at the back. Straight in at 20.
-35, fresh bidder.
-That's good. Someone new in the room now.
At £38, at the back. At £38 bid. Are we all done and finished?
Buyer at the back has it, at £38.
For me, the buyer of that is probably someone who collects
sewing accessories. But, you know, it falls into that treen category.
And treen is turned wood or small wooden items,
so it could fall into that category.
Or just someone who likes a bit of fun.
It just goes to show that it that it only takes a small investment
to realise the biggest entertainment value.
I've never seen one of those before and I've never seen once since...
and I'll probably never see one again. But it's fun, isn't it?
Some items, like that rare Haggadah,
come with wonderful stories attached.
Occasionally, the story itself can be the reason for its appeal
It can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary...
as Charlie Ross found.
Generally speaking, you wouldn't take a bayonet as being
a particularly fascinating object...
to do on "Flog It!" because we see a lot of them
and they are of a standard price.
But this man wasn't particularly interested in his bayonet.
It's the fact that he worked at Butlins
and his act was to balance this damn thing on his nose.
-Were you called Johnny Pearce?
-Is that your real name?
-Oh, it is?
But, tell me, you're not English, are you?
-Well, I changed it by deed pole.
-Oh, did you?
-I've been over here...70 years.
I'm one of the...
fortunate people who escapes the Nazis,
and I came from Berlin in 1938.
-My father sent me to England...
-Just in the nick of time.
He saved my life, yes.
Out of that story came this amazing ring.
What have we got in here?
-Er... Well, after the war...
..we were living in Tooting,
and a photo album arrived out of the blue...
with photographs of my grandmother.
And this was inside, slotted in, the book.
-Stuck in there and it came through...
-So smuggled in?
Well, whether it was smuggled, I don't know,
but this came in my possession.
We had this wonderful 1910/1920 belle epoque era diamond ring.
Let's have a look at it. It's a very pretty ring,
set with three good-sized diamonds in the middle.
'I loved the ring.'
I loved the format of it, the quality of it, the shape of it,
the fact that it had larger stones and smaller stones.
'I thought it was charming.'
It's, I have to say, I think extremely beautiful,
but not the most commercial, in terms of design, these days.
-People tend to go for plainer rings,
single stone, three-stone,
diamond rings rather than such intricacies.
I'd like to put a valuation of 300-400 on it...
That would be very nice.
..with a fixed reserve, below which thou shalt not go, of £250.
-Are you happy with that?
-I would be and my wife would be happy,
and the kids would be happy, too.
Well, we'll put that into the sale,
and you take your balancing act home with you to practise.
This ring has had an amazing journey and it's come back to the family.
-Posted to you.
Yes, inside a photo album.
-Cut out and smuggled into the country.
-Incredible, isn't it?
It's going under the hammer now. The diamond ring is up for grabs.
Diamond ring. Start at 200, 210,
220, 230, 240, 250,
In a way...
I felt slightly concerned that he was selling it
because this had this story,
and the story was not going to be as important ever again...
once the ring had changed hands.
At £600. At 600.
£600. selling upstairs at £600.
£600. Great, great result.
You've got to be so happy.
I'm very happy. My wife sitting over there, she's happy.
She must have obviously fainted already.
I've got to give her the kiss of life.
I think, in this particular instance, the object sold itself.
I think, had the object been related to horrible things that were
going pre-war and post-war, it might have added value.
The fact that that ring had come in this extraordinary
way into the country was a fascinating story,
but I don't think it affected the value of the ring at all.
While John was obviously happy,
the joy of that ring, for me, was not in its value at all,
but in the tale of its odyssey from Nazi Germany.
We love your fascinating stories, so please keep them coming.
Our experts often have to turn detective to winkle out
the provenance or history of an object.
And when this mysteriously shaped box
appeared before Michal Baggott, he was keen to do some digging.
I love boxes like this, shaped boxes,
cos it took a lot of work, believe me, to make that box.
A specialist did it, and usually for a very good reason.
So you know what's in it already. Let's open it up and reveal...
-that fabulous pendant.
But being a bit of an anorak, what I also think is fabulous...
is the retailer's name on the top of the box. Henry Tessier.
Tessier, one of the most important firms in the 19th century.
So this is your mother's. Do you know where she got it from?
It's been passed down from various generations.
I'm not sure who owned it originally.
-It's just come down through the family.
Right. Now let's have a look.
Now what we've got is the most fantastic
garnet with a little fly...
..but picked out with diamonds and little ruby eyes,
so it was a lot of work in this.
You get a lot of garnet and gold jewellery,
especially with insect motifs on it, in the Victorian period.
The Victorians lovely their symbolism,
and you can see that in the use of images in their jewellery.
The dragonfly meant courage,
the spider prudence.
And in the case of this pendant, the fly represented humility
and a hidden secret. Intriguing.
What's interesting is we've also got an engraved date, which is
LL, 1st of August, 1882.
12th of October, 1882.
That's a very odd dated inscriptions cos it's the same year
and it's different months.
Normally, with a piece that is a mourning jewel,
you would associate it with the colour black,
and you would see two quite distant dates,
hopefully, at least 20, 30, 40, 50 years.
The fact that it was two dates within the same year might
have meant that it was for an infant,
or it may have commemorated some other event.
I wasn't sure, at the time, of the iconography of the jewel.
It is a fairly stunning little pendant.
I think we've got to put an estimate of £200-£300
-and a fixed reserve of £200.
And it's really worth that all day long.
How mysterious. I'd love to know the story behind the pendant.
What did the bidders make of it?
Good luck to Ed, who can't be with us.
It's going under the hammer right now.
I can start you here at 150 on the book.
At 150. 160...
170, 180, 190...
200. The book's out at 200. 220 now.
220 on the phone.
220. Thank you, madam.
-This is good. It's going to get the top end of the estimate.
It deserves to. It's a really finely worked piece.
340, 360, 380, 400.
-This is very good.
..440, 460, 480, 500... 500.
-What do we say? Quality always sells.
I wish Ed could have been here, that's all I can say.
He'd be doing cartwheels now, wouldn't he?
The beauty of that jewel clearly appealed to the bidders.
Sometimes inscriptions add to an item's value,
and the pendant's mysterious reference to dates two months
apart might have boosted interest and the sale price.
We may never know, but it's that mystery which can be
so alluring to collectors.
There is one area of collectables where symbolism
is key to its function.
Jennifer brought in a piece belonging to one of the most
It was so covered in enigmatic symbols.
It was down to David Barnaby to decipher what they meant.
It's so intriguing
because this is quite a valuable item of Masonic regalia...
in the fact that it's...
It's not one of the tokens or the medals they would wear,
but it is a watch in a triangular section,
which in itself is a Masonic symbol.
Philip Serrell can shed some light on this secret society as he's
come across a fair few pieces in his time.
What makes something Masonic?
Well, there are all sorts of varying degrees of being a Mason, you know?
And the thing that you're looking for is perhaps the symbols and the
ciphers, and there's the square, the level, the compass,
the pillars, the all seeing eye.
You know, these things are emblematical of the Masonic culture.
It's in silver and, inside,
you've got details concerning where it was made.
It's a Swiss movement, a Swiss case.
On this enamel dial,
you have all these symbols from the Masonic order.
'Masonic memorabilia is hugely collectable.'
If you find a glass vase that's got nothing on it, it might be worth X.
But if you find a glass vase that's got the square, the level
and the compass on it,
then it might be worth ten times X. It adds value.
-The only defect, as far as I can see, is this cracked glass...
..which you shouldn't have too much difficulty, the purchaser,
I think it's a fascinating jewel and there are members out
there of The Order and also collectors of Mason memorabilia.
And I think, at auction, it could realise anything between 120
-But the auctioneer may say, "I want it tucked under 100."
Who's going to buy a watch like that? Well, there's three areas.
There's a museum...that collects Masonic items,
there's an individual that collects Masonic items,
or there's a horologist, someone who collects watches,
who perhaps hasn't just got that example.
And I suppose the other area is someone might just take a shine to it.
I have one, two, three, four telephone bids...
-Four telephone bids!
-..three commission bids,
and I've no doubt a certain amount of interest in the room.
I bid on the book £400 only.
400, 400, 400.
420, 450, 480,
500, 520, 580...
600? Any more in the room?
-At 620, 650...
..700, 720, 750...
-They love it!
-This is a huge learning curve.
At £800. Any more at all?
At £800. And I sell then at 800 and done.
-What a wonderful moment!
-I'll come again next week!
Everyone loves a mystery, as this auction proved.
The reason why it made the money that it did was
because it was Masonic.
An in fact I'd brokered a deal for one to a museum about three
months before this and it was between £600 and £900,
so it was always going to make that sort of money.
If you want to enter the secret world of Masonic memorabilia,
look out for the famous square and compass images,
and for items linked to famous Masons and lodges.
But they can be copied or faked, so make sure of provenance
and try to get that authentication document.
So how can you get to the bottom of the mysteries that surround
For a mysterious or amazing story to add to an object's value,
it must have a tangible connection.
Ideally, ensure you have some strong provenance - a photo,
a letter or a receipt.
An object's original purpose can sometimes remain
hidden in the mists of time - that's part of the appeal.
So look out for objects which provide a fascinating talking point.
Examine clues like symbols, designs and marks.
Doing your own detective work to unlock
the story behind an item can be half the fun.
But sometimes a mysterious object's worth may not
be in its monetary value at all...
but in the story attached to it.
By hanging on to it, you'll be keeping that story alive,
so get sleuthing.
Most of the items you bring along to our valuation day is
dated from the 19th and 20th century.
It's very unusual for us to see items
that have survived from an earlier period,
so you can imagine my delight when I met up with Joe at a valuation
day in Melksham, Wiltshire.
We've got the oldest things here today in the room.
-Oh, I'm surprised.
-Something for the purists.
So tell me, how did you come across all of these?
Well, they are part of my late husband's collection
and it was started by a friend of his called Bob G...
And then your husband started collection from there on.
'He collected all kinds of different things,
'including oil lamps and old flat irons...'
Bits of animal skull. He just liked collecting.
I love them. I love the onion glass shape - typical -
that's why they're called onion glass.
I love the fact the it's lopsided.
You could never make these so even
because they're all individually handmade.
This one is of bell form.
That's a nice, interesting shape as well. And this one...
Again, this is early 18th century.
And this one has its own seal.
Now that's something to look out for...
on any onion glass wine bottle...
because the seal will put more value on it.
OK, let's put a fixed reserve on them at £300.
-OK? And hopefully they will do £100 more than that.
-Well, that would be nice.
-That would be nice.
So off to auction for those rare onion-shaped bottles.
-400 I'm in.
-400. 450. 500.
650. 700. 750.
And the bids just kept on coming!
1800. At 1700 on that phone...
Ladies and gentlemen in the room...
Anywhere else at 1800? Am I going?
Gosh! That's fantastic! I'm ever so pleased for you.
We were all rather surprised that it was £1,700.
But I think that was because on the day there were people
and I believe they were sold to people from the United States.
-My husband Peter would be delighted.
-He had a great eye.
What are you going to put the money towards?
It's going to Portland Bird Observatory,
where he was secretary for 20 years.
As well as being an avid collector of anything and everything,
Jo's late husband Peter was passionate about birds.
He dedicated 20 years of his life to the Portland Bird Observatory,
where he served as secretary.
The history of the bird observatory is that in the 1950s
there were a group of bird enthusiasts
who realised that this was an important place
because of its geography.
when the birds that have spent the winter in Africa are arriving
in this country, we are really the first land fall,
the first place they spot and so things tend to home in on us.
One of the people who was involved was a lady called Helen Brotherton.
She bought the lighthouse in 1960
and it was opened in 1961 by Sir Peter Scott.
And from then on it's flourished as a bird observatory.
The real bit of science we get into is the bird ringing.
Catching and marking birds with little individual metal rings.
That enables us to really pinpoint individual birds and find out,
the ones we catch as they arrive in the spring,
we're able to find out where they go to later in the year.
When I sold Peter's bottles it seems like the obvious thing that I
should donate the money to the observatory
which was the love of his life.
I enjoy coming down here very much
and I enjoyed spending time here with Peter.
We used to go off and walk round the island visit the quarries
and walk along the coastal path looking for flowers and birds,
and it was just some of the happiest memories of my life.
Rare finds don't get much more exciting than the wonderful Haggadah
that Adam and his colleague Bill found in an old box in Manchester.
It attracted international attention.
But on auction day would it also attract international bidders?
I don't feel very well, actually.
I'm full of cold, congested, but nothing is done to stop me
getting up there in a minute and selling this manuscript.
It's really encouraging, a room full of people.
I haven't seen an auction this busy for quite a long time.
I'm ready excited. You're going to have to stop me talking
because I'm going to just go on and on and on.
I can't wait to get up there.
Adam was as excited as a schoolboy!
But finally it was the moment of truth.
He'd estimated the book at £100,000 to £150,000,
but could it match his expectations?
Lot 100. The 18th-century Passover Haggadah.
And I can start the building at £100,000.
I'll ask for 105,000 next, please. It's £100,000 to start.
105 on the phone. 110.
115. 120. 125.
£125,000 on this phone now.
135 with James. 10,000, Bill?
170. I'll take 5 if you want. 170,000 here.
This was exceeding Adam's wildest dreams!
I'll take 180. 180 to this phone.
A new bidder joined the fray and it looked like there was
fierce competition to win this incredibly rare prize.
Quite appropriate. 185,000.
190. At 190,000 now.
I've got all day, I don't mind. 190,000. 195 now.
195 on this phone. Round it up, then.
Are there any decisions on the other phone? At 195,000...
For the first time, then, at 195,000. Are we bidding?
We're bidding 200.
at 200,000. Oohs and aaahs all round!
210 on Bill's phone now.
Whatever you want to bid me. I'll take 215 if you want.
-Or 220 would be better. At 210.
210,000 is on the phone here.
The hammer is up, then, for the first time. At 210,000.
Second time at 210,000. Have you finished bidding?
-He's asking his client on the phone.
-At £210,000, it's the final call.
No extra than 210?
-They are completely done. We are selling, then.
Final chance, then. At £210,000,
if you're all sure and done...
Thank you very much.
Well done, Bill.
That's very good. It's gone to where I wanted it to go as well.
It's going back to Vienna, ladies and gentlemen, which is where it originated.
Which is a very romantic story. Thank you very much.
A result which - for once - threatened to leave Adam speechless!
I feel very emotional, actually.
And I'm really, really, really pleased that it's made such a strong price.
210,000 is basically really what I thought it was worth.
It made a wonderful price, a very strong price,
and nice to do a good job on a wonderful thing.
I will miss it very much.
It's now going back to where it belongs, to Vienna.
And... Yeah, I'm just extremely emotional.
I've never felt like this before.
Oh, dear. Thank you very much.
What an emotional journey for Adam, and that incredible Haggadah.
There are, of course, items of religious interest to look
out for across many faiths but what should you keep in mind?
Religion, as a general rule, doesn't sell very well.
The amount of times we have a valuation day
and people bring in family Bibles or portraits and things like that.
But there are certain areas that are still collectable.
For an example, church furniture.
Gothic church furniture is quite popular
and perhaps things like rosary beads you'll see.
So there are other collectables in religious terms,
but I would be careful and would advise you against thinking
that everything religious is therefore collectable or valuable,
because that is quite far from the case.
So, from the tantalisingly secret to the exceedingly rare,
there's a world of unusual treasures
and mysteries out there for you all to uncover.
Well, that brings us to the end of today's show.
I hope you've enjoyed it.
Do join us again soon for some more inside information on Trade Secrets.
This episode is dedicated to all things rare and mysterious, investigating the more unusual antiques and collectables.
There's a behind-the-scenes look at the auction of a very rare object at Adam Partridge's saleroom, and Caroline Hawley invites us to guess the use of a mysterious Victorian object.
Presenter Paul Martin explores the story behind some strange structures lining parts of the south coast.