Paul Martin is joined by experts Christina Trevanion and Wil Axon in Oxford Union to pick out a selection of interesting antiques and collectables to be sold at auction.
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Today, we're at the Oxford Union,
one of the oldest debating chambers in the world.
It occupies a unique place in world politics.
It was here in 1979
that Richard Nixon gave his first speech after Watergate.
He admitted, "I screwed up and I've paid the price."
Let's hope our experts are on the game today. Welcome to "Flog It!"
The Oxford Union was created in 1823
in response to the University's ban
on any discussion of politics or religion.
And since then, the union has gained a worldwide reputation
as a place where no topic is out of bounds, no matter how controversial.
One of the most famous names to address the chamber is Malcolm X.
When a black man strikes back, he's an extremist.
He's supposed to sit passively and have no feelings,
be non-violent and love his enemy.
No matter what kind of attack,
be it verbal or otherwise, he is supposed to take it.
The union has also played host to the likes of
the then President of the USA, Ronald Reagan,
the Dalai Lama and even Mother Teresa - hark at us,
rubbing shoulders with the great and the good!
It all starts right here, the door to the famous chamber.
Many debates have been won or lost over this threshold
and debates are decided by ayes to the left and noes to the right.
Now, I wonder if our experts will be using this as a system
to decide what goes off to auction?
Stimulating the debate today are two people hoping to
outdo each other on the antiques front. Mr Will Axon...
-What have you brought along today?
-She brought you along?
-..and Christina Trevanion.
-They are gorgeous.
-And where did they come from?
-Admirers in the past.
Oh, I wish I had admirers like that, who'd shower me with opals.
A long time ago now.
They're trawling the queue for antiques, unusual and elaborate.
-Oh, that's rather pretty.
-Christina, what have you found there?
-Where's my stickers?
-No, I've already done it.
Oh, look, she's already been marked.
So, without further ado, let's get everybody in.
I'm standing in the same spot where famous names such as Malcolm X
and Winston Churchill addressed this chamber.
We've got a packed show ahead, so...let the debate commence.
And coming up on today's show...
Who have I discovered behind-the-scenes?
He's instantly recognisable because of his mop of mad hair.
I love that photograph.
And whose salacious etchings has Will uncovered?
It's basically a report on his life of vice and self-destruction
after inheriting a fortune from his father.
Now, I'm up here in what's known as the Strangers' Gallery.
This would have been as far as non-members and ladies
would have been allowed to go in the old days.
Talking of ladies, we have the gorgeous Christina,
who's just below me there.
And it looks like she's found something incredibly interesting.
Let's take a closer look.
We're in one of the most famous debating chambers in the world...
-..which has seen so many famous faces,
-and you've brought some more in to us here.
-Tell me about this - this is your autograph book?
It came down from my great-uncle, who died a couple of years ago.
He did all the lighting in the New Theatre round the corner,
-which is the oldest theatre in Oxford.
-In Oxford? Oh, wow.
And he worked on a lot of the big productions, setting up
the lighting for them, for operas and musicals and ballet, you name it.
He worked long hours.
Like, eight o'clock in the morning till midnight.
-So it was more of a lifestyle?
-It was, yeah.
And this is one of his autograph albums?
-I'd imagine you're quite familiar with it.
-So, this is Ray? That's your uncle?
-That's my great-uncle, yes.
-And New Theatre, Oxford.
-New Theatre, Oxford, yes.
So, who have we got here?
That's Coral Browne, who was a famous film star in the '50s.
-And then we've got...?
-Vincent Price, who she was married to.
And Vincent Price was in the famous horror films.
Looking very dapper there, isn't he? Very, very dapper.
-At the back here, we've got Rex Harrison.
-My Fair Lady, of course.
And we've got Sean Connery and his first wife, Diane Cilento.
-And I think she died two years ago.
-Oh, right. Oh, gosh.
-Oh, gosh, who's this?
-That's Marlene Dietrich.
Goodness me, that's a good one. That's a very good one.
-So, really, these look like '60s.
-'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s.
So, how long was he working there?
-A long time - 40 years, something like that.
-Goodness me. Wow.
I have to say, autographs are a bit of a tricky subject to value
because, unless they are really, really big names
like The Beatles, they don't command huge prices at auction.
But it is quite important in the history of the New Theatre.
This is a record of these people that came and performed.
Really, I would be looking at offering it somewhere
-maybe in the region of £60-£100.
-Something like that.
-That sounds OK.
I mean, that would be brilliant, because I wouldn't expect, you know...
It's very difficult.
-I know it's packed full of all these wonderful people.
-No, that's brilliant.
But you have to think, well,
how much of a market would there be for it?
So, I think, if we put it at 60-100,
-it gives it a fighting chance.
-That sounds brilliant.
I have a feeling that that Bond one, the Sean Connery one, might...
-Especially since it's 50 years of Bond this year.
-Exactly, yes, exactly.
This building is no stranger to the A-list.
Alongside the great and the good, expounding their theories,
there have been plenty of guests to please the paparazzi.
Reality TV stars like Katie Price and Kerry Katona,
right through to amphibians, like Kermit the Frog, who proclaimed
"If Ronald Reagan can do it, then so can I."
There's certainly been an eclectic mix here.
Our very own matinee idol, Will Axon,
has managed to give the paparazzi the slip
to meet another Christina in the courtyard.
From the nice, warm golden plover of the winter sun behind us
to this nice, warm golden glow on the table.
It really caught my eye when this came out of your bag.
Christina, is this something that belongs to you?
-Or Lydia, is this yours?
-No, it's mine.
Lydia's just come along for a bit of moral support, has she?
She has, yes.
Well, it's a charm bracelet, in gold, of course.
Mainly nine carat gold, as is common with charms and charm bracelets.
Does every charm tell a story?
Do you remember where each one came from?
Not particularly each one, but a lot of them came from Cornwall.
-We had holidays there, yes.
Or, perhaps the odd birthday present, or a Christmas present.
I always thought that, if you know someone who wore a charm bracelet,
you knew what to get them for their birthday or Christmas.
-But of course, the trouble nowadays is,
who do you know who does wear a charm bracelet?
That's it, not very often these days.
I mean, Lydia, is that something that catches your eye?
Would you like to wear that?
-There's some fun charms on here, aren't there?
-There's a little steam train.
-And then Aladdin.
-You're right, and Aladdin's lamp.
-And I like the little fishy thing.
Oh, yes, look here, you've got little fish there as well.
-And Noah's ark.
-And it opens and you see some things.
-The spaceman's legs move.
-The pump moves.
-The little bellows, you're right.
Look, they work, the little bellows are working.
I mean, great fun, really, but in a practical sense,
it's just not very wearable any more.
So, you've brought it to "Flog It!"!,
you obviously want to sell the piece,
and it's all going to be down to what it weighs.
It's that sort of scenario, I'm afraid.
Nine carat as well,
so it's not going to be as much as if it were a higher grade of gold,
but I still think you should be looking somewhere in the
region of say £600-£800,
which, for a little bracelet that probably sits in a drawer
-not doing a lot, it's a good amount of cash, isn't it?
So, what's the money going to go towards?
Divided up between the children and grandchildren.
-Everyone's going to get a little slice of it?
-Well, I think that's rather nice.
They'd rather nowadays probably prefer the cash than
-they would an old charm, wouldn't they?
Will you be able to make the auction, do you think, Lydia?
-No, because I will be at school.
-Oh, that's true.
-We'll give you a wave, how's that, when we're at an auction?
-It's been a pleasure meeting you both.
-Thank you very much.
-I'm sure we'll get this away for you.
-OK, thank you.
# Oxford town, Oxford town
# Everybody's got their heads bowed down
# The sun don't shine above the ground
# Ain't a-going down to Oxford town. #
And back inside, our very own Christina
is slightly confused by her next item.
-You've brought us an egg.
-I have. It's a nutmeg grater.
-So, not an egg.
-It's not an egg from the golden goose.
-It would be nice, wouldn't it?
-It's a nutmeg grater.
It's a nutmeg grater. And where's it come from?
It came from my uncle, and he's quite well known. Well, he was.
His name is Hubert Noel Charles
and he designed the very first MG motor car.
Oh, wow! That's quite exciting.
-Very exciting, yes.
-So, do you have a large collection of MGs at home?
No, unfortunately. That's one thing I ought to have.
-Gosh. Wow-ee. Was this his?
-That was his, yes.
And I don't know whether it belonged to his parents,
because it is fairly old, I believe.
-And it's come through the family?
-Come through the family.
Well, we can tell it's a nutmeg grater, obviously,
because if we have a little look on the inside,
we've got this wonderful grate in here.
Now, nutmeg graters are quite collectable
and I believe you've already done quite a lot of research on this?
-Yes, I have.
-And you know it's by Samuel Meriton.
Unfortunately, we don't know the actual date that it was made.
Often, small silver didn't have any duty payable on it,
-so he didn't actually put the date mark.
-Oh, I see.
So, we've got this wonderful maker's stamp in the bottom, here,
but sadly, no date.
But we know that he was working in the 1800s, the late 19th century.
After the establishment of the East India Company,
spices and nutmeg were much more readily available,
so you would grate your nutmeg into your wine
to make it taste slightly more palatable.
So, they weren't carried by the very most affluent members of society
because, if you were affluent, frankly, you could afford good wine.
They didn't put it on food, then, the nutmeg on food?
-Sometimes, but more commonly it was in wine.
So, very, very pretty. Very collectable.
-And I love the fact that it is just so simple.
And like you say, it's lovely and warm, because you've been holding it.
I've been holding it - it's very tactile, isn't it?
-You've kept it really toasty!
-It's lovely, yes.
It is hollow, so you would expect some sort of damage
-and, sadly, this happened.
-It's only a slight one.
Only a slight dent, we'll just gloss over that.
Yes, but they can be...
Value wise, what are you expecting?
Well, yes, I know a couple of years ago I was offered about £230 for it.
-Oh, my goodness.
-So, I should have sold it then, really. But never mind.
They tend to be fetching in the region of £120-£180.
So, I would hope that it would make in the middle of that at least.
I would be comfortable at putting a firm reserve of 120.
I think you'd be very disappointed if it went for any less than that.
-If it went less than 150, really.
-Yes, I would.
OK. If we put the reserve at 150, we'd have to put it at £150-£200.
That sounds good, Christina. And keep our fingers crossed.
-Keep our fingers very crossed!
Are you going to put the proceeds towards an MG?
-No, I think a nice long holiday.
-Oh, that sounds good!
Next up, it's Will, who's high up in the ladies gallery,
and he appears to have found quite a catch!
Well, we've got a great birds-eye view of the valuation day
below us, haven't we? Perched up here on the balcony.
And what a great view we have of this wonderful piece of jade
-you've brought in.
-Hannah, tell me...
-A big lumpy thing!
A big lumpy thing! I've seen... I've heard them
described as certain... Never like that before!
But tell me, how did a piece of Chinese jade come to be in Oxford?
It was given to me a long time ago, about ten years ago,
but I don't really remember by whom. I know more or less what...
-Just a stranger, was it, who came up to you?
-No, no, no, no!
-It was one of my patients.
-Oh, a patient? Are you in the medical...?
-Physiotherapy? So, a grateful patient...
..who you worked your magic on,
gave you this piece of carved jade as a thank you?
-But a very long time ago.
I mean, jade has always been very highly prized by the Chinese,
-more so than even gold and silver.
-In the times of antiquity...
-..it was very much a ceremonial material.
There were connections with the afterlife,
animals carved in jade, people thought they brought good luck.
Occasionally, these were put in tombs and they helped people
through the afterlife as a guide, that sort of thing.
Is this only decorative or does it have any use?
Well, I think, by the time we come to your piece of jade here, we are
-looking at a decorative piece.
It's really a carver showing off their skills.
-You can notice that we've got the two colours of jade.
-This is what we would call a piece of sort of green and russet jade.
The early Chinese carvers of jade were using the natural formation
of the stone to convey what they wanted, you know.
Maybe the characteristics of the animal they were carving.
-A lot of the time, you see horses and buffaloes and so on.
-Do you like it?
-I definitely don't like it.
-I think it's lumpy and big.
-Hmm, and what do you like, then?
-Do you collect anything?
-Small things. I like miniature things.
-Ah, always popular, miniature items.
-The smaller, the better.
-Well, we've got to come to value, haven't we?
It's not going to be in the same sort of league as an ancient
piece of carved jade, which is, of course, highly-prized by the Chinese.
-Presently, they're buying a lot of it back.
But I think it's still going to appeal to the market and I'd like
to sort of put it in at a sort of slightly conservative estimate.
-What do you feel like, if I put it in at £100,
-would you be happy with that?
-That's fine, yes.
-You just want it away?
-I just want it away.
I'll tell you what, let's have a gamble.
-Let's put it in at £100-150, with an estimate.
-But let's not put a reserve on it, so...
-No, I don't want a reserve.
-I want to get rid of it, really.
You're my ideal client. We're going to be sure of a sale on the day.
-I look forward...
-You'll sell it for £10, yes.
-No, I hope not.
Look, the auctioneer's working in your interest.
-The more you get, the more he gets.
-So don't worry about that.
Good, thank you very much.
Before we head off to auction,
there is something I would like to show you.
Looking around this lido,
it's hard to believe this was once the place to be seen!
But rewind 40 years and Kings Meadow was once a teenage hang-out -
the British version of the American drive-in.
This place would be queued out of the door with keen swimmers,
and the average cost to take a dip was just sixpence.
Today, Kings Meadow is a shadow of its former self.
It closed to the general public in 1974 and, since then,
it's suffered damage, decay and even threat of demolition.
As you can see, it is in a sorry state. It needs a lot of TLC.
In fact, £1.5 million worth of TLC to be precise.
If this goes, then so does a vital part of our heritage.
So, can this lido make a big splash again?
Kings Meadow Lido was built in 1902
and, although it's a listed building,
it is dependent on volunteers for support.
With such a big amount to raise,
the Kings Meadow campaigners have a long way to go.
Leading the charge are Anne and Richard Jessel.
When you think of it - it's 110 years old -
it isn't looking so bad, to be honest.
Anne was a high board diver,
who spent many a day practising her backflips at the lido.
I used to be a diver and my parents used to take me around the country
and a lot of the lidos that I used to dive in, very sadly,
they have now disappeared.
I mean, just look at this pool.
110 years old, built specifically for ladies, OK?
Ladies had the priority here.
Considering there was a gentleman's pool right opposite,
they had the right idea when they built it, half-canopied like this,
because, in those days, women bathers were very, very private.
So, um... HE LAUGHS
..I've always said that, the first month of bathing in this pool,
nobody would be allowed in unless they were all wearing
Edwardian bathing dress.
That would be nice if, when we get to the point of restoring it
back for everybody to use.
Look at the way the quality of all the work, architecture,
everything, is so nice! This must not disappear.
Well, this is safe here for you, Anne - it's the shallow end.
The diving board shouldn't be here.
What do you mean it's safe for me at the shallow end?! I'm a diver!
The golden age of lidos began in the 1930s,
when outdoor swimming was all the rage.
Over 150 lidos sprang up across the UK.
They provided cheap public swimming and were part of a great
and modernist movement to encourage health and fitness.
If you couldn't afford to go abroad in the summer,
the lido was the next best thing.
96-year-old Charlie swam in this pool almost every day
and he's still fighting fit.
You feel alive in the open air!
You feel refreshed!
Even with rain, you get warm rain on you, er, when...in the summer.
So it doesn't matter if it's raining!
But, er, everything is lively.
And people are so much happier!
What was the lido like in its heyday?
There was often queues to get in.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable pool.
But their popularity could not last for ever.
Many were put out of business in the 1960s and '70s,
when foreign travel became much cheaper
and most people could afford to go abroad, and they shunned the lido.
But in recent years, outdoor swimming has been enjoying something
of a renaissance and the lido has been caught up in this wave.
To see what the Kings Meadow Lido could become,
take a look at Clifton Lido in Bristol.
It was almost demolished to make way for flats,
but in 2007, it was saved and underwent a £2 million restoration.
Mal Sainsbury is once again a Clifton Lido regular.
I used to come in the '70s.
The hot summer of '76, with my small children,
and, um, it's amazing to have an oasis like this
and how I missed it and mourned it when it was closed all those years.
The benefits of outdoor swimming cannot be underestimated.
It's a wonderful place to come early in the morning.
I swim before dawn three times a week at least and to see,
winter or summer or spring, to see the day dawning, it just puts
a whole new perspective on your day ahead, cos it makes you feel...
It makes you feel real somehow and connected with yourself.
Clifton Lido is now a private health club,
but the original aim of the lido was cheap, public swimming.
The building has been restored, but the message has been somewhat lost.
However, in this economic climate,
the restoration of lidos, like Kings Meadow,
depends upon the passion and the enthusiasm of lido fans.
Anne and Richard are still fundraising and,
if they succeed, they will ensure
that the next generation of outdoor swimmers enjoy the bracing waters.
How can we possibly lose it?
I mean, Reading would look upon this - if it was restored,
or WHEN it is restored, I hasten to say - as a jewel in the town.
Well, it's clear the appetite for outdoor swimming is here
and what better way to build on the back of a successful Olympics
than to restore our lidos back to their former glory?
So, come on, pull on a pair of bathers, pop on a swim cap,
and take the plunge outdoors!
Before we head off to auction for the first time today,
I want to show you the union cafe.
Behind me are hundreds of photographs of
some of the famous people who've spoken in the debating chamber.
Up there, you can see Pierce Brosnan, 007.
The Labour MP, Tony Benn.
Up there, one of my favourite actors, Bill Nighy.
And of course, Shakira. But I wonder what she had to say?
Anyway, I'm digressing right now.
It's time to put those valuations to the test.
And no doubt, there's going to be another debate in the auction room.
Here's a quick recap of what's going under the hammer.
We have Tracey's autograph book, jam-packed with famous faces.
Christina and Lydia's charm bracelet, complete with 24 charms.
Will they be lucky in the saleroom?
Will it be Hannah's Japanese jade model in the shape of a carp
that the bidders flock to?
And of course, Hilary's unusual nutmeg grater.
Will she get the high price she wants for it?
Our auction today comes from Newbury, near Reading.
Among the famous names who hail from Newbury
are Sebastian Faulks, author of Birdsong.
And musical impresario, Andrew Lloyd Webber,
both of whom have spoken at Oxford Union.
In charge of today's proceedings
is our all-singing, all-dancing auctioneer, Thomas Plant.
Go on! 80, he says. Yes! £80.
And the house is absolutely packed.
And our own star turn's first lot is that nutmeg grater,
handy for 19th-century wine.
Hilary, sadly, cannot be with us today
but I'm joined by Christina, our lovely expert.
And we're just about to put that silver nutmeg grater under the hammer. Aren't we?
-Hilary was offered £230 for this not so long ago.
-Yeah, no pressure!
It's a different kettle of fish in an auction.
It can either go higher and hit that result,
or it can go slightly lower. That's the fun of the auction.
In the market that we're in, nutmeg graters are very easy to collect.
They're small, you can collect a lot of them.
-It's stamped SM, isn't it?
So, we know who the maker is, Samuel Menton or Meriton.
But there's those dents, which worry me.
It's going to have to have a little bit of work, but...
-Here we go, then. Ready? Good luck, this is it.
The 19th-century silver nutmeg grater.
And I can start the bidding with me here at £150, with me.
160, 170, 180, 190. 200, and ten.
220, and I'm out. At 220, it is. At 220, and I'm out.
It's in the room at 220. Any advance at 220?
Selling, then, 220 it is.
-Well, that was a good result. I'm happy with that.
-I hope Hilary is.
I'm sure she is. Hilary, if you're watching this,
-I know there's a big smile on your face and that's what it's all about.
-Yes, exactly, yes.
If you've got anything like that at home, we'd love to see it.
Bring it into one of our valuation days.
It's a cracking start and Thomas has more good news for our next item.
Five, 60, five...
There are a few keen jewellery buffs in the room today,
so he has high hopes
that Christina's bracelet will charm them.
He's even upped the reserve.
We've been talking about this bracelet which is just about to go under the hammer.
There's all sorts of things going on.
-There's the little church, isn't there?
-There's a £5 note.
-There's an oil lamp.
Yeah. The spaceman, that was my favourite.
Was that Lydia's favourite as well? On the valuation day, little Lydia.
And it is a shame, because you think,
the work that goes into making these little charms.
You were mentioning the church and the steeple,
the doors that open and all the people inside.
It's unfortunate that I don't think they're going to last very long.
Shame, really, isn't it?
The other good thing about gold is, of course, that it is recycled.
Those will be melted down and they'll be made into another
piece of jewellery that someone else is going to wear for years,
-so it's a sort of cyclic notion, isn't it?
-It is, really.
Anyway, let's put it to the test. What's it worth?
Thomas is going to tell us. Here we go.
And this is the impressive nine carat gold charm bracelet.
There we are, lots of charms on this one.
I will start the bidding with me here, straight in at £600 with me.
At £600, I have. 600...and 20. 650?
680, if you want to. 680, and I'm out. At 680, it's in the room. 700.
At £700 in the room. Is there any advance at £700?
Very last chance at 700 and I sell.
-Thank you very much.
-I'm happy with that.
-You're happy with that as well, aren't you?
The children will be happy.
Oh, right - are they going to benefit?
It's their inheritance.
Well, give our best to Lydia as well.
I'm sorry she couldn't make it.
Lydia will be pleased.
And now to a delightful piece of jade that's travelled
all the way from China!
I've just been joined by Hanneke, who's come all the way from?
From Holland, yes. I know they get the show in Holland.
-It's very popular.
-I'm always getting letters from Holland.
-People come here especially from Holland.
Your jade is exquisite.
-I really like this little carved carp on there...
-..going through the reeds.
-Why are you selling this?
-I hardly dare say it.
-I don't like it.
-You don't like it?
-PAUL AND WILL LAUGH
-You do. I do.
-That's what the market wants.
-You don't like something,
-someone else does - keeps the whole thing moving.
-That's what art's all about. It's an arbitrary concept.
-It's quite subjective.
-I like miniature things, so...
-I think this is flavour of the month right now.
So, let's put it to the test, shall we?
I've a Chinese jade carving, models a carp amongst leaves. There we are.
Good condition, this piece here.
I have bids here with me, straight in at £80.
-Is there any advance at 80?
85 and I'm out. Straight out at 85.
Any advance at 85? It's in the audience.
At £85, make no mistake, can I sell?
It's gone! Blink and you'll miss that,
-that was so quick.
-I like that.
-A bid came in at 80, we got £85.
-Hammer's come down. Happy with that?
-Happy with anything.
-We were worried about the reserve.
It had no reserve, but we didn't need to in the end, did we?
Thank you very much.
I think Hannah would've taken £2.50 and a packet of crisps!
She really did not like that jade.
And hopefully, the new owner will appreciate it a little bit more.
Now, it's time to auction that jam-packed autograph book
brought in by Tracey.
There's some top names there,
collected at the New Oxford Theatre from the 1950s onwards.
And in fact, Thomas is on the rostrum announcing them now.
Bernard Cribbins, Jon Pertwee, Tommy Steele, Vincent Price.
Well, there's some wonderful names here.
-What was your favourite one?
This is a comprehensive and well presented collection of autographs.
Plenty of interest.
I can start this one at 130, 140, 150, 160 with me.
-£160 against you. 160...
-Is there any advance at £160?
-At 160, I have.
-Against you all, 160.
Hammer's gone down, straight in, straight out. £160.
He was a great man.
-Up there, he's probably quite pleased.
-I hope so.
-Thank you very much.
-What a great ending. That was a big surprise.
That IS a big surprise.
Many famous debates have been delivered at the Oxford Union,
but what do the words we write say about us?
Not the words themselves, but the text they're written in.
We can all use the computer these days and we can choose whether
our letters look better in Arial or classic Times New Roman,
but who designs these fonts?
Well, while we're filming in the area, I went off to investigate.
# A, B, C
# Easy as one, two, three
# As simple as do, re, mi
# A, B, C
# One, to, three
# Baby, you and me, girl... #
Fonts - they are everywhere. We're surrounded by them.
I've come to the Type Museum here in Stockwell to find out a bit more.
Fonts are basically clothes that words are dressed up in.
And I, for one, well, I'm quite particular about my choice of font.
I am a Calibri man. I love my beloved Calibri.
That is my type.
Not so long ago, we all used to write letters by hand.
Some people's handwriting is like scribbles,
others is as neat as printed text.
Everybody's different and everybody's unique.
But few of us write letters nowadays.
We all text each other or send e-mails.
So, what does our font choice say about us?
fonts are the computer's version of our handwriting style.
It's all down to taste.
I think Times New Roman is a bit too classic.
Arial is a bit overused.
And Comic Sans polarises opinion.
It looks like it was created by my four-year-old!
But what do the experts think?
Neville Brody is a typographer
and is the brainchild behind several fonts we use on a daily basis.
Your choice of typeface says quite a lot about you.
The way you dress describes your personality,
the fonts you use are the same.
I think most people today, they'll buy a computer
and typefaces are just in there.
No-one ever contributed to them or designed them,
they just came from somewhere out in the universe.
Actually, they came on a spaceship called Microsoft.
Most people will use Times, or Arial.
You wouldn't go out every day wearing exactly the same uniform
that some big corporation had told you to wear,
you'd go out and choose something different from your wardrobe.
But in typography, we don't tend to think like that.
This is a fraction of the amount of typefaces for your computer
that you can get hold of.
It's extraordinary and growing exponentially every year,
and it's almost a bit like the record industry in a way.
You know, each week, you might have another hit single.
Just look around us -
we don't notice how many fonts we are subjected to every day.
But imagine if those fonts were suddenly altered.
We'd notice that something wasn't right.
Hang on, what's different about the telephone box?
But fancy font work is nothing new.
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world
and it printed its first book way back in 1478.
Martin Moore is the archivist here and a self-confessed font fan.
Type design goes back to the Roman or Greek models.
Early printers would look at inscriptions
on Greek monuments or buildings.
They'd take that as being the classical idea of beauty
and they'd try to reproduce those proportions in their own letters.
Who has the editorial decision
to choose what font is used for what text?
I mean, giving an example,
the Bible wouldn't be printed and published in Comic Sans.
I mean, that's just ridiculous. But who actually has that say?
Usually, it's an editorial decision
in somewhere like Oxford University Press.
But as you look through printing history,
you'll find that the printers themselves decided on this
and, in some cases, you'll see that
they would do really elaborate pieces of printing
to show off what they were capable of
or to show customers what they were capable of.
Especially some of the very early illuminated manuscripts.
-I mean, the printing there is just superb.
And as we can see from this copy of Clarendon's
History Of The English Civil War,
which Oxford printed at the beginning of the 18th century,
here you have a title page
which is a great stew of different typefaces and designs.
It's really designed, in those days' terms, to catch the eye,
to draw people to Oxford to get their work printed from us.
Type was very elaborate, it was very floral,
it was very full of bling, in fact.
So, being creative with your font choice is not a new idea.
But constructing a font was laborious.
Everything was done by hand.
The design was carved out of steel,
then punched into softer copper to create a mould
tiny letter by tiny letter.
These moulds were often filled individually with liquid metal.
It often took weeks to create an elaborate font.
It's a very, very skilled business. It's almost a dead trade today.
There are very few people in the world who can still do this.
But something happened in the 1860s
which would drastically limit our font choice.
MUSIC: "The Typewriter" by Leroy Anderson
The typewriter arrived.
This invention standardised the look of almost all professional correspondence,
as the typewriter was limited to varieties of one font.
We know it today as Courier.
But of course, its days of dominance were numbered.
-'The new keyboard controls a word processor -
'the microchip controlled office machine of the future.
'That's what the extra keys are for and that's why
'it could have a big future.'
The rise of the computer in the 1970s
and the demise of the typewriter
meant that fonts had to look good on screen as well as in print.
And some have even become default choices.
Nowadays, Verdana is currently the most popular typeface on the internet.
But it's the ubiquity of Comic Sans
which confounds typographers like Neville Brody.
Using Comic Sans to make you look kind of slightly light and jolly
and informal, for me, it's the equivalent of getting
Ronald McDonald to deliver your messages to friends.
It's not serious and is used far too often, but I quite like it for that.
From the comic to the uber cool,
with a myriad of fonts now available to us
it's about choosing the right font for the right context
and being more bold with our choices.
For Neville, there's no end to the fun you can have with fonts.
Here is the number three, but it becomes graphic form again,
and I love the idea that it can become more sculptural, more modern.
This is actually an S.
It's quite experimental.
But the typeface itself is still quite readable.
We took what was a designed for a boxing poster and then redesigned it
to make it look a lot more feminine and poetic and graceful.
So, typefaces can have different kinds of lives now.
I couldn't imagine this being at all possible using metal lettering.
So, how does the outside world look now that I'm more aware of fonts?
Fonts are basically the tone of voice we hear when we read
and, indeed, the Guardian newspaper - look, this one here -
has its own font, Guardian Egyptian,
which brands the newspaper throughout.
And so does the Times. But, what does my favourite font say about me?
Kind of warm and cuddly and slightly classical,
yearning for some great old days, in a way.
Warm and cuddly? Thanks a lot! Time for a new font?
Welcome back to our valuation day venue, the Oxford Union.
There's still a great buzz in the room
and plenty more antiques to find to take off to auction.
But we start outside,
where Will is perusing some prints by a very famous artist.
I couldn't find a table in there big enough to house your folio.
Tell me, where's this come from?
It was just a purchase at a local antiques fair about five years ago
-over in Woodstock.
-A bit of an impulse buy.
You're a keen antique buyer, are you?
I pick up the odd bit here and there.
-Pictures aren't normally my thing, but...
-You mentioned pictures,
because that's exactly what we've got, isn't it? Let's have a look.
First of all, I notice here, R Wimbush Esq.
That, to me, makes me think, this is going to be something quite special,
surely, being a personalised folio.
Indeed, "12 stipple engravings of Hogarth."
The Rake's Progress and The Election.
And here, look, is the original receipt. 1947, £126.
That seems to me like a lot of money in those days.
The Rake's Progress is obviously
the one that everyone's going to have heard of, by Hogarth.
It's Tom Rakewell
and it's basically a report on his life of vice and self-destruction
after inheriting a fortune from his father.
Let's just open up.
We've got here, at the top, actually, this is the first one.
This is when he's inheriting his fortune.
You can see here, his miserly father has died.
He's getting measured up for a new suit.
You've got the lawyer at the back and, interestingly,
he's got his finger in the gold coins - he's pinching a few coins.
He's already being taken advantage of here.
And this figure here, actually, she's Sarah Young.
She's actually quite an important figure in the whole series.
She sort of devoted herself to Tom.
He's trying to pay her off now that he's found his new wealth.
He wants to go and play the field, as it were.
She's holding the ring that he promised her
and, later on in the story, she keeps popping up
and she's still in love with him, but he's rejecting her.
You know, it's a sad side of a sad story - someone's demise.
So, that's the first in the series.
I thought it would be quite interesting to then make
a leap to the last in the series, and this one's entitled "Bedlam."
And there he is, completely mad, having lost all his money,
all his friends and his marbles, as such.
You can see various figures here and, of course,
Bedlam being open to the public,
these are two fashionable ladies who have come.
And there's Sarah Young, again, who's come to visit him when he's mad.
And it's a sad story, but it really caught the attention at the time.
You know, Hogarth,
these are obviously from original paintings by Hogarth.
They hang in the Soane's Museum.
But Hogarth was a commercial minded man,
so people would come to his studio, see the original paintings
and he'd say, "Would you like to order a series of prints?"
And he produced some original prints himself.
These aren't by him,
these are by Jackson Stodart "from the original painting by Hogarth."
It's also got The Election, which is another series of four, I think.
And London, The Museum Galleries -
they're the people who have published these, produced these.
Super quality. I mean, you know, the cost to produce these is quite high.
So, good quality items, hence why they're in this personalised folio.
You say you bought them at an antiques fair,
-what sort of money did you have to pay for them?
-It was about £50.
OK, so not bad, really, when you break it down,
and certainly considering what they cost originally.
But the way we furnish our homes nowadays,
-they're not hugely fashionable, I'm afraid.
-No, I agree.
Different if you're talking about period 18th-century ones.
You say you paid £50 for it.
I'm going to try and get away with getting your money back.
-How do you feel about that?
-OK, I am happy with that.
-Yeah, you happy?
-Let's put 'em in at say £50-100...
-..and we'll reserve them at £50.
And they might even make a little bit more.
-You never can tell.
From the "Bedlam" of Hogarth
to the well-oiled machine that is our "Flog It!" team,
we're back inside the debating hall with Christina,
who's on familiar territory with our next item.
Pauline, my golden girl,
you've brought me some beautiful jewellery in today.
Tell me a little bit about it. Where has it come from?
-Well, it belonged to my grandmother.
Obviously came down from my grandmother to my mum
and my mum gave it to me some time ago.
And it's probably sat for the last 20 or 30 years in the cupboard.
Oh, no! Oh, what a shame.
I don't really wear yellow gold so...
-So you wear white gold or silver?
-So it's just not really...
-It's not something that I would wear, really.
Well, it's a 15 carat yellow gold chain,
what we call a curb link chain.
And it's stamped 15 carat just on here
with a nine carat gold clasp.
A very traditional padlock, heart-shaped padlock, clasp,
-which is stamped nine carat on the back.
It's really very lovely and quite easy to wear
cos the curb links do roll around on your wrist.
But why don't you wear it? Cos you...
It's not something that I like particularly.
-Did your grandmother wear it?
-I believe my grandmother wore it.
My grandmother died when I was fairly young
so I don't ever remember seeing her wearing it.
Certainly don't ever remember seeing my mum wear it.
-So it's a shame.
-Well, that would explain
why there's so little wear on it, cos, for 15 carat,
really, you would expect to see a few more scratches,
especially with a hollow link chain.
-Not being solid, obviously, it would get quite a few dents.
And it just is in brilliant condition, which is fantastic.
But also quite sad, because you would hope that
-we would be able to find somebody that will wear it.
well, that's what I was hoping.
-You know, someone would wear it and enjoy it and...
Well, let's see if we can find her.
But we need to agree on an auction estimate.
-I think at auction... They're not rare.
They were fairly standard pieces of jewellery
in the late 19th, early 20th century.
-But it has got quite a lot of gold content to it.
Do you have any sort of value expectations for it?
Obviously as much as it could go for, really!
-Well, we'll keep our fingers crossed.
But at auction, I think we're probably looking for
something in the region of £150-200. How would you feel about that?
-I would then like to put some kind of a reserve on it.
-Yes, of course.
-We wouldn't want it to go underneath £150, really.
No, I think that would be OK.
So if we put an auction estimate of 150-200...
-..with a reserve of 150 firm.
-And let's just hope the gold price doubles...trebles
-between now and the auction!
-That would be very nice, yeah!
-It would, wouldn't it?!
And later on, we'll find out from our auctioneer, Thomas Plant,
just how strong the gold market is.
Now, we all know the Oxford Union has gained a worldwide reputation
for the cut and thrust of its debate.
But it's also proved a valuable training ground
for future British Prime Ministers.
Ted Heath is here, as well.
But it's not just Prime Ministers.
The union also boasts some eminent members.
And up there, just there, that's Albert Einstein,
famous for his theory of relativity.
And he's instantly recognisable because of his mop of mad hair.
And this photograph was taken in 1933
and the rest of his year
have the most beautiful, slick, tidy haircuts
and there's Albert Einstein, looking as mad as ever.
I love that photograph. What a character!
This place has seen its fair share of famous faces
-and you've brought another one along today.
Tell me, where has this come from?
Well, I work for a local charity.
-People come along and donate goods to us.
-I happened to notice the mask, loved the face...
-And I thought, "That's worth going on Flog It!"
-Ah, good idea.
That's what we're here for.
Well, she's certainly beautiful, isn't she? Stunning.
I mean, really catches the eye.
-Yeah, I'd love it myself
but it wasn't donated to me!
Well, as with all pottery and porcelain,
-let's have a look at the back, cos that'll give us some clues.
And sure enough, there we are,
we've got a nice, clear mark there, haven't we?
Now, when you think of Austrian Art Deco,
cos that's what she is, Art Deco pottery,
you almost immediately think of Goldscheider.
That's the first name that really jumps into your mind.
Keramos, I think,
were a factory that were producing wares alongside Goldscheider
and I do believe, actually,
that some of the painters and modellers worked for both.
Keramos as well, I think, is the Greek...
My Greek's not what it used to be.
Maybe here at the Oxford Union,
I'm sure they debate in Greek here, or something!
-Well, it's all Greek to me, but carry on!
-But I think
-Keramos means pottery...
So that might be where the name's come from.
But you know, you can look at the back there
and you can tell, almost, that it's nice quality
just from the back, can't you?
Let's turn her back over cos that's her best side, shall we say?!
We've got this all over crackled glaze on her face.
I think that's deliberate. I think they've gone for that look.
On some pieces, you get it with age and so on.
But also, with a certain glaze that you use
or a certain finish or the firing,
you can actually create that.
If you look at ancient Chinese ceramics,
they often have that crackled finish.
So it's come into the shop, caught your eye.
Have you got any sort of idea what you think it might be worth?
-I would like it to achieve around about £50, £60.
Well, I think you're in the right sort of ballpark figure.
It's not going to make the same sort of money
that a Goldscheider one would,
or, say, a Clarice Cliff wall mask, you know.
-I understand that, yes.
-That's the Premier League.
This, because the whole Deco movement was so popular,
let's put it in with an estimate of 50-80.
-And where should we reserve it?
Shall we just tuck it in under that £50 mark?
-I think 30.
-Anything, you know, we'd be grateful for anything.
It's great work that you're doing.
-I'm just glad that we can help you.
-Fabulous, thank you. Thank you.
Elizabeth and Neville, I love this.
Thank you so much for bringing it in today, it's absolutely beautiful.
Tell me a little bit about it.
Well, it came down through the family - well, from my aunt, actually...
-..um, who was married to an American service guy.
-And, um, so I've no idea where they bought it.
-But I've had it for about 15 years.
-And do you use it as a doorstop?
-Because it's incredibly heavy!
-It'd make a good doorstop, wouldn't it?
-Yeah, did you carry it in with you today?
Well, it's a Japanese bronze, dating from about 1920,
and it's actually a copy, after the original, which is
in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
It's got that wonderful sort of movement and fluidity about it,
-It's just stunning.
-Yes, I love the pose.
With this wonderful sort of front leg raised, it's beautiful.
And if we turn over, we've got this foundry mark on the bottom here,
so we can see... Unfortunately, we can't track down who that was by,
um, but it is certainly a very, very good copy.
Why are you selling it if you like it?
Well, we've got so many pieces, really.
-It's finding a home for everything.
-Japanese metalworkers were
some of the finest in the world, especially during the 19th century.
This is slightly later than that, but I still think
it will find a market at auction, as a decorative bronze.
I think we're probably looking somewhere in the region,
maybe of £80-120, as a decorative item.
Not a doorstop. I hope people won't use it
-as a doorstop.
-So do I. LAUGHTER
But I still think it's rather lovely, um...
The Chinese oriental market really has been incredibly buoyant
-for early wares over the last few years.
Um, but Japanese, not so much, which is why my estimate's quite cautious.
-So I think, if we set an estimate at £80-120,
with a reserve of 80, how would you feel about that?
-Yeah, that'd be fine.
And would you like to do a discretionary reserve or firm at 80?
-I think I'd like a firm reserve, really.
So, if it doesn't sell, you're happy to have it back?
-Yeah, and we'll hope that
he'll TROT his way out of the auction house.
What a sculptural piece. I'm sure there'll be a market
for a Japanese bronze like that at auction.
I've been told the people of Oxford love a good debate
and are not afraid to speak their mind.
And that certainly seems true of some of the people
who've been given valuations by Christina and Will.
Let's just hope, when we get to the auction room,
there's more ayes than noes.
And that's exactly where we're going right now.
And here's a quick recap.
Depending on the gold price, Pauline's bracelet could sparkle.
So I'll be asking Thomas
if Christina's valuation may need an alteration.
Or maybe the bidders will be captivated
by Jade's Art Deco face mask, which dates back to the 1920s.
Will it be the Japanese bronze horse that
sets the pace in the auction room?
But first up, will the Hogarth prints make progress
or will they fall from grace?
It's time to find out as the bedlam of the auction gets underway.
When you talk about prints or etchings,
you cannot help but mention Hogarth.
We've got a set going under the hammer right now, in folio,
belonging to Rachel. I do like these.
These should be on the wall. Why aren't they on your wall?
Well, my house isn't big enough and I don't actually like them...
-You don't like them?!
-The Rake's Progress!
-I think these are wonderful.
-I mean, they are a great observation on social behaviour.
That's what it was all about.
And it makes me laugh when I look at them.
There's always something to notice.
-I mean, he was a fascinating character.
-He brought art to the masses.
People that could not afford oil paintings, this was the market.
-He was the first person on the planet
to produce this kind of work.
Well, let's see who wants The Rake's Progress, shall we?
It's going under the hammer now.
Next lot is 270,
a set of 12 Hogarth stipple engravings
from The Rake's Progress.
These are in marvellous condition.
Well, I can start the bidding with me, here,
straight in at £35 with me.
-We need a bit of action.
Any advance of 35? At £35.
-If I was allowed to put my hand up, I would!
At 45 against you all.
At 45, looking for 50 to sell it.
At £45 against you all.
A good lot, these ones.
-He's trying, isn't he?
At 45. If you are interested, see us afterwards.
-Not quite enough.
-Oh, OK. That's...
I mean, it's a real shame cos they're super quality.
-But a sign of the times.
-You're stuck with them at the moment!
Maybe I'll have another look at them,
based on what you've told me today, actually.
-Maybe I didn't love them enough!
-Go and have another look.
-I mean, he was a canny businessman as well.
He would display his prints and you'd pay £1 to go and see them.
Maybe that's what you should do at home. £1 a view!
-£1 a visit!
-I'll open the front door!
-Open studio, all round Rachel's.
-Discount for you two, OK?!
-Oh, we're in!
Well, you don't get an offer like that every day.
Here's hoping Rachel does learn to love them.
Now, we're all on tenterhooks
to find out how the gold price is doing.
Pauline's gold bracelet.
Let's talk about the ever-changing values of bullion
because it does fluctuate, this market.
It does and there's many things which make it fluctuate.
-One of those things, strangely, is the stock market.
If the stock market's having a really bad day, gold goes up.
-Everyone invests in gold.
And also the other thing which changes with gold price
is our exchange rate with the dollar,
-because gold is valued in dollars.
And so, if the pound is strong against the dollar,
the gold price is low, vice versa.
You can see what happens.
Here, this is valued at £20 a gram,
where the little clasp is valued at 12.
So instantly it's worth an awful lot more money.
We've put it in at £300-500,
-with a reserve of 300.
-But actually, it's a very wearable piece.
-That is, isn't it?
And I'm sure that will not go to melt.
-That's a nice thing.
-Fingers crossed we get the top end of the estimate.
-I hope so.
Well, that's good news
and Pauline's brought along her daughter Zoe
for moral support.
Here's hoping she gets top dollar for that bracelet.
-I've probably worn it twice...
-Is that all?
-..which is why it's sat in the cupboard for years and years.
Well now, let me work out who's next in line.
It's you, Zoe. Right?
And this is your inheritance Mum's flogging!
-Yeah. She just...
-Do you want it at all?
Not really. I think I'd prefer the money.
You don't like gold, obviously.
-No, we normally wear white gold or silver.
OK. Here we go, let's put it to the test.
It's going under the hammer now.
Lot 45 and this is this gold curb link bracelet.
I can start the bidding with me, here.
Straight in at 240 with me.
240, 240 I have.
At 240, 260, 280 with me.
300 and I'm out.
At 300, I have here.
At 300, it's in the room. Against you all at £300.
Selling then, at £300...
-That's good, isn't it?
-Yeah, it's good news.
-Both of you.
-Zoe's working it out!
-"Will Mum really let me have a share in that?!"
-It'll be shared.
Neville, Elizabeth, fingers crossed, OK?
The bronze horse, a touch of the Far East,
-is just about to go under the hammer here in Newbury.
And I think this is the right area to sell this in.
We're right by the racecourse, it's just down the road.
-Lambourn is up the road as well. All the gallops are around here.
-It's a bit sporty.
-Yeah, let's hope it will generate some interest.
-Yeah, hope so.
-Well, let's put this one to the test, shall we?
-The horse is just about to go under the hammer.
Lot number 385, and this is this modern Chinese
bronze figure of a horse, mark to underside.
Bids here with me and I start this one at £55.
At 55. 60. And five with me.
At 65, against you all at 65.
70...5. 80. 80 we've got in the room.
At £80. Into the room first, then we'll go to the telephones.
-Any advance at £80, is in the room?
5! 90...5. 100.
210. Go on!
No, are you sure? One more?
230. Are you sure?
At £230, make no mistake, on the telephone.
£230, against you all. Selling, then.
Trade was done in Newbury!
-Thank you very much!
-You're welcome, that's brilliant!
-They liked it. It was the right market.
It shows the influence of telephone bidders on the auction too.
-It's the telephone against the room.
-It GALLOPED away!
'It certainly did! First past the post!'
Going under the hammer right now
an Art Deco, Austrian gypsy face mask belonging to Jade.
And all the money is going to charity.
Tell us about it, Jade.
OK, I work for a local charity shop, a cancer shop.
-Luckily you were in town.
We brought along and it seems it's a nice item. Let's hope it does well.
-Yeah, let's hope it gets top dollar.
It's an interesting looking, unusual item.
-You're not going to see another one tomorrow.
I mean, with these sort of face masks...
very sort of Art Deco, that sort of thing.
So, you know, very on trend, hopefully.
So I'm hoping we get some good money for you.
Let's hope Thomas can help us out right now.
Here we go, here we go!
Very Goldscheider, lovely looking thing.
I can start the bidding with me, here,
straight in at £35. 40...5.
50...5. 65. I end up at 65.
-The room comes in, here.
-One more, one more!
Look, he's got a bid on the books, a commission bid.
-He keeps working that book.
-Come on, tell them it's for charity.
130 against you all.
On the book, here, at 130. At 130.
A good result. £130!
-What a result!
-The hammer's gone down
-and that money goes to charity.
-Isn't that good?
Fantastic. And we've got Gift Aid,
-which gives 28% on top. It's fantastic.
so it's really even more than £130.
-150 quid we've got for it.
-Well, look, keep your eyes peeled, won't you?
-I'm all emotional!
-Thank you so much.
-If you want to have something valued,
bring it along to one of our valuation days.
I'm sure our experts will help you out.
Who knows, you could make a small fortune at auction as well.
We will be coming to a town close to you shortly,
so keep an eye out for us.
This episode comes from Oxford Union, right in the heart of central Oxford. Paul Martin is joined by experts Christina Trevanion and Wil Axon. Together the team pick out a selection of interesting antiques and collectables to be sold at a local auction. Will uncovers some salacious etchings by a very famous artist, while Christina finds a unique autograph book, but will it reach for the stars or languish at the bottom of the bill? Paul also gets the chance to explore behind the scenes at Oxford Union to discover a few of the famous faces who debated in the chamber.