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Why iconic objects made in the 20th century – possibly sitting on your sideboard – could spark a bidding war

Posted on 06/03/2019 in Press Coverage

Right now, there may be an object in your home that could spark frantic bidding in a 20th Century Design Auction.

It’s a burgeoning area full of surprises – for vendors as well as buyers. As time moves on, iconic pieces that capture the style of a particular decade, such as the 1950s, 60s or 70s are gaining popularity with new generations of collectors.

Items that you, your parents or grandparents owned may well appeal to buyers as nostalgia weaves its magic.

We witnessed this in our February 20th Century Design Auction which sparked strong bidding for Scandinavian jewellery, 1960s art glass, contemporary studio pottery and abstract paintings.

International bidders were particularly attracted to a consignment of original 20th century art which had been in storage at a school.

Some of the prices gained for contemporary art took our breath away. For example, an original abstract oil painting by Singaporean artist Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) had an estimate of £300-£500. However, strong interest from telephone bidders in Singapore saw bidding race to £15,500.


Andy Green, Hansons’ Head of 20th Century Art, thinks this was still a bargain. Prices for contemporary art have rocketed as people see original art as an alternative form of investment when saving for retirement.

The art collection that had been tucked away at a school sparked major interest because it was fresh to market - it hadn't seen the light of day for years. This heightened its appeal to buyers, plus some of the works had become highly collectible.

For example, lot 240, a Frank Avary Wilson oil on canvas, sold for £6,800 and lot 218, a Frederick Gore Painting, reached £5,900. Then there was lot 235, a Peter Oliver Autumn Evening/Lobster Men painting which made £680 from an estimate of £200-£300.

Other objects to do well included Lot 226, a Robert Neale bronze sculpture which saw the gavel fall at £3,100 and lot 180, a Message of Love bronze figure which raced to £1,600. On the same theme, lot 179, a bronze and Ivory harlequin dancer made £1,100.

Colourful Whitefriars glassware also proved attractive. James Powell & Sons, better known as Whitefriars Glass, was the longest running glass house in Britain, starting in the mid-18th century. In 1954 Geoffrey Baxter joined the factory straight from the Royal School of Art. He developed bright and colourful psychedelic glassware which the company became known for in the Swinging Sixties.

Textured glass prototypes were made using all kinds of materials such as bark, nails and wire. The range, with its distinctive drunken bricklayer and banjo shapes, was launched in 1967 with three colours - willow, cinnamon and indigo. Tangerine, meadow green and kingfisher blue followed two years later.

Suffice to say, it you have some Geoffrey Baxter Whitefriars glass it could be valuable. Lot 53, a Whitefriars nuts and bolts meadow green vase sold for £660 and lot 152, a Whitefriars tangerine banjo vase, made £630.

Entries are invited for our June 21 20th Century Design Auction. For a free valuation, email [email protected]. Alternatively, drop into Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 9am-5pm, or Saturdays, 9am-noon for a free valuation.