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Lockdown online-only auctions achieve record-breaking results at Hansons

Posted on 28/05/2020 in Press Coverage

Record-breaking auction prices achieved in lockdown show nothing can dampen the worldwide fascination for antiques and collectables, writes Charles Hanson.

Hansons’ May online-only sales, tentatively re-arranged after being delayed by the pandemic, led to stunning results for our delighted clients.

Our May Fine Art Auction, broadcast live from our Derbyshire Auction Centre, attracted 2,700 bidders from more than 35 countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Hungary, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. Not bad for a firm that started out in my Etwall cottage bedroom.

Works of art, fine paintings, furniture, ceramics, jewellery, designer watches, antiquities, books and collectors’ items of all kind sparked huge interest worldwide. The resounding message to anyone with an object to sell, perhaps uncovered in lockdown, is that now is a good time to put it up for auction.

Top results included the sale of an Anglo-Saxon collection of antiquities, including a magnificent square-headed brooch, which sold to a museum for £30,000 in our Historica Auction.


Square-headed brooch, Anglo-Saxon Collection. The entire collection sold for £30,000.

But there were many more highlights – too many to mention, and some finds helped Hansons put Derbyshire on the map. For example, books expert Jim Spencer has earned a formidable reputation for finding rare Harry Potter books. He sparked worldwide headlines with lot 24, a first edition hardback of Philosopher’s Stone found in a skip. One of only 500 printed, it flew to £33,000 from an estimate of £8,000-£12,000. Some 18 Potter/J K Rowling lots sold for a combined total of £60,800.

Other highlights included lot 26, a 1943 copy of Roald Dahl’s first published book The Gremlins containing a personal note from the author. It sold for £6,500.

Then there was lot 10, a postcard written by DH Lawrence, addressed to Louie Burrows prior to the couple's engagement. It rocketed above its £300-500 estimate to sell for £3,000.

Lot 25, a Florence Nightingale letter also captured the public’s imagination and sold for £2,000 against a £500-600 estimate.

Still on the theme of iconic figures, a photographic war-time portrait of Winston Churchill, signed by the former British prime minister, sold for £2,000 against a £500-800 guide price.

Letter from Florence Nightingale. Sold for £2,000.


George Formby fans came out in force to bid on 13 lots of Formby memorabilia, including two banjos and a life-size model of the entertainer. The lots sold for a combined total of £38,000.

If you’re proud of your heritage you’ll be pleased to know that a single-owner collection of Bretby Art Pottery, made in South Derbyshire, including pieces designed by Dr Christopher Dresser, sold for a total of £14,000.

Another hammer highlight was lot 4199, a stylish 1920s, Art Deco chryselephantine (bronze and ivory) figure group of three jazz dancers by Paul Philippe. Discovered on a valuation day, it had a conservative estimate of £3,000-5000, but the lust for high-end Art Deco saw it reach £21,000.


The fine paintings section included oil and watercolour paintings from the 18th to 20th Century. Dogs in art are popular and this was illustrated by lot 227, a charming oil painting of a setter in a landscape by Francis Calcroft Turner (1782/95-1846/65) which sold for £1,600. However, the highest price went to lot 215 and another celebrated 19th Century animal artist, Thomas Sidney Cooper R.A. (1803-1902).

Showcasing his favoured formula of cattle watering, the work, discovered in a Derbyshire country house and dated 1842, sparked three phone bidders and reached £8,500.

In the silver section Lot 2016, a novelty Victorian silver lidded decanter in the form of an owl by William Hutton, 1893, flew past its £1,500 top estimate to reach £2,100.

Highlights in the English ceramics section included Lot 2342, a rare circa 1815 Durham Ox blue transfer printed platter at £1,050.

In the Asian ceramics section, Lot 2484, a Chinese porcelain footed bowl with the Guangxu six-character, mark sold for £1,700 to a Chinese buyer bidding online.

Clocks are in vogue, too, and lot 3001, a miniature Georgian-style tortoiseshell bracket clock, thought to be early 20th Century, sparked six phone bidders. It sold for £2,600 to an Australian buyer. Meanwhile lot 3014, a William III figured walnut longcase clock, circa 1690 by prominent London maker Richard Baker, reached £5,200



The furniture section was particularly well received with many pieces generating numerous enquiries from both trade and private buyers keen to cash in on the growing resurgence of brown furniture.

Lot 3088, a wingback chair with studded leather upholstery ticked all the right boxes – nicely worn and with good proportions. Estimated at £300-500, it sold for £2,000.

Highest price in the furniture section went to lot 3037, a richly decorated room divider screen. Thought to be European and dating from the 18th Century, it was secured by a UK phone bidder for £12,500.

Sell with Hansons | Free Valuations

Something to sell? Rare books, paintings, wine/whisky, silver, ceramics, glass, works of art, clocks, furniture and decorative arts are invited for inclusion in our next Country House Fine Art and Library auction in October. Please contact Adrian Rathbone on 07843 061921 or email [email protected] to arrange a free valuation.

We are also warmly welcoming entries for our July 2 Fine Art Auction; June Antiques & Collectors Auction, which includes, gold, silver, jewellery and coins, and our summer Toy Auction | E: [email protected]