Despite the monumental challenges of 2020 this difficult year has still delivered moments of light, joy, hope and happiness, writes Charles Hanson.
And I like to think Hansons has played its part in that thanks to its many finds and the uplifting stories that often go with them. In fact, let’s not forget that lockdown has led to some remarkable discoveries that may have remained in dusty corners for years – finds big enough to change lives.
For example, who would have thought lockdown would lead a South Derbyshire man to finally finding the time to go through some old boxes stuck in a garage packed with ornaments that used to belong to his parents.
So often, items that are not needed - but we can’t bear to part with - are boxed up and left in limbo, sometimes for decades. They lurch from loft to garage to spare room. Sometimes they languish under the bed. I confess, I am the world’s worst for collecting, some might say hoarding!
Anyway, this gentleman knew one of the boxes might contain a Chinese teapot he recalled seeing in his mum’s china cabinet as a child. It had been brought home from the Far East by his grandad after the Second World War and he knew it just might be valuable.
Chinese Beijing enamel wine ewer. Sold £390,000
Nevertheless, he was so worried we might laugh at his teapot he bundled it together with some other collectables when he brought it along for free valuation at Etwall Auction Centre.
We didn’t laugh. We were excited. We knew it could be very special – and it was. It was identified as a rare Imperial quality Chinese Beijing enamel wine ewer. It sold for £390,000 in September with phone bidders from all over the world battling to own it.
It has to be the lockdown find of the year but there were many others because, at long last, people had the time to go through belongings they’d forgotten they had. They had the chance to clear rooms, make decisions on what to sell or keep, and contact us if they thought their sleepy treasure might excel at auction.
Qianlong period lantern vase. Sold £200,000.
Another Chinese find to soar to success was a Qianlong period lantern vase which, despite being smashed and glued back together again in the 1950s, achieved £200,000 and attracted 10 phone bidders when it went under the hammer in December. I spotted it under a table during a home visit to value antiques in Leicestershire.
In the same sale lot 183, a Chinese Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722) blue and white rouleau vase, romped to £23,000.
But the world of antiques is far from simply high-end ceramics. It is hugely eclectic. We sell everything and anything, from vintage textiles, ornaments, paintings and coins to militaria, jewellery, watches, antiquities, toys and working models of all types – including fairground rides.
Noah's Ark model fairground ride. Sold £1,900.
Another favourite lockdown discovery, found in a Derby garage, was a group of fairground rides made by the late Patrick Burton. His superb model of a Noah’s Ark ride, built nearly 50 years ago sold, for £1,900 and all of his handmade models were snapped up.
Finds like these go far beyond the auction itself. In this case, they allowed us to celebrate the life of a man whose hobby brought pleasure to thousands. He used to take great pride in showing his fair rides at Derbyshire events.
His sons’ decision to bring their late father’s treasures out from a garage reminded us of his remarkable achievement. Each ride took him two to three years to make. We’re so glad the Derby Telegraph and other local media and TV covered this find.
Another item that celebrated human endeavour was a magnificent silver sculpture gifted to a Victorian politician by his grateful electorate. These days MPs are more likely to get rotten tomatoes thrown at them!
Silver sculpture presented to Joseph d’Aguilar Samuda, right, in 1880. Sold £56,000.
Back in the late 1800s things were different. The large, detailed and important work of art, crafted in 1880, was commissioned to honour highly regarded Jewish engineer Joseph d’Aguilar Samuda (1813 -1885), a man who won respect both as an MP and shipbuilder in London.
Made to thank the ‘independent and patriotic spirit’ for his community service, it marked a moment in history that chimed with his views. The silver sculptural group depicts King John signing the Magna Carta – medieval Latin for the Great Charter of Freedoms – in 1215. Designed and modelled by silversmith George A Carter and hallmarked by Hunt & Roskell of London, it sold for £56,000.
And we can’t forget Harry Potter. Hansons is renowned across the world for selling Potter first editions, with a record price for £68,000 achieved in December 2020 for a first issue hardback of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in English, published in 1729. Sold £24,000.
But our thriving Library Department sells far more than Potter books. For example, a scarce copy of a centuries-old book regarded as the most important work in the history of science sold for £24,000. The first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in English, published in 1729, went under the hammer in our October Library Auction and more than doubled its guide price of £8,000-£10,000.
I sincerely hope Hansons uncovers many more great finds to cheer us all in 2021. Our salerooms reopen on January 4 and free valuation appointments and home visits can be booked by emailing [email protected].
Happy New Year - let’s hope 2021 will be a much better year for every one of us.