IT was the finest UK collection of antique fishing tackle to come to auction for a decade and it arrived via an unusual route.
For Cirencester auctioneers
Moore Allen & Innocent (15% buyer's premium and the Assets
Recovery Agency, at least, this was one that did not get away.
It was back in 2003 that Ian Duncan Mackenzie of Lympne, near
Folkestone - who had served six months for the possession of two
kilograms of cannabis with intent to supply but was cleared by a
jury of more serious money-laundering offences - became the subject
of a Civil Recovery investigation by the Assets Recovery
The ARA was then in its infancy, having been created in tandem
with The Proceeds of Crime Act in 2002 and given powers to seize
assets where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there is
taxable income, gain or profit from criminal conduct.
In settling the action against him in December last year,
Mackenzie (who denied any involvement in crime) agreed that assets
to the value of more than £800,000 would pass to the agency.
Alongside £559,000 in cash and shares to a value of £18,000,
more than a quarter of that sum was accounted for by around 800
antique angling items.
Mackenzie, a keen fisherman and a knowledgeable historian of the
sport, had collected for 20 years. Well liked and well known in
what is a relatively small collecting community, he bought for cash
the best that specialist auctioneers and dealers could muster.
Above: an engraved brass and glass Gregory Windsor Bee lure
which took £1500 in the Mackenzie collection sale.
The angling world had known for some time about the imminent
break-up of the collection. Trade sources have outlined various
attempts to buy the collection from the ARA privately and offers to
sell it in a number of auctions over a couple of years.
Both strategies were designed to avoid what was the eventual
outcome: a lastminute decision from the ARA that the collection
should be hastily sold at public auction before the end of the
It was only on February 8 that Moore Allen & Innocent of
Cirencester, who conduct regular sporting sales with small angling
sections, were selected for the task on the understanding the ARA
could expect a cheque by April 3.
The decision was controversial, and not because of the
provenance. Specialist auctioneers and dealers, who had seemingly
been overlooked by the ARA as potential agents, voiced their
concern prior to the sale. Throw this volume of material on the
market in a single day and anything could happen to price levels.
Would the interests of the British taxpayer not be better served by
selling via recognised specialists over a longer period?
The issue was heightened when the Cirencester sale
coincidentally found itself up against specialist auctions in
London and Ludlow.
But the consensus after last month's sales was that the antique
fishing tackle market and its hundreds of well-heeled adherents
will survive this glut relatively unscathed.
Credit must go to Moore Allen & Innocent. With the help of
some late nights, the expertise of fishing consultant Bill Matthews
and modest estimates that almost guaranteed a sell-out for their
client, they succeeded in their aim of creating a brief but
effective feeding frenzy around 836 lots.
There were few landmark prices in a gruelling nine-and-a-quarter
hours of selling, but if dealers and collectors arrived in
Cirencester hoping to buy the results of Mackenzie's 20-year
collecting odyssey for next to nothing, they soon found they were
There were more than 100 others in the room and buyers from the
US, Canada, Japan and Europe on the telephones. Mackenzie collected
across the board, from lures to literature, but the reel is king
and he had more than 400 of them.
An illustration of the depth of this collection was the presence
of more than 30 all-brass Perfects. A 'first model' of
Hardy's most famous creation would typically realise £6000-10,000
in good condition at auction, with rare variants selling higher
still. (The reel sold by Angling Auctions for a record £17,000 in
1996 was once in Mackenzie's collection).
The example here had hands up everywhere at its £1500-£2000
estimate and settled at £6200.
The Perfect has been made in myriad variants and
prototypes from 1890 until the present day. There were many
rarities here including the transitional trout fly reel known as
thePerfect 2(£4200); a Perfect Houghton fly reel
with an early version of the calliper check (£3500) and a
brassfacedPerfect 5alloy salmon reel fitted with a heavy duty
calliper check mechanism (£3000).
There was some speculation before the sale that spending power
might become seriously diluted by the end of the day. Instead one
of the most impressive results was achieved as late as lot 783 for
a Hardy Silent Perfect 3,3/8in (8.6cm) alloy trout
fly reel. Visually it is unexceptional but the 'silent' mechanism
makes it technically interesting and it was the first on the market
for some time.
Estimated at between £200 and £300, it finally sold at
With the right people in the room to generate this kind of price
it was surprising to see a poor result for an Allcock Coxon
Aerial 2.5in (6cm) three- spoke centrepin reel. Some
considered it the best reel in the sale and, almost unique, in a
different rarity league to the £6100 Coxon Aerial
silver-rimmed roller-back sold by Mullocks a couple of years ago. A
five-figure sum was not out of the question. Instead it made
There is no doubt that Mackenzie, in his time a strong buyer at
auction (particularly Angling Auctions), 'lost' some substantial
sums on his purchases.
A glazed case of 48 lures was one of a number of Victorian trade
displays sold as part of the collection of food writer Anissa Helou
at Christie's in 1999. Most of those cases sold to buyers in the US
at massive prices but Mackenzie had acquired this example,
including baits by Allcock, Edkins and Gregory, for something close
In Cirencester competition was more muted and it sold for £8800,
a sum that is probably less than its break-up value. The buyer was
fishing tackle writer Graham Turner who is compiling a book on
Some of the individual lures were deemed very good value but two
sold at £1500 each. These were both by Gregory in engraved brass
with glass eyes: one a fully marked Windsor Bee 2.25in
(5.5cm), the other an unmarked but larger Cleopatra
measuring 3.5in (9cm) long.
A strong bid of £2100 (estimate £150- 200) greeted a C. Farlow
pigskin fly wallet containing approximately 150 gut-eyed flies,
some line and a hook chart (the large size of the flies was its
major selling point) while The Kelson, a fly-tier's
compendium in an oak-lined box concealed in a leather travel case,
by Bambridge of Eton-on- Thames, sold at £1900 (estimate £300-
But, in a sale of this magnitude when it is impossible to view
everything properly (and not everything was correctly described),
there were also bargains. A Cooks Patent No. 5941 spring-loaded
pincer gaff with turned rosewood handle and brass fittings sold for
£620 (Mackenzie is believed to have paid many times that for it),
while one of the cut-price discoveries in a mixed lot was a Hardy
net made before 1881 in the very early years of the firm.
However, for the client it was the final figure that mattered
and a total just shy of £300,000 was a boon for the Assets Recovery
Agency for whom the sale was also a very visible reminder of the
Proceeds of Crime Act at work.
And I understand that the ARA got their cheque two weeks
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