WOOLLEY and Wallis silver specialist Alex Butcher is well known for his expertise in the spoon world, but his most recent offering at the Salisbury saleroom took the specialisation a step further.
The 376-lot ensemble offered on the first day of their sale on
January 27-29, put together over the course of more than half a
century by one dedicated collector, was devoted entirely to
Scottish spoons and, furthermore, to examples by the rarer Scottish
provincial centres (Edinburgh and Glasgow were largely
As Mr Butcher explained in the catalogue introduction, the
interesting aspect of this particular collecting field is the sheer
variety of marks available. It can be likened to stamp collecting,
with some of the centres (Aberdeen) producing quite a large number
of silversmiths over a long period, while pieces from Stonehaven
(with only one silversmith working during the mid 19th century) are
extremely scarce and valuable - "the silver equivalent of the
Sensibly then, in a field where values are based less around
aesthetics than scarcity, mark quality and mark combinations, Mr
Butcher used the philatelic approach with his workmanlike
catalogue, arranged alphabetically from Aberdeen to Wick, with each
lot and its all-important marks illustrated, condition guides and a
grading out of ten.
This ensemble was probably as comprehensive as you get, so the
catalogue will probably also attain collectable status. For the
Scottish provincial silver market is collector led by a dedicated
group of ardent supporters. They were buying in force alongside
specialist dealers acting mostly on commission and Scottish
The volume take-up was 80 per cent, with more in aftersales.
As one might expect, prices followed that rarity scale outlined
above, with all the Aberdeen spoons coming in under £1000 (and many
under £100), while a single Stonehaven spoon realised £3800.
Reassuringly for the market, this was the same price level as
another Stonehaven version sold at Lyon and Turnbull in 2008.
The most expensive single entry was a wavy ended initialled
tablespoon marked for David Dunlop and for Canongate, a district
just outside Edinburgh, with a date letter corresponding to
Edinburgh 1703. It realised £4400.
Amongst the institutional buyers were the Tain Museum who
secured five of the nine Tain spoons including one by Hugh Ross,
c1765 for which they already have the pair, at £1000.