Traditionally a glass sale is always one of the last pre-Christmas auctions in the London rooms.
Until two or three years ago Sotheby's filled that particular
slot, but now the baton has passed, along with their erstwhile
glass specialist Simon Cottle, to Bonhams Bond Street
(20/12% buyer's premium).
Their 269-lot sale held on December 16 was a mix of English and
Continental drinking glasses with an 80-lot afternoon session of
19th and 20th century paperweights. Although a various-owners mix,
two core properties made up over a third of the content: the 60-lot
Morton collection of paperweights and 50-odd lots comprising the
first part of the collection of drinking glasses formed by
To this were added another 87 lots of mixed-owner English
drinking glasses and around 50 lots of Continental glass: 16th and
17th century façon de Venise; 18th century Dutch engraved works;
Biedermeier and a sprinkling of 19th century decorative glass.
Overall, with the immediate after-sales included, the auction
chalked up just under £570,000 with selling rates of 75 per cent by
volume and 88 by value. It was a pretty good result in what is a
solid rather than volcanic market, especially given that some of
the key material on offer was making a fairly swift return to the
This could be most easily observed in the Crabtree collection.
Well known in the trade, Mr Crabtree has been a serious glass
collector for four decades and a high-profile auction participant
for the last decade or so, buying prominently in collectable
sectors of the market, notably enamelled glasses by the Beilby
group of decorators, often at top dollar prices.
A change of collecting direction has prompted him to sell his
collection through Bonhams in two instalments.
Beilby, Jacobite glass, colour twists, opaque white glass
candlesticks and some façon de Venise and Dutch-engraved
Continental pieces made up the first offering.
Part two, with other glasswares, will be dispersed next
Splitting a collection is one way of ensuring that the market
isn't flooded and it also gives both vendor and auctioneer an
opportunity to test the waters and, if necessary, adjust
expectations next time.
Bonhams' estimates were not automatically set to record a profit
on Crabtree's recent purchases. But nor did they leave much in the
way of a profit margin for the trade.
Fortunately there was a degree of flexibility in operation so,
while the audience sometimes proved resistant at the auction,
after-sales ensured that virtually everything had found a buyer a
day or so later.
There were some trade participants, probably acting on
commission, but Bonhams said much of the buying was
collector-driven. And a substantial proportion went over the phone.
A trade view was that the collection did quite well considering how
recently it was put together and the present trading climate.
There were certainly some strong individual prices, but with
other lots Mr Crabtree will have at best broken even or made a
Hasty resale was a particularly telling factor in a group of
pieces outside the Crabtree collection where it was combined with
very bullish expectations. Five 1770s facet stem engraved wine
glasses offered here formed part of a set of 13 used by the Cycle
Club, a Welsh Jacobite supporters association.
They were passed down by direct descent from one Robert Vaughan
of North Wales until they sold at Tamlyn's in December 2008 for a
total of £21,600.
Then the highest individual price was £2600. Just one year on,
they now carried individual guides of £3500-4500 apiece.
Lack of freshness told, just one, engraved with the name of club
member Philip Egerton, found a buyer, at £3000.
But conversely Bonhams' sale also showed how much of a premium
is attached to fresh rarities that please current collecting taste
buds. Early on the sale featured an 11.5in (29cm) high baluster
goblet of c.1690 that had been acquired by the vendor at a country
house sale in Ireland.
Good balusters are currently much in demand and this was an
early example of impressive size with the bonus of a gadrooned bowl
'nipt diamond waies' over a hollow ball knop applied with four
putto heads. These last were an unusual and attractive touch, the
raspberry prunts associated with continental glass being a more
common motif. It was enough to send the bidding to £30,000, over
double the £10,000-15,000 estimate, before it fell to a telephone
The Continental section majored on areas that are currently
strong: Venetian and façon de Venise and Dutch engraved glass,
eschewing the German and middle European material that has been
struggling of late.
Dutch glass is on something of a roll, with interest from the UK
and Holland, and it provided the highest Continental price in this
event in the form of a c.1770, 9in (23cm) high goblet. There were
multiple attractions to this piece: the fine three-masted sailing
ship named Holland with the VOC insignia of the
Dutch East India Company, and an elaborate monogram to the other
side. Although unsigned, the style of engraving was stylistically
attributed to the well-regarded Dutch artist Jacob Sang. It
The stickiest section was the group of Biedermeier enamelled
glasswares, a collecting field where demand has fallen from its
peak a decade or so ago. The afternoon paperweights session proved
less solid, although the Morton material performed markedly better
than the mixed-owner pieces that followed.