The single-owner sale of English and Dutch drinking glasses collected by A.C. Hubbard offered over 500 lots to tempt enthusiasts into the saleroom.
The sale held by
Bonhams (25/20/12% buyer's premium) in New Bond Street on
November 30, 2011 was followed by a mixed-owner268-lot auction that
was heavily slanted towards paperweights.
The Hubbard sale got away a very healthy 85 per cent of the
material by volume. The mixed-owner auction immediately afterwards
proved harder to shift or, more accurately, one sizeable American
paperweight collection did, holding the selling rate down to 53 per
Of course, there is always an attraction to a named provenanced
collection, whether it was formed decades ago, or, like the Hubbard
ensemble, relatively recently.
American A C Hubbard Jr, a retired international investments
manager from Baltimore, first started collecting drinking glasses
in the late 1980s after a trip to the collections at Mompesson
House in Salisbury alerted him to their attractions. Already an
enthusiastic wine collector, wine-related antiques complemented
With leading dealers as advisers and agents (notably Ward Lloyd,
who subsequently published Hubbard's collection), he built up an
impressive assemblage through auctions and the trade.
It was particularly strong in the fields of Beilby, colour twist
and Dutch engraved glasses as well as featuring examples from the
other specialist classes that interest glass enthusiasts: early
balusters, wines with special shapes or engraving and Jacobite
Mr Hubbard continues to collect early wine bottles.
These are all well-trodden fields and, in the case of the
Beilbys and colour twists, ones where prices were driven up
dramatically at the turn of the 21st century thanks in no small
part to interest from collectors like Mr Hubbard and Chris
When collectors turn vendors things can change. The dispersal of
the Hubbard Beilbys and colour twists comes hot on the heels of
those sold by Bonhams from the Crabtree collection from
Quantity of Buyers
So, two big players out of the running and substantial
quantities back on the market over a relatively short space of
time. Would there be enough buyers left to absorb it all?
Fortunately these are still areas with a body of collectors,
mainly in the UK but also the US and countries like Australia.
However, prices are not necessarily as high as a decade or so ago,
especially for the colour twists, partly for the reasons outlined
And while demand is still there for Beilbys, many established
collectors are well supplied with material and are only looking to
fill gaps with sought-after rarities.
These market factors have to be taken into account alongside
more standard considerations like rarity or condition when it comes
to dispersing a collection. But there was also another
consideration. As the Hubbard glasses had been imported from
America for sale, all the lots attracted an additional five per
cent premium on the hammer price, something that customers would be
bound to factor in when bidding.
Given all this, estimate setting was key. One can compare
estimates for some of Hubbard's glasses with prices made at their
previous auction appearance. For example, a Beilby opaque twist
wine enamelled in white with a typical Beilby scene of rustic
buildings in an Italianate landscape, which had sold for £6200 at
Sotheby's in 1993, was offered here with a £4000-6000 guide, while
a colour twist firing glass sold for £2500 in Sotheby's 1998
auction of the Royal Brierley Collection appeared here with a
£2000-3000 guide. They sold this time, incidentally, for £6500 and
The 85 per cent take-up rate suggests that Bonhams had mostly
pitched the guides about right, and if the hammer prices were not
always wildly over, or sometimes below, predictions that is
probably partly because all the add-ons pushed the final price paid
by the purchaser up by another 35 per cent.
There was, however, one lot where Bonhams did appear to have
pushed the envelope. The star of the Hubbard sale was a signed
Beilby enamelled Royal goblet of c.1766 decorated with the arms of
the Nassau Princes of Orange for William V to one side and an
opaque white butterfly and Beilby Newcastle Pinxit to the other. At
12in (30cm) high, this was an imposing piece, published in the
Beilby literature and one of only 16 recorded heraldic glasses
Beilby glasses with signatures.
An important piece then, in the Beilby corpus, but even so a
£100,000-150,000 estimate was punchy and surely more than any
Beilby glass has made at auction before. Bidding did not reach that
level, for the goblet did not get away at the auction itself,
although Bonhams negotiated a pretty swift after-sale to a private
collector at £90,000, boosting the total for the sale up to just
Beilbys accounted for four of the ten highest Hubbard results.
They included a pair of 10in (25cm) high, opaque twist covered
goblets enamelled with trademark fruiting vines at £27,000 and a
6in (16cm) high privateer glass that combined an opaque and colour
twist stem and was painted to the bowl with a three-masted sailing
ship and the inscription The Providence Jon Elliott 1767. When last
under the hammer at Christie's in 1999, this realised £26,000.
Guided this time at £25,000-35,000, it got away at £24,000.
Another Beilby armorial glass, an 8in (20cm) high goblet,
painted with a characteristic white classical ruin vignette and the
polychrome arms of the Pollard family, went for £15,000, which was
less than the £20,000-30,000 guide and the £25,000 that it realised
when last sold at auction in 1998.
But there were also glasses in the Hubbard sale that outstripped
expectations. The most expensive of the Hubbard colour twists was a
c.1770, 6in (15cm) high wine glass with a stem featuring opaque
white, blue and yellow threads. This outstripped its £8000-12,000
guide to take £16,000.
Of the 20-odd Dutch engraved glasses that rounded off the
Hubbard sale, the most expensive was a 6in (15.5cm) high plain wine
glass of c.1780-90 stipple engraved by David Wolff with a white
horse in a meadow flanked by trees. It outstripped a £7000-9000
guide to take £17,000.
Outside these three categories, among the other types featured
in the collection, there was keen demand for another privateer
glass which sold for double the estimate at £15,000. This was dated
to c.1770, was 6½in (16.5cm) high, set on an opaque twist stem and
engraved to the bucket-shaped bowl with a detailed view of a three
master and the inscription Success to the Eagle Frigate John Knill
Commander. This refers to a 24-gun, 250-ton ship jointly owned by
Camplin and Smith of Bristol and Manslip and Wilkinson of
Early English drinking glasses of baluster form have been
selling strongly for some time and Mr Hubbard had a particularly
unusual version among his examples. It was small at just 4in (10cm)
high and set on an short, inverted baluster stem with a large tear,
but the funnel bowl was engraved over the entire surface with leafy
sprays, while the rim carried the inscription God Save the
Queen. Dated to c.1680-90, Bonhams had guided it at £7000-9000
only to see it make £20,000.
The mixed-owner sale that followed the Hubbard offering included
a small selection of 18th century English glass, among which was
another Beilby. This was a hitherto unrecorded 4in (10cm) high
tumbler painted with flowers in white to one side and to the other
a thistle surmounted by a crown with the legend Nemo me Impune
Lacefsit (No-one attacks me with impunity), the motto of the
Order of the Thistle. A Beilby ale glass featured in the Hubbard
sale, which realised £10,000, was similarly decorated. This example
As mentioned, almost two-thirds of Bonhams' second sale was
given over to paperweights. If buyers didn't warm to the larger of
two private collections offered here, the 120-lot American
consignment, the smaller, 37-lot Friedrich Bader collection of
Russian paperweights and related objects generated much more
enthusiasm, providing seven of the ten top prices. This sale
happened to coincide with London's Russian auction series and
consequently was well viewed by Russians, but in the event, said
Bonhams, most of the lots were secured by paperweight
Many of the most expensive Russian pieces were paperweight
plaques, including the best seller, a 5½in (14cm) long oval plaque
illustrated on these pages. Dated to c.1870-80, inset with a floral
arrangement of dahlias tied with a white caterpillar and engraved
in Cyrillic O F Grotkowskij, it outstripped expectations of
£12,000-18,000 to take £23,000.
The most expensive of the circular Russian weights was a rare,
3in (8cm) diameter specimen of the same period inset with a yellow
winged butterfly surrounded by dahlias and wild strawberries guided
at £7000-9000, that ended up making £11,500.