In a marketplace seriously in need of entry-level collectors, the great majority of Royal Doulton character jugs and HN series figures are worth under £100 – and most of them less than £30 when sold without reserve at auction.
But, as a clutch of recent sales have proved, rarities appealing
to the top tier of Doulton collectors are a different matter
On August 29,
Plymouth Auction Rooms (20% buyer's premium) sold a collection
of just 30 character jugs for £21,400.
The collection of limited editions from the UK International
Ceramics stable and the occasional fabled rarity had been pieced
together by a Plymouth man over the last 20 years but the arrival
of two young children had prompted the decision to sell. Bids were
taken from Australia, Italy, America and the UK.
The 'hen's teeth' entry in the group was a Fidel
Castro jug - one of only three produced as a prototype
for collectables dealership UK International Ceramics. Each one has
a different colour shirt - this revolutionary leader wore a
fetching cream. It was seemingly the first time the Castro jug had
come onto the open market and it did not disappoint, selling to an
Australian buyer over the internet at £6900. The estimate was
Many of the jugs here were numbered issues made for UK
International Ceramics in editions of 100. Subject matter counts
and some proved more popular than others.
Sold at £800 was General Erwin
Rommel (numbered 90/100) from the Great Generals
Collection while Franklin D. Roosevelt (68/100)
from the WWII Politicians series and General William
Sherman (2/100) from the American Civil War Collection
took £650 apiece.
However, also from series limited to 100 jugs were Dr
Zhivago (£190) and Lara (£130). Hardly
Generally speaking the larger the edition the cheaper the jug -
it gives some idea as to the size of the collecting base that the
series of Elvis jugs produced in editions of 1700
struggled to bring £50 each - but Ronald Reagan is an
exception. Such is the following for the Great Communicator that
this jug - the most desirable jug in the US Presidential Collection
that was 'limited' to 5000 pieces - sold at £380.
The Jesse Owens character jug was issued as the Character Jug of
the Year for 1996, to commemorate the Olympic Games in Atlanta,
Georgia. Although only in production for a year the standard issue
with its handle modelled as the Olympic torch wrapped in the Stars
and Stripes sells for £50-100 but the version here was a colourway
painted with the Olympic flag. It took £1000.
Among the classic rarities in the collection was a version of
the Clark Gable character jug, produced for the US
market as part of a 1984 Hollywood greats series.
It is estimated around 2000 were sent to America before the
likeness had been approved by his estate. Contractual difficulties
followed and Doulton stopped further production and recalled and
destroyed all those unsold. The 100 or so survivors typically sell
for around £2500, so the £3000 achieved here was a good result.
Adam Partridge (18% buyer's premium) sold over 400 Royal
Doulton character jugs as part of their September 27-28 sale. It
was the end of a 20-year collecting odyssey for one Newcastle upon
Tyne enthusiast whose wife had "suggested" it was time for them to
Most were relatively common issues (the type that have been hit
hard by the advent of eBay and mass online trading) and, in keeping
with the market as a whole, sold for around £35 each, but a handful
brought substantially more.
Three of these were made in the immediate pre- and post-War eras
when, due to wartime restrictions, output was minimal. They
included the large-sized version of The Cavalier, a
jug designed by Harry Fenton, and based upon the famous portrait in
the Wallace collection by Frans Hals, issued between 1940 and 1950.
A very similar 'style two' jug, but without the goatee was produced
from 1950 to 1960 and is much easier to find.
The Cavalier with Goatee took £820 - a decent sum
but in fact no more than it might have made 20 years ago. In truth
prices for many Doulton character jugs have slipped substantially
in the two decades Adam Partridge's vendor had collected.
There are four recognised variations of the Hatless
Clown jug, designed by Harry Fenton and issued 1951-55,
those with red, brown, white or black hair. A White Haired
Clown sold here for £180 (they used to make a lot more)
while another well-known 'wartime' jug, the double-sided
Mephistopheles designed by Harry Fenton and made from
1937 to 1948, sold at £420.
It includes the line: When the Devil was sick, the
Devil a Saint would be. When the Devil got well, Devil a Saint was
Ard of 'Earing, designed by D.B. Biggs and issued
between 1964-1967, took £290.
Early and Rare
Based in the heart of the Potteries, Royal Doulton is the stock
in trade for Stoke-on-Trent saleroom
Louis Taylor (17.5% buyer's premium). Their sale on September
10-11 included some of the rarest, and earliest, figures from the
Harry Nixon series.
Introduced in 1916, the figure The Little
Land designed by Harry Tittensor takes its name and
subject from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem of the same name that
is written to the rockwork base: I have just to shut my
eyes To go sailing through the skies To the fairy land afar Where
the Little People are. The Little Land. It was made in two
colours: in a lavender dress as seen here (HN63) and in a green and
yellow costume (HN67). It is some time since one has appeared at
auction: it sold at £2300 (estimate £1500-2000).
The figure Shy Anne HN60, is traditionally
among those early figures attributed to Lawrence Perugini. However,
according to Miami specialist dealer Pascoe & Co., the figure
has now been found with a Charles Noke signature on the backstamp
showing that he claimed ownership of this very rare design. The
example here, one of several colour variations in a blue floral
dress, had been broken in half but improved on its £400-600
estimate to bring £1700.
In pursuit of the rarest Doulton productions, damage need be
Also catalogued 'as found' was the rare
figure Bluebeard HN75.
A design introduced in 1917 and withdrawn before 1936, the
exotic subject matter owes a direct debt to the Ballet Russes and,
in particular, the 1910
production Scheherazade with its story loosely
based on One Thousand and One Arabian
Nights and costume designs by Leon Bakst. Again,
although the 1994 collecting bible Royal Doulton
Figures gives this model to E.W. Light, it is now
thought to be by Noke.
Bluebeard was estimated at £1200-£1600 on account
of a little damage but sold for a sale-topping £4000.
Two 17in (43cm) figures from the Prestige series - classic
large-scale Noke figures from the Doulton archives reintroduced in
the early 1950s - Jack Point HN2080 and The
Moor HN2082 sold for £760 and £700 respectively.
Outside of the HN series there was predictable enthusiasm for
those pieces, produced under the aegis of artistic director Charles
Noke, which combined inventive subject matter with experimental
A 4in (10cm) figure of a Buddha with a turquoise crackle glaze
was thought to be an early prototype: it was printed with a Royal
Doulton flambé factory mark. It sold at £1300 (estimate
Thought to date from around 1930 was a flambé bibelot modelled
as a cormorant on a rock, 6½in (16cm) high sold at £900.
A rare Lambeth stoneware model of a grey glazed terrierSnookeron
a green rectangular base sold for £820 against an estimate of
£500-£800. It is one of a handful of models made after animal
sculptures by the American artist Frederick Roth, who was
commissioned by Royal Doulton in the 1920s.
Snooker (the name appears in raised lettering alongside incised
and printed marks for F.G.R. Roth) may have been modelled from his
Damage No Deterrent
An unexpected highlight of the sale held by Glasgow's Great
Western Auctions (18% buyer's premium) on September 8 was a 3in
(8cm) Titanian Ware figure of a grotesque imp seated on a rock with
a pipe in one hand and a glass in the other. The characterful model
c.1913 (numbered 124) never became part of the HN range but is well
known from the reference books in a flambé glaze and in a version
painted with a union flag waistcoat.
It ticked all the boxes in terms of subject matter, an
experimental glaze and rarity but it was in poor condition having
been broken and glued in several pieces. Nevertheless it improved
upon hopes of £100-150 to bring £1900.
As serendipity had it another version of the rare figure, this
one with a deep green Titanian glaze, had emerged for sale in
Norfolk at the Acle Auction Gallery on June 23.
That example was in much better condition (although one hand was
damaged) and improved upon an estimate of just £30-50 to bring