Holding a major silver sale days after the melt price has plummeted by about £3 an ounce is hardly ideal timing.
"Anything with reserves based on melt price
- tired flatware, engraved trophies and so on - was bound to
suffer," said Alex Butcher, the silver expert at
Lawrences of Crewkerne after the latest.
Happily, most of the 828 silver lots
which opened the three-day, 1450-lot Somerset sale had considerably
more worth to collectors than scrap metal merchants and in the end,
75% got away to a hammer total of £202,000.
Exemplifying 'collector value' was a
1½oz novelty vinaigrette in the form of a snail by Thomas Johnson,
The appeal of a snail alongside the
salad bowl doesn't appear to have occurred to any other
"I'd never seen such an item before,"
said Mr Butcher. "And as it turned out, nor had anybody
A quality item, with a gilt interior
and lift-out grille, it was well illustrated in the catalogue and
pitched at £2500-3000 for the April 23 sale. It ended up selling to
a collector at £8200.
"It was what I'd call a trump piece,"
said Mr Butcher. "If one collector was showing his pieces to
another, this would be the one to show last to trump anything in
the other's collection."
Another lot with niche-market appeal
was a 19th century silver gilt megillah, or Esther, scroll holder.
It comprised a 7¼in (18cm) engraved and coral-decorated body from
which unrolls a 5ft 4in (1.63m) long illuminated parchment scroll
with inked Hebrew text of the Book of Esther.
The story of Esther, the Jewish Queen
of Persia who averted a massacre of the Jews, is the basis of the
festival of Purim and there was interest from Israel, America and
Europe as soon as the scroll holder appeared in the online
Unmarked, though probably Persian, and
with some old repairs/restoration to the scroll, the holder was
estimated at £1500-2000. Eleven phones were booked but, against
strong international competition, a UK bidder secured the scroll
holder at £11,000.