The commercial fortunes of Victorian silver ‘castle top’ card cases, engraved or embossed with views of British landmarks, depend primarily on the scarcity of the scene depicted.
This example by the celebrated Birmingham
box maker Nathaniel Mills, hallmarked for 1852, pictures the Dublin
International Industrial Exhibition building of 1853.
The exhibition, which ran from May 12 until
October 31, was the most extravagant and expensive public event of
19th century Ireland. It financially ruined William Dargan
(Ireland's greatest railway engineer and promoter of the
exhibition) but laid the foundation for the National Gallery of
The 4in (10cm) case, with a central
cartouche engraved Mary, was offered for sale by
Dreweatts as part of their Fine Silver and Objects of
Vertu sale at Donnington Priory on February 26. The very crisp
decoration suggested it had been kept in its leather case for most
of its life.
Estimated at £3000-5000, it sold to a bidder
in the room on behalf of a private European collector at £8500.
The price is thought to be an auction record
for a castle top card case.
In 2005 Dreweatts sold a case hallmarked for
Nathaniel Mills, London 1845, chased with an external view of the
Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, for £8000.
The buyer's premium was 24%.
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