Historians have spent many enjoyable hours attempting to decipher the symbolism of pictures on the back of Georgian teaspoons such as those illustrated right. Like the club tie or the secret society handshake, the picture back teaspoon was an English gentleman’s discreet method of signalling loyalties to potential sympathisers when serving afternoon tea.

This group of six belonged to the collection of Michael Cooke offered at Woolley & Wallis. From left to right. teaspoon with Masonic emblems by W.E, London c.1770 – £220; galleon in full sail by CO? London c.1750 - £160; bird on top of a tree by Thomas Wilson, London 1765 – £440; Prince of Wales feathers by Thomas Hannam and Ebenezer Coker, London c.1760 – £250; British Hearts of Oak emblem, possibly WF, London c.1770 – £210;
milkmaid below the drop by William Stephenson, London c.1775 – £110.
Mote spoons were the other main
contingent of the 50 lots amassed by Michael Cooke in the 1970s and ’80s, and one provided the highest price of the collection. The George I spoon was nothing special in terms of pierced pattern or condition, but it was rare to find the maker’s mark and the lion’s head (erased) on such an early mote spoon, because the slender handle on which such identifications were stamped and scratched are prone to severe rubbing. Marked for John Lefebure, London c.1715, the spoon attracted a double-estimate £480.