Walking may be an unfashionably slow mode of transport in today’s time-pressured world, but lengthy periods spent on foot in past centuries were made more pleasurable by a vast array of walking aids. This material is now seriously collected and a cluster of cane collections have appeared on the market of late.

US-based Skinners sold the 124-lot Josiah H. Beeman collection in Boston on October 4; Bonhams Knightsbridge included a 97-lot UK collection in their Silver and Vertu sale on October 14 while Christie’s South Kensington are offering the first part of a single-owner collection of walking canes in their November 5 auction of furniture and objects.
Among the gadget walking sticks and canes offered at Bonhams (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) were those that incorporated weapons, watches, barometers, telescopes, scales, microscopes, musical instruments and even a magician’s table.

Built over a 20-year period, this UK
collection, together with 15 walking sticks consigned from other sources, generated interest from specialist dealers and collectors from the US, UK, Germany, France and Italy and there was a 70/30 per cent split between trade and private buyers.

“The cane world is big. I know of
collections of over 4000 canes, but the really big collectors are in the US. That is where the crazy money is,” explained Bonhams’ specialist Michael Moorcroft.

The most sought-after entry from the
collection was an early 20th century
patinated brass ear trumpet gadget cane with a turned ivory earpiece and a malacca shaft. Although fakes pepper the gadget cane market, this practical walking accessory appeared to be the genuine article and it attracted interest from a museum for the deaf. However, it sold to a US collector for £1800, with a dealer as underbidder.

Similarly, the wear and tear evident on a late 19th/early 20th century fruitwood and brass mounted music stand pictured left ensured this unusual gadget cane doubled expectations and brought a bid of £1350 from a US collector. The collection contributed in excess of £20,000 to the £145,010 overall total of the 638-lot outing, which was 71 per cent sold by lot.

The 278 lots of walking sticks and canes that willfeature in Christie’s South Kensington’s auction on November 5 constitute just the first part of the mammoth collection amassed by Giovanni Monari, an Italian travel agent. The total collection, which will be offered over three sales, runs to over 1500 examples and includes every
imaginable type of stick. The first instalment is big on canine-headed specimens but also includes silver-topped canes, examples with handles modelled as caricature heads and a selection of gadget canes like the sample pictured top.