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The vulture and serpent teapot, designed for Minton by Colonel Henry Hope Crealock in 1874, is considered the most coveted of all majolica teapot designs. However, perhaps because of the complexity of the design, few were made and only a handful of examples have been sold at auction in the past dozen years.

The example, pictured here, part of a probate valuation from Herne Bay, emerged at Canterbury Auction Galleries on February 27. Estimated at a modest £600-800 - its handle had also been broken - it attracted bidding from major UK and US specialists before it sold to a UK private collector bidding from the Far East at £17,000 (plus 15 per cent buyer's premium). The proceeds of the sale have been bequeathed to eight different charities.

The price seems relatively modest against the two previous appearances of this teapot.

The example sold at CSK in November 1999 made £30,000. It was in near-perfect condition. The example in the Marilyn Karmason collection sold by Majolica Auctions in Hatfield, Pennsylvania in October 2005 had a professional repair to the fragile snake handle but was otherwise clean. It made a whopping $62,500 (£36,750), selling to an American private collector well above its $30,000-40,000 estimate.

Roland Arkell