Among the most elusive of all Royal Doulton HN series figures is the curious model of a winged cherub astride a crocodilian known simply as ‘Boy on a Crocodile’.
Designed by Charles Noke in 1920, HN373 is well known via the collecting literature but, with fewer than half a dozen recorded, only rarely do they appear on the marketplace.
The Boy on a Crocodile in the Royal Doulton Museum collection dispersed by Bonhams in October 2004 sold for £7500 while another offered by Bearnes of Exeter in July 2006 took £9000.
So Doulton specialistsLouis Taylorof Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent were pleasantly surprised when another arrived over the counter in time for their two-day antiques sale last month.
It was not in the best condition (the head and a claw had been broken and reglued and the metallic reins that are secured via two holes in the crocodile's mouth were missing), but the auctioneers were happy to enter it with an estimate of £2000-£3000.
It was the first time they had sold this model (although in December 2011 they had taken £880 for a related white-glazed figure of the crocodile, minus its rider). Huge interest followed and bidding reached £7000 before it sold to a buyer in the United States.
Two Doulton one-off prototype figures of jesters were consigned by a collector with estimates of £4000-6000 apiece. Neither was of any great age (marked to the base Property of Royal Doulton Factory, they were perhaps as recent as the 1990s), but the subject matter has particular resonance with Doulton figure collectors.
The 9½in (23cm) figure of a kneeling jester holding a lute sold for £5000, while a similar 10in (25cm) group of a jester seated on a panelled chest, a juggling ball in his hand, took £4800.
Both sold to a UK collector against competition from America.
Two factory prototypes among the character jugs generated four-figure sums.
The most desirable of these was a piece that never made it into production, a large jug of John Gilpin whose exploits on a runaway horse provided the basis for a popular 18th century comic ballad. The poem tells how Gilpin and his wife and children became separated during a journey to the Bell Inn, Edmonton - the name inscribed to the signpost that forms the jug's handle.
Estimated at £3000-4000, it took £3600 from an Australian collector.
Modelled by Stanley James Taylor, the Thomas More jug (D6782) was issued in 1987 and today sells for around £50. However, the example here, desirable for its factory backstamp reading Property of Royal Doulton and a certificate vouching for its authenticity, took £1100.
The surprise package on the second day of this March 11-12 sale was provided by a 6in (15cm) Carlton Ware lustre vase decorated in the Art Deco style with a gossamer-winged fairy. It created much interest and the hammer fell at £2500 - a price many times the £100-150 estimate and somewhat reminiscent of the market peak in the late 1990s.
The Fairy pattern, designed by Violet Elmer (who also produced the equally elusive Red Devil design) seems to have been produced in two colourways, in lustre orange (pattern 3576) and in lustre blue (pattern 3564) as seen here.
The buyer's premium was 17.5%.