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Antique dolls, teddy bears and fine toys specialist Leigh Gotch, who has some 25 years of experience with Bonhams, has joined C&T of Rochester along with James Opie, probably the best-known British expert on the subject of toy soldiers.

Both formerly worked with Bonhams Oxford which - as announced last month - will close, along with a number of its collecting department, in September.

The appointments represent a coup for C&T, who only launched their sales in October 2013.

They plan to build on their four annual vintage toy collectors' auctions, held at the Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

Glen Chapman, who runs C&T with fellow dealer and militaria specialist Matthew Tredwen, told ATG: "We are relatively new, so as soon as I heard Bonhams were closing the toys department I approached Leigh.

"I've known him for quite some time so we had that personal connection. I also knew James. When it comes to toy soldiers, he is like a god really. We will give them a bit of a free role and they've really warmed to coming on board with us on a consultancy basis.

"It will give us another five sales a year basically - two doll and teddy bear auctions and three toy soldier sales."

The imminent closure of Bonhams toy department and the movement of expertise to smaller regional firms follows similar developments elsewhere.

Sotheby's interest in juvenalia was acquired by Vectis of Thornaby, near Stockton-on-Tees, in 2000.

Meanwhile, since 2009 a number of former Christie's South Kensington specialists, including Hugo Marsh and Daniel Agnew, have joined Special Auction Services of Greenham Common, near Newbury.