1. Dunhill ‘Aviary’ lighter – £6500
In the wake of an auction record for an ‘aquarium’ lighter at Chiswick Auctions, six more of the classic Dunhill accessories came for sale at the same saleroom on August 26.
It’s not difficult to see how these uber-collectable lighters got their name. Not only do they resemble miniature fish tanks, but most were decorated with aquatic subjects. The thick layer of Lucite, a material developed by the American air force during the Second World War, provides an illusion of movement.
However, it is the so-called ‘non-aquatic aquariums’ depicting subjects other than fish that bring the highest prices. For these rarer or bespoke examples, the makers – Ben Shillingford at Dunhill and Allan and Margaret Bennett working from their home on the south coast – would use reference books and their own artistic talents to produce a design in pencil and watercolour and then carve it into the plastic using dentistry tools. The lighters were made from 1949-59. Winston Churchill was one of many wealthy and notable owners and collectors.
Among the rare designs offered on August 26 was an 'Aviary' lighter with an intaglio carved woodpecker to one side and an osprey to the other (estimate £5000-8000) and a bespoke lighter decorated with a view of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth (£4000-6000). Both sold within hopes at £6500 and £4000 respectively.
Back in December, an auction record was set for an Alfred Dunhill ‘aquarium’ when Chiswick Auctions sold a lighter depicting a pair of water birds to one side and a snowy heron to the other. It raced away to bring £13,000.
2. Staffordshire pearlware figure – $3100
An early 19th century pearlware figure was the surprise performer when 200 lots from the Flower collection were offered by Lion & Unicorn in Hollywood, Florida on August 27.
This 8in (2cm) high figure of a Scotsman in traditional attire alongside a hunting dog, is known as the Deer Stalker, and follows a contemporary print of the same title. Although like most pieces from this period it is unmarked, it is thought to have been made c.1820 in the Staffordshire pot bank of Obadiah Sherratt. A scarce and popular model estimated at $100-200, it took $3100.
The property lawyer Edward Flower (1929-2022) and his wife Marilyn (1930-2017) were inveterate collectors. First it was American impressionism, then artist-signed prints, then British and American art pottery and glass and latterly majolica. The 600-piece Flower collection of majolica is being offered by specialists Strawser Auction Group across three sales in Pennsylvania – the first held on August 23. Some 61 lots of English pottery was sold by Doyle New York in December.
Leading this Floridian tranche of the Flower collection at $4100 was a Charles Vyse (1882-1971) ‘Punch & Judy’ figure group c.1928. This 12in (30cm) model of a street musician with his dog in front of the traditional puppet theatre booth is typical of the slip-cast figure of everyday Londoners that Vyse – a Staffordshire potter through and through – made at the studio he established with his wife Nell at Cheyne Walk in Chelsea from 1919.
Another version of this model sold for £8000 at Bonhams in November 2006 while more recently in January 2019 one took £6600 at Henry Adams Auctions in Chichester.
3. Signed Led Zeppelin album cover – £15,000
A copy of Led Zeppelin’s House of the Holy album signed by all four members of the band sold to a phone bidder for £15,000 at the Music, Vinyl & Memorabilia auction at Gildings in Market Harborough on August 31.
The 1973 sleeve cover (the record was not included) had been taken by the vendor to Gatwick Airport in 1977 to meet the band while on break from an American tour.
The sleeve was signed by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham who died in 1980 aged 32.
Items signed by all four band members are extremely rare, with fewer than 30 fully autographed copies of Led Zeppelin albums thought to exist. This example was estimated at £1200-1800.
Gildings’ music and memorabilia specialist, Andrew Smith commented: “It just goes to show that in this day and age if you spot a celebrity, you should ask for an autograph, not a selfie.”
4. Harold Riley work on paper – £5200
Seven works on paper by the Salford artist Harold Riley (1934-2023) were offered by Rogers Jones in Colwyn Bay on August 29.
All came for sale from the son of PC Tony Fletcher who for many years worked as a bobby in the Salford area. He was introduced to Riley (who died in April this year at the age of 88) with the request the artist might accompany him on his beat for two weeks to gain added insight into the area.
The two men became lifelong friends with the pictures given by Riley to Fletcher as gifts. All were eagerly competed way past modest estimates with the atmospheric charcoal and pastel scene of a Victorian alleyway selling at £5200 (estimate £200-300).
5. Portrait of Scottish fiddler – £28,000
Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) painted several versions of his portrait of Neil Gow, the most famous Scottish fiddler of the 18th century, for a number of patrons.
At 4ft x 3ft 3in (1.23m x 98cm), this version, offered for sale at McTear’s in Glasgow on August 29, is the same dimensions as the example currently on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
However, it was catalogued as Raeburn and Studio and had a guide of £8000-12,000.
The picture was last sold at Christie’s in 1949 and until recently was in a Canadian private collection. At the sale of Scottish pictures, it sold at £28,000.