Of the hundreds of thousands of such souvenirs produced from the 1820s until the 1930s and sold in Britain, the US and across the old empire, some 6500 of them finished up in a Kent couple’s collection consigned to the June 6-8 sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries (20% buyer’s premium).
It was a remarkable sight, although given the relatively small values involved, many lots were offered in large multiples.
The collection took a week to catalogue before being offered in nearly 300 lots.
Top-seller was a mid-19th century 8 x 6 x 4½in (20 x 15 x 10cm) box from Mauchline’s lucrative line in ‘tartanware’. The clan tartan was the rather rare McDuff but the box’s extra appeal was its contents – six slim volumes of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, each bound in tartan covers.
A fitting winner, given that in organising King George’s visit Sir Walter was the original begetter of the commercialisation of Scotland’s mythology, it sold to a collector at a top-estimate £800.
The collection posted a hammer total of nearly £42,000 – not the biggest return for effort in a topsy-turvy collecting world where an unregarded Oriental piece can make six figures.
In a 1440-lot, three-day sale, one of the big surprises was the success of a hardwood netsuke.
Carved as a tiger, the 1½in x 1in (4 x 2.5cm) netsuke had a character mark to the base but, unable to identify it with certainty, the auctioneers estimated the piece at £150-200. Huge pre-sale interest translated into action in the room and on the phone before the netsuke sold online at £10,500 to a Canadian buyer based in Mexico.
Classic English offerings in the wide-ranging sale included a 1930s panelled oak dresser by Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson which went over estimate at £7900, a 7ft 9in (2.56m) tall, late-18th century mahogany longcase by James Weston of Lewes which went to an American buyer above estimate at £3200 and a 18th century Staffordshire slipware dish.
With a pie-crust rim, the 12 x 14¾in (30 x 37cm) dish had a hairline crack but tripled the top estimate to lead the Canterbury ceramics at £3600.