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So the approach of Christmas was probably immaterial when rarities did very well at provincial salerooms in November.

Criteria case studies

The relative importance collectors place on the three criteria of age, rarity and condition was illustrated at C&T Auctioneers’ (18% buyer’s premium) specialist sale at Tunbridge Wells on November 14.

Age and rarity took a rather battered c.1770 English carved and painted wooden doll, way beyond estimate whereas restoration resulted in one of the world’s rarest dolls, a 1916 Albert Marque bisque-head being bought in.

The 15in (38cm) Georgian doll with gesso face and jointed limbs was finely carved but lacked her arms and areas of gesso to the body.

“These early wooden dolls are very popular but this one needed a lot of restoration,” said C&T specialist Leigh Gotch, who pitched it at £500- 800, leaving it to the market to judge.

He was delighted when a battle between two determined UK collectors meant the doll took £5200.

However, the fact that the Marque doll, one of only 100 known to have been made by the fashionable Paris sculptor, had been professionally restored told against it.

The 22in (56cm) tall figure was an example of the move by a number of French artists to create more realistic dolls. Numbered 32 to the foot, it was estimated at £20,000-30,000 which Gotch deemed reasonable considering other examples have made six-figure sums in the US.

Nevertheless, as he said, those were in fine unrestored condition and collectors who could afford to go to £20,000 could probably afford to go to five times as much for perfection.

As it was, the restoration to the face and one hand of the C&T doll resulted in bidding stopping at £17,500.

Artist’s figure

There were plenty of compensations for the Ashford-based auctioneers across the 230-lot sale, though.

Among them was a good 19th century wooden lay figure, 2ft 2in (66cm) tall, with carved features and fully articulated body.

“These artists’ tools look quite plain but have become attractive to interior decorators as talking points,” said Gotch after this example took a quadruple-estimate £2200.

Also going way above hopes was one of the games among the juvenalia which closed the day: the rare 1822 Majestic Game of the Ostrich.

Featuring 20 oval portraits of regal, military and law figures surrounding one of King George IV, the 19½ x 15¾in (49 x 40cm), linen-backed board was in good condition and came with its original slip case and explanation/rule booklet,

Estimated at £500-700, it sold at £3100.