19th century ivory nutcrackers – £3300 at PFK.

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They came from a local house clearance by Penrith Farmers’ & Kidd’s (18% buyer’s premium) and were offered at the Cumbrian rooms on August 21.

“We push hard on house clearance work,” said auctioneer Michael Roberts, brought in four years ago to revitalise the 143-year-old firm.

“It’s unglamorous but we source many good items. In my view the traditional provincial model of quarterly fine art sales and regular general sales is outdated.

“Instead, we hold fortnightly Interiors auctions, usually of around 1000 lots, to create a varied mix, and small select sales which we call our ‘Curated’ sales. It’s a model that works for us at PFK and draws in custom.”

The nutcrackers were offered at an interiors sale with an a/f caveat in the brief catalogue description to take into account some very minor chipping and slight cracking to the top.

The £100-150 estimate pleased the vendor, who was even happier when they sold via at £3300.

Nutcrackers have a dedicated following, of course, but in this case specialist collectors were beaten to the prize by a European bidder who, said Roberts, “is rumoured to be establishing an ivory museum prior to the ban being implemented”.