Sampson Mordan & Co silver and enamel vesta case marking the repeal of the Locomotion Act in 1896 – £4400 at Dix Noonan Webb.

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The date is significant as that was the year the Locomotive Act of 1865 also known as the Red Flag Act was repealed. Previously self-propelled vehicles or ‘horseless carriages’ were required to follow a pedestrian walking 60 yards ahead of the vehicle waving a red flag or carrying a lantern to warn bystanders of the vehicle’s approach.

When finally scrapped on November 14, 1896, Harry Lawson of Daimler and his friends organised the London to Brighton Emancipation run in which a red flag was symbolically destroyed by Lord Winchelsea. The run of 33 cars started at the Metropole Hotel in London and finished at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton and became a regular annual event on the first Sunday of November from 1927, (except from the onset of the Second World War up to 1947, owing to petrol rationing).

This vesta case is the example illustrated in Exceptional Match Safes edited by Shapiro & Koenig and only a handful are known. It was offered for sale at Dix Noonan Webb in London on September 14 when, estimated at £800-1000, it was competed by two phones to £4400 (plus 24% buyer’s premium).


Sampson Mordan & Co silver and enamel sentry box vesta depicting an Austrian Tirol Kaiserjäger infantryman – £5500 at Dix Noonan Webb.

It was one of a number of Sampson Mordan silver and enamel vesta cases offered in the sale, the others better known types. There were three of the coveted ‘sentry box’ models patented in 1885 (they carry the registered design number 38283). Originally thought to be limited to a series of 10 or 12 regiments, around 30 regiments have now been recorded.

Made around the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, most of these cases depict soldiers from the royal regiments. The Grenadier Guard is a popular example and one here took £1600 while another wearing the uniform of the 5th Irish Lancers sold online at £2400.

However, the rarest of the group, hallmarked for 1886 and overstruck with two import marks, was enamelled with an Austrian Tirol Kaiserjäger infantryman. These foreign regiments may have been one-off special commissions.

The Kaiserjäger was formed in 1895 as four infantry regiments within the Common Army of Austria-Hungary and disbanded in 1918. This solider, in parade dress, wears a felt hat, with green cord, a plume of black rooster feathers and the Jäger emblem (it translates as huntsman). Estimated at £2000-3000, it drew a number of bidders and was hammered down to a commission bid at £5500.