The unexpected highpoint of the three-day sale at Potteries Auctions on July 7-9 in Silverdale was found among the 87 lots of Bunnykins figures – a prototype tableau from the 1990s that raced away to bring an astonishing £35,500 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).
The record prices paid for Doulton figures have traditionally been reserved for the earliest figures from the HN series – rare models and colourways by designers such as Charles Noke, Leslie Harradine or Harry Tittensor made either side of the First World War. However, there are some notable exceptions.
The first line of Bunnykins figures comprised only six models made by Noke after Barbara Vernon designs. First issued in 1939, they did not return after the Second World War and it was not until 1969 that the production of Bunnykins figurines was restarted.
These later designs by Royal Doulton art director Walter Hayward and design manager Harry Sales show rabbits in a full range of zoomorphic roles from sportsmen to historical and literary figures. There are hundreds in the range.
This record-breaking group was a trial figure made in 1998 in anticipation of the Millennium. Titled Celebration Time (with the words Design Sample marked on the base), it depicts a family drinking a toast around a longcase clock.
It was guided at £300-600, although it had previously sold at Bonhams in 2004 for £7000 as part of the sale of selected items from the Doulton Museum. It is thought that only two were made. Collectors from the UK, US and Canada were in the running up to around £10,000 when the bidding was taken up by two Australian collectors.
Specialist Bill Buckley at Potteries Auctions said he believed the price was a new record for a Doulton figure, bettering even the sums paid for HN series rarities in the 1990s.
A second protype figure depicting Mrs Bunnykins was competed by the same bidders to £8600 (see Bid Barometer in this issue).