Made in zinc, copper, brass or aluminium, the flat-topped ‘malle cabine’ was designed to meet the requirements of intrepid European travellers to tropical climes.
Easily stacked, the hardwearing, air-tight form was invaluable for keeping the contents free from water, insects and dust.
Most survivors date from c.1890-95. Those found in the UK – and there have been half-a-dozen zinc examples sold at auction in the past decade – often carry a paper manufacturer’s label inside with LV’s former Oxford Street address (opening in 1885) erased and changed to 454 Strand where the firm moved in 1888.
The company’s signature ‘monogram’ canvas was not launched until almost a decade later.
String of sales
Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium) in Washington, West Sussex, is now a seasoned hand in selling zinc Explorers.
It offered one in October 2017 (£26,000), followed by another that made £30,500 in December 2019.
Others have sold at Guernsey’s Martel Maides in June 2019 (£29,000) and at Thimbleby & Shorland in Reading in November 2019 (£27,000).
Toovey’s found its third for a sale on January 19. All Louis Vuitton trunks are numbered, with this one, measuring 2ft 8in (81cm) across, inscribed 37942. According to family history, the inscribed name Dickin and initials EPD to the top and sides are believed to relate to Dr Edward Percival Dickin. Born in Yorkshire in 1871, he studied in Paris and worked in Northampton Hospital.
In fine original condition, although showing some verdigris to the brass mounts and oxidisation to the iron casters, it went well past its £20,000-30,000 estimate to sell for £66,000. Toovey’s believes it is a record for this type and one of the highest sums ever paid for an LV trunk at auction.
The rarest of all Vuitton Explorer trunks is the aluminium model. Just a handful of these were made in a single year (1892) at a time when aluminium was considered a precious metal. Christie’s sold one in December 2018 for £130,000 (plus 25% premium), with the other known example in the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris.