Sign for Nixey’s Silver Moonlight Plumbago Stove Polish, £4200 at Chippenham Auction Rooms.

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In 1847 company founder William George Nixey had patented a product for polishing cast iron that improved on the once ubiquitous cleaning powder known as ‘the servant’s friend’. Bottles of Nixey’s Refined Black Lead sold in the thousands.

Part of the success was down to branding and advertising. Operating from several buildings in the Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, neighbourhood, the firm’s range expanded to include Nixey’s Silver Moonlight Plumbago Stove Polish, Nixey’s Cervus Knife Polish and Nixey’s Soho Square Blue and Emery Cloth.

Each product was promoted through campaigns that engaged celebrities of the day (Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry among them) and artworks by popular painters such as Frederick Morgan.

The sale of advertising memorabilia at Chippenham Auction Rooms (15% buyer’s premium) in Wiltshire on January 14 included a now very rare pictorial sign for Nixey’s Silver Moonlight Plumbago Stove Polish.

Measuring 2ft 1in x 22in (63 x 56cm), the text is accompanied by an image of a gondolier on the Grand Canal in Venice. It was not in first-rate condition (it had several areas of wear and chipping to the edges and the hanging holes) but it would be hard to find another.

Estimated at £1800-2500, it took £4200.

Not so cheap any more

Collecting enamel signs is no longer the cheap and cheerful pastime it was a generation ago. It is usual for the best and rarest signs to bring four-figure sums.

This sale included fine examples of two classic signs that made sums way above those commanded by more rough and ready survivors.

A vertical format Palethorpes Pork Pies sign in ‘superb near mint condition’ in a wooden frame sold at £2400, while a large and finely-preserved example of the Player’s Navy Cut Tobacco and Cigarette design with the familiar ‘sailor’ roundel made £2300.