Saleroom Life

by Sheffield Auction Gallery

Month: November 2015


One night last week, when I had finished all my washing and tidying chores early, my wife decided it would be exciting to watch a DVD. She is easily excited so not wishing to disappoint her, I agreed and left the choice to her.

After ten minutes we both felt the film was rather poor and on a steep downhill gradient, but decided to watch it anyway. One of the stars was George Clooney and all I can now remember about the evening was in the films credits, George Clooney not only had his own hairdresser he also had an assistant hairdresser.

Now George is a lucky man. He is blessed with looks not dissimilar to my own and a head of hair perhaps slightly better than mine. In the film his hair was cropped tightly to his head. As an auctioneer and valuer who is follicly challenged, my knowledge on hair care is obviously limited, but as his main hair dresser I am sure I would find a forty hour week hard to maintain and as his hairdressers assistant, who I assume would hand scissors and combs to the hairdresser, I am sure I would find job satisfaction hard to maintain. Perhaps if there were a few other heads of hair to look after life might be a bit more interesting. What that assistant would need as a distraction is a stamp collection.

The collection and study of postage stamps is known as philately and is hugely popular with beginners and specialists alike. The first ever stamp produced was the Penny Black first issued on 1st May 1840. Although it has legendary status it isn’t in fact rare with over 1.5 million still around today. A used stamp still has a reasonable value but the scarce unused versions, could set a collector back many, many times more. The Two-Penny Black, issued a week later, attracts similar prices.

Rare Stamps

Rare Stamps

The market offers huge variety for the stamp collector with over 350 authorities issuing stamps worldwide. Due to this wide range many collectors limit themselves to one area and focus on that. The British Commonwealth is a popular choice with stamps bearing the head of the British monarch, providing a fascinating document of the history of the Empire. As far as value is concerned, more valuable stamps tend to be those with a higher face value as they are rarer.


Value can also be found in the detail. A rare painting or cutting can increase a stamp’s value such as the 1955 one-penny stamp, where a small number of stamps had perforations cut 6mm too high so the bottom of the design appears at the top of the stamp. Cancellation marks or postmarks can also alter value and often certain marks are collected specifically. Occasionally, the Royal Mail actually issue an official variation such as a range with slightly different perforations of self adhesive instead of gummed. The Stanley Gibbons catalogue, a must read for all philatelists, includes these variations but many collectors only discover the variation on reading the catalogue and find the stamps are no longer on general sale, thus the subsequent high demand pushes their value up in the auction room.


Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Dinkie Pens

Conway Stewart & Company Ltd was founded by Frank Jarvis and Thomas Garner in London in 1905 specialising in writing instruments. They introduced the ‘Dinkie’ in the early 1920s and although many companies went on to produce these tiny fountain pens, Conway Stewart was and remains the name synonymous with Dinkie pens.

They were originally marketed as men’s waistcoat pens but quickly became a favourite amongst ladies as their small size made them very portable and perfect for keeping in your handbag. Manufacturers capitalised on their popularity with women and many came contained in small leather purses with mirrors and other accessories such as matching pencil although they were also made with the traditional pocket clip or with a ringtop.

The earliest examples of Dinkie pens are made of hard rubber but by the late 1920s Conway Stewart pioneered new materials; casein and celluloid (very early forms of plastics) began to be used. The pens came in a huge array of bright, bold colours and this remains one of their key attractions to collectors today. The range of Dinkies made was extensive so finding rare or mint condition examples is very special.

The condition of Dinkie pens is particularly important with worn or warped examples losing value while good condition, rare design or original boxes or accessories fetching a premium. Dinkie pens were produced until the 1960s but the pre-war examples remain a favourite amongst collectors. Conway Stewart produced the ‘550’ range in the ‘50s, they were beautifully made, miniature versions of their standard pens, many produced in gift sets but they are very common and do not hold the same appeal as the earlier versions.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Lalique Perfume Bottles

The glass market was moving forward, old techniques such as acid etching and enamelling were being adapted to create new styles and new products to fit changing lifestyles and habits. The perfume bottle was a perfect example.

Rene Lalique (1860-1945) began his career designing jewellery, he began working with glass in the 1890s and opened his first glass shop in Paris on the square “Place Vendôme” in 1905. His work caught the eye of perfumer Franҫois Coty who had a shop nearby and Coty invited Lalique into a partnership initially designing labels for his perfumes and later the glass bottles. Their partnership revolutionised the perfume industry; it was the first time perfumes were packaged in distinctive bottles evocative of the fragrance contained within and it was a huge success. By the 1920s Lalique has three factories and produced exquisite perfume bottles for over 60 fashionable and desirable perfumers.

The perfume bottles in highest demand now are the more unusual or abstract with inventive designs and forms. Most bottles had modern and stylized designs following the Art Deco style. Early examples feature more flowing lines, floral designs and figural etching. Some bottles were formed in bold shapes with oversized decorative stoppers, occasionally more than one stopper could be designed for a bottle.

A 1920's Lalique Glass Perfume Bottle for Rallet s Soir. Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £3,000

A 1920’s Lalique Glass Perfume Bottle for Rallet s Soir. Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £3,000

Bottles that are sealed with their original contents remaining or bottles with their original outer packaging still intact are considerably more valuable and thus more popular amongst collectors. Bottles made or designed after 1945 will not feature the initial “R” in their mark as this was never used after Rene Lalique’s death. The “R” is often added to later pieces to make them appear earlier and thus more desirable, so beware.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Mocha Ware

Mocha Ware describes inexpensive colour-banded pottery produced from the late 18th century which features fern-like decoration. It is often thought that the name refers to the base colours commonly used which included cafe du lait as well as green and brown. In actual fact the name came from its likeness to mocha stone, a compact and crystalline form of quartz.

Mocha stone is found in Brazil, the United States and India but got its name as it was shipped through the port of Mocha in Arabia. It is colourless or whitish-grey and features natural tree-like patterns. These curious black, brown or red dendrites (tree-like images) are produced by the infiltration of solutions carrying iron and manganese, which leaves thin films of oxide along the cracks of the stone.

A typical Mocha Ware Cup

A typical Mocha Ware Cup

The imitated decoration on the mocha ware pottery was created using a mixture known as ‘tea’. First the pottery was coated in a runny mixture of clay and water; a ‘slip’ and while this was still wet the tea was dabbed on. The true content of the tea was different for each potter with many claiming secret recipes but was said to contain such things as tobacco spittle, turpentine, manganese, hops, orange or lemon juice and even urine.

Once the tree-like design had been added the wares were finished with thick colour-banding usually in black. Mocha Ware was largely mugs, jugs and tankards with impressed clay badges indicating beer capacity. These jugs and tankards were very inexpensive to buy and quite often were made for use in public houses.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

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