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When bits of paper can hold great value

It looks just like a scrap of paper, but to some people it is the equivalent of a rather large bank note. Notes, letters, tickets and other ephemera (as they are collectively known) can take on an entirely different perspective when it comes to auctions if they are associated with a particular person or event that has captured the public imagination.

I was reminded of that this week when I read news of a letter dating to 1803 in which King George III revealed his intention to declare war on France. Snapped up for £11,000, it is a wonderful window on history, conveying some idea of the febrile atmosphere alive in England at the time, with fears of a French invasion in the year before Napoleon crowned himself Emperor.

While a letter from a monarch might be an obvious document to tuck away for posterity, other items are less so. Who remembers the 1966 World Cup scrap album, in which you could post stickers of every team player in the world? I had one of those with only one gap, the Uruguayan defender Néstor Gonçalves. I’m not saying its price at auction would be life changing today, but I could kick myself for losing it during a house move.

The lesson? You don’t have to be a hoarder, and a nice de-clutter every now and then can perk up the home, but just take a second look at anything that you might later regret letting go.

What to expect in 2019

As we head into 2019, what are going to be the significant events of the year from an auction perspective?

The one that immediately springs to mind is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969. The market for photographs and other collectables linked to the NASA programme, and particularly the Apollo 8, 11 and 13 missions, has blossomed in recent years, to the point that one leading dealer dedicated his entire stand to the subject at TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s leading art and antiques fair. Expect interest to peak in the June sales.

The world of rock and pop will enjoy a number of major landmarks, but the two stand-outs have to be the 50th anniversary of Woodstock on August 15 and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album release on September 26.

Original Woodstock tickets have always done reasonable business online, but you have to be very careful about fakes. Don’t forget, too, that the tickets were actually printed for the original venue, Wallkill, New York, which rejected it. By the time 50,000 hippies turned up at Woodstock, where a farmer had offered some land as an alternative, it was too late to sort out alternative ticketing, and so the event turned free – a disaster for the organisers.

However, original film footage and photos should see a spike in prices in the earlier part of the year.

Bentley – still going strong at 100

Just before Christmas, I used this column to celebrate the unassailable greatness of the Rolex brand. Now, I want to reveal what, surprisingly, remains a little known fact about another magnificent brand – this time British: Bentley will be marking its centenary in about a fortnight.

As great a luxury marque as ever it was, this astonishing manufacturer started out in Cricklewood of all places, where its founder, W.O. Bentley, set up shop on January 18, 1919, a mere five years before his car won its first Le mans 24-hour race.

W.O. started as an apprentice railway engineer on the Great Northern, even working as fireman on the footplate, shovelling a total of seven tons of coal on one particularly long day.

What really got him started in the car business, though, was a bit of inspiration from a paperweight made of aluminium alloy, the metal he adapted fro use in making pistons for a modified camshaft. Sound too technical? Well it’s what helped him set a number of new records at Brooklands, and the rest is history.

The auction record for a Bentley? £5m paid for the 1929 Birkin Bentley at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012.


Rolex – the ultimate in keeping glamour, luxury and riches to hand

Few possessions tell you more about the owner than a watch, and few watches tell you more about their wearer than a Rolex.

For a man, a watch is generally the one piece of acceptable jewellery whose appearance on the wrist says more about his status, wealth, masculinity and attitude than anything else. A Rolex is the closest most will ever get to owning the trophy boys’ toys of a Ferrari or top-of-the-range boat.

Women covet Rolex watches for just the same status reasons – all this on top of all that precision engineering. Among the top watch brands – Patek Philippe, Breguet, Cartier, Rolex, Bulgari, Longines, Omega… – something about Rolex stands out as the mark of ultimate luxury and achievement.

Because the company understands the power of brand so well, it has also mastered the long-term management and development of Rolex in as precise a manner as the scientific engineering of the watches themselves.

Limited editions are a potential attraction, as well as models with special associations. Can anyone think of any more desirable watch than Hollywood film star Paul Newman’s personal 1968 Rolex Daytona? A $17.75 million price tag for it in October 2017 shows that not many could.

A recent example in Fernhurst was the 1982 stainless steel Gentleman’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master we sold for £12,000, complete with the all-important original box and paperwork.

No wonder Rolex watches are seen as such a handy investment vehicle.