I’ve written before about how some of the most valuable collectables arise out of their rarity – sometimes because they were deliberately produced in tiny editions to create such a demand, but also because they were withdrawn after a short run because of mistakes or proved undesirable at the time. Two examples of the latter are The Exploding Trench, a WWI toy that manufacturers Britains made the mistake of filling with British rather than German model troops, and the Vinyl Cape Jawa figure, a minor character from Star Wars, soon replaced by one dressed in a cloth cape.
Such limited editions are common in the world of stamps (the Inverted Jenny), coins and bank notes too. In the news this week is the gold Kew Gardens 50p piece, an edition limited to just 1000 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the gardens in 2009, of which only 629 sold to the public. Featuring the famous pagoda landmark from within the gardens on the reverse, the price for a single one of these is expected to reach £800 at auction this month.
My other, more recent, favourite, is the limited run of just six £5 notes soon to be put into circulation with a micro engraving of England football captain Harry Kane and the inscription World Cup Golden Boot Winner 2018 next to the image of Big Ben.
Keep your eyes peeled for one of these; they are valued at £50,000 apiece.
I’m writing this as the three-day Goodwood Revival, just up the road over the Downs, comes to a close. Along with the Festival of Speed, which takes place in mid July, there really is no better celebration of the magic of motoring. Whether you’re a petrol head pursuing performance and the acme of engineering, or a design darling marvelling at the sleek lines of the most memorable marques, these are the events that show why classic cars have been at the peak of price increases in the world of auctions and collecting over the past 20 years.
Even with a slight softening of values over the past three years or so, for the most outstanding cars coming to the rostrum the records continue to tumble. In fact, it was only last month that a new world auction record was set for a car when what is arguably the most desirable model ever made, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, took $48.4 million at the Monterey sales.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) may be leading Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) in the F1 Driver’s Championship by some margin at the moment, but when it comes to collecting, nothing comes close to the Italian marque with the Prancing Horse mascot. It accounts for seven of the top ten prices for cars ever taken at auction …including ALL of the top six.
Comic Cuts, Whizzer & Chips, Valiant, Tiger, Eagle and The Dandy; and to top them all, of course, The Beano, which at its height enjoyed sales of close to 2 million copies a week. The comics of our youth are part of the defining culture of post-war Britain until the dawn of the internet. So you can imagine the excitement when it was recently announced that a copy of the first ever Beano annual, from 1940 – although released in 1939 – was coming up for auction.
The annual from Dundee publishers DC Thomson set the tone for the decades to come, with larger than life characters getting into various scrapes amid an anarchic landscape.
None of the most famous characters appeared in the first weekly edition of The Beano, published in July 1938, except for Lord Snooty and his pals. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher did not appear until 1952, Minnie the Minx two years later and The Bash Street Kids a few months after that. Except for Dennis, all were created by the great Leo Baxendale, who died only last year, aged 86.
The Beano annual, expected to fetch £1200-1500, actually sold for £2700. I would be fascinated to see what an original Baxendale cartoon strip featuring Plug, Smiffy or Minnie would make today.
On August 29 we are honoured to be selling a collection of gilt Easter eggs, filled with surprises, by the late great Stuart Devlin.
An Australian by birth, Devlin designed that nation’s first decimal coinage in the mid 1960s, as well as creating the medals for Australia’s new honours system a decade later.
By that time he had already made a considerable name for himself across several continents and had undertaken a travel scholarship at the Royal College of Art in London from 1958 to 1960, having gained the highest marks ever studying gold and silversmithing at Melbourne Technical College.
Opening a workshop in Clerkenwell, London (followed by several others), Devlin gave employment to craftsmen and women while he developed new designs, techniques and ideas, creating wonders in jewellery, cutlery, candlesticks and other homewares, as well as trophies, clocks and masterpieces like his range of Christmas boxes and decorative eggs, each containing a bejewelled surprise and still, astonishingly, valued at only a few hundred pounds each.
I was amazed to discover that this genius, who sadly passed away in Chichester on April 12, had designed coins and medals for no fewer than 36 countries in his time.
As a worthy Royal Warrant holder, he became Prime Warden of the Goldsmith’s Company from 1996-97.
As I said at the top of the piece, it is an honour to be marking his passing by celebrating the man’s work in this way.