Antique expert brings good news for some...

Josie Bray and her granddaughter Sophie Loweth wait with bated breath to hear the verdict on the cockerel and the tankard.  Photo: SG171111-162TW
Josie Bray and her granddaughter Sophie Loweth wait with bated breath to hear the verdict on the cockerel and the tankard. Photo: SG171111-162TW
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IT’S always the way, isn’t it? You keep a treasured ornament well-polished and then discover you’ve lost £5,000 in value on it because in the process you’ve removed its original colour.

The item in question was a bronze cockerel owned by Josie Bray, of Pinchbeck, who had inherited him from her mother-in-law. Josie – not responsible for the damage – learned it was made by sculptor Frank Bergman, famous for his cold-painted bronzes, in 1890 to 1900, and in his original condition, with the colour intact, would have been worth £6,000. Colourless, the cockerel was worth under £1,000.

This and other gems were revealed at an antiques valuation evening organised at Bookmark in Spalding by Christine Hanson, with BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Judith Miller sharing her expertise as well as signing copies of her latest book, the Antiques Handbook & Price Guide 2012-2013.

Judith began the evening by talking about what she called “the fickleness of the trade” at a time when good quality Victorian brown furniture, which will probably be around for another 200 years, is severely underrated and as a consequence struggling to sell, while pretty teacups, saucers and cake plates from the same era have become fashionable once more and so are selling well.

Similarly, blue and white patterned platters are not making the money they once did, although their popularity in the States is still high, and Japanese objects are in the doldrums, Judith advised.

By contrast, the Chinese are buying back their heritage – the many precious items bought by wealthy Westerners and imported to Britain and other countries – and so prices for Oriental objects such as jade and ceramics are “going up and up”, said Judith.

Judith explained there were two problems with that – it was currently difficult to value such pieces because prices were constantly going up and, as with anything valuable, it could lead to forgeries.

Her advice to collectors was: “Getting your eye in for quality is important. When you are looking at things you start to get a feeling for quality, modelling and decoration. Don’t just look at the mark.”

Another area that is doing well is costume jewellery, with record prices being paid that were once reserved for jewellery with intrinsic value, such as gold or precious stones, advised Judith.

However, these fluctuations simply mirrored people’s changing tastes, and it was this kind of desirability, along with condition, age, rarity and provenance, that were the considerations when valuing an item, said Judith, who suggested people should collect because they loved something, not because they hoped it would become valuable.

People attending the evening took along items they loved or hoped might be valuable for Judith to appraise, including Michael Hanson’s copper and brass bed warmer, worth £60, and an iridescent glass vase which proved to have been made by Loetz and was valued at a rather more healthy £600 for one Boston resident.

That was also the value put on Josie Bray’s other item, a silver tankard awarded in 1862 by Rutland Agricultural Society for the “best cultivated Swedish turnip”.

Surprise of the evening was a small mechanical Scottie dog that Philip Brassington, of Spalding, brought with him and which Judith recognised as a Schuco toy, likely to date from the 1920s, and valued at “probably over £200”.

There was a blue vase which, despite being made prior to 1920, was worth only £20 to £30 because it was currently unfashionable, silver sauce boats worth £200 to £300 a pair, and rather nice Royal Doulton Willow pattern vases with silver rims, worth around £100 for the pair.

There were some lucky people with Chinese objects, such as Betty Turner, of Spalding, who was told one of her highly decorative pieces was worth £300 to £400, while another was valued at a sound £700 to £800, and Paul Levin, again of Spalding, who heard his Chinese models would probably fetch £1,000 for the pair.

It’s possible to meet Judith and the rest of the experts when the Roadshow goes on the road, but Judith had a piece of advice for those interested in attending.

She said: “Either turn up at 6am and queue until the Roadshow opens its doors, or arrive later in the day, say 3pm, to miss the long queues.”