Dreweatts regularly feature specialist sections in our spring and autumn Interiors sales dedicated to Country Sporting items. These are often an eclectic mix including taxidermy, sporting guns, cane fishing rods, sporting pictures, prints, racing memorabilia and other collectibles which are overseen by Dreweatts specialists, Geoffrey Stafford Charles and Ashley Matthews.
Over the years we have seen great success across these categories and in particular taxidermy. When valuing potential consignments, we first consult Kim McDonald of Taxidermy Law to ensure all items are legal to offer at auction.
Key things to look for when buying or selling taxidermy are age, condition and whether it bears the name of one of the great 19th century taxidermists, such as Van Ingen & Van Ingen of Mysore, or Roland Ward of London. Having good provenance is an added bonus!
At Dreweatts, highlights include a preserved grey crowned crane, Balearica regulorum, which sold for £1,375 against pre-sale estimates of £300-500 (+fees) in June 2019.
The success of this naturalistically modelled bird, the national bird of Uganda, was no doubt due to the fact that it was in good condition but also that it was preserved by Roland Ward of London, evidenced by the ivorine label. Additionally the glazed case was inscribed 'Bramshill, August 15th 1939'.
The market for good sporting guns is no different from any other market in the auction world of antiques, art and chattels, that is to say the valuer must at all times be aware of changing habits, fashion and possibly even changes in the law of the land that might influence the collector or avid sportsman or woman. For example, suspicions that the European Union might at some point ban lead shot for cartridges has seen ripples in the gun trade in older guns. There are some bargains to be had for good quality boxlock shotguns where the market has seen some serious reductions and whilst this is less the case for good English sidelocks, it is really only the market for makers of 'best' guns such as Boss, Holland & Holland and Purdey that have been able to 'weather the storm.'
In our Spring Sale in 2019, we offered a Victorian leather, brass-bound and oak lined gun case by the renowned London gunsmiths J Purdey with the original paper label to the inside. With research we established that it dated from the third quarter of the 19th century, circa 1865, as the firm of James Purdey & Sons operated from their Oxford Street address from 1826 and moved to their current address in South Audley Street in 1882. This gun case, along with another case in the lot, achieved £687.50.
Fishing rods, reels and other ephemera including early books on the subject are collectible, but as with guns and shooting ephemera, it is only the great, historic names that develop interest and in the world of fishing that name is Hardy of Alnwick. Early Hardy reels and split cane rods are ever popular and so is Hardy equipment such as fly boxes, original catalogues etc. Don't be tempted to bring in carbon fibre rods though as it is only antique fishing paraphernalia that collectors want.
This is perhaps the most varied section of the sale, including more decorative sporting items such as pictures, prints and collectibles. Artists such as Henry Alken or Cecil Aldin are best remembered for their often humorous hunting scenes.
In April 2019, we offered six lots from the estate of the late Alan Emmett. Mr Emmett was a wood carver and a founding member of the British Decoy & Wildfowl Carvers Association and trained by the late Bob Ridges, a much celebrated master of the art of decoy carving. This naturalistic model of a duck by Alan Emmett was, like all the lots offered, signed with his signature feather motif to the underside. Due to the esteem in which his work was held and the accuracy in modelling, this example sold for £400.
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