Online Bidding

Whalebone scrimshaw ‘sails away’ at £7,000

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A whalebone scrimshaw believed to date from the 19th Century, and that depicts an image of what is possibly a whale hunt, has sold at auction for £7,000. The price is all the more remarkable as the scrimshaw carries considerable damage, as sale room manager at Cuttlestones, Tom Waldron, explains:


Scrimshaws and other marine animal carvings are highly collectable forms of folk art, and this one was particularly attractive, despite being damaged. When you add to this the fact that it has exceptional provenance – it was originally gifted to a member of the 1978-1980 British Antarctic Survey team by a local in the Falklands – it becomes evident why this piece was so keenly pursued by serious collectors on the internet and the phone lines. It’s an excellent result that is without doubt the highlight of our strongest specialist collectors’ sale to date.


While the scrimshaw (lot 417) certainly stood out, the Friday 2nd Specialist Collectors’ Sale, which took place at West Midlands Auctioneers Cuttlestones’ Wolverhampton Sale Room, also saw highlights in fields as diverse as toys, militaria, entertainment ephemera, taxidermy – and even a ‘one arm bandit’ gambling machine…



Toys proved, as ever, very popular. Within a strong section of just under a 120 lots, the ‘star’ was a Dinky Toys AEC articulated lorry (lot 263). Possibly Code 3, painted and reputed to be made by Dinky as a special order for Thames Board employees, it shattered its estimate by realising £400. The lot generated considerable interest during the run up to the sale and, despite being unboxed and missing a reel, sparked a bidding frenzy on the internet and in the room amongst the undeterred collectors.


Teddy bears also tugged at the heart-strings of keen collectors – lots 35, an early 20th century jointed teddy bear ‘in play worn condition’ and lot 36, an articulated teddy bear with long fur and velvet pads described as being ‘complete and well-loved’ together with a larger bear, both generated a number of bids online and sold for £240 and £350 respectively.


Lot 69, meanwhile, a tray of diecast plant machinery including excavators and cement mixers, by Conrad, Stetter, Shimse and other makers (some boxed, some loose) caused a real stir in the room. The bidding eventually came down to two buyers, and the winning bid settled at £400.



With a wide collection of medals up for sale, the military section – comprising some 100 or so lots – attracted much interest. Whilst lot 263, a WWI Military medal and bar with 1914-15 star trio, named ‘15780 Pte GH Parr, Yorks LI’, lead the field fetching £1,400, there were a number of other items that got the collectors’ juices flowing.


Lot 279, a WWI 1914/15 star casualty trio, named A 3512 Pte E Munn K.R. R.F.C. together with memorial plaque named ‘Ernest Munn’, on which the hammer fell at an impressive £210, was just one of a number of medals that saw furious bidding both in the room and via the internet. These also included lot 318; a WW1 1914-15 star trio, named “SE-7972 PTE-A-5JT- A. R. Rudman AVC” (S-5JT on BWM & Victory), along with mention in dispatches certificate & medal ribbon bars with mid oak leaves, which eventually realised £190.


A touch of celebrity

The internet also really proved its worth as a marketing and bidding medium in the miscellanea section; not least with a flurry of bids on the host of celebrity autographs and entertainment ephemera included within the sale. Particularly impressive was lot 221, ‘Two autograph books of film, TV, radio and entertainers from the 40s, 50s and 60s with loose photos, film letters – many signed’. With inclusions from stars such as Petula Clark, Bill Haley and his Comets, Paul Anka, Mario Lanza, Marilyn Monroe and along with a 1945 Frank Sinatra and Phil Silvers Apollo Theatre ticket to the VSO camp show the bidding finally drew to a close at £220 – perhaps because of a reputed Marilyn Munroe autograph within the set.


Another ‘star’ that attracted a lot of attention was lot 385 – AKA ‘Charlie Boy’ the famous talking Mynah bird. Otherwise a pleasant, if rather innocuous, little piece of taxidermy ‘Charlie Boy’ won the hearts of the nation with a repertoire that included some 24 phrases, coughs, sneezes and whistling the dog. He made regular TV appearances during the late 1950s and early 60s. Preserved for eternity by his doting owner, Charlie Boy came to auction along with a host of ephemera charting the little bird’s rise to fame including certificates, trophies and letters from both the BBC and Cambridge University. He finally sold for £360.


Elsewhere, a Leopard skin rug (lot 284), with head attached, achieved £260 against its estimate of £50-60 whilst lot 407, a Jennings one arm bandit ‘The Gold Crown’, circa 1960, realised £620.


Full results from the Specialist Collectors’ Sale are available at

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