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A glance at the saleroom prices achieved by these little figures, often chipped and scarred by a lifetime of prop work, and you realise why they will never be returned to the window sill.

Half a dozen lots from a private collection – there is always a private collection even of the most unlikely items – received seriously high prices at Law Fine Art on May 21-22, taking the auctioneer by surprise.

The pair of bearded men with feather headresses, right, each 41/4in (11.5cm) high, attracted the highest bidding and sold at £850 against expectations of £180-220.

Elsewhere a window rest in the sphinx-like form of Benjamin Disraeli, c.1870, presumably lampooning the Prime Minister’s involvement in the building of the Suez Canal, attracted a double-estimate £400, and a pair of Continental faience examples in the likeness of Florence Nightingale, took £300.