Middlesbrough FC jersey

Middlesbrough FC jersey dating from 1886-90, £16,000 at Graham Budd.

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1. ‘Earliest’ Football League shirt – £16,000

This Middlesbrough FC jersey dates from between 1886 and 1890 – making it not just the oldest Boro shirt but possibly the oldest Football League shirt extant.

Made like a Victorian dress shirt in a heavy, white wool flannelette with a blue and white polka dot cotton trim, it includes the label reading Manufactured by E. Banks, shirt maker Middlesborough. The badge inscribed MFC Erimus is hand embroidered.

London sporting memorabilia specialists Graham Budd concluded the shirt, that had survived in remarkably good condition, had to date from before 1890 as that was the year the club (established in 1876) changed its colours, first to an all-blue shirt, then to all-white and finally to the red they are famed for today.

Estimated at £15,000-20,000, it took £16,000 on March 7 from a buyer using thesaleroom.com.

2. Carlo Giuliano gold earrings – £7800

Carlo Giuliano earrings

Victorian Etruscan revival gold earrings by Carlo Giuliano, £7800 at Stroud Auctions.

Born in Naples, the revivalist jeweller Carlo Giuliano (1831-95) made his name in London. Arriving in the city in 1860, he worked first from a workshop on Frith Street in Soho supplying jewellery to well-known retailers, and, from 1874, a shop with retail space on Piccadilly.

For 40 years, Pasquale Novissimo was the firm’s chief designer.

While the firm would become best known as a maker of Renaissance style jewels, Giuliano’s early work focused on the fashionable archaeological revival inspired by recent finds in Etruscan burial sites. Jewels of this kind appear in the paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

This pair of earrings offered by Stroud Auctions in Gloucestershire are in the form of Etruscan urns or amphorae set with rubies, white enamel and split pearls. They have Giuliano’s first maker's mark, the CG in monogram.

Hugely appealing at the estimate of just £200-400, they took a more substantial £7800 from a buyer using thesaleroom.com on March 8.

3. Elkington tankard – £850

Elkington electrotype tankard

Elkington gilt-copper electrotype tankard, £850 at Lyon & Turnbull.

This 12in (30cm) high gilt-copper electrotype tankard by Elkington of Birmingham copies a 17th-century ivory tankard with silver mounts. The underside is inscribed From the original ivory in the possession of Henry Bedford Esqr, executed by Elkington Mason & Co.

Financed by the steel pen magnate Josiah Mason, cousins George Richards Elkington and Henry Elkington, formed a relationship with the South Kensington Museum in the 1860s to produce these facsimile copies of artefacts for educational purposes using the new technology of electricity.

Elkington gilt-copper electrotype tankard

The inscription to the base of an Elkington gilt-copper electrotype tankard at Lyon & Turnbull.

The Bedford tankard was the third project between the South Kensington Museum and Elkington & Co and the only example where the name of the owner was credited on the piece. Versions made in copper cost £7 7s with those in gilt or parcel gilt priced at £10 10s.

This silver gilt example was estimated at £800-1200 at the Silver, Coins & Objets de Vertu sale at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on March 7 and sold at £850.

4. Myles Murphy portrait – £5800

Myles Murphy portrait

Head of a Young Man by Myles Murphy, £5800 at Dominic Winter.

This unframed oil on board Head of a Young Man is by the Slade School artist Myles Murphy (1927-2016).

Painted c.1955, around the time he was badly burned when a garment he was wearing for a painting caught fire, it is quite possible the subject is the Scottish painter Craigie Aitchison (1926-2009). Murphy and Aitchison were friends when students and, after winning a travelling scholarship, painted together in Ravenna. For many years the 23 x 18in (58 x 46cm) portrait was owned by Aitchison.

Portraits by artists in the Modern British canon are a current market strength – particularly those by artists who may previously have fallen under the radar. The Murphy painting came for sale at Dominic Winter in South Cerney, Gloucestershire on March 8 with a guide of £300-500 but pushed on to make £5800 from a buyer using thesaleroom.com.

5. Samuel Johnson letter – £13,200

Samuel Johnson letter

A letter signed by essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson, £13,200 at Halls.

For a great ‘man of letters’, original manuscripts by the English essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) are quite scarce on the market. Much of that has to do with the collecting impulses of Americans Donald and Mary Hyde who together acquired no less than 746 Johnson letters, more than half the known total. That they were bequeathed in Mary Hyde’s death in 2003 to the Houghton Library at Harvard means they are unlikely to appear for sale again.

This helps explain the enthusiastic response to this Johnson letter that was offered by Halls in Shrewsbury om March 9. Estimated at £3000-5000, it took £13,200.

The letter, dated March 17, 1783 and addressed to an unnamed correspondent, concerns a gentleman who Johnson is recommending for employment.

He writes: “About a fortnight ago, I wrote to you a request in favour of a young man whom I recommended as a clerk or copyer. Whether you never received my letter, or have forgotten it I know not. I now repeat the request that if you know any business, in which a man not without literature, and accustomed to write for lawyers can be employed, you would be pleased to make trial of my friend, by which you will have the satisfaction of helping a man in great distress.”

The letter, that is unpublished, was purchased by the vendor at Sotheby’s in the 1960s at a time when the Hydes were particularly active in the market ‘to stop it from going abroad’.