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Reginald J Cheetham was an engineer with a passion for collecting. For over 70 years he slowly filled his modest home in Liverpool with all manner of items that took his interest.

There were telescopes, binoculars, scientific instruments, uniforms and toys, but most of all there were swords and guns – hundreds of them.

When the auctioneers were called in following Cheetham’s death they literally had to unpack his home, retrieving objects from every nook and corner until they had over 500 guns and more than 400 swords and other edged weapons.

What emerged were not mint collectors’ items, but a kind of study collection.


Collector Reginald Cheetham.

Over the years Cheetham had explored various types of gun, many quite humble. For instance, there were 27 air rifles and over 40 air pistols, as well as long runs of early revolvers and military swords of all types.

The circumstance of his death meant that the whole collection could be offered without reserve and most lots sold in the low hundreds as expected, but bidding took off when rarities emerged and some of these are illustrated here.

The January 18-19 Macclesfield sale began with 490 lots of guns, and, as expected, this was certainly to prove the strongest section with 42 topping four figures. The highest prices were £7200 and £7000 achieved by a Tower flintlock saddle ring carbine and a similar Tower flintlock rifle.

Leading up to the auction, the auction house and potential buyers had questioned whether or not one or both of these guns could be by Baker and, with opinion split, two private collectors from the south coast and Isle of Wight battled with numerous bidders before the hammer successfully fell.

Fresh to the market

Auctioneer Chris Surfleet said: “With 1696 lots to be offered without reserve and fresh to the market, the Reg Cheetham sale was always going to be a ‘white glove’ affair, but the worldwide interest in the auction led to some remarkable results over the two days of selling.”

There were 1327 bidders online, 314 commission bidders and 212 bidding either in person or on the phone representing 24 different countries, culminating in a sale total of £437,000 plus buyer’s premium.

Surfleet added: “With the sale being unreserved, estimates were kept low and the catalogue was produced much earlier than normal to maximise the time buyers had to view.”

See here for more about Reginald Cheetham.