Consider the pricing of the classic Beswick model of the shire hose mare designed by Arthur Gredington in 1940 and in production right up until 1999.
In the 1960s-70s this figure (model number 818) sold in the thousands in common colourways such as brown and pale grey and will today typically bring £20-30. But should this figure be found in other hues (there are supposedly 11 different colourways), the price can increase 1000-fold.
Back in June 2017 a very rare model in a Strawberry Roan colourway sold for £6600 at Potteries Auctions in Stoke-on-Trent and the firm has sold examples in Skewbald (£4400 in November 2020), Piebald (£1900 in November 2017), Chestnut (£1100 in November 2017) and Rocking Horse Grey (£1000 in September 2010) for four-figure sums.
The Fine Art sale at Potteries Auctions on November 11-13 included a version of model 818 in Iron Grey. Only a few of these are known – Charterhouse sold one in 2009 for £3800 – and it carried expectations of £1000-2000 but sold at £5700.
The top-estimated lot in this sale was another local production, a Royal Doulton jug marking the bicentenary of the birth of George Washington (1732-99) made in Burslem to a Charles Noke and Harry Fenton design in 1932.
It featured the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence with a Stars and Stripes handle and Washington’s head modelled as the lip. Seemingly 1000 of these were made but only 100 were numbered – this one number 47.
It is a piece with obvious appeal across the Atlantic and several have sold in the US in recent years including that (number 40) which took $7000 at Florida firm Lion & Unicorn in March this year. This one, guided at £4000-8000, made a very similar sum: £6200.
Two Doulton prototype large-size character jugs modelled in the late 1990s but never put into production made decent sums – although perhaps not the sort of money these one-offs once commanded.
The Swagman, modelled by William Harper, sold at £3100 while a jug depicting Winston Churchill (not the best likeness) made £2900.
Rarer Doulton HN series figures continue to spark levels of interest that more common issues can no longer hope to generate.
A Noke design from the 1920s is Pavlova (Swan Song) – a figure of a ballerina playing the Dying Swan inspired by Anna Pavlova’s visit to Europe in 1908. This figure was first introduced in 1921 and re-introduced after Pavlova’s death in 1931.
A number have appeared for sale in recent memory, including two offered by Woolley & Wallis: one sold for £4600 in 2009 and another hammered for a mighty £6500 (estimate £150-250) just a few months ago (August). A repeat of that bidding contest was unlikely but the example at Potteries made a very solid £3200.