Think Biro for pens, Hoover for vacuum cleaner - and Tannoy for sound systems.
The first dual concentric loudspeakers, designed by Tannoy’s chief engineer Ronnie H Rackham, created a sensation when they appeared at the Radiolympia show (also known as the Radio Show) in London, 1947.
The famous ‘dual’ which housed two separate driver systems in one speaker went through many incarnations and were widely used in the recording industry.
A vintage Tannoy speaker was one of three awakened sleepers that enlivened the sale held at Duke’s Avenue (25% buyer’s premium) saleroom in Dorchester on July 20. Briefly catalogued and estimated at just £20-40, it was sold at £8000.
Such a price implied something special and indeed it was. This model, sold here complete with its original technical specifications and brochures from c.1959, is known as the GRF.
Also designed by Rackham (the name stands for Guy R Fountain who founded the firm in 1926), it incorporates extra-large 15in (38cm) loudspeakers for the highest standard of performance. It is housed in a ‘Canterbury’ corner cabinet measuring 3ft 10in (1.15m) high, marking this as the later of two models.
Vintage hi-fi is very much the stuff of online trading rather than fine art auctions but there are a few precedents for this sort of price for classic British loudspeakers.
Back in 2014, Thomas Miller in Newcastle sold a near pair of Tannoy GRF speakers for £15,750 whilein 2013 Tennants took £7500 for a Tannoy Signature Speaker Unit standing a mighty 5ft (1.52m) high.
Equally unexpected bidding arrived in Dorset for a small medicine bottle inscribed Friar’s Drops, By The Kings Patent Granted to R Grubb 1777. It was in ‘dug’ condition with accretions inside and out.
According to adverts of the time, Robert Grubb’s patent medicine Friar’s Drops was promoted especially for its ability to cure venereal disease plus ‘scurvy, rheumatism, stranguary, and gleets’.
The ingredients mentioned in the original patent were listed as ‘aquilia alba (or the white eagle) purging antimony, guaiacum wood, balsam of Peru, extracts of cicuta, white sugar candy, oil of sassafras, salt of tartar, gum Arabic and spirits of wine rectified’.
Another bottle of this type, dated c.1777-1800, is in the collection of the Museum of London but it appears to be very rare. Collectors of early medicine bottles (there are a surprisingly large number) targeted this example. Estimated at £50-100, it raced away to bring £2600.
That is the sort of price reserved for rarities, although some patent medicines from this period have made more: in 2016 BBR Auctions in Elsecar, South Yorkshire, set a record for an empty English medicine bottle when a Victorian flask of Dr Sibley’s Solar Tincture took £8200.
Gift to an admiral
The third item in a trio of undercooked lots in this ‘general’ sale was a Maori pounamu (greenstone) mere or patu club that took £5000 against an estimate of £100-200.
According to a fragmented label, this was presented by Paora There (c.1830-65), chief of the Ngati Whatua, to Admiral George Tryon in the mid 19th century.
It was said to be a tribal heirloom and was gifted on the understanding it would remain in Tryon’s family. After being broken in two it had received a staple repair.
Made in the highly valued pounamu stone for traditional close-quarter combat, mere were the most revered of all Maori weapons. They are highly collectable today, with good examples selling into five figures.