Today they range in price from the most common (the Hukin & Heath articulated six-section rack typically sold for £500-1000) to the rarest (the Dixon ebony handled design 963 that could bring close to £15,000). Most are stamped with a facsimile signature, factory marks and a model number.
Model number 68 designed c.1881 with its six racks of adjoining hexagons was illustrated in the Dixon trade catalogue of 1885, priced at 29s for the version in silver plate (examples are also known in silver).
The versatile Dresser sold 37 designs for household objects to the firm between 1879-82, but not all of them materialised and few were sold in large numbers.
This model is well known from the collecting literature (another is in the British Museum collection), if a rare visitor at auction.
The example offered at David Lay (18% buyer’s premium) in Penzance on December 9 was not in the best condition (one bar has been repaired and a corner now requires resoldering) but it was hugely attractive proposition at the estimate of £300-500.
In fact, it took £4500. The price is akin to others paid for the scarcer of the Dresser toast rack designs.
An example of the Dixon triple-arched example (model 67, also c.1881) sold for £4800 at Kingham & Orme in 2020 while a Hukin & Heath ‘spikes’ design (model 1987 c.1878) took £4800 at Andrew Smith & Son in 2015.
A model comprising opposing right angle triangles (number 66) sold at Woolley & Wallis in 2011 for £2600.
Another exceptional example of Victorian metalwork appeared for sale at Kinghams (23% buyer’s premium) in Moreton-in-Marsh as part of the firm’s Fine & Decorative Arts auction on December 10-11: a silver teapot by reformed gothic specialist Hardman and Co.
Hallmarked for Birmingham 1876, this teapot with its animal head spout and embossed lapped scales closely resembles another exhibited by Hardman at the 1862 British Exhibition where it was acquired by the South Kensington Museum.
It differs only in the upper band of decoration (here with quatrefoil motifs) and in the finial (a fruitwood ‘melon’ form father than a figural lion rampart and shield).
The design is by John Hardman Powell, the only student of AWN Pugin and the man who would later marry Pugin’s daughter.
William Burges, who organised the medieval display at the 1862 exhibition, had this to say about him: “At present, the silversmiths, with the exception of Hardman, keep clear of the figure, and the simple reason why Hardman is the exception is that there is an artist, Mr John Powell, at the head of the establishment.”
This teapot is quite probably the same one offered in the trade earlier this year at £2500.
Entered to auction with a more modest guide of £500-700, it found plenty of admirers before selling at £4200 to a US collector via thesaleroom.com.