With the charity shops being closed, treasure hunting had to come to a stop, at least for a while! I did however have the opportunity to deal with some bequests and look through some old stock as well as getting some pre-lockdown treasures to look at.

A strange old coin?

Looking through a box of donated old coins is the sort of thing I found myself doing in lockdown. One coin caught my eye amongst the piles of pre-decimalisation pennies. About the size of a 1p coin it isn’t actually a coin at all, but a token.

I had come across this sort of token before from time to time, and recognised it as an old ‘pub token’ probably from the mid-19th century. Previous experience has shown that these are quite collectable.

Tokens of this sort were issued by pubs as a sort of currency for pub games or to buy drinks. This one was local as it had the pub name “Dog and Partridge” and even the address 24 Oldham Road, Manchester and the name of the publican (T. Lomas) stamped on the coin. The pub appears to be long gone now.

I wasn’t sure what this was worth but put it up for auction on eBay. I was surprised that it attracted 5 bids and sold for £36!

Telescope from Nelsons era

Another item donated at the Whaley Bridge Shop was an old battered telescope.

Mostly made of wood but with brass fittingS, this looked like an interesting find. Unfortunately, it had no makers’ marks or owners’ marks anywhere which made it difficult to research. Luckily I found a UK specialist website that had a lot of information about old telescopes and from this site I was able to find enough information to determine that the telescope was probably an old British Naval telescope probably from around 1790. This was of course the era of Nelson’s early career.

I was surprised to find that the telescope still worked after a fashion, producing a small but reasonably clear image in the eyepiece.

This sort of telescope can be quite valuable but the lack of any makers’ marks, owners’ marks or other provenance made this item less collectable and harder to sell. It was placed on eBay as an auction item and I was quite pleased that it fetched £85.

Subsequently I discovered that the high bidder was the same person who was responsible for the collector’s website I had used to research the telescope. When he bid on the item, he had no idea I was using his site for research! I now have another contact who can provide expert advice on future telescope finds!

Visit our eBay site.

From time to time we find interesting antique or vintage items that prove to be very difficult to identify.

Recently I came across a finely carved small wooden item which seemed to have some sort of electrical connections and attachments.

Towards the bottom there seems to be an area cut to take 10 or 12 turns of fine wire which is now missing. The middle has a strange spring-loaded spoon-shaped object held by the spring against a horizontal thick wire rod.

There are 2 electrical contacts on the base and a number of small insulated holes in the top of the object. This object is only about 6” across.

I am totally unable to figure out what this is. I suspect it may possibly be part of an old antique radio but this is just a guess. Anyone have any ideas?



Recently donated to our Buxton shop was a small book of children’s nursery rhymes.

The title was Mother Goose and it was beautifully illustrated in colour by Kate Greenaway. Each page was of a children’s nursery rhyme with a full colour illustration. Condition was quite good with a few bits of damage from use over the years. Some research soon established that this is a first edition published in 1881.  As a first edition in good condition it seemed to have a fairly high value in the £50 to £100 price range. As is usually the case, a copy with its original dust jacket (which our copy unfortunately didn’t have) would have been closer to £1,000! This would be a good find for the hospice as a standard, reasonably valuable first edition but a bit of additional research threw up some more interesting history about this particular copy. The additional research was prompted by a couple of owner’s names and short inscription at the front of the book:

I always find early book inscriptions interesting as they can occasionally add history to a book.  Luckily there was quite a bit of information tucked away in these inscriptions that enabled me to find out more about the history of this book. Starting the with main inscription we have: ‘Stephan Frederick Fremantle with a kiss from Aunt Fanny Jan 14th 1882.’

A quick search on the internet quickly uncovered a Frederick Fremantle who was born on January 14th 1881 so the inscription in the book would fit if the book was given as a present on the day of his first birthday.

The second name in the book looks like A.M.Parry although this isn’t certain due to the interpretation of the handwriting. Some research on the internet shows that Stephan Frederick Fremantle had an elder sister called Anna Mary Fremantle who went on to marry Sir Frederick Sydney Parry in 1891 and thus became Anna Mary Parry, or A.M. Parry.

The above had a son in 1893, William Edward Parry, and a daughter in 1895, Katherine Parry.  The interesting conclusion comes when you investigate the son of Anna Mary Parry, William Edward Parry, who became a famous naval hero in World War Two, when he was commanding HMNZS Achilles at the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939. This battle is described in Wikipedia as follows: ‘The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle in the Second World War and the first one of the Battle of the Atlantic in South American waters. The German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee had cruised into the South Atlantic a fortnight before the war began, and had been commerce raiding after receiving appropriate authorisation on 26 September 1939. One of the hunting groups sent by the British Admiralty to search for Graf Spee, comprising three Royal Navy cruisers, HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles (the last from the New Zealand Division), found and engaged their quarry off the estuary of the River Plate close to the coast of Uruguay in South America.’

This battle was made famous by the 1956 film ‘The Battle of the River Plate,’ (in the film William Edward Parry was played by Jack Gwillim). William Edward Parry went on to become Admiral Sir William Edward Parry. He died in 1972 .

So in conclusion, in addition to being a rare first Edition of Mother Goose, this book, when read to him as a child by his mother, undoubtedly inspired the young Admiral Sir William Edward Parry to his great achievements (OK, this may be going a bit too far, but you never know!). We will put it on auction on eBay shortly and see what it fetches!

By Laurence Carr, volunteer eBay seller for Blythe House:

We receive quite a few photographs in albums, framed under glass or loose. Over the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to look in detail at a range of interesting photographs and learn more about their value and collectability.

In a previous post I talked about a book of old 17th century prints donated to the Whaley Bridge Shop. What I didn’t say is that as well as the 30 prints in the book there was also an old photograph slipped inside the book, presumably for safe keeping. The photograph appeared to have no connection with the old prints so I removed it from the book and put it to one side.

On closer inspection the photograph, mounted on thin card, was obviously quite old and had some interesting characteristics. The print had the appearance of what is known as an “Albumen Print” this is described on the web as follows:  Albumen prints are a variety of photographic paper print in which a finely divided silver and gold image is dispersed in a matrix of egg white. It is possible to recognise albumen prints from their colour, texture and light reflection characteristics. Most prints of this type date from the second half of the 18th century.

The print itself showed an obviously Victorian gentlemen standing in front of an old ruined building. On first glance the building was not possible to identify nor was it possible to even identify the country where the photo was taken.

Closer inspection of the mount revealed an embossed seal. The seal was for the “Architectural Photographic Association” and had the number 180 had written in the centre. This indicated that the photo was possibly part of a Victorian photo library relating to architecture. Research turned up very little information about Architectural Photographic Association except that it seems to have been active in the 1850s and 60s.

Despite the limited results of our research it seemed possible the photo might have some value so it was put up for auction on eBay. It attracted a number of bids and sold for £36 which was quite a good price for an old photo found in a book!

Other photographs have also surprised me with their value. An old photograph album containing a large number of family photos recently turned up in our New Mills shop. This album contained photos which were in reasonable condition but the album itself was in a very poor state. I extracted most of the photos and decided to sell them in groups and individually.

Of particular interest were three photos of Victorian pets. One photo was of a dog, one of a pair of kittens and one of a dog on the lap of a girl. My previous experience is that Victorian animal photos are very popular and can sell for quite good prices so I listed these pictures separately from the general run of photographs. I was quite surprised when these three photos between them sold for nearly £50!

Finally in this brief review of old photos I will include a striking image I found in another photo album a few months back:

It jumped out at me for its sheer exuberance and fun. Two young men on bicycles having a great time. I couldn’t determine when or where this photo was taken but it seems to be late 19th or early 20th century. Other photos in the album suggest the early 20th century and a location of Austria or possibly Hungary. Most antique photos are posed and restrained. This one however managed to bring out a moment of excitement and joy that was very unusual. A unique and interesting moment in history but who were they? I was also puzzled by how this photo was taken, was it from the back of an old car or cart and if so how did the photographer get such a dynamic shot and such a remarkable composition with the old camera he must have been using! We will probably never know.

By Laurence Carr, volunteer eBay seller for Blythe House:

Charity shops receive lots of china bowls plates etc. Every now and then something special crops up. In our Buxton shop one of our volunteers spotted an unusual bowl amongst the donations and passed it over to me in case it might be special.

The bowl had a strange design as can be seen from the above photo. At first glance it was difficult to determine its purpose. It was however in excellent condition and it appeared to be hand painted. With all porcelain, the first thing to do is look at the base for any marks. This bowl provided a lot of information on its underside:

Turning to our friend the internet it was quickly established that the bowl was hand made and hand painted by ISIS ceramics in Oxford. It was apparently made in 1996 by an artist called Deborah Sears. It was known as a “colander bowl”. The company is still very active today, its website states:

Deborah Sears founded Isis Ceramics, when inspired by her own collection of 17th and 18th century English Delftware; she wanted to see the mark of the painters hand rather than the stamp of mass production. Highly collectable, each Isis Ceramics piece is hand-painted and hand made by skilled artists in Horton-Cum-Studley near Oxford, England.

Once we had established the correct description for this item we were able to list it on eBay with a full description. It sold quickly for £95 to a customer in the United States.

Laurence Carr has been voluntarily managing the hospice’s antiques and collectibles eBay site since 2008, raising over £120,000 for patient care and services in that time!

The hospice’s retail sector – including four charity shops across the High Peak, and two online eBay sites – brings in almost half of the funding needed to keep care and services free for local patients, carers and their families. The NHS provides just 21% of the hospice’s resources.

Laurence has taken the time to write a blog about his most recent finds – and we hope to keep you regularly updated with details of amazing items that are kindly donated to our hospice shops.

Take it away Laurence…

Welcome to our Blythe House Hospicecare charity shop treasure hunter blog.

Over the last few years I have had the job of finding and selling collectable and valuable items donated to Blythe House Hospicecare. As a volunteer for the Hospice it has been a rewarding and extraordinarily interesting task to find hidden treasures amongst donated items, value them and sell them on online auction sites.

After discussions with the Hospice we have now decided to reveal more about how we find these items, discover what they are and what they might be worth. I hope the blog will be interesting and informative for our volunteers, staff, patients and anyone else with an interest in finding hidden treasures.

We have decided to pick out a few especially interesting items as we find them and talk in detail about how we find them, our research into their history and value and how we sell them.

Over the years we have raised over £120,000 for Blythe House Hospicecare through our treasure hunting activities so It’s been a significant source of income for the Hospice. It’s worth pointing out that although we do find a lot of treasures amongst donated items, I know for a fact that a lot slip through the net to our shops as well. Why not visit the shops and see what you might find! Feedback and comments are always welcome.

Some current items for sale on our eBay site include…


Recently donated to our Whaley Bridge shop amongst a box of various old items was a large old book with the title OLD PRINTS embossed in gold lettering on the front. Initial impressions were of a late Victorian binding. Quite a large if thin volume approximately 18” by 14” and about ½” thick. Inside I could find no introduction, title or other text but the book contained 30 bound prints all of a very similar type.

Unfortunately, there was signs of old water damage to quite a few of the prints. Although the book was now quite dry it had obviously suffered from damp at some point in its history.

Looking through the prints it soon became clear that they were good quality, old original prints on high quality paper. Old prints were made by pressing an inked engraved or etched stone, metal plate or wood engraving onto good quality paper. The process leaves an indentation on the margins of the image which can usually be clearly seen or felt with the fingers. These print marks were clearly present in our book of old prints. The prints themselves look much older than the Victorian binding so I had to assume that a selection of loose prints had been bound in a volume sometime around the 1890s.

On the bottom of most of the prints were two names, Matthäus Küfel and Lodovico Burnacini, which gave me enough information to start some research on the Internet.

Entering the names in Google quickly bought up quite a few references, most of which were for museum art collections including the V&A, British Museum, The New York MET , Harvard Art Museum and others. Looking at these references quickly established that Matthäus Küfel was actually Matthäus Küsel (The f in Kufel being the old way of spelling s). The prints were all Austrian and were pictures of theatre set designs from around 1670. Matthäus Küsel was the engraver of the prints and Lodovico Burnacini was the theatre set designer.

The Museum web pages quickly opened up a fascinating history of these prints. Some of the prints were from sets for an opera called “Il Pomo d’Oro” and the following Wikipedia entry gives more details:

“il pomo d’oro (The Golden Apple) is an opera in a prologue and five acts by the Italian composer Antonio Cesti with a libretto by Francesco Sbarra (1611-1668). It was first performed before the imperial court in a specially constructed open-air theatre Vienna in 1668. The work was so long it had to be staged over the course of two days: the Prologue, Acts One and Two were given on July 12; Acts Three, Four and Five on July 14. Originally planned to mark the wedding of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I and Margaret Theresa of Spain in 1666, the production was rescheduled to mark the Empress’s 17th birthday in 1668. The staging was unprecedented for its magnificence (and expense). The designer Ludovico Ottavio Burnacini provided no fewer than 24 sets and there were plenty of opportunities for spectacular stage machinery, including shipwrecks and collapsing towers.”

Quite a few of the museum sites had pictures of the prints and the prints in our book were clearly the same prints as owned by the museums.

The above research indicated that we had a significant set of historical prints from around 1670 with significance to historians of the Austro-Hungarian empire, theatre and opera history. Unfortunately, the condition of the prints could only be described as fair due to the water damage. Despite this the prints are over 350 years old and of historical significance.

The next consideration was to try and establish what such a collection might be worth. With historical items like this it can be very difficult to establish value. First port of call was to search the internet to see if anyone else had sold or was selling similar items. This can be fraught with difficulty. My first reference was a book from 1670 which included 23 of our prints which was on offer in the USA for £22,000! Experience has however taught me to be extremely cautious of this sort of price as the price that someone asks for an item can be hugely different to the price someone is prepared to pay. Further research produced none of the prints being sold on their own so value was still a mystery.

The next step was an email to the auctioneer Bonhams. They took a look at photos of the prints and stated that they would probably be worth less than Bonhams minimum valuation of £800 for the book of 30 prints. They were not interested in putting them in one of their auctions.

In summary we now have a book of historically very interesting prints from the 1670s. Converting these into money for the Hospice is going to be difficult. Based on past experience we have a number of options open for selling these prints as follows:

Putting them up for auction on eBay: This might result in a very low sale price, although these prints are 350 years old, historically important and very rare they might not fetch a high value in an online auction as there are probably not that many people who whould have an interest in bidding on them.

Putting them up on eBay with a fixed price: A better option than the auction as we can afford to wait a few months for someone with a real interest in these prints to buy them. The problem is determining what fixed price we should attach to these prints!

Putting them up for auction at a local auction house: Might not get anywhere near their true value (whatever that is).

At the moment (mid November 2019) I haven’t decided how to proceed with this to get the best price for the hospice. Anyone have any ideas? Anyone have any offers to buy this.


A few weeks back one of our volunteers, handed me an old blue hardback book he thought might be of interest. As you can imagine we get hundreds of old hardback books donated and this one looked initially much like any other old book.

Opening it up to the title page began to increase its interest! It was “The Road To Wigan Pier” by George Orwell and was dated 1937. There was no other date in the book and it seemed possible it might be a first edition.

The Road to Wigan Pier is described by Wikipedia as follows:

The Road to Wigan Pier is a book by the English writer George Orwell, first published in 1937. The first half of this work documents his sociological investigations of the bleak living conditions among the working class in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the industrial north of England before World War II. The second half is a long essay on his middle-class upbringing, and the development of his political conscience, questioning British attitudes towards socialism. Orwell states plainly that he himself is in favour of socialism, but feels it necessary to point out reasons why many people who would benefit from socialism, and should logically support it, are in practice likely to be strong opponents.

Further research on the internet informed me that the first edition was published in 1937 by Victor Gollancz as a paperback for the “Left Book Club” approximately 47000 copies of this edition being printed. This didn’t match the book we had which was a hardback but also dated 1937.

Further research found that Gollancz had also produced a much smaller run of hardback copies at the same time as the “Left Book Club” edition for sale to the general public, known as trade editions. This print run amounted to only 2,150 copies and it seemed that the copy on our possession was one of these.

The next stop was to visit a local auction house for a valuation. My initial excitement was dashed when I was told that the book was in poor condition and probably wouldn’t realise more than £20 to £30 at auction.

After my initial disappointment I began to wonder if the auction house had mistaken my edition for the much more common Left Book Club edition. I had noticed previously that “Experts” can often make valuation mistakes so decided to do some more research.

I managed to find some other examples of this edition for sale on the Internet. And it seemed it was probably worth a lot more than the auctioneer’s valuation.

Eventually I decided to take a risk and auction it on eBay. I am happy to report it reached nearly £400 and was sold to a very pleased buyer.

My only regret is that our copy did not have the dust Jacket. I discovered that a copy of the same edition with its original dust jacket sold at auction for £3000 recently! Little things like this can make huge differences to the value of an item!


We often get boxes of old jewellery donated to our shops. I was looking through one such box recently at our Whaley Bridge Shop and came across two old gold coloured medals which were engraved with some small text.

Old medals and medallions are always interesting, and I took these two away for further study.

One medal was engraved with “Ferryhill & Dist LGE Winners of 2nd Div” and the other with “Wingate Charity Competition 1909 & 10”.

As usual my first stop was the internet but in this case I was unable to find out anything about these inscriptions. This is a bit unusual but there were no references to a Ferrygate and District League nor to a Wingate Charity Competition anywhere that I could find.

The reverse of both these medals was blank except for a small hallmark. The hallmarks showed that these medals were both 9K gold and dated from 1922 and 1909 .

The style of the medals and the inscriptions suggested that these were probably minor league football medals awarded to winners in the early part of the 20th century. It is perhaps surprising that solid gold medals would be awarded at local leagues but this was fairly common practice at the time.

The best way to sell these seemed to be Via eBay and we recently concluded a successful sale for a total of £170 for the two medals.

Visit our eBay site.