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…

A BOOK OF OLD PRINTS

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 GEORGE ORWELL FIRST EDITION

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!

GOLD FOOTBALL MEDALS

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.