Antiques on Fleek

Just an antiques-loving auction addict sharing her best buys and latest finds

The most WTF items up for auction this week!

While I embrace the weird and wonderful, there are some things that still raise an eyebrow. “Like what?” I hear you say. Well, I’m glad you asked. I can give you three great examples:


  1. Starting with the scariest item by far – this 19th century wax head doll is the stuff of nightmares. I don’t know whether it’s the black, empty eye sockets or the tiny shrunken hands – or, for that fact, the disproportionately large elephantiasis legs – but I am freaking out about this doll. Maybe this is because I am superficial. Maybe it’s because this dolly probably comes alive at night and stares into your soul. I’ll let you decide.

    How many horror films feature dolls like this?
  2. If you don’t want a taxidermy ostrich foot on a wooden plinth, you are super weird. Why wouldn’t you want this on your coffee table? Can’t you imagine the covetous look in your friends’ eyes when they behold such an objet du desiré? The ostrich is the only bird that has two toes on each foot. If you think your home is complete without this thing, I think you’re just burying your head in the sand…

    Crusty bird foot
  3. I’ve saved the best for last with this ‘erotic group‘, which is for sale (catalogue only auction) in Barcelona with an opening price of €450. Now, I genuinely don’t know what is happening here, in this scene, and I’ve watched Louis Theroux’s ‘weird weekends’. I know there’s an extremely flexible woman in the middle there, but what is that thing the guy on the left has slung over his shoulder (answers on a postcard)? The more you look at this thing, the more weird stuff you see. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    This level of multitasking is beyond me

I can tell this is going to become a series, and my favourite weekly post to write (and research). If you spot any WTF items at auction, send me a picture and I’ll feature them. And if you know what’s going on in that orgy, you can tell me that too – unless you are a relation of mine! In that case, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know how you know.


Bad taxidermy: the top three freaked out boars

Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve picked these auction highlights from the taxidermy category (subcategory: bad). Here are the top three ‘freaked out’ boars, chosen by facial expression. I’ll be taking your votes on the best boar later.


  1. This guy from Victor Mee Auctions. Personally, I think this is the least bad example of taxidermy (not that I know anything about the dark arts of taxidermy). He looks a bit drunk. We’ll call him ‘falling on the floor boar’.                                                                  jefferys
  2. This guy is on sale at Jeffereys. I like him, because he looks like he’s just seen his mate arrive at the bar and he’s shouting “maaaate!” For this reason, he shall be called the ‘lads on tour boar’.                                                                                                              fotor_148614186192282-1
  3. Boar number three is being sold at Stroud Auctions and looks like he’s having his mugshot taken. I admit: I may have edited these two photos together to make him look more like a perp. Let’s call him ‘GET YOUR HANDS ON THE FLOOR boar’.

Which boar is the best boar?

Upcoming auctions: what’s on sale this week?

Welcome to this week’s second installment of recommendations for upcoming auctions. It’s so hard to keep these posts short and sweet, because the variety of items for sale is so diverse.


I’ve tried to capture that sense in today’s post, hence my first pick – a pair of antlers. Yes, really. I imagine this lot is appealing if you run a B&B or hotel in the countryside (don’t let this put you off, city dwellers). This pair is up for auction at McTear’s tomorrow (lot 343).


Not into animal bone? Me neither. Like wine? Me too. This next lot from Rye Auction Galleries will be of much greater interest. It comprises a bottle of Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle wine, 1984 vintage, together with a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape Selection Pierre Lebon 1985 vintage.


The estimate on these bad boys is £40-60. The auction starts at 10am, but this is lot 278, so you don’t need to rush. It may be worth placing a bid beforehand if you’ve got a busy day ahead of you.

Want some music to listen to while you drink your vino? You may want to check out Arthur Johnson & Sons. On 4th Feb, they are auctioning off 25 Beatles 45rpm records ‘including Hard Days Night, Magical Mystery Tour, EPs, etc.’ The auctioneers’ estimate is £30-50. If you have a record player, this is a good haul. As with most of these auctions, proceedings kick off at 10am. Let me know if you buy anything.

Items for auction this week: a selection of the weird and wonderful

What I love about auctions (and why I spend so much time browsing catalogues on the sale room) is the huge variety of items for sale. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for something elegant, whimsical or just downright weird (I don’t think I could pull off having a glass case of taxidermied ferrets in my living room… although it does remind me of the set design in a play  I once saw. Philip Ridley – ‘The Fastest Clock in the Universe’  – I recommend it).


Anyway, I’ll break my highlights from this week’s auctions into a few posts, so you’re not scrolling (or clicking if you’re on an old school desktop – check you out) down for ages. First up is this ink drawing by William Papas (1927-2000), titled “Manchester Cathedral on a Rainy Day” (signed and titled, 37.5 x 24cm.; 14.75 x 9.5in).


I’m biased, of course, because I live in this beautiful city, but I think this is great. And it’s a good likeness – it is usually raining in Manchester!

This particular piece of art will be featured tomorrow in a live auction by Peter Wilson fine art auctioneers. It starts at 10am and this is lot 23, so don’t be late.

My second pick (because apparently I’m a magpie, and shiny things attract my attention) is this Art Deco emerald, diamond and cultured pearl cluster ring (size Q). It’s the emerald and the scalloped border that do it for me. Fellows, the auctioneer, gives a comprehensive condition report on the website and has given this ring an estimated sale value of £80-120.

gilt-mirror-and-towel-railBuyer’s premium is slightly higher than some of the other auctioneers around at 23% but this ring is a beauty and if you love the Art Deco era then this is a bargain. The auction is tomorrow, starting at 10am and this is lot one… so the ‘don’t be late’ warning applies more here.

You can place a reserve bid online if you can’t watch live, but at the time of writing there were 23 people ‘watching’ this particular item, so I think the sale price will be more like £150-200. I’ll be interested to see how accurate my amateur estimate is tomorrow.


The final item in today’s post is an elaborate (and I mean that in a good way) giltwood oval wall mirror, which is accompanied by a small folding towel rail. It’s for sale at McTear’s in Glasgow, or live online, on 3rd Feb. There’s no reserve price and the bidding will open at £5. Buyer’s premium is 26% (I take back what I said, Fellows), but if the price is low enough, I’m sure you could talk yourself into it. And who doesn’t love a bonus towel rail?


OK, I lied… when I was searching for the image of this mirror, I found an equally – if not more – cool one. So now this – this – is the last item today. Check out this epic Victorian oval mirror which also appears to have candlesticks attached. You can find this beauty at Bristol Auction Rooms (or bid online) tomorrow. The auction starts at 10.30am and this is lot 551. The auctioneer’s estimate is £100-150. There’s already a bid of £60 on it, so I expect it will sell towards the higher end of this estimate.

Which item do like like best? Let me know if you bid on any.

Vintage fairs: pick up a bargain

Yesterday, I went to a vintage fair at Chester Racecourse with two of my best friends – one of whom is engaged and wanted to find out whether a vintage wedding dress was for her. Having decided they wouldn’t suit her style (“I don’t want to look like a corpse bride”), we wandered into the general vintage fashion and home section and browsed the rails.

Fashion print c.1860s

While we found a few too many dead fox shawls for our liking (we’re talking face and feet attached), there were some great finds to be had. I picked up some original prints, one from c.1860 and three from 1958.

Late 50s prints

I’ll probably hang the earlier print in the living room, as it’s more in keeping with the Victorian styling, whereas the other three will be great in the little box room upstairs, which I’m styling into a ‘getting ready for a night out’ room – a ‘powder room’ as it was described when I bought the house (but that makes me sound way more posh than I actually am). I’ll share the results when that room is fully made over.

If you’re interested in visiting a vintage fair, why not try the Festival of Vintage (1930s-1960s) on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April (10-5) at York Racecourse? As well as shopping, you can expect to see classic vehicles, listen to some live music and maybe partake in some dancing. There is also a best dressed competition, so get your 50s wiggle dress on and curl up that hair. Day tickets are £12 on the door.

The ministry of silly hats

Occasional tables, occasionally for chess

Occasional tables – they’re a weird concept, but given the Victorians’ fondness for decorative items and clutter, it’s not so surprising. When they have a cool inlaid chess board, they’re even better. I’m trying to live by the William Morris ethos (apologies for paraphrasing) of putting nothing in my house that is neither useful, nor beautiful. This circular walnut occasional table is something I believe to be beautiful.


I picked it up at an auction for £85 (it was valued at £50-£80, so on another day I might have paid less but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles – and anyway, it’s worth it). It has a chessboard inlaid top, turned central column and three knee carved cabriole* supports.

I did some reading before writing this post, and found some interesting bits of information about chess, the Victorians, and parlour games.

  1. Chess certainly predates the Victorian era – it was very popular among the Tudors (1485-1603) but has been played in western Europe since the early Middle Ages. In her writing on Tudor pastimes, Melita Thomas uses the Lewis Chessmen as an example of how far back this particular game goes in the hallways of history. She describes them as “chess pieces of walrus ivory, found on Lewis in 1831, but likely made in Norway in around AD 1150–1200”.
  2. The Victorians would have played chess, adults and children, but ‘parlour games’ that are specifically associated with this era are more imaginative. We can thank them for Charades and Blind Man’s Buff, for example (I know, right? Didn’t know that until now either!)
  3. Originally, the Queen was a weaker piece, but gained power throughout history (#preach). She has the ability to move vertically, horizontally and diagonally, and can cover any number of squares.


My occasional table doesn’t have any chess pieces on it at the moment, but I intend to buy some nice ones, and keep them in the drawer for a rainy day (some tables from the Victorian period were fitted with little drawers to keep pieces in).

*Shaped in two curves – the upper arc is convex, while lower is concave. The upper curve bows outward, while the lower curve bows inward. Also a type of movement in ballet. 

Ceiling roses – do I have to go with an original plaster moulding?

Architectural salvage yards are great for architectural features such as ceiling roses, but if the issue of budget is a thorn in your side, don’t worry; there are other options.

Laura, my ceiling rose

I bought a ceiling rose made from P.U.Resin (Hard Polyurethane) and HDPS (CO – Polymer) from NMC-Copley. It cost just over £50 plus delivery, and the detail on it is exceptional.


The main benefit of buying coving and cornice products in this material is that you can fit it yourself. And I don’t think, unless you have a grade 1 listed property, that you need to feel guilty about not installing the real deal. After all, if the Victorians had these production methods at their disposal at the time, they’d probably have used them too.

… after (still in the dark, after switching the power off to install)

I bought the light from Pear Mills Antique Emporium in Stockport and while it was beautiful (in my eyes) before, it looks even more grand now. If you can see the details on the arms of the light, you can see why I picked this particular ceiling rose, as it seems to utilise similar shapes (peep the four protruding features on the rose).

Restored to glory

I found this gem in an Oxfam book shop. Although it’s probably intended for ‘serious’ restoration work, it does have some really interesting information. For me, it provided some interesting insights into Victorian design. Take the following extract:

“… given the diversity of the period, it is difficult to pin down a style that is definitively Victorian. It was a time of imitation and reinterpretation of previous stylistic eras, while also cherry-picking all the best bits of world culture. It is not unusual to find a Victorian house with a Gothic Revival library, a Neo-Classical-style entrance hall, and oriental or Moorish designs dotted around the walls.”

Everyone loves a casual lean

My aim is to combine ‘Victorian’ and ‘modern’ – not just to restore the traditional and purge everything else. I think the two can sit well together and create something really unique and visually beautiful. What inspires me about the passage above, is that boldness and variety are embraced. Knowing the Victorians looked to the past for inspiration and combined things in a ‘mish mash’ is great and it has actually taken some of the pressure off me.

When I first contemplated this project, my worry was that I would accidentally buy something that didn’t fit inside the defining boundaries of the ‘Victorian era’. Knowing that the Victorians were inspired by the past and weren’t afraid to mix and match is actually a relief. Yes, there are common features to Victorian room schemes, but the  general approach seems to be quite eclectic, which suits me just fine.

*Featured image from Restored to Glory

Antiques at Adam Partridge auctioneers

My first foray into the world of antiques was Adam Partridge’s auction rooms in Macclesfield. The viewing was on a Wednesday, which also happened to be my 29th birthday.

Adam Partridge auctioneers and valuers

Walking into the room and trying to take in all of the furniture, books, paintings, rugs and other amazing pieces was a sensory overload. For others in my age bracket, it might have been odd to hear, “I’m going to look at antiques” as a reply to the question, “what are you doing for your birthday?” But for me it was a great experience and it feels like it has opened up a whole new world to me.


My partner and I went to the second day of the auction, on the Friday, and our newbie status was confirmed when we chose to sit on two skinny, strange looking chairs at the front. When they came up for auction, Adam rightly commented that we must have been fairly uncomfortable, what with them being kneeling prayer chairs!


Yesterday, I attended auction number two and felt a lot less like a hapless fool, although I did make one rookie error in not bringing my coat. I had forgotten how cold it got in the auction room, and spent most of the time with my scarf around my face, trying to get the rest of it to cover the knee holes in my jeans. However, I won the bidding war for a beautiful Victorian whatnot at £380, a Persian rug for £40 and a Robert ‘Bob’ Richardson print of Manchester opera house for £10.

What’s not to like about a whatnot?

If you haven’t been along to Adam Partridge’s auctions before, I’d recommend you check it out. He and Chris are really amusing, engaging auctioneers. You can go in person (definitely to view the lots) or bid online or over the telephone.

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