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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 21
September 2005

Miller's Price Guide 

Purchase Miller's Price Guide 2004/2005

Family Treasures 21

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series.      





It wasn’t until Queen Victoria took one as a pet that Staffordshire spaniels became top dog ornaments.



Staffordshire spaniels  

Staffordshire potters were quick to cash in and by the 1870s there was scarcely a middleclass British fireplace that wasn’t guarded by a pair of ‘King Charles’ spaniels, fondly known as comforter dogs.


And they were always bought in pairs - sadly, a singleton won’t fetch much unless you happen across a dealer who is hoarding its match. 

A pair measuring 10in high were ?400 at Sotheby’s earlier this year. A fair price considering they are ‘late’ (about 1880). If you had a pair painted in brown rather than black, they might be 1840-50 and could fetch ?1,000. And very early ones (rare) from 1820-30 are upwards of ?1,500: spot them by a blue-grey glaze and a thickly potted base.

Spot the fake

All that said, beware! There are a lot of fake pooches floating around, mainly from the Far East. Big giveaway is the crazing that’s added to make them look old: if there’s an overall mesh of fine, grubby-looking ‘cracks’, sorry, but you haven’t got the real thing. Another clue is the base: a pretender may be roughened (as if someone has scrubbed it with a Brillo pad); a genuine piece will have worn smooth over time.

Even with the real thing, values vary hugely, from around ?170 a pair to as much as ?2,000. Collectors are finicky and won’t pay top dollar for a dog whose forefeet aren’t separated (sign of hasty potting). Equally, they’ll sniff if the painter hasn’t bothered to take decoration all the way around the back.

The details do matter

Factors that improve the price: dark pupils in the eyes; dotted whiskers around the snout; feathery brush strokes for fur, eyelashes and eyebrows; a bit of gilding on a collar. Among the best-beloved are pairs with curly forehead-fringes: these are ‘Disraeli’ dogs - their hair-style reminded folk of the Queen’s favourite Prime Minister.

Have I got room for an anecdote? In Amsterdam these mutts were big in the late1800s, mainly on certain ladies’ windowsills. If they faced outwards, they signified that, er, madam was ready to receive visitors!


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