Auctions: You pay more for the flaws

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The Independent Online
ARE ceramics collectors going potty? An 18 1/2 in-high Moorcroft vase, sold as a factory second because of a firing error, is estimated at pounds 5,000- pounds 8,000 and next week could become the most expensive Moorcroft sold at auction. Stamp collectors have long been barmy about errors: anything printed upside down, back-to-front, smudged or not printed at all, rockets in value; ceramics collectors, until recently, were thought to have more sense.

The vase, with trees and a red sky, is the top lot in Christie's South Kensington's second sale devoted to the deco-style, florally decorated Moorcroft, on Thursday (10.30am). It was found to have a firing flaw in the shoulder after its second glazing, and never made it to the third and final stage, in which it should have received a light, transparent red glaze. That makes it unique. Moreover, it is an exceptionally attractive piece and well documented in the literature. The record auction price for a Moorcroft is pounds 10,000. Last September's Moorcroft sale, the first, was 86 per cent sold.

The 'error' syndrome in ceramics first came to Christie's South Ken's attention in 1989, when six Laura Knight plates - blue, when they should have been pink - made pounds 10,000, five times the estimate.


A single-owner collection of Fifties Norwegian jewellery, 33 lots estimated in the low hundreds, is also at Christie's South Kensington, Thursday (2pm) and Friday (10.30am, opening with the jewellery).

Friday's sale has 62 lots of artwork for American-style pulp thriller books of the Fifties published in Britain by the Kaye brothers, who were jailed for obscenity at the Old Bailey as a result. A similar sale in July astonished the auctioneers with prices between pounds 418 and pounds 12,100. Estimates this time: from under pounds 100 to pounds 500- pounds 800.


Sotheby's first sale of modern British and Irish pictures of the new season, Wednesday (10.30am), will show whether Mr Lamont's 1 per cent interest- rate cut is likely to have an immediate effect upon the art market. The modern-British market is intrinsically buoyant compared with other sectors of the pictures market but is supported mainly by new money, which dried up during the recession. There is a 1933 self- portrait in oil by Mervyn Peake in the sale, est pounds 6,000- pounds 8,000. Phillips has a comparable sale on Tuesday (11am).


First-ever auction of gas cookers (along with carpets and furniture) at Christie's South Kensington, Wednesday (12.30pm).


Fine furniture at Christie's, Thursday (11am), Sotheby's, Friday (11am). Clocks, watches: at Christie's, Wednesday (11am), at Sotheby's, Thursday (10.30am) - scientific instruments Friday (11am) - and at Phillips, Tuesday (2pm). Nineteenth-century continental pictures, Christie's, Friday (11am). Bonhams: modern decorative arts Wednesday (11am); literary items (2pm).


Park Lane Antiques Fair, Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London, opens Wednesday (11am-8pm) until 4 October. Entry pounds 6, catalogue pounds 3.

Twentieth-Century British Art Fair, Royal College of Art, next to Albert Hall: today and (last day) tomorrow (11am-7pm). Entry pounds 6 (students pounds 3), catalogue pounds 3.


Miscellaneous sales:

Shrewsbury: Contents of Pitchford Hall, timber-framed jewel occupied by the same family since the 16th century: pictures, ceramics, artworks. Monday and Tuesday (11am daily). Christie's (071-839 9060).

Billingshust, Sussex: Architectural fittings, garden furniture, statuary. Tuesday (10.30am).

Also at Billingshurst, contents of the Old Water Mill: outstanding collection of 17th- to 19th- century English and French furniture, pictures, ceramics, Wednesday (10.30am). Sotheby's (0403 783933).

Old Weston, Cambridgeshire: Ministry of Defence surplus: Jeeps and jumpers, computers and crockery. At the village hall Thursday (10am). Defence Reutilisation Marketing Office (0480 842 635).

Birmingham: High-quality carpeting, Tuesday (11am). Biddle and Webb, Ladywood, Middleway (021 455 8042).

Glasgow: 100 lots of Wemyss ware, Eastern carpets, artworks, Wednesday (10.30am). Christie's (041 332 8134).

Reading: Antique furnishing and fine art, Shiplake village hall, Thursday (10am). Duncan Vincent (0734 594748).

Monthly horse and saddlery sale at the cattle market, Friday (10am). Thimbleby and Shorland (0734 508611).

Art and antique sales:

Bath: Mostly silver, plate, jewellery, porcelain and glass: Tuesday (10am). Aldridges, 130-132 Walcot Street (0225 462830).

Guildford: Tuesday and Wednesday, including garden ornaments (11am daily), Phillips, Millmead (0483 504030).

Godalming: Wednesday (11am) and Thursday (10.30am). Hamptons Fine Art, 93 High Street (0483 423567).

Haslemere: Thursday (11am) at Fernhurst Village Hall, Midhurst Road, Fernhurst. John Nicholson (0428 653727).

Leominster: Wednesday and Thursday (10am daily). Russell Baldwin & Bright, Ryelands Road (0568 611166).

Oxford: Wednesday (11am). Mallams, Bocardo House, St Michael's Street (0865 241358).

Newbury: Wednesday (10.30am) - 18th- to 19th- century furniture, garden ornaments. Dreweatt Neate, Donnington Priory, Donnington (0635 31234).

Country-wide sales supplied by Antiques Trade Gazette (071- 930 4957) and Government Auction News (071-734 8291 or 8294), hotline 0891 887700).

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