Here's one I didn't make earlier: Reproductions are losing their 'naff' image as demand grows for high quality copies of anything from vintage radios to teddies, reports John Windsor

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The Independent Online
FABULOUS fakes are fashionable: a new, guileless class of reproduction has found a welcome in the living-room. Straight off the production line, period radios, ceramics, silver, even teddy bears, seek not to masquerade but to imitate, in the most flattering way, yesterday's good designs.

Danny Pollock sells Thirties radios by mail order from north London. The Westminster model he is packing costs pounds 89.95, pounds 93.95 with cassette. His radios, miniature Forties juke-boxes and 1902 horn phonographs, all containing modern working parts, are authentically detailed. The radios have illuminated dials, woven speaker covers and meticulously finished wood veneer.

'Only a few years ago, reproductions were generally of poor quality, just naff,' Mr Pollock, 45, says. 'Now they can look as beautiful as the real thing. People really appreciate them - especially if their homes have a period interior.'

Originals of one of the most nostalgic British radios of the Thirties, the Pye model MM with sun-ray speaker, regularly fetch pounds 200- pounds 400 at auction. Last month a round pale-green Ekco AD65 of 1934 made a staggering pounds 19,600 at Academy Auctioneers, Ealing, west London.

Mail order, in which Mr Pollock has survived for 13 years, is a pretty cut-throat business. A former product sourcer for giveaway promotions, he will not say where in Europe and the Far East his radios are made. Forthcoming reproductions in his Retro Collection include art deco globe lamps held by nudes, Egyptian cats and Victorian mechanical toys.

Reproduction of the silver designs of Christopher Dresser (d. 1904) - to some, the godfather of industrial design - is an undertaking steeped in reverence. Who but the likes of Alessi, the leading Italian designer/manufacturer, and Britain's foremost silver designer/maker, Professor Brian Asquith, would dare to attempt it?

In the Fifties, fresh from the Royal College of Art, the young Asquith discovered Dresser's forgotten workbooks of silver designs in the archive of James Dixon & Sons, the Sheffield silversmiths. Dresser's simple, modern-looking shapes had been ridiculed in their day and, generations later, Asquith's designs were suffering the same fate. Today, Dresser's drawings have been reconstructed by computer. His 1880 design for a triangular teapot, which, in its day, never made it off the drawing-board, has been manufactured by Alessi in a limited edition of 99. These defiant design statements cost pounds 4,480 each.

A range of more affordably priced Alessi tableware designed by Dresser comes in stainless steel - a material uniquely suited to their pure forms. Toast racks are pounds 66- pounds 70, an oil and vinegar set pounds 108- pounds 115, a bowl pounds 31- pounds 34, from retail shops.

Granny's jazzy Thirties Clarice Cliff pottery, often reviled as garish until the art deco revival of the Seventies, has also been swept up in the urge to reproduce. A Clarice Football vase of 1929-30, with overlapping yellow, purple, orange and green geometric shapes, fetched pounds 770 at Christie's South Kensington in March. Wedgwood, successor to the firm that employed Clarice as a designer, is now offering modern versions of them for pounds 150 each in a limited edition of 250. Age of Jazz dancing couples, in an edition of 150, are pounds 175 each. They are part of Wedgwood's range of 17 Clarice reproductions.

Teddy bears are enjoying the most lucrative reproduction picnic. There is even a rising 'secondary' (second-hand) market in repro teddies. Steiff, the German manufacturer with the button-in- ear trademark, has been turning out repros since 1980, when it manufactured 11,000 replicas of its very first bear, Papa of 1903, of which no examples survive. Papa II in gold mohair, fully jointed, stuffed with authentic flammable wood shavings, sold for pounds 30- pounds 40 new and will now change hands for pounds 600- pounds 1,000 if complete with box and certificate. An original 1905 Steiff bear could fetch more than pounds 10,000 at auction. Its 15,000 reproductions, costing pounds 30 each in 1983, are already worth pounds 300- pounds 350.

Ian Pout, owner of Teddy Bears of Witney, paid pounds 12,100 (then a teddy auction record) at Christie's in 1989 for Alfonzo, the teddy of Princess Xenia, 4, a gift in 1908 from her father, the Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, later assassinated at St Petersburg. Steiff replicated Alfonzo 5,000 times for Mr Pout, who sells them for pounds 165 each. They will probably all be gone by Christmas.

His teddy investment tip: the Jackie teddy, first produced by Steiff in 1953 to mark the 50th anniversary of teddies, and then in a limited edition of 12,000 in 1989- 90. At pounds 65, the later miniature replica with a squeaky tummy is probably the lowest-priced Steiff limited edition still available. 'A safe bet,' says Mr Pout.

One of the biggest repro merchants is Past Times, which has 23 shops and a 32- page full-colour mail-order catalogue of 400 different gifts. It offers Roman-style lapis lazuli jewellery, Celtic shawls, Viking amulets, Anglo-Saxon brooches, medieval gargoyles, Tudor rings, Victorian Stilton spoons - and a Thirties wood veneer radio/cassette player.

The possibilities of period radio reproduction are far from exhausted. Collectors' textbooks show a French Autel wireless of 1922 designed for the priesthood in white marble slabs, with brass fittings and topped by a crucifix. A niche market, perhaps.

Danny Pollock, Retro Collection (081- 200 0674), Alessi (0742 446681), Wedgwood (071-495 0498), Teddy Bears of Witney (0993 702616/706616), Past Times (0993 779339).

(Photograph omitted)

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