Sherlock Holmes fan wins his case in US golf case

One of the world's most important collections of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia sold for almost pounds 150,000 at Sotheby's yesterday, but confirmed fears that many of the best items would go abroad.

The books, posters, pipes and magazines had been amassed by Stanley MacKenzie, an expert "Sherlockian". His wife put up the collection for auction after his death aged 82 in February.

It was the most significant sale of Holmes memorabilia for 15 years and attended by fans and experts from across the world. Many smaller collectors were dismayed by the prices many of the books, magazines and posters fetched. In many cases these were double the estimate, but sometimes more.

A gold cigarette case inscribed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the fictional detective, was estimated at up to pounds 600 but sold for pounds 5,290 to Richard Lancelyn Green, a Doyle biographer.

The jewel of the collection, an 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual containing the first publication of a Sherlock Holmes story, sold for pounds 20,700 to a Chicago private collector. The extremely rare annual which cost a shilling when it was first published was expected by Sotheby's to sell for up to pounds 15,000.

An almost complete series of issues of the Strand Magazine, for which Conan Doyle frequently wrote, was bought for pounds 10,350, three times its estimate, by Otto Penzler, a New York dealer. "I should sell everything I bought in about six months. I already have some collectors lined up," he said.

Catherine Cooke of Marylebone Library, London, which has a large collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia including two Conan Doyle manuscripts, later said the prices were far beyond her budget.

t A love letter by poet Dylan Thomas to his wife Caitlin, kept by a Hampshire fishmonger when it was given him to wrap up fish, sold for pounds 3,910 in the same sale. It was bought by Jeff Towns, who owns Dylan's Bookstore in Swansea.