Next Tuesday’s auction at the Old Wool Mart (November 10th) has been cancelled because of the coronavirus restrictions that are now in place. The intention is that this sale will now be merged with the Annual Christmas Auction of Gold, Silver & Jewellery that we’re scheduling for December 15th.

Necessary as the postponement is, we are disappointed that we are unable to go ahead immediately – not least because we have some really interesting collectables waiting to go under the hammer in fields as diverse as antique firearms and teddy bears, lots and lots of teddy bears!

The firearms include a 19th century Purdey shotgun, one of the best sporting guns we have seen in the saleroom for some time. In the Victorian period James Purdey & Sons were reckoned to be the finest gunmakers in London, which is to say the finest gunmakers in the world.

James Purdey founded the business in 1814 after serving his apprenticeship in a relative’s workshop and then going on to work for both Joseph Manton of Oxford Street, the Lincolnshire farmer’s son who was the most famous gunsmith of that time, and Forsyth & Co., which was owned by the Reverend Alexander Forsyth, inventor of percussion ignition. (That Reverend is not a misprint!)

From the start Purdey went for the top of the market, high quality bespoke guns and pistols. Success came quickly. Within ten years he was being spoken of as the best gunsmith in London. After twelve years he was able to move from modest premises off Leicester Square to the Oxford Street address that would be the company’s home for most of the 19th century. Royal Warrants followed, first the Prince of Wales and then Queen Victoria – and indeed most of the crowned heads of Europe.

The Purdey we’ll be auctioning (eventually!) is a double-barrelled percussion cap gun, a beautifully crafted piece, with attractive engraved decoration. It is a real premier league piece that we value at £2,000 to £3,0000.

Of course not all collectable antique weapons are that expensive. We also have two percussion pistols of around the same period as the Purdey awaiting a sale but they are not even close to the same bracket. One is an Enfield and the other is a smaller unmarked pocket pistol. They are collectable but will probably go for £100-£200 apiece.

Our October auction saw the first part of a huge collection of Steiff teddies go under the hammer and they attracted a lot of interest, making an average of a hundred pounds a bear. The second part is now ready to go, along with entries from two other private vendors, so not only will the teddy bears picnic continue but it is growing exponentially! We value the forty Steiff teddies and Charlie Bears waiting to go under the hammer at £2,000-£4,000.

Gold and silver have been doing very well in auctions this year. One of the biggest surprises of that October auction was provided by a silver tea and coffee service presented to the great 19th century Cambridge mathematician Henry Taylor. It sold for £2,000, which was way over pre-sale expectations.

Here at least the cancellation of next week’s auction will have little impact. The silver offering was quite small given that pieces were already being held back for the December Christmas Auction of Gold, Silver, Jewellery and Objects D’Art. (Further entries very welcome.)

It is regrettable that next week’s auction has had to be called off but that combined December 15th auction promises to be spectacular.