Aeronautical Discovery Fetches Thousands

Major Robert Hobart Mayo, O.B.E., M.A. (Cantab), Assoc.M.Inst.C.E., F.R.Ae.S., M.Inst.T. with medals

I was recently on a routine visit to a bungalow in Henfield, West Sussex when I discovered a trunk filled with the most remarkable collection of photographs, documents and medals relating to the late Major Robert Hobart Mayo, M.B.E., M.A.(Cantab)., Assoc. M. Inst. C.E. F.R.Ae.S., M. Inst. T. The collection sold for more than £10,000 including premium at Toovey’s.

Major Mayo was the designer of the Short-Mayo Composite flying boats. He would become a consulting aeronautical engineer alongside some of the most significant moments in 20th century aviation history.

Robert Mayo joined the staff of the Royal Aircraft Factory in 1913 and became head of the experimental department. He qualified as a pilot in December 1914 and went on to serve in the Royal Flying Corps in France during the First World War. On returning to England, he became Flight Commander in the Testing Squadron at Martlesham Heath and was personally responsible for the flying trials of a wide variety of new types of aircraft. In 1917 he was appointed head of the Design (Aeroplane) Section at the Air Ministry and he retained this post until 1919, when he resigned in order to take up Consulting Engineering. He was consulting engineer and technical manager to Instone Air Lines (later Imperial Airways) from 1923 to 1924.

Robert Mayo became a prominent official in competition flying; he was a timekeeper for the Schneider Trophy Contest in 1929 and chairman of the Records, Racing and Competition Committee of the Royal Aero Club in later years. He flew over one hundred different types of aircraft and had a thorough knowledge of aircraft and engines used in various commercial services.

A small section of original fabric from the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk ‘Wright Flyer’ with a printed certification from Major Robert H. Mayo
A small section of original fabric from the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk ‘Wright Flyer’ with a printed certification from Major Robert H. Mayo

On the 17th December 1903 the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, famously made the first controlled flight of a ‘heavier than air’, powered aircraft known as the Kitty Hawk. Amongst the highlights of the collection was a framed fragment of material used to cover the wings from the original plane with a certificate of authenticity from Robert H. Mayo. He writes ‘When Orville Wright, at my suggestion, assembled the Kitty Hawk machine for public exhibition for the first time, in 1916, at the opening the new buildings of M.I.T. in Cambridge, he found that the original fabric could not be used and substituted new fabric of the identical material. When he died, his executors found that he had preserved some of the original coverings of the wings and entrusted several pieces of this most valuable relic to me for distribution to notable aeronautical friends. I certify that this piece was used in the first successful flight in history by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N. C.’ It realised £2600.

A letter, signatures and photograph relating to the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919
A letter, signatures and photograph relating to the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919

Technical advances in aviation continued at great pace. On the 14th June1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown took off from Newfoundland in a converted Vickers Vimy bomber. They landed in Ireland 16 hours and 12 minutes later on 15th June 1919, having faced great challenges, to win the £10,000 Daily Mail newspaper prize for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Robert Mayo had in his collection a gold engraved presentation match vesta, a letter and photographs relating to this first non-stop flight across the Atlantic which sold for £4000.

These and objects like them bring history to life in a vivid and exciting way which is reflected in their values.

The spirit of courage, adventure and engineering inventiveness expressed in the life of Major Robert H. Mayo will continue to be told through the pieces from this extraordinary historical archive.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

£132,000 South Coast Discovery at Toovey’s

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies
£132,000 pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain tea caddies, displayed on a window sill, caught the eye of a Toovey’s valuer during a routine visit to a client’s home. The caddies were subsequently brought in for sale and went under the gavel in a specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 23rd February 2017.

These Qing dynasty caddies from the Imperial kilns were similar in shape to those made for the European export market. However, the painted blossoming branches and flowering stems accompanied by the lines of text and red seals are typically Chinese in taste, as are the profusely decorated sides with their panels of lotus flowers and tendrils. Measuring just 16.7cm in height they realised a remarkable £132,0000. Both the vendor and Toovey’s Asian Art specialist, Tom Rowsell, are delighted with the result.

Damaged Vase Sells for over Half-a-million Pounds at Toovey’s

The Chinese famille rose vase

A chipped and heavily repaired vase went under the hammer for an extraordinary £520,000 at fine art auctioneers Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms at Washington on Thursday 4th December 2014.

The 40.3cm-high Chinese famille rose and pea green ground vase dated from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) and would originally have been a decorative piece made for one of the emperor’s palaces. It was decorated with four floral panels representing the seasons, alternating with four further panels with poems in different calligraphic scripts.

Some of the damage to the vase

At some point in the 19th century, the rim had been broken into a number of pieces and repaired with rivets and metal wire, a popular form of restoration right up until the 1960s, when epoxy and polyester resin glues were developed. The rim also had a fair-size piece missing and there were other smaller areas of loss. None of this put off a host of Oriental antiques specialists around the world and on the day nine telephone bidders, a strong presence bidding live online and a number of key UK and Chinese players in the room all vied for the piece. After a lengthy battle, the final bidding was left to two major collectors, one bidding from China by telephone, the other, the eventual winner, bidding in the room.

The vase was discovered by Toovey’s following a routine enquiry by email from a local couple, attaching a number of images of items at their property which they wanted to auction. They were all modest items, except for the vase, which Toovey’s Oriental specialist Tom Rowsell immediately spotted as something potentially very interesting. The couple subsequently brought the vase to Toovey’s to show Tom in person and he confirmed his thoughts that the vase was almost certainly Qianlong mark and period and a highly commercial piece in the current market. Toovey’s Oriental consultant, Lars Tharp, later concurred with Tom’s opinion. The vase had been inherited by the wife from her late father, who, she believed, bought it at auction in the 1960s. The couple had no idea that the vase was of any importance or value prior to contacting Toovey’s.

This remarkable hammer price rounds off a record year for Toovey’s, who have been steadily notching up an impressive run of results throughout 2014.

Watch the lot selling below:

Amazing Result at Toovey’s!

The charcoal and chalk drawing auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000

A genre scene picture of a woman standing in an interior reading a book created an electric atmosphere when it was auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000 on Wednesday 8th October 2014.
“It’s an age-old saying in the auction world that you only need two people to create an extraordinary price. £320,000 for an 18th century French School charcoal and chalk drawing is extraordinary by any measure,” said company director Rupert Toovey.
This unsigned, unattributed drawing, with little family provenance, was entered by a long-standing Toovey’s client from London, who had inherited it as part of her late mother’s estate. It had lain out of sight in a remover’s store in Southsea for more than fifteen years. The client, who said the drawing was always regarded as an insignificant picture by her family, was amazed and delighted with the result.
The result surprised even the experts and vastly exceeded the modest pre-sale estimate. The quality of the picture, however, was not ignored. The picture was illustrated in the auction catalogue and online and actively marketed to collectors and specialist galleries across the globe. On the day, bids rose rapidly from the saleroom floor and live internet bidding. Two leading commercial fine art galleries, one in Paris, the other in London, then locked horns in a bidding battle which resulted in auctioneer Nicholas Toovey’s gavel finally falling at £320,000. “It’s results like this that make our profession so fascinating and exciting!” Mr Toovey exclaimed. “Every piece we auction is marketed on the major collectors’ websites. Our own website, www.tooveys.com, is key to our marketing strategy, bringing almost a quarter-of-a-million potential clients to our salerooms every year.” The fruits of Toovey’s investment in this industry-leading technology is apparent in their ability to reach worldwide collectors’ markets. Rupert Toovey concluded: “In our internet age it is remarkable that so much can still rest on the opinions of a few courageous bidders.”

August 2014 Postcard Auction Sale Report

Henfield Station at Toovey's Auction
'Henfield Station' postcard, sold for £120

Toovey’s auction of Paper Collectables on 12th August included 146 lots of postcards. With only three lots failing to sell, there is no shortage of talking points:

Partridge Green Station at Toovey's
'Partridge Green Station', sold for £110

Private collectors went loco for a small group of individual postcards of Sussex railway platforms. No less than four successful collectors express-ed an interest, each chuffed with their purchases, once again proving the Sussex postcard market is far from station-ary! Bad puns aside, £120 was paid for an RP of ‘Henfield Station’ with a steam engine entering the now-vanished station. The exact same view with small loss to one corner only made £30, reinforcing the difference condition makes to the private collector. RP views of ‘Partridge Green Station’, ‘The Station, Southwater’ and a different view of ‘Henfield Railway Station’ each sold for £110.

Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500
Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500

Topographical postcards were popular throughout the auction but Sussex views continued to steal the headlines. An RP titled ‘Sussex Pruning Camp’, offered with a similar RP, sold for £95. A group of 4 postcards of Partridge Green, including a scarce RP of ‘Jolesfield Windmill’, achieved £140. A similar group of 13 postcards of nearby Cowfold and Shermanbury realised £240 and 31 postcards of Henfield sold for £420. All of these lots went to private collectors.

Outside of the Sussex scene, notable prices included 8 postcards of Barnes and Isleworth, which topped £120. An album of 52 postcards of the Channel Islands, predominantly Jersey, went at £320. A group of 160 of Middlesex reached £340 and £20 was paid for a slightly faded RP of ‘Finchley Rd Station’. A private collection of postcards published by LL performed well too, including a 286-postcard collection of London, which sold for £480.

Little Nap the Chimpanzee postcard, sold for £60
Little Nap, sold for £60

Topography was not the only area of interest. Leading the fray at £1500 was an album of 74 postcards, including a brilliant selection of regimental embroidered silks, which went to an internet bidder despite the busy room. One of the surprising results of the sale came in the form of a single RP of ‘Little Nap’, a chimpanzee dressed-up as Napoleon, which, after a battle between a private collector and the internet, sold for £60 in the room.

1 of 6 by Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380
Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380

A good selection of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and glamour postcards also attracted serious interest and stiff competition among bidders. A group of 6 Art Nouveau colour postcards by Umberto Brunelleschi was hotly contested, largely due to their great condition, selling at £380, just over £60 per postcard and nearly double their mid pre-sale estimate. 4 Italian Art Deco postcards by M. Montedoro achieved £130 and 9 postcards by Raphael Kirchner realised £160.

Arguably among the scarcest of postcards included in the auction was a large group of composite puzzle postcards, divided into 11 lots. Highlights included a set of 4 colour printed postcards titled ‘Fridtjof Nansen Nord Polar-Expedition’, which sold to a collector at £130, and a set of 6 French hand-coloured postcards of Barnum Circus, which went for £140. To view all the previous sale results click here.

Toovey’s next auction of Paper Collectables, including postcards, stamps, cigarette cards, photographs, autographs and ephemera, will be held on 4th November 2014. Whilst this auction has now deadlined,  four have been scheduled for 2015 due to the popularity of the Paper Collectable auctions at Toovey’s. Contact us to discuss your postcard collection for one of our future specialist sales.

By Nicholas Toovey, a member of the Postcard Traders Association. Originally published as a Sale Report in Picture Postcard Monthly October 2014 issue.