A World Record £260,000 for a Japanese Gold Coin at Toovey’s

The obverse and reverse of the record breaking Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin from 1870

A Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin dating from 1870 has just sold at Toovey’s for £260,000. A world record price at auction.

Measuring just 3.2cm the coin’s obverse is decorated with a dragon design within a beaded border surrounded by a frame of characters, whilst the reverse has a sunburst flanked by banners between Imperial kiku and kiri mon. It is in extremely fine condition.

Toovey’s valuer and auctioneer William Rowsell, describes how he discovered the coin on a routine visit to a family home in Walberton, West Sussex. He says “There were a small group of gold coins in a brown envelope. This one coin particularly stood out as being Japanese and worth further research.”

William continues “I returned to Toovey’s salerooms with a car full of an eclectic array of collectors’ items including the coin. I showed it to our specialist Mark Stonard who immediately identified it as being an extremely rare Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin, the first coin of its type after Japanese decimalisation in 1870.”

Mark Stonard explains “This type of coin was originally intended for general issue but it was too fragile and the design was changed to a smaller thicker design. Only four examples of this coin were known to exist before our discovery, one is in the British Museum, one is in the Bank of Japan Collection, and two were auctioned in the USA in 2011 and 2014. The die anomalies in the coin’s striking were identified as being correct by comparing them to those found on the example in the British Museum.”

William Rowsell describes how the seller, a keen genealogist, was able to provide the most remarkable provenance. He says “The coin had come to them by family descent from George Henry Williamson Esquire of Worcester [1845-1918]. George Williamson was a former mayor of Worcester, a manufacturer and a Conservative politician. But the vendor thought that it was likely that this coin was originally acquired by George’s father, William Blizard Williamson [1811-1878]. Mr Williamson was a tinsmith from Cork who eventually settled in Worcester, where he founded the Providence Tinplate Works in 1858. George and his brother William Blizard the younger took over the company after their father’s death. George Williamson deposited this coin with several others for some time at Lloyds Bank in Worcester, incorrectly labelling it ‘Chinese gold piece’, suggesting that he was unaware of its significance.”

It is always exciting to discover something that has lain undiscovered and forgotten, especially when it realises a world record price of £260,000. There is much talk about the value of precious metals but the collectors’ value is so often much higher than the bullion price.

William Rowsell, Mark Stonard and the seller are still celebrating this remarkable coin, its discovery and the result.

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.”