Review of Old Master Sales in July 2019

David Dallas,Old Master Specialist

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As we approach the start of a new auction season, with Old Master Sales happening in London in October, it might be interesting to reflect on how the last season ended.
The Old Master Sales followed the pattern of the last 10 years. Ever since the world’s financial markets crashed in 2009 buyers have been very choosy about what they want to take home. Masterpieces, which in this instance, means good/great paintings in excellent condition and fresh to the market thrive, whereas the more mundane paintings and anything that looks as if it has been consigned by a dealer, struggle.

Circle of Sir Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and his brother Lord Francis Villiers

The sale at Bonhams proved particularly difficult with the star lot, a set of The Four Elements attributed to Jan Brueghel the younger failing to find a buyer, which was also the fate of the Constable Oil Sketch of East Bergholt Common. Overall of the 60 lots offered, 25 were bought in, which is 42% of the sale total.

Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.
Going to Market, Early Morning

Christie’s was marginally more successful with 19 out of 50 lots in the evening sale failing to sell, which is 38%. Surprisingly, their day sale had a selling rate of 62.5% with 57 out of 152 lots being bought in. This sale was marginally more successful in percentage terms than the evening sale, which goes against the normal run of play. The most surprising lot in their day sale was a double portrait described as “Circle of van Dyck”, which made £323,250 against an estimate of £40,000-£60,000. More than one person believes in it, clearly!

Jusepe de Ribera
A Girl with a Tambourine (The Sense of Hearing)

Sotheby’s sales, which totalled £56.2m were the most successful for 5 years. The most extraordinary statistic of their evening sale was that there were more world records than bought in lots! Only 6 paintings failed to sell whereas, there were 9 world records broken, including ones for Gainsborough, whose “Going to Market, Early Morning” sold for £8.2m and Jusepe de Ribera’s “A Girl with a Tambourine” which sold for £5.9m, nearly twice the previous record.
The Sotheby’s sale is cause for optimism in the world of Old Masters, despite the current financial uncertainties.

Patek Phillipe and Audemars Piguet with Gerald Genta – The King of Haute Horlogerie and Design

My Personal Passion of Watches and my Favourite Watch Designer
Alastair Meiklejon,Senior Valuer

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Is Gerald Genta the greatest wristwatch designer of all time? It’s a question that will cause debates around the watchmaking world, however what cannot be denied is that with a CV like his, it would certainly take a career of some distinction to stand against him in any serious argument.

Gerald Genta’s designs for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (left) and the Patek Philippe Nautilus

Starting at Universal Geneve in the 1950s, Genta started a trend of creating some of the most instantly recognisable watches of the 20th Century, with one his first pieces being the understated and yet iconic Polerouter Microtor – setting the tone for much of his later and much lauded career.
Whilst the 1970s could be (and are by many) considered a decade that taste forgot, Genta was inspired and came up with two de facto design classics – still revered today and most probably will be in production for quite a while – The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 1971, and the Patek Phillipe Nautilus in 1976.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 4100, 1981

These watches completely changed everyone’s view on luxury watch manufacturing, for many years the definition of which was a precious metal case, with as many complications as one could muster, or even understand. Initially both watches were cases in stainless steel and the measurements at the time were fairly hefty – whilst a 39mm case in 2020 is nothing to get excited about, back in the early 70s it was a complete revelation.
At ten times the cost of a Rolex Submariner, this watch was pulling no punches and it was clear what market it was presenting itself to, it wasn’t a tool watch, it was a clear luxury style piece – but with all the foundations of heritage with the brand.
It was during this period he also worked on designs for IWC and Cartier. Whilst all of his pieces had a certain je ne sais quoi, they all were unique and retained the Genta DNA that set them apart from the more pedestrian offerings from the big players, something that certainly was needed during the quartz crisis that nearly destroyed the Swiss watch industry.

Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700, 1981

The joy of both the Nautilus and the Royal Oak is that there are models to suit all budgets – from under £10,000 for a gold and steel version of both models, right up to over a million pounds for some incredibly ‘esoteric’ models encrusted with more diamonds than the average royal tiara. The key with these both the Patek Phillipe and the Audemars Piguet is knowing the models and their differences and desirability factor – it can be tens of thousands of pounds difference, for what may look to the untrained eye, a very similar timepiece.
Genta carried on designing, and running moderately successful watch brands for many years after the groundbreaking designs of his portfolio became as recognisable as the brand they represented, and inspired many ‘tribute’ style watches for years to come. Gerald Genta died in 2012 and left not only a heritage for many brands, but a basis of design that keeps on reinventing itself, and will for years to come.

Patek and Cartier Ladies’ Watches

James Lowe, Watch and Jewellery Specialist

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In general, and in contrast to gentlemen’s watches, the price of a ladies’ watch tends to reflect the value in the precious metal, the decorative elements such as diamonds plus the manufacturing costs rather than the complexity of the movement. Today’s price per ounce for gold bullion is $1500, in 2002 (when Gordon Brown was selling off some of the UK gold reserves) the price was around $350, so there’s a four-fold increase in material cost to consider. Another huge factor, especially in ladies’ luxury watches, is of course the big brand name premium.

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe produce only around 62,000 watches per year and according to Patek company policy, only 10% are made in steel. This is because the company considers itself a luxury product maker rather than a sports’ product maker like Rolex. Of the 6,500 or so steel watches produced, the majority are from the ladies’ Twenty4 range. This results in the gents’ steel watches like the Nautilus models being in very short supply, hence the huge price premiums for this model on the secondary market. The Twenty4 range was introduced around 2000 and has proved very popular but always with a standard quartz movement. However, last year a circular cased automatic model was introduced. The two Patek examples here are the cheapest and most expensive in the range.

Ladies’ Twenty4 steel bracelet watch with diamonds reference 4910/10A.
2002 £3,950
2008 £5,920
2019 £9,550

Ladies’ Twenty4 18 carat gold bracelet watch with diamonds reference 4910/11R
2002 £9,450
2008 £20,850
2019 £32,560



Cartier introduced the Panthere range of watches in 1983 to compliment the Panthere jewellery range, and it proved to be a very successful model which was discontinued about 10 years ago but relaunched in 2017. It has remained virtually unchanged (apart from its retail price!!) – and although some of the larger models have automatic movements the smaller model which we illustrate here has retained its standard quartz movement.

Ladies’ Panthere 18 carat yellow gold bracelet watch, mini size, reference W25034B9
2002 £5,900
2008 £9,750
2019 £17,800

Ladies’ Tank Francaise steel bracelet watch, mini size, reference W51008Q3
2002 £1,550
2008 £1,920
2019 £2,890
All the major brands have an understandable policy of refreshing or slightly altering the models in their watch ranges on a regular basis, which does at least give them a chance to nudge the retail prices up regularly. This result in a wide gap between a current retail price and the secondhand/auction value of a five or so year old example. It is therefore very important for both the insured and the insurer to establish whether the insurance cover is on a ‘new for old’ or a ‘second hand replacement value’.

Does Your Current Insurance Reflect Art Market Increases?

Yayoi Kusama –
KOKORO (Heart), 1988

Ben Hanly, Head of Contemporary Art

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We asked our Head of Contemporary Art, Ben Hanly, to look at how values have changed over the past few years to illustrate just how important it is to have the value of your collection updated regularly. We think you will be shocked by the results!

David Hockney (British, 1937)
Pool Made with Paper and Blue Ink for Book, 1988
Lithograph, edition of 1,000
26.5cm x 22.5cm2015 – £10,000 Now – £25,000


Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, 1929)
KOKORO (Heart), 1988
Acrylic on canvas
65cm x 53cm2006 – £45,000 Now – £225,000

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Marilyn (no. 31)
Screen-print, edition of 250
91.4cm x 91.4cm2015 – £175,000 Now – £300,000

Banksy (British, 1974)
Girl with Balloon, 2003
Spray-paint and stencil on canvas, edition of 25
40.5cm x 40.5cm2015 – £175,000 Now – £600,000

Comics – No Laughing Matter!

Alastair Meiklejon, Senior Valuer

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Superman, Ironman, Spider-Man, and Batman…..a multi billion dollar film industry that has stood the test of time and still attracts new fans on a weekly basis. With four Avengers films alone taking up spaces in the top ten highest-grossing films of all time, and Black Panther just outside at number eleven it’s an ever growing franchise with spin off series, merchandise and products every year.
Most fans are aware that originally these characters were invented for comic books published by either DC Comics, or Marvel Comics, with Superman arriving back in 1939 and Batman a year later. However, more recently we are seeing clients looking at Comic Books as an interesting and inventive form of investment with prices of rare and mint comics making well into the millions.
The collecting of comic books is not a new thing, generations of fans have been scouring auctions and trading for years, but in the last 20 years, with the advent of the internet , the comic book has become a fantastically transportable asset with a great worldwide audience – much like the films.
There are three factors to consider when looking at a comic book;
Least importantly is provenance – whilst there are great collections throughout the world, it only attracts a small premium.

Superman #1 (DC 1939) 5.0 graded Valued for insurance £750,000

Secondly is rarity – these were books meant for reading and as such so few survived probably more than a month before the next issue was out with the next instalment depicting the journey of our favourite superhero.
The last and possibly most important is condition – collectors want the best and will pay for that privilege. In most arenas condition is subjective, however in comics it is not – there are rules and standards that dictate what grade it should be given. In the higher echelons of comic books the difference between a 9.4 and a 9.5 can be as much as £50,000 so accuracy is vital.

Avengers #1 (Marvel 1963) 9.6 graded Valued for insurance £420,000

Fashion and the huge film industry plays a huge part in the value fluctuation of certain books, and we have personally seen comics increase in value by as much as 60% overnight when one of the film studios announce their next project with a plethora of new Hollywood superstars. What this does mean is that regular valuation is vital in order to protect these assets, and we would always recommend a 12 monthly appraisal with the higher value comics.

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: its author, its ideas and its value

Copy of the Wealth of Nations from the library of Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry

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Rupert Neelands, Antiquarian Book and Manuscript Specialist

Smith’s Wealth of Nations was an extended argument about how European countries, and Britain particularly, could achieve greater social and political stability by increasing their economic wealth. Having his profile on the back of the £20 note, issued from March 2007 to February 2020, would have been a more powerful reminder of his great treatise, had the note not changed hands so swiftly in millions of transactions. However, every transaction made with it was a demonstration of what Smith saw as the universal human propensity, “to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another”.
To his contemporaries Smith was a moral philosopher. He never courted celebrity but neither did he shun society. He clearly wanted to be remembered by what he wrote, and so actually cared little about his own portrait. There is no frontispiece portrait in either of his major works, and no known oil portrait from the life. The glass paste medallion by James Tassie, executed in 1787, “is the only satisfactory likeness of Smith and was conceivably modelled from the life” (NPG).

Adam Smith in his 64th Year, by James Tassie, 1787, glass paste medallion, National Portrait Gallery

Smith’s life ran a smooth course apart from the loss of his father, also Adam Smith. An advocate, private secretary to the third earl of Loudon and comptroller of customs at Kirkcaldy, Smith senior died five months before his son was born. Adam Smith junior was baptised on 5 June 1723. He had a caring mother in Margaret, the daughter of Robert Douglas of Strathendry, who brought him up in the fishing village of Kirkcaldy (population 1500) near Edinburgh. Being carried off by gypsies at the age of four was the only alarming experience of his childhood — if it indeed happened.

Glasgow University founded in 1451

At 14, Smith entered Glasgow University where the professor of moral philosophy, “the never to be forgotten” Francis Hutcheson, had a profound influence. Hutcheson emphasised the importance of the division of labour, and made a careful distinction between money as a medium of exchange and money as a standard of value. After graduating in 1740, Smith won a Snell exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford. Despite finding the intellectual atmosphere of Oxford far less vibrant than Glasgow — the exploded system of Aristotle was still taught, he nevertheless tolerated it for six years, and did so much private reading in political history and polite literature that he became physically exhausted. He had a retentive memory and wrote in a plain style with Swift and Addison among his models.
After Oxford, Smith returned to the seclusion of Kirkcaldy for two years. Then in 1748 he began delivering public lectures at Edinburgh University, sponsored by the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh whose patron was Lord Kames. The initial subjects were rhetoric and belles-lettres. Smith’s abiding friendship with David Hume, who was 12 years older, began in 1750, and only ended with the latter’s death on 25 August 1776. Hume’s Political Discourses (1752) was a work from which he developed many strands of argument; it contained the key notion that the pre-requisite of a thriving commerce is civil liberty.
Smith’s prominence in the intellectual mêlée of the Scottish enlightenment continued to grow. In 1751, at the age of 27, he was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow. A year later he changed chairs, becoming professor of moral philosophy for a period lasting until 1764. He taught a curriculum on ethics and the rights of man inherited from Hutcheson; and following a precedent set by his former teacher, his lectures were in English rather than Latin. His first published work was an article on Johnson’s Dictionary for the first Edinburgh Review in 1755.

David Hume by Allan Ramsay, 1766, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

 After lecturing by day Smith would join in Glasgow society by night, mingling with the city’s merchants and its learned men — despite good social relations, the support of the merchant class for monopolistic companies was to be castigated in Wealth of Nations. Smith neither married nor possessed a female confidante, excepting his mother, for any length of time. His treatise does make unexpected reference to the beauty of London’s Irish prostitutes, the product — he thought — of their diet of potatoes (I.xi).
Andrew Millar published the Theory of Moral Sentiments, based on his lectures in ethics, as a single octavo volume in 1759. The ambiguities in human nature were admitted from the opening sentence. While conceding that amoral self-interest is an abiding motive in human behaviour, Smith argued for the existence of an “inner man” or “impartial spectator” who is nevertheless able to judge the morality of an action. Moral sentiments arise from that mutual sympathy between individuals which alone creates a happy society. In both this work and the Wealth of Nations Smith made reference to the “invisible hand” that created social or economic harmony out of competing interests.

Henry Scott, 3rd duke of Buccleuch, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770 or 1771, Bowhill House

 Charles Townshend, the chancellor responsible for the taxes that ultimately caused the American Revolution, was so impressed by Smith’s Moral Sentiments that he invited the author to become tutor to his stepson, Henry Scott, the 17-year-old duke of Buccleuch. The duke was portrayed by Thomas Gainsborough in 1770 or 1771, wearing the insignia of the Order of the Garter and hugging a Dandie Dinmont terrier. Smith did not morally approve of the Grand Tour, but an annual income of £300 plus expenses, roughly twice his pay as a professor, and a lifetime pension of £300 a year thereafter, was persuasive. Tutor and pupil set out for Toulouse via Paris on 13 February 1764, spending close on three years together and getting on remarkably well.
Eighteen months in Toulouse offered little in the way of variety, but Smith used his time there to start working on Wealth of Nations. In a livelier two month visit to Geneva, he met Voltaire. A ten month stay in Paris then enabled him to meet more of “the French literary figures he had read and lectured on with warm appreciation” (ODNB). Helped with introductions by David Hume, also in Paris, he frequented the literary salons of the duchesse d’Enville and Julie de L’Espinasse; the German-French encylopedist Baron d’Holbach welcomed him; and he was no less feted at the house of the tax farmer and philosophe Claude-Adrien Helvétius. André Morellet, his future translator, and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Controller-General of Finance from 1774 to 1776, were among others he met. François Quesnay, leader of the physiocrats, probably impressed him the most, and would have been the dedicatee of his treatise had his death not occurred first.
Moral Sentiments, the talk of Paris, drew much admiration from women. The former actress and novelist Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni declared Smith to be as ugly as the devil with his harsh voice and protruding teeth. Yet she had plenty of time for his sentimental philosophy, remarking in a letter to David Garrick, “J’aime Mr Smith, je l’aime beaucoup” (quoted by James Buchan, The Authentic Adam Smith, 2006, p.79). The fascinating comtesse de Boufflers, patroness of Rousseau, was thanked by David Hume for taking “my friend Smith under your protection” (HL ii.63). By no means intimidated by Parisian society, he attended operas, plays and concerts, wearing an impressive array of black, grey and red silk suits.

Alexander Gordon, Lord Rockville; Adam Smith; George Brown, by John Kay, 1787, etching

 Unfortunately, the duke fell ill as did his younger brother, Hew, who had joined the party at Toulouse. Though the former recovered, Quesnay’s efforts as royal physician could not save Hew. Their stay in Paris cut short, Smith and the duke accompanied Hew’s body back to Dover, arriving 1 November 1766. Only too glad to be back among old friends, Smith never crossed the English channel again. Wealth of Nations made trenchant criticism of the ancient regime’s reliance on fiscal anomalies, manipulation of the coinage, arbitrary taxation, soaring public debt, and depressed agriculture.
Having spent six months in London, supervising publication of the third edition of Moral Sentiments and attending the duke of Buccleuch’s wedding, Smith returned to live with his mother in Kirkcaldy. Six years were spent reading and writing in this retirement. He wrote to David Hume saying that “My amusements are long, solitary walks by the sea side” and expressed himself “extremely happy … I never was, perhaps, more so in all my life” (quoted by Buchan, p. 84). As opposed to reaching completion, his magnum opus simply grew larger.
Having chosen not to become Hume’s neighbour in Edinburgh, Smith was at length persuaded to travel to London in 1772. The offer of another tutoring post, this time to the young duke of Hamilton, came to nothing. Nonetheless, Smith stayed on, attending political debates in parliament as the conflict between Britain and her American colonies intensified. He became a member of the Royal Society in May 1773. The Boston Tea Party on 16 December that year was the direct consequence of Townshend’s taxation measures. On 9 May 1775 Smith assured Hume, in Edinburgh, that his book was about to go to press. In February 1776 a letter of Hume’s expressed the concern that if Smith was waiting for the fate of America to be decided, he might have to wait forever.

Title-page to the first edition of Smith’s Wealth of Nations

 Smith’s book finally appeared on 3 March 1776. Entitled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, it carried the imprint of W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand; some copies have the added imprint of W. Creech at Edinburgh. In the event, publication occurred only four months before the 4 July signing of the American Declaration of Independence. The author showed himself to be quite radical in his leanings, particularly in regard to the American colonists whose ill treatment by the government he discusses in book IV. Despite fully agreeing with Hume that independence was a natural outcome for growing colonies, he also put forward the idea of a closer union or federation with Britain, with power likely to gravitate to the west.
The two quarto volumes contained over 1000 pages, arranged in five books, and representing at least 12 years work. Issued in either blue-grey or marbled boards, the work cost £1 16 shillings — then enough money to employ a skilled tradesman for 15 days. The print run is put at 500 copies.
Only a week earlier Strahan and Cadell had brought out volume I of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, also in quarto. Writing to David Hume on 12 April, Strahan compared the two works; Gibbon’s he described as “more popular”; Smith’s book he judged to have a sale which, “tho’ not near so rapid, has been much more than I could have expected from a work, that requires much thought and reflexion (qualities that do not abound among modern readers) ….” (NLS Hume MSS vii.67, old no).
Smith’s arguments in Wealth of Nations are well summarised in Ian Simpson Ross’s Life of Adam Smith (1995, pp. 270-288). Whereas Moral Sentiments had dealt with various forms of motivation, his later book dealt with economic motivation only, and its effect on the collective wealth of nations. Smith argues that material progress stems from the individual’s desire for self-improvement; a nation’s riches do not consist of bullion or treasure, but in the acquired skills or specialisations of its labour force, supported by capital.
Book I, on “the Causes of Improvement in the Productive Powers of Labour”, starts with a brilliant though, in the light of subsequent history, flawed appraisal of the the division of labour, which he believes can improve the individual labourer’s circumstances, while creating greater wealth for the whole of society. The division of the 18 operations used in making a pin, borrowed from the French Encylopédie of 1755, make its advantages demonstrable.

Adam Smith by John Kay, etching, 1790

 Book I then proceeds with a discussion of the origin and use of money, followed by an analysis of commodity prices in terms of labour cost and in terms of money. Careful distinctions are also drawn between the component parts of commodity prices, and the natural and market price of commodities. A forensic examination of wages and profits comes next, and then a final discourse on the rent of land, with a long digression on silver. Since the accumulation of profit allows for rising wages and the enhancement of culture, the profit motive is not seen as harmful. The individual’s liberty of action guarantees the welfare of society.
Whereas the 11 chapters in book I come under the heading of “Labour”, the 5 chapters in book II are on “the nature, accumulation, and employment of stock” — stock (i.e. “savings and investments”) being a second growth factor after the division of labour. There is a continued look at money as “a particular Branch of the general Stock of the Society”. Lines are drawn between productive and unproductive labour, and fixed and circulating capitals.
The remaining books, III-V, are more historical in nature, concentrating on what legislators have done and what they ought to do to achieve economic growth. Book III traces “the different progress of Opulence in different nations”. The time period starts as far back as the fall of Rome and the development of medieval towns, when capital first supported agriculture, to its later extension to manufactures, and finally foreign trade with its positive socio-economic effects.
 Book IV, “Of Systems of Political Economy”, is a highly readable, deeply critical account of what Smith pejoratively termed the mercantile system giving the European nations monopolistic control over their colonies. England is only the best of a bad bunch, “somewhat less illiberal and oppressive than any of the rest” (
Smith’s belief in the efficacy of free trade, with its stimulus to the industry of the European nations, cannot be over-stated. Hence he calls “the discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope … the two greatest and most important events in the history of mankind” ( With these words, he is surely anticipating a harmonious global economy.
The final chapter of book IV, “Of the Agricultural Systems, or of those Systems of Political Economy which represent the Produce of Land as either the sole or the principal Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every County”, was a response to Quesnay and the French physiocrats; sympathetic as he was to their ideas, Smith was unable to accept their portrayal of manufacturing and trading as unproductive.
In Book V, “Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth”, the involvement of government is accepted as necessary in defence, justice, policing, transport facilities, education, and taxation. A policy of non interference is urged in matters of trade. The British government’s readiness to incur public debt in order to prosecute wars over the colonies meets with a severe reproof.

Henry Wickham’s copy of Wealth of Nations (2 vols) bound by Edwards of Halifax. Courtesy of Christie’s

Four more editions of Wealth of Nations came out before the author’s death in 1790. The third edition of 1784 was the first in octavo. The Additions and Corrections to the first and second editions of Dr. Adam Smith’s … Wealth of Nations, issued at the same time, was available in either quarto or octavo size. While not an integral part of the first edition, it is sometimes bound at the end of volume II or may, alternatively, form a slim volume III.

Secretarial presentation inscription on Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester’s copy of Wealth of Nations. Courtesy of Christie’s

A copy of the first edition, without serious defects, might have been bought for about £12,000 in 1990. Sotheby’s sold a copy in a restored calf binding for £11,000 hammer which became £12,100 with premium, on 19 July 1990. While its steady advance in value over the next 30 years has to be seen as extraordinary, it is a sobering thought that the purchasing power of the pound has halved since 1990.
Ten years on and the William Foyle copy came up for sale. Although the binding — described as “near contemporary sheep” — was not particularly impressive, the Foyle copy included the Additions and Corrections. Astonishment overtook the packed Great Room when Christies sold it for as much as £34,000 hammer on 12 July 2000. This was no lucky chance; the price signalled a quantum leap forward in value.
If it is correct to speak of trophy books, Wealth of Nations became one in the new millennium. From 2000 onwards its value soared. However, condition and copy status will always lead to variations in price as will the supply of copies. Of two copies sold in New York in December 2004, one at Sotheby’s made $80,000 (£41,510) hammer; the other at Christie’s went for $40,000 hammer, exactly half the amount. The latter was simply an inferior copy.

Richard Payne Knight by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1794, Whitworth Art Gallery

The following year, 2005, the “remarkably clean, fine and totally unsophisticated” Irwin Silver copy” in contemporary calf gilt reached $120,000 (£62,967) hammer, with premium $144,000 (£75,560), at Sotheby’s New York. The auction gavel then started to spark at Christie’s. In 2007 £85,000 was paid for the Henry Wickham copy, exquisitely bound by Edwards of Halifax in tree calf with painted vellum spines. The Foljambe copy made £130,000 in 2010; the Londonderry copy £120,000 in 2013; £150,000 was given in 2014 for a presentation copy in a secretarial hand to Smith’s former pupil, Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester.

Bronze statue of Adam Smith by Alexander Stoddart, 2008, on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Last year, when as many as four copies came up for auction, results were consistently good if less sensational. At Christie’s New York bidding on one copy closed at $80,000 (£62,373); another copy made $90,000 (£69,765) in Chicago; and one at Sotheby’s London was taken to £70,000, virtually the same figure. Richard Payne Knight, the art connoisseur known for his interest in picturesque beauty and ancient phallic imagery, was the owner of the copy which came up at Christie’s on 11 December. With his annotations in volume II, the Payne Knight copy sold for a well deserved £90,000; with premium £112,500.
The value of an uncut copy in original boards has yet to be tested. The copy of the first edition which has made the most money to date is, appropriately enough, Smith’s own. One of two copies listed in his manuscript library catalogue of 1781, this has a binding of contemporary tree calf, restored by J. Macdonald. Somewhat disappointingly, there are no manuscript notes by the author and but one sign of his ownership, a small letterpress book label with his name on it. He was modest to the last.

The contemporary tree calf binding of the author’s copy. Courtesy of Christie’s

Yet this was the author’s copy of a work which has remained the foundation of political economy to this day. Homer B. Vanderblue, a professor at Harvard Business School and celebrated Smith collector, had acquired it sometime after 1939. Though the present whereabouts of Smith’s other copy is undetermined, it is known to have made £420 at auction in 1959. In contrast the Smith-Vanderblue copy, sold by Christie’s as lot 220 on 12 December, 2018, brought a hammer price of £750,000; with premium added this became £908,750; a breathtaking amount worthy of the great philosopher of money.

Ownership labels in Adam Smith’s own copy of Wealth of Nations. Courtesy of Christie’s

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Rachel Doerr
Managing Director
Mobile: 07876653602
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Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday 10th May, we are now able to return to work from Monday 1st June 2020.
From that date onwards, our specialist valuers will be able to visit clients in their home to carry out our valuations of their art, antiques, jewellery, watches, cars and any other personal possessions.
Most importantly, we will of course be complying with all the government guidelines. These include social distancing requirements and we will be discussing with each clients how the appraisal will be done and how these regulations can be complied with.
In addition, our valuers will be wearing gloves and masks as appropriate and starting next week we will be carrying out regular Covid-19 PCR Testing (Polymerase Chain Reaction) of our team going forward to reassure clients as to their safety.
We hope that we can count on you for support during this time and that you will feel able to advise your clients that we are ready, willing and able to assist with all their valuation needs.
Do please contact me direct with any questions.
I would like to thank you all for your amazing support during the lockdown period; we hope that you have enjoyed our various webinars and continued articles written by my amazing team of specialists.

Military Medals

This past month has seen some fantastic celebrations commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day, obviously the times we are currently in have dictated that those were somewhat muted however the overall event was a welcome respite from what has been a difficult few weeks for everyone, I for one enjoyed an afternoon tea in the garden whilst listening to a gramophone.

This again has brought to the fore the actions and courage of some of what could arguably be described as ‘Our greatest generation’ and that interest has brought a somewhat renewed attention on the medals and awards that they may have been awarded.


Medals of course have been collectible since they were introduced, with their interest intertwined with the ever-fascinating world of military history and relics. What a collector may be buying is not a round disc of metal with a ribbon, but actually a story – perhaps a pivotal moment in military history, or an honour bestowed upon a great person of ancestral interest.

The very nature of such a recondite subject means that each individual collector will have a certain punctilious approach to their field, be it a certain conflict, a certain regiment, or a search for long lost family pieces even. Conflict and war beclouds many generations and such interest can be widely spread over hundreds of years of history.

Military Medals can, and often do come with a wealth of ephemera, be it uniforms, weapons, log books, diaries and the like – the inclusion of such items really does add to the value of the collection because as mentioned before, people are buying not only the medal, but the history of a person, battle – or a combination of both.

Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell

So when it comes to valuing medals, the task is made far more interesting by the research that needs to be done – military records are consulted and dates are researched, for example; the medals belonging to a soldier killed on the first day at The Battle of The Somme are worth substantially more then a soldier killed on any other day. These unique factors make valuing some medals more of a submersion into military narrative rather than a hands on experience.

Gordon Campbell’s Victoria Cross group made £700,000 at auction in 2017

The illustrated Victoria Cross group with triple DSO awarded to Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell of the Royal Navy has a description that reads like something straight out of a ‘Commando’ boys comic book, with tales of “conspicuous gallantry”, and “consummate coolness”, this group made £700,000 under the hammer back in 2017 and with certain groups like this being as rare as they come its value has most likely increased substantially in the last three years as well.


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Cufflinks and Gentlemen’s Accessories

A pair of Lalique green glass cufflinks with three accompanying dress studs sold in 2017 for £2,900

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Jenny Knott, Consultant Jewellery Specialist

When considering insurance valuations in general, and jewellery valuations specifically, cufflinks, dress sets, perhaps even hip flasks and pockets watches can easily be over-looked. This is not helped by the fact they so often dwell in a down-at-heel stud box or the dark recesses of the sock drawer! They are not usually at the forefront when considering jewellery valuation; but they should be. In the current more casual world of workplace attire, where ties are often discarded it may be counter-intuitive to learn that the popularity of cufflinks remains as solid as ever.

American Art Deco rock crystal enamel and seed pearl – circa 1930 – £1500 (Current retail value)

Gold prices are at a year high and up over 30% on this time last year. Whilst the increased price of gold may not directly affect much lady’s gem-set jewellery, this is not the case with gentlemen’s accessories where the gold content is significant. Clients are often surprised to learn that although the price of the pocket watch they have inherited may have remained relatively stable, the accompanying watch chain has increased in value significantly over the last year or two. In large part due to the increased gold price. The watch chain is often the more valuable item.
Carved rock crystal and diamond cufflinks

Early 20th century carved rock crystal and diamond – circa 1920 – £2000 (Current retail value)

This strong demand for cufflinks is especially fierce with vintage, high end brands such as Cartier, Boucheron, Van Clef and Arples and Tiffany. A search of auction results will show that branded cufflinks and dress sets often significantly exceed pre-sale estimates, even where the materials involved are not of intrinsically high value. A pair of Lalique green glass cufflinks with three accompanying dress studs sold in 2017 for £2,900 against a pre-sale estimate of £200-£300, even given that all three of the dress studs were cracked. These sort of auction results suggest that many people may be significantly under-insured if they own vintage or antique pieces or indeed gold cufflinks bought when the gold price was lower and the market less volatile than it is currently.
It is also important to consider the value of unbranded cufflinks where gold is not the principle material. Although gem-set cufflinks and dress sets more readily suggest that insurance is needed, rock crystal, enamels in both gold and silver, crystal intaglios, onyx, jade, even semi-precious stones such as agates and amethyst all need to be considered as appropriate for insurance. It is possible that one might not replace certain items of jewellery on a like for like basis, but most men would want to replace cufflinks in the event of loss, so an accurate and up to date insurance valuation is crucial.



Our team are here to assist you during this time, so we are offering our clients Virtual video conference calls with our team to discuss your current insurance needs while you are at home taking stock. We are also delighted to offer our clients Desktop Reviews of either a previous valuation completed by us or by another company. Give us a call to discuss and find out what we need.
Alternatively, if you would like to us value any items from photographs this is also something we can assist with.
All we require is:

  1. Good jpeg high quality images to include the front and back of paintings and any signatures or engravings, but send as many images as you can
  2. Details of the artist or designer
  3. A description of the piece if possible
  4. Dimensions in cms – height, width, depth etc.
  5. The medium of the work – oil, watercolour, print etc
  6. A photograph of any gallery labels, receipts or a GIA certificate for diamonds
  7. Information on the ownership of the work and a short history – where the piece was purchased from etc.

Just send to and one of our team will be in touch.
Thank you and take care.