We are very fortunate here in Sherborne to have an independent bookshop – and not just an independent book shop but an award winning independent bookshop at that. Winstone’s was crowned Independent Bookshop of the Year in the British Book Industry Awards for 2016.
The bookshop has some very enjoyable talks and book signings and I attended one of these last week held, appropriately, in Macintosh Antiques in Newland where Judith Miller and Mark Hill gave a fascinating insight into the world of collecting, both ancient and in some cases surprisingly modern to promote Miller’s Collectables Handbook and Price Guide 2016-2017. I have had a copy or two of this guide in the past which I really enjoy being able to dip into over time. The book contains over 4,000 listings with photographs, detailed descriptions and valuations. You will find ceramics, dolls, teddy bears, pens, advertising, posters and much more. Some items are valued as low as £15 and I was looking forward to buying the latest edition.
Judith and Mark are well known to many from their appearances on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. Judith started collecting from an interest in history which she studied at university and is the only one from amongst the Roadshow‘s experts to have come from a collecting background. Mark, on the other hand who is another inveterate collector, began his career as a porter at Bonham’s having studied history of art and architecture at university. They regaled us with lots of stories and gave helpful tips about collecting. Mark held up an etching he had bought in Sherborne for £20, telling us he is unable to travel anywhere and go home again without buying something. He explained the etching process and told us that he pays anything from £20 to £40 and he has many such lovely inexpensive pictures on the walls of his home. Judith on the other hand had told her husband that she will not return home with another single chair! Both of them stressed that it is often the quality of a piece and the design and workmanship that went into it that can make something valuable. It must also be desirable to someone else, should you wish to sell it, and it is this that governs whether or not something is marketable and has value. We had been asked to bring along items for valuation and I thought I would take a little something in my handbag that may or may not qualify as ‘collectable’ but I sat tight when I saw lots of people ahead of me with, to my untutored eye, some large and valuable looking items. While watching the valuations I flipped open a copy of the guide and there I saw some familiar looking 1960s Hornsea Pottery pieces valued at £35-£45 so I thought why not and joined the back of the queue. When I unwrapped my object Mark exclaimed ‘what a cool piece!‘ which was most gratifying. I had taken along my late mother’s little Cornish Ware kitchen jar with Angelica inscribed on it. Mark said I had done all the right things as I had chosen to bring along a jar with a rare inscription that was also small and undamaged. Had I chosen sugar or flour it would not be anywhere near as collectable. He showed it to Judith who also pronounced it ‘cool’ so I was doubly pleased. Then came the verdict on the value – Judith said £200 but Mark said £200-£300 as he had never seen another one like it – how very thrilling. Judith suggested I got hold of a copy of Paul Atterbury’s book Cornish Ware and Domestic Pottery by T G Green currently out of print but available via the second hand market. This I will do as I can then learn more about the canisters that I know my mother loved and that I value beyond their monetary worth. However, now when I look at the little angelica pot I think to myself that there is more to this little beauty than actually meets the eye!
You can take a virtual tour of Winstone’s Book shop via Google Streetview – it is a very surreal experience and I challenge you to give it a go. Looking at Streetview via an iPad or tablet is especially satisfactory. To access Streetview on an iPad find Cheap Street on Google maps and press your finger somewhere on Cheap Street and a red dropped pin appears and at the same time a small photo of where you have dropped your pin comes up on the lower part of the screen. Press the little photo and instantly you will be at your destination. If you ‘walk’ up Cheap Street until you reach Winstone’s, using the arrows, you will see that it is not Winstone’s as we know it today but the builders are at work getting the shop ready. There are a couple of arrows pointing towards the door and before you click on one of these make a note of what a nice sunny day it is. Then click on one of the arrows, enter the shop and have a look around. When you leave the shop you will see it has been raining but that the shop you have just left is most definitely Winstones’ but with one more click on the arrow to take you on up Cheap Street the sun comes out again and Winstone’s has dematerialised! You can visit other shops on Cheap Street – Parsons, Circus, Occasions, Abbey Pharmacy to name a few. Have fun!
21 May 2016