Antiques: The Stories Behind the Finds

by Adam Patridge


Many items that come through the doors on our valuation days don’t have any stories or history behind them, for example, it might have belonged to a family member who bought it in the 50s, but it is now no longer needed. Sometimes, however, an item does have an interesting back story. 

Adam Partridge

Our valuers see and value tens of thousands of items every year and it is just routine, but one thing all our valuers have in common is that they love it when the seller can tell them a story behind the items, especially if the item goes on to sell for more than average. Steven at our Lancashire Lakes and Rural office, based in Catterall near Garstang, recalls some of his favourites over the years: 

Recently a lady came in with a framed display that showed an England cloth badge and two photos one of which was signed, the frame was modern, but the photos and badge were vintage. 

The average value would be around £300 – £500, but when I asked the lady for more information she said it was her uncle’s. “Who was your uncle?” “Well Uncle Tom of course…” Uncle Tom is in fact Sir Tom Finney, well known for his contribution to football and his hometown club Preston North End. She then went on to say that when she was a child in the 50s her older brother needed a blazer for school, but in those days money was tight and they couldn’t afford one, so Uncle Tom came around with his first England jacket and gave it to his sister. He said, “Here, the lad can have this one, because they have given me a new one, but you will have to take the badge off or I might get into trouble.” 

Tom Finney’s England Badge and signed photo

Her mother kept the badge wrapped in tissue paper and her brother wore an official issue England blazer for school, probably to the envy of all his class mates. Recently the seller found the cloth badge still wrapped in tissue paper, so she found two photos of Uncle Tom in his heyday, one of which was signed, and had them mounted up. This is a heart-warming story about a man, not only known for his amazing football achievements, but for his limitless generosity, especially to this family and the people of Preston. This will be sold at a sporting auction in Liverpool on 6th July. 

This is either worth £10 or £500, I joked, are you feeling lucky?

Military items all have a back story, especially from the first world war, because the medals have the soldiers’ name, rank, regiment and number on, which means the information is readily available on various military websites, but what if your father was in a secret regiment that wasn’t public knowledge and especially if your father was sworn to the Official Secrets Act? This is the case of one customer who brought in a cloth military badge that I had never seen before. The seller then told me all about how his father was in the SAARF which stands for Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force, the purpose was to provide a mandate for dispatching troops whose mission would be to secure the safety of Allied Prisoners of War and to provide for their early evacuation. 

This was an international operation, very top secret and only consisted of 96 British staff, usually in three-man teams consisting of two officers and a radio person. Training time was very limited and because they had knowledge of future operations it was very hush hush and dangerous. The wing is silver-blue Schiffli embroidery on royal blue wool. Because it was a short-termed regiment and very secretive the badge has been overlooked by passed collectors therefore not copied, and this is why this badge is classed as one of the rarest with the last one selling for around £1,500. This badge and a fantastic portfolio of ephemera and information regarding the seller’s father will be sold at our specialist military auction in Liverpool 6th and 7th June. 

1983 coin collection with two new pence

Coins are not something you would expect there to be a back story with, especially not a promotional coin pack that was given away free in 1983. The seller brought in a collection of coins that he was given by his uncle in the mid 80s and although most of the coins were box standard, I picked out a 1983 Royal Mint coin pack given out by Martini (the drink) and said this is either worth £10 or £500. I joked, “are you feeling lucky?” I opened it up and said, “Well done, this is worth around £500.” What was special about this pack? Well, in 1982 the two pence coin was deemed not to be new anymore and the words on the coin changed from new pence to just two pence, however, some marked ‘new pence’ were minted in 1983 and these were put in some of the coin packs, no one really knows if there are a hundred or thousands out there, but every coin collector wants one, and with the coins still in the packs they have inadvertently been kept in mint condition, the funny story that goes with this is that the seller had a moment in the late 80s where he didn’t have any money for his dinner and nearly opened up this pack to put the coins in his pocket for the day’s lunch, at the last minute he was about to miss his lift to work and forgot to take the coins, the coin pack later went on to sell for £800 at our Liverpool auction. Please note, not all these packs have the rare coin, make sure it says 1983 and the words ‘new pence’. 

The two cloth badges can be viewed by appointment at our Catterall valuation office before going off to the auction. Free no obligation valuations are available by appointment Monday to Friday, (some Saturday appointments are available on request) at the Catterall office. Call Steven Parkinson on 01772 347 380. 

Northern Life Mar/Apr 2022