Adam Partridge Auctioneers Cheshire
Auctioneer in Cheshire

23/01/2018 : Highlights from the Reginald J Cheetham Collection of Militaria, Scientific Instruments and Curios

Highlights from The Reginald J Cheetham Collection of Militaria, Scientific Instruments and Curios.

The Reginald J Cheetham Collection.

With 1696 lots to be offered without reserve and fresh to the market, the Reg Cheetham sale was always going to be a “white glove” affair, but the world wide interest in the auction led to some remarkable results over the 2 days of selling.  There were 1327 bidders online, 314 commission bidders with the auction house and 212 bidding either in person or on the telephone representing 24 different countries, culminating in a sale total of £437,000 plus buyer’s premium.  With the sale being unreserved, estimates were kept low and the catalogue was produced much earlier than normal to maximise the time buyers had to view.  Numerous photographs of each lot were uploaded and a huge proportion carried detailed condition reports for those who could not attend.

The sale began with 490 lots of guns and this was certainly to prove the strongest section with 42 topping 4 figures.  The highest prices were £7200 & £7000 achieved by a Tower flintlock saddle ring carbine and a similar Tower flintlock rifle.  Leading up to the auction, the auction house and potential buyers had questioned whether or not one or both of these guns could be by Baker and, with opinion split, it saw 2 private collectors from the South Coast and Isle of White do battle with numerous bidders before the hammer successfully fell. 



Lot 39

Condition was key within the guns and several exceptional examples saw fierce competition throughout all bidding platforms.  A fine Galton flintlock pistol dated 1760 achieved £2900, a Tranter 5-shot revolver by Williams of Liverpool made £2850 and a pair of Ketland & Co pistols sold for £2650.

Lot 167Lot 187

Following the guns came a small section of miscellaneous weapons which included a stunning 18th century stone bow by Mortimer of London.  Framed in red walnut and with exquisite engraving depicting an archer with a hound by his side, this was a newly discovered example of Mortimer’s fine work, and does not feature in the related book.  This led to much pre-sale interest and on the day it was a collector from New York bidding on the telephone who was successful having been pushed to £3400 by a collector in the room.

Lot 511

Next came the large section of swords, bayonets and edged weapons totalling around 400 lots and covering 400 years.  The highest price in this section was £3200 for a late 18th century curved short sword with all important original blue and gilt engraved detail to the blade which resulted in 5 telephone bidders lose out to a local collector.  More traditional fare amongst the swords saw a 17th century Scottish basket hilt make £1550, an ever popular 1796 heavy cavalry pattern achieve £1450, and £1150 secured a good example of a 19th century European hunting hanger. 

Lot 522

Whilst the swords were largely as expected, there were some shocks in the bayonets where a group of 2 standard WWI bayonets were sold with a Baldock knife spear for an impressive £940.  Elsewhere there was fierce room competition between several International buyers who had flown to the UK especially for the sale, leading to most of this section making between 5 and 10 times estimate.

Reg’s passion for militaria covered all aspects and it was amongst the miscellaneous items that some staggering results were achieved.  Auctioneer Chris Surfleet, who attended the small 2 up 2 down several times, commented “whilst the guns, swords and telescopes were kept in the house, the majority of the radio equipment and miscellaneous were to be found in the shed or loft.  We knew there would be interest in this equipment, but had no idea just how popular they would prove to be!”  This related to several results smashing through their respected estimates, in particular a Brequet telephone transmitter & receiver (£2800), a WWII Air Ministry receiver (£2600) and a group of WWII receivers (£1900).


Lot 1279

 Day 2 of the auction began with several sword sticks and general collectors’ items before a mammoth selection of scientific instruments and optical items.  Reg had amassed over 300 telescopes and used many of them as reference when writing his book.  Some had been tinkered with and, sadly, some were not in terribly good condition but this didn’t stop the bidders.  The highest price here saw the hammer fall at £680 for a James Short of London travelling telescope dating from 1780 with more standard 3 and 4 draw examples selling in the £50-£200 range.

Within the 300 pairs of binoculars it was any with military markings which drew attention and 2 German pairs certainly performed well in achieving £1600.  By Leitz & Leica, both had Third Reich markings and good optics.  Whilst these were expected to sell well, a few lots later a group of 8 pairs of British military binoculars smashed the estimate to bring £1500.

As the sale drew to a close, it was thought there would be no more shocks; however, one small lantern clock was to add the final surprise.  In part 17th century, but with many “Reg” adornments such as new brass work & finials, it attracted 5 telephone bidders and competition in the room before the hammer fell at £5000 to one of the telephones.

Lot 1724

“These sales are few and far between” added Surfleet, “and who knows when the next Reg Cheetham or Pat & Alan Firth collection will appear.  It is just a pity we didn’t get to meet Reg, who I am quite sure would have had many a story to tell and would have also been very helpful assisting in cataloguing!”


Reginald J. Cheetham