Childhood gift makes surprise �24,000 at auction

THE owner of a rare antler axe - who had received the item as a gift in childhood – has been surprised by its successful sale in an Essex auction for �24,000.

Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, based in Stansted Mountfitchet, sold the axe handle at a Country House Sale last Tuesday (February 21). The item had a guide of just �400-�600, but keen bidders on the phone and in the auction room pushed the final figure up to 40 times its original guide price.

Research by Sworders’ Auctioneers could find no record of any similar item ever coming up for sale previously.

The axe handle is thought to date back to the 1850s and originates from the Nootka people native to British Columbia in Canada. Believed to be made of caribou or elk antler, the handle would have had a metal spike or stone attached to it.

Only one other axe handle of this type is known to exist and it forms part of the British Museum collection.

Sworders’ managing director Guy Schooling said: “This piece is truly a one-off. It’s in excellent condition and has exceptional patina which adds hugely to its value. But with no record of any other sale, the final price was always going to be dependent on the level of interest from bidders.

“We realised that this item was likely to fetch a high price when we started to have phone lines booked from Canada. The global nature of our work now means that buyers from across the world can access our catalogues and know what’s coming up in our auction rooms.

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“That’s when unique items like this reach prices we could not possibly have predicted.”

The auction also featured a rare 18th century watch designed without hands, one of only a handful still in existence. The Bushman ‘shutter’ watch, dating back to 1710, had a guide price of �5,000-�7,000 and sold for �8,600.

Sworders’ next specialist auction is for coins, medallions and stamps, starting on Monday March 12 at the Stansted Mountfitchet auction rooms.