Auctioned axe slashes sales record

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28 March 2012
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A rare antler axe handle has smashed auction records by selling for 40 times its original guide price in an Essex sale. ...

A rare antler axe handle has smashed auction records by selling for 40 times its original guide price in an Essex sale.

Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, based in Stansted Mountfitchet, sold the axe handle at their recent Country House Sale (Tuesday 21 February). The item had a guide price of just £400-£600, but keen bidders on the phone and in the auction room pushed the final price up to £24,000.

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.

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The owner of the axe handle – who had been given the item as a gift in childhood – was unaware of its value. Research by Sworders’ Auctioneers could find no record of any similar item ever coming up for sale previously.

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