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An antiques collector's best friend.

Byline: Bargain Hunter

THIS is, in many people's minds, the archetypal antique: a Staffordshire spaniel. Although British potters had been making spaniels since the 18th century, they really became popular from the 1840s after Victoria ascended to the throne and Staffordshire potters had developed the chimney ornament known as the flatback.

Flatbacks could be mass produced in simple three-part moulds and were relatively cheap as they were only decorated on the front, the back being kept turned to the wall.

As in so many areas of 19th century British life, it was Queen Victoria who set the trend, establishing the popularity of the spaniel by her affection for her own King Charles spaniel, Dash.

In no time at all, the Staffordshire potters were churning spaniels out by the thousands and they remained in production well into the 1920s - indeed reproductions are still being made today.

These spaniels, or comforter dogs as they were also known, came in six main sizes, the size sometimes being impressed on the base.

Some people like to collect all six sizes of the same spaniel, with size two being the easiest to find and six, the smallest, being the hardest.

Spaniels were made in facing pairs and a pair is worth at least three times as much as a single dog.

I've only got one spaniel myself but have reversed the image to give a sort of artist's impression of what a pair should look like.

Other factors, such as colour, also influence value. Red and white dogs are more popular than black and white or lustre examples. Dogs which have separate legs sell for a premium as do standing specimens, these being rarer.

Earlier dogs tend to be better made than later examples and will generally cost more.

You also have to beware of later reproductions masquerading as antiques. An even crackled glaze or a vent hole larger than the width of a pencil will often indicate a piece is of recent date.

Although these dogs are no longer the must-have companions they once were, their nave charm continues to attract collectors, so it's unusual to come across very cheap examples.

This one, a solitary stray from the 1920s, was picked up in a charity shop for pounds 4.50 and is one of the cheapest I've seen. More usually you would have to pay pounds 20-pounds 50 for a single dog and three times that for pairs.


BACK TO FLAT: These flat-backed ornaments were mass-produced in the 19th century
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 24, 2009
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