Monday 31 May 2010

Bonhams auction - 23rd June 2010

When I was at the last Bonhams auction, one of the auctioneers made mention of a further sale in June, where Doctor Who items would be available.

I think I was expecting another full-on sale of ex-BBC items, but what it appears to be is a general Memorabilia sale, with a hand full of Who related lots.

There are seventeen items in total, and you need to real carefully what they are. The repeated use of the phrase “built for exhibition purposes” is a bit disappointing.

I’ll go to the viewing, but I can’t see myself bidding on anything.

As usual I have separated the items by Doctor era, and you can see the rest of the items here:

Here are just the lots relating to the Fifth Doctor era
Lot No: 131
Resurrection Of The Daleks, February 1984
A Dalek Guard costume, worn by Rula Lenska as 'Styles', comprising; fibreglass helmet and chest and backplates, heavy cotton boiler suit with black and yellow vinyl patches, neck inscribed in ballpoint Rula Lenska 88=34'', black rubber gloves and moulded weapon

Estimate: £800 - 1,200
Sold for £1,200

Ex Bonhams, lot 471, 2nd September 1993, and lot 119, June 2008.
Included in the background paperwork is a copy of a note from actress Rula Lenska, and a signed photograph.

Lot No: 138
A miniature Tardis model
Created for exhibition purposes, of painted board, with plastic paper-backed windows, and plastic casing to light, having internal electrical workings (plug removed), height 5ft, width 15 inches

Estimate: £300 - 400

Lot No: 139
The 'Longleat' Tardis console
Created for exhibition purposes, of wood and plastic, with internal electrical workings and lighting, the control panel in sectional pieces, with plastic buttons, with electrical pulley for central mechanism, length approximately 70 inches, width approximately 60 inches, height 58 inches

Estimate: £350 - 450
Sold for £900

Lot No: 140
A destroyed Dalek shell
Created for exhibition purposes, of wood, fibreglass, foam, metal and plastic, the base painted black and overpainted with red highlights, the foam explosion detail containing wire and metal poles (see illustration), height approximately 46 inches

Estimate: £400 - 600
Sold for £720

Lot No: 141
A replica Dalek
Created for exhibition purposes, of black painted wood, metal and moulded plastic, several pieces missing, with internal workings, with detailed eye stalk, height approximately 64 inches

Estimate: £800 - 1,200
Sold for £900

The eye stalk and gun on this piece are believed to be 1980's original, created for the show.

Friday 28 May 2010

The Auction Of Fire

Last weekend contained a day of extreme excitement, and to be frank excruciating boredom!

Sunday the 23rd of May was the day of the Cameo Auction of Angel Costumes that I gave a heads-up about a little while back.

I did think it was an unusual marriage, especially given Angels’ long association with Bonhams in Knightsbridge, where they have held a number of sales which have included Who-related items.
Cameo Auctioneers are somewhat out of central London, beyond Windsor and Reading (see map above) and are really one on the many regional auction houses around the country making their way selling the contents of house clearances and the like.

View Larger Map

Credit to them though, they have also been home to a number of memorabilia sales with items relating to The Beatles and the like. They have also broadened their audience by running their auctions live on the net.

Being a good 90 minutes drive we decided to go to the viewing on the day of the sale rather than making two trips. The sale was due to start at 11am and we got there in plenty of time with the intention of seeing the Peter Davison waistcoat from Planet Of Fire and getting some decent reference pictures. It was really the one item in the sale I had serious intentions of bidding on, but I wanted to make sure I was covered in case I didn’t win.

While I was getting my photos (see left) someone asked if I was from that Tennant Coat website – oops! I’ve been spotted!
We had a chat and it ended up to be Jamie Smythe, who runs the DoctorWhoProps website.

I went to the front office to get a catalogue (see right) which was free. It certainly wasn’t the bound glossy catalogues you get at Bonhams, and was just a black text un-illustrated A5 booklet of listings, with a colour cover. To my minor horror the one item I wanted to bid on was on the cover! Drat!

Anyway, we got a coffee and patiently waited for the auction to start. Hardly anyone seemed to be around, and any expectation of a rush of bidders arriving at the last minute evaporated when the auctioneer called order and made a start on selling the lots.

I glanced around and counted (including myself) barely a dozen people in the room, most of whom hovered around the edges (see left, picture taken while auction was in full flow!). They may have over-estimated on the seating needed!
To be fair it was a Sunday – 11am – an a lovely hot, sunny day.

The wasitcoat was lot 149, and since I didn’t know how the bidding could run away with it, so I held off bidding on anything else.

During the course of the sale a number of items worn by some big star names were either sold for trivial prices or failed to sell at all. Nigel Bruce (his costume as Dr Watson in the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films); Peter Lorre; Anthony Quinn (costumes from Lawrence Of Arabia); Ralph Fiennes (from Schindler’s List) all failed to find a buyer.

A good half hour passed and barely 20 lots had been gotten though – this was gonna be a loooong auction!

Along the way I was tempted by a set of garters worn by Gert Frobe as Baron von Bombhurst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of my favorite films of my childhood! They had an estimate of £100 to £200 and I got them for £50. Bargain! They’ll look nice framed with a photo from the film.

Another item which caught my eye, but for a different reason, was a green army greatcoat which had apparently appeared in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. (see left) It was identical in every respect to a coat I bought at the Angel Retro Sale back in February (see below). Mine does not have the nazi emblems on it, but everything else, right down to the buttons was exactly the same.

My initial internet searches showed that North Korea has green army greatcoats, so I had thought it may have appeared in Die Another Day. But it would be nice to think it was actually from an Indiana Jones film!

The auction plodded along slowly, with a number of mishaps along the way. Several times the auctioneer took further bids after the hammer had fallen; he struggled with foreign names in the descriptions; sold one lot twice; and sometimes had the wrong image shown on the laser display screens while selling! (see above)
A leading auction house this was not!

So, after more than 140 lots we finally reached the six Doctor Who items.

First up was lot 144, Tom Baker’s shoes. Bidding was a little slow to start but quickly picked up and they went for £300 to a telephone bidder, nicely at the upper end of the estimate of £200 to £300.

Next, lot 145 a beige suit worn by James Maxwell in Underworld failed to sell.

Then came lot 146,  Jean Marsh’s shimmering full length dress worn as Morgaine in Battlefield.
This was sold.

Lot 147 was a Crusading Knight’s cape from The Crusade.
This sold too.

Lot 148, A yellow striped holiday camp style jacket from Delta and the Bannermen.
Again this sold.

In June 2010 it was resold on eBay for £250.

Then came the final Who item, lot 149: the waistcoat worn by Peter Davison in Planet of Fire (see left). This was the one item I had designs on bidding on and with an estimate of £800 to £1,200 I was prepared for some competitive bidding.

The auctioneer started it relatively low, around £700 I think, and there was some online bidding against another buyer at the back of the room. This levelled out at around the £800 mark, the lower end of the estimate. As he started to call fair warning, I entered the bidding and found myself in a war with the bidder at the back of the room. It slowly crept onward and upward and was soon at the upper £900 mark and was offered back to me at £1,000. Biting the bullet I went for it, hoping it would not go much higher into a four-figure sum, but to my surpriser that was it – I guess my rival  had set a £1,000 limit and was not prepared to go over it.

Fair warning was called and the hammer came down. Only when I was asked my number was I satisfied I got it, as the auctioneer had reopened bidding a number of times after dropping the hammer.

This time he didn’t - and it was mine!

After ducking outside for a bit of air and to take in that I had won, I did return to see how one further lot would go.
I had my eye on a long canvas coat that had been used in Alien 3. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but when I found it at the viewing I thought it was in very good condition with little wear. It had an estimate of £200 to £400, and I would be up for it if I could get it for £200 or less.
The bidding opened for it a bit below the estimate and Soon climbed over it.
I shan't say what I paid for it - but it was a bit more than I had intended!!!

So, as good result with me securing the one item I wanted, plus nabbing a couple of bonus items at a knock-downn price.

I did later re-contact the auction house and bought one further item. A jacket worn by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List had failed to sell, and had been offered as low as £100. Another identical jacket had sold at Bonhams for £600, so I grabbed that too with a view to selling it on at a future sale.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Customer review - Bespoke Frock Coat

Good evening, and welcome to the third intallment in my series of rambling and disjointed customer reviews of the work of Steve Ricks. Tonight, the brown Edwardian Frock Coat, made to the Five Coat pattern, as documented elsewhere within this blog.

Just before I inflict my review proper onto the eyes and minds of Steve’s readers however, I feel I should preface by outlining just what an odessy my search for the perfect frock coat has been. In fact, it’s been roughly twenty-six years, if you’d count that as an odessy. A correct, genuine, fitted frock coat of the style of the fifth Doctor is, as I discovered, a very, very elusive beast.
1984: At age 13, my frock coat fetish was already apparant, compounded by the nightly appearance on my TV of the fifth Doctor, who was wearing exactly what I was after (well, except for the piping. And all that beige.) Boy, I wanted a frock coat of that cut and length. My Mum bought me a duffle coat. Wasn't really the same thing.
1985: I got my hands on one of those mac-type coats from the op-shop. Dark blue, it was, and not, even in the eyes of the most generous observer, remotely a frock coat. But it was long. I painted light blue piping on it for some reason. With model paint. That was the end of that one.
Later in 1985: I somehow aquired another men’s coat, this time a wool overcoat, again dark blue. I honed my legendary self-taught sewing skills (all by hand, the complex mysteries of the sewing machine eluded me then, as they continue to now), by changing the lapels, adding darts, adding pockets, and generally imbuing it with my own personal improvements and modifications until eventually, it was wrecked.
1990: I had been a stagehand at a local theatre company, and the costume maker had made some (what I thought of as) very passable frock coats, by buying an old two-piece suit, and fashioning the skirt from the trousers. I tried this twice. It didn't work.
1992: I became aquainted with a lady who was an actual seamstress, and convinced her to make me what was essentially a knee-length black jacket. I can’t express how overjoyed I was with this garment. My search was apparantly over! Tragically, I wore it on New Years’ Eve, and I handed it to a friend of mine so I could engage in some fisticuffs with a frightful cad who had besmirched me. Later, my friend claimed to have no memory of ever having seen the coat. It was lost to the vortex.
1995: By this stage, I was in posession of something I hadn't previously had. A job. One day, in a moment of madness/clarity, I decided, to hell with this. I'm going to commission a professional tailor to make me one of these, once and for all. I mean, how expensive could it possibly be? About eight weeks and a month's pay later, I had what was, in essence, a much better-made version of my lost black coat. I travelled the galaxies in that coat. It was still not an actual frock coat, merely a knee-length jacket, but for now, it would do.
1999 (approximately): I had a go at making my own six coat. That didn't work out so well either.
2000: At this point, lifting so many liquid-filled cylindrical weights had made my already muscular physique positively herculean, so the coat was beginning to become a tad tight. One day I tried to tie my shoelace, and couldn't. It was time for another coat. The same tailor made me another, in a dark plumb, just do be a little different. I still have that one. Again though, no nearer the mark ...
2003: I don’t know why, but I commissioned that same tailor to make me a Six Coat (I’ve put this guy’s kids through college. One of them’s a gaenecologist). I don’t recommend anybody try this (at least, not until Steve finally adds it to his repetoir). It won’t work.
2005: I decided to finally design my difinitive, ultimate, once-and-for-all, no messing-around-this-time, frock bloody coat. I drafted several sketches, and assembled a number of photographs.
I presented all these to my tailor, who by now was literally rubbing his hands together whenever I walked into his shop. Even this coat though, fell short of what I was after, largely due to my own design. I had drawn the pockets at a rakish angle (mistake), and had made the skirt too flared (another mistake).

I looked like a drunk ballerina.
2007: I bought a genuine Edwardian frock coat from eBay.

The arms were the correct length, which was a surprise given the stature of gents from those days, but it was a bit tight under the arms.
To have it altered would have far eclipsed the fifty bucks it cost to buy. That one's in the wardrobe as well. Soon I'll have to buy another wardrobe and write “frock coats” on the door.

I probably won’t though.
2009: I approached a well-known online clothier to make me a fifth Doctor coat, only in brown.
This is really where I learned how deceptively difficult it is to achieve the frock coat shape. I sent their versions back a couple of times to be remade, as, although they were tailored to an impeccable standard, as all their products are, the shape, cut and drape were falling seriously short of what I wanted.
Eventually, they made one which, although still not what I was ultimately after, was a perfectly adequate frock coat.

That one now serves as an understudy ...
2010: Enter Steven Ricks.
For anybody still reading, I had high hopes for Steve’s version for a couple of reasons. Firstly, of course, he has made me stuff before, and I think, by now, his aptitude as a tailor is beyond question. Secondly, and most importantly, he is a fan. In the past I’ve drawn sketches, supplied photographs, even given DVDs, and people still don't get it right. But a fan already knows what it is you're after, because he's been studying it for years as well.

As luck would have it, Steve was already working on a pattern and a commission for the Fifth Doctor's coat. I approached him, asking whether he would be prepared to make one of a different colour scheme, and also with a bit of a free hand, regards the lining. I think he found the wider parameters of the brief a bit liberating, as rather than being a slave to screen accuracy and colour matching fifty-seven thousand beige swatches, he could just do whatever the hell he liked. My main objective was that the lining should be bright, and striking. So that people would say, “Oh yes, there’s a guy in a brown coat over there. Who care - HOLY CRAP! WHAT THE HELL SORT OF LINING IS THAT FOR A BROWN COAT??” I mean, who hasn’t started screaming insanely when they've spotted somebody with a funny lining? I know I have, it’s perfectly normal.

Anyway, I should probably touch upon the point of the review for at least a second: the Coat. I should begin with the above-mentioned lining, for it's here Steve really let his tailoring hair down. One day, I emailed him to ask how it was going, and to enquire as to whether he’d found a lining option to show me. He replied, saying that he’d just been working on the lining, and had gone just a little bit mental with it. Adding, ominously, that I would either love it or hate it.

What ultimately emerged was an exquisite patchwork of gold, silver and green. The bulk of the lining is gold silk, with the curved fiddleback panels accented with silver brocade paisely, alternating with the breast panels, which are also silver. The four inside pocket welts are highlighted with gold, and the inner sleeves are a bottle green chinese floral silk, for God’s sake. The green silk also appears in flashes on the outside of the coat, under the pockets, and even, unexpectedly, a panel under the collar. And here was I expecting yellow! Incidentally, I showed a pic of the lining Steve had sent me to a female friend of mine, and she said simply, “Trust this man.”

The juxtaposition I intended has certainly been achieved, albeit via a slightly different route, as the outside of the coat is is roughly-textured, heavy brown wool. I wanted a fabric that didn’t seem immediately pristine or formal, and Steve sent me several swatches to choose from (I should also mention here that along with the various swatches, he also included some actual pockets which he’d made to show me how they’d eventually look. I still have them, although I have no idea what to do with them). Admittedly, when I first opened that long-awaited FedEx box, I was struck by how heavy the fabric was, and was initially concerned that it may appear more of an overcoat than a frock coat. However, I’ve been flourishing about in it quite a bit, and that's not the case. It’s around the same weight as tweed.

Steve and I locked horns (no pun intended. Alright, pun intended) over the buttons. I had initially specified simple tortoiseshell or horn buttons, in keeping with the inconspicuous outer shell which houses this shocking elegance inside. Steve, however, came up with some ornate gold Italian metal buttons with a beautiful and intricate design, which I felt were a little too fancy for what I had in mind. And so, the battle of Accomplished Tailor versus Artless Primate began, and eventually Steve aquiessed. It must have been like removing an elegant spiral candle from a wedding cake and putting a hammer on there in it’s place to Steve, but, in his never-ending quest to satisfy the infuriating customer, he sought out some genuine horn buttons, at no small cost to himself. He still prefers the metal ones, though.

And so, finally, I have a frock coat I am happy with. And it only took twenty-six years. Slightly longer than it took to read this review. Luckily, you don't have to wait that long, however. To my knowledge, there is nobody out there who can compete with this guy in terms of quality and accuracy. If there is, I'd certainly like to see it. I hate to conclude this review on such an obvious note, but I feel there's no more appropriate way than to paraphrase the opening title sequence of the A-team.
“If you have a problem, If no-one else can help, and if you can afford him, maybe you can hire ... Steven Ricks.”