Star Power – Why a celebrity connection boosts the price – from a football legend’s tea set to presidential pottery

By Daisy Dunn 7th January 2021

Daisy Dunn is a classicist and the author of, most recently, Homer: A Ladybird Expert Book, and an anthology entitled Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome.

Last month, a small lock of hair cut from Elvis Presley’s head in the 1950s sold at auction for £4,000. It came stuck to a piece of card bearing the name of the star’s hairdresser, Homer Gilleland of Memphis, who is known to have tended his – and his mother’s – tresses on several occasions. Sceptics might still question its authenticity (was this really one of the many locks Gilleland saved and pasted?) but clearly its provenance impressed in the sale room. Without that piece of card, after all, it would just have been a clump of coarse fibres.

‘Sir Stanley Mathews’ four piece silver tea set, 1946, England, 66 troy ounces.   Wick Antiques - A3 ‘Sir Stanley Mathews’ four piece silver tea set, 1946, England, 66 troy ounces. Wick Antiques – A3

The same rule holds true of antiques. Objects with a credible celebrity provenance are often worth considerably more than their material value. A case in point is a four-piece Sheffield silver tea set from the 1930s currently on sale with Wick Antiques. It is certainly elegant, with its ovoid Art Deco shapes and high handles, but would hardly have warranted a price tag of £18,500 had it not been for its previous owner. The set was presented to Sir Stanley Matthews by Stoke City Football Club in 1946. The teapot is engraved with a dedication to the same effect, and the other pieces are monogrammed with the player’s initials, S M.

‘In the open market it’s just a nice quality tea set’, says Charles Wallrock of Wick. ‘If it hadn’t had a great provenance like this, I would never have bought it. I like buying things of a historical nature. I’d value it at £1,500-2000, maybe a bit more, if it didn’t have this Stoke provenance. Had it belonged to Lord Nelson or Emma Hamilton you’d be looking at something with a 1 in front of it – £100,000 and something’. ‘Sir Stanley Mathews’ four piece silver tea set, 1946, England, 66 troy ounces.   Wick Antiques - A3

‘Sir Stanley Mathews’ four piece silver tea set, 1946, England, 66 troy ounces. Wick Antiques – A3

Wallrock in fact sold Lord Nelson’s seagoing silver just last year. Currently on his books are a translation of the works of Horace from Nelson’s library, worth £30,000, and the presentation silver salver to the Master Shipwright of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, priced at £12,500.

Read more on the Open Art Fair Website

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