Low chair gets high price at Birmingham auction house

Birmingham based auctioneers Biddle and Webb are full of the joys of Spring after some excellent sale results over the last few months. 

Whilst everyone knows that ‘brown furniture’ is out of fashion, in a recent Antiques sale an unassuming little chair proved that certain pieces still make big money.  

Spotted lurking at the back of the saleroom by valuers at Biddle and Webb, this rather shabby looking low chair became the star lot of the auction.

Brought in along with other items from a house clearance in Birmingham, the chair proved to be a very rare 16th/17th Century Iberian court chair, used for ladies of the court to sit on. This black lacquered, crudely carved style of furniture is so rare that only two chairs like this are known to have come to market in the last 25 years. 

After furious bidding both in the room and online, it sold for a huge £6,500 to a Portuguese bidder. “Given the condition and later adjustments to the piece, this was a fantastic result.  Of course we knew it was an exciting find, but the thrill created by the bidders was felt by everyone in the room!” said the auctioneer, Liz Winnicott.

But the excitement does not stop there.  Included in the forthcoming Toys and Collectables sale on 20th April is a rare collection of posters advertising the early 20th Century magician Chung Ling Soo.  

In the late 19th Century American magicians assistant William Ellesworth Robinson travelled to England, where he changed his name to Chung Ling Soo.  Here he dazzled audiences with his vanishing acts and exotic carpet tricks conjuring up a real air of oriental mystery.

Chung Ling Soo became one of the world’s most popular magicians – the David Copperfield or David Blaine of his day. Indisputably his most famous act was his ‘Bullet Catching Trick’.

In March 1918 his career and life literally ended with a bang. While performing the highly dangerous bullet-catching trick on stage at the Wood Green Empire theatre in London something went drastically wrong. He appeared to catch a bullet with his teeth but was in fact shot for real in the stomach and collapsed in front of the audience and died a few hours later.

The posters, believed to have belonged to Soo’s mistress, are expected to create a lot of interest abroad as well as in the UK.

Highlights in Biddle & Webb’s May Antiques sale include 63 sets of Maundy money, all set in a leather bound case, spanning the entire reign of Queen Victoria, as well as some pretty egg shaped Bilston enamels. 

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