Robin Butler on Twitter



April 2012

"Going for gold" is an expression many in Britain have heard quite frequently in recent weeks and months, as we seem poised to go for as much of the bullion as we can.  Our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee followed by the Olympic Games are two major events for our country, but does the expression have any relevance for someone like me selling antique wine accessories?  More  years ago than I care to recall, I hurled the discus for my school, but I was nowhere near even approaching Olympic standards. Many years later, I won the long-distance driving competition at a  British Antique Dealers’ Association Golf day.  Apart from that single stroke, I played well below form and it resulted in my winning the booby prize for the lowest Stapleford score.   The silver lining to the cloud of my general poor performance was that the booby prize was much more welcome than the one I had for hitting the ball a long way!  You win some and loose some...

Gold seldom features in my inventory, not just for the cost of it, but because few wine accessories were made of gold.  However, I do have a penchant for silver-gilt wine labels which can be distinctly affordable and I have a small representative selection.   As wine labels go, the silver-gilt labels of the early 19th century were the finest ever made, and by a wide margin.  However they can be less costly than a label engraved ‘SHABLEY’ or one made at a remote location in Scotland.  I find this to be illogical, for how can a heavily-cast and gold-plated silver label, designed by the leading craftsmen of the day and finely made, be worth less than something which is merely a rarity?  The answer is, of course, the market-place; one of the great joys of the world of antiques is that it is a free market with objects finding their own price for their desirability in the eyes of those would buy them.  There are a group of collectors who value rarity over quality, and who is to say they are wrong.  I may not agree with them, nor is it my business to do so, so I try my best to cater for all tastes!

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I have seen several mahogany wine coolers in recent months that I considered buying.  I have held off for the simple reason that the ‘brown furniture’ price index continues to perform weakly, and I have an excellent example here already.  In view how the market in that sector is performing, I have decided to reduce the price of the one I have quite significantly.  As a good example in very original condition (it has the legs it was made with, and retains its lead lining), it is excellent value - not that it was over-priced previously!  It is, incidentally, illustrated in "Great British Wine Accessories 1550 -1900".

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I am aware that not all e.mails sent to me have arrived, and the same can be said of those that I have sent.  This is a real concern.  I expect well over 90% do come and go as they should, but just in case you wish to be sure of making contact, I do have a second e.mail address - robin.butler@btconnect.com.  Please do feel able to use this if your messages to me are returned to you as ‘undelivered’.

An exciting feature of my website, is that I can easily see how many people have visited the site, for how long and from where (to the nearest city) they live.  However and importantly, I assure you that visitor  identities cannot be determined.  I have seen some very surprising statistics such as, for example, that while the most visitors to the site are from England (996 visits in the past month), the country which looks at the most pages per visit is, of all places Albania (whose single visitor looked at 33 pages in  10 minutes 55 seconds!)  Russians spend the most time per visit (26 minutes 40 seconds).  There is a plethora of other information with which I could bore you, but what I need to know is how I can turn this to my better advantage.  Does any reader have the answer to that?

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Finally, I must share with you news of a visit I received recently - in person and not on the website.   A Russian journalist had seen my website and asked if she could interview me.  Tania arrived and we talked about my business, how it had started and the reasons for my interest in my subject, amongst much else.  The interview continued for about 90 minutes, and within less than a fortnight, I was shown the result - a magnificent two-page ‘spread’ in a newspaper for the Moscow, St. Petersberg and Yekaterinberg  restaurant and wine industries and their customers.   I am unably to type in cyrillic script in this medium, but transcribed, it is VINNAYA KARTA or ‘Wine List’.  Perhaps those Russians spending so much time on my website were the result of the interview!

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