Robin Butler on Twitter

July 2015

I doubt it has escaped your notice that world currency exchange rates have varied quite considerably in recent months, particularly vis-a-vis the pound.  As an exporter, that worries me. British prices are beginning to look expensive to those living in other countries. Last September, £100 bought about 125 euros  and 175 Australian dollars.  As I write this, the same £100 buys nearly 145 euros and 214 $AUD, which represents about a 20% change.  The American dollar has fluctuated against the pound less than other currencies, but it has moved also.  The obvious consequence is an adverse effect on the trade of British exporters, of whom I am one very small element. 

Fortunately, there is a hidden remedy which enables me to mitigate the effects of the rising pound, whether it is viewed in America or Australia, indeed from all countries outside the European Union.  It is this; in Britain we have a sales tax, but it does not apply to goods exported outside the EU which means that I can adjust prices to much of the world to offset the increased value of the pound. 


On my website, I set the exchange rates as they apply to me and my customers; it is not an automatic calculation done by my computer.  As a result of the recent fluctuations, I have adjusted the exchange rates on my website to give those in the USA and Australia a better deal and I am sure that you will notice more advantageous prices as a result.


I have also been considering altering the prices that you see on my website to be inclusive of postage, shipping and packing.  This is a more complex adjustment because some items are high value, small and lightweight, while others are more bulky, heavy and relatively cheap.  It costs a lot more to send a £150 decanter than it does a £1,500 silver wine label, for example.  This may mean my reducing the prices of some pieces and increasing others, but over the next month or two, this will be receiving a lot of thought.  It may even be done!  However, the basis of all this, is that I would like to offer everyone the best and least complicated way of making purchases, while offering the best possible value.  If you have any input you would like to tell me, I will be delighted to hear from you.


One of the great attractions of dealing in antiques is the frisson of chancing across something which takes the fancy, then it turning out to be what it purports to be - and finally negotiating a purchase - or not, as the case may be.   A few months ago, I saw a very rare pair of decanter coasters with shield-shaped backs which projected upwards for about the height of a bottle and I immediately thought they were 'right up my street'.   The problem for me arose when I asked the price; they were a little too expensive for me to see even a small, but necessary, margin of profit.


They were a very rare form of antique wine accessory designed in the days before central heating and double-glazed windows to shield a bottle of wine from the radiant heat of a fire, or possibly the icy blast from a ill-fitting window. Previously I have only had one of these elusive oddities, and that was many years ago. But the point is that there is a price ceiling on everything and I decided to pass them by at the time.  This morning, before writing this, I thought about them again and called the dealer who had them to see if the price was negotiable, to be told that he had sold them less than an hour after I had seen them. However, I am not unduly concerned; I am not a compulsive buyer of everything I like! 


Having 'lost' one rarity, I started searching my contacts to see if anything else was available to spice up my stock.   A colleague who has found a thing or two for me in the past had just what I was looking for.  They are a pair of coasters with quite a difference - they have mechanisms on their undersides which allows them to be attached to the arms of a chair or to a table!   I have never seen anything remotely like them before, but here they are!


They are early 19th century, say c.1820-30, and are made of mahogany.  They have well moulded edges that are similar to coasters of the 1780s, but the centre of each is inlaid with a six-pointed star of rosewood, mahogany and holly within a line inlay of boxwood.  They are 9.75", 24.8 cm. diameter - so large enough for any decanter, and in wonderful condition without having been repaired or restored.  The clamps are spring-loaded and drawn tight by twisting a mahogany knob on the underside.  And - oh yes! they are very probably Scottish.


Another Serendipity

Having bought the coasters, taken delivery and started to write this, my colleague called me again, to say that he had something else to interest me - a pair of decanters with spiral neck 'rings'.  Some call the neck decoration 'snake rings', indeed, I have seen  one which had the forked tongue engraved with a diamond point.  

Note the forked tongue of the 'snake'!

The ones that I have just bought however, are plain and are really very rare as a pair. Apart from the necks, they are the standard 'prussian' pattern with panel-cut shoulders and fluted bases.  Singletons appear on the market occasionally, but pairs are exceedingly uncommon. These look a little small, but do hold a full bottle (75 cl.), which only fills to low shoulder. They are in excellent bright condition - ready to use!

 My latest purchase -  a pair of decanters with spiral neck grips


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