Robin Butler on Twitter

September 2010

First, I have to admit to an error in my last newsletter, pointed out to me by a Master of Wine who is also an eminent journalist. I apologise because I mentioned ‘British’ wine. Horror of horrors! British wine is manufactured from imported grape juice concentrate and is just about the pig’s ear in the world of wine. It is a good job that it is not often seen. I should have written ‘English’ (or ‘Welsh’) wine which is made from locally grown grapes; I did know the difference, but I am so used to using ‘British’ in my descriptions and elsewhere that it slipped past my editing eye. I hope there is a silver lining to this cloud, in that some may not have known this, and now, as a result of my error, they do.

Many, if not most, retail businesses have sales during the summer and after Christmas. It helps them to weed out their less good stock, increases the cash flow, and allows them to go out and buy something worse to offer their customers. I jest, of course, but whether you call the discounted stock ‘end-of-line’, ‘bin ends’, or simply ‘sales’, they are an opportunity for customers to make purchases at cheaper prices than at other times. Many of us leap at the opportunity. But what of antiques sales? They seem not to exist - except that it is perceived by the majority that there is year-round open season for price haggling when buying antiques. I even heard a misguided reporter on television say that all prices in antiques shops are open for negotiation. What nonsense!

However experienced at buying wine-related antiques as I am, there is always the occasional thing or group of items I would like to move on. It may be that I want to re-balance what we have, that the collecting habit has shifted slightly sideways, or simply that for no apparent reason, something has remained here. I have to say that over the years, I have bought some amazingly inexpensive old stock from antique shops, because their values have moved up, but their prices haven’t. They may have been expensive when the shop first had them, but their values have risen because antiques generally tend to do so - and often far in excess of the RPI or inflation.

Despite my general pricing policy, I have decided that some items should be available at a discount for a limited period. So until Sunday, 15th September , there will be a 20% discount on all coloured glass decanters and claret jugs. If that proves to be a successful idea, I may well have a second discount period in October for a different category, so why not scour the relevant pages to see what you should not live without! 

There was a cabinet-maker and craftsman in wood, working in Kelso, just over the border in Scotland in the early 19th century. Not much is known about him apart from the fact that he labeled much of his work with printed paper labels, he supplied much furniture to Floors Castle for the Duke of Roxburghe, and his speciality appears to have been coasters of a highly individual form. His name is James Mein, and his coasters are characterised by their large size - usually about 9", (23 cm.) diameter, and many have boldly gadrooned edges. Their other idiosyncrasy is that they are fitted with three, or occasionally four, small brass and leather countersunk casters. 

A short while ago, I was offered a Mein coaster which was unusual in that it was definitely intended to hold a very large decanter. Most of Mein’s coasters have concentrically turned bases upon which decanters might not be stable, and rendering their use conjectural, but this had a flat base. I was happy to buy it, but before I could put it on my website, I was offered another from a completely separate source. I bought that one too. While they are not quite a pair, they are very similar, and on a table they would look like a pair. I am offering them together, although I would separate them. I do appreciate that there are few people with double magnum decanters, let alone a pair of them, but what a lucky find, and they do look magnificent!

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