The Auctioneer's Mantelpiece VIII

19/08/2021     Latest News, Antiques

As a collector of all sorts of oddities over nearly 50 years it’s fair to say that I’ve rarely bought the same item twice; having sold the original example and regretted doing so.  However there are a couple of instances and I’ll tell you about one of them here.


Russia has always fascinated me; particularly after visiting Moscow and Leningrad at a young age with my school in 1969.  That would be a story in itself.  One of my earliest purchases as a tenderfoot Auctioneer in the mid 1970s got sold along with other lots when we moved to Wales, in 1991. I immediately regretted doing so because I always meant to research the item, but never got round to it.  Not so easy to do in the pre World Wide Web days.


The piece is a simple enamel beaker of the type that was produced as cheap wares and commemoratives in the UK in the 1800s. However, this is Imperial Russian and tells a very sad, not to say tragic story.  Enamel wares of this type were more of a novelty and unusual in Imperial Russia.  It was produced for Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra to mark their Coronation in 1896, to be given away to their subjects with other presents and food to celebrate the occasion, as was traditional.  The day caused huge interest and between 300,000 and 500,000 people gathered on a rough army training ground - far too many for the space and terrain.  It is believed that a rumour spread that each cup would hold a gold coin and confusion ensued resulting in a stampede in which between 1000 and 1500 loyal Russians perished.  This became known as the Khodynka Tragedy. However, the ceremony carried on, maybe to prevent an all-out riot, and this did not reflect well upon the Tsar.  Indeed he became known as Bloody Nicholas and the Tsarina named it the Cup of Sorrows.  It was a foretaste of what was to come in his reign - one which did not end well for him or his family, who were relatives of the British Royal Family.


I always remembered the cup and found out more about it over time, and then lo and behold one turned up in a sale in Carmarthen and I had to bid determinedly to buy it.  These are not particularly rare as many were produced, but this is only the second one to cross my path in all those years.


Values now are wide and obviously dependent on condition; as are the Queen Victoria examples we see more often.  Being enamel they chip badly so rough ones only fetch £60-£80, but really clean ones make well over £200 at present it seems. Mine is somewhere in between.

An awful story but interesting historically- so much so that I bought it twice!


The Auctioneer




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