24 March 2020

Australian memorabilia auction a collector's dream

| Sharon Kelley
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A collection of Australian farming items from the Old Graham Farm at Hovells Creek, which shows the practical knowledge of a collector and the appreciative eye of an artist, is being auctioned by ALLBIDS.

Each item in the auction is an object of beauty by itself and eloquently illustrates farming life in Australia in the last century, from the brass barometer through to rusting wool bale hooks, oil lamps, stoneware demijohns, souvenir trays, teapots, coppers and saws, enamel signs and a cast iron book press.

Collected by John and Liz Baker during the restoration of the Old Graham Farm, the objects tell the story of isolated farm life through their durability and practicality. They are now being auctioned as they downsize their collections.

Tea caddy with kookaburra decoration

Biscuit barrel with kookaburra decoration. Photos: ALLBIDS.

The Old Graham Farm was once the Glencoe Inn, and was built in 1884 by Edward Kerr. When John and Liz bought the property in 1992 as a getaway from city life, it had been abandoned since the 1950s. Out of mobile and internet range, they have worked for the last 28 years to restore the house and gardens to their former glory, and stocked each building, shed and outhouse with artefacts and relics from the 1880s through to the glamorous art deco of the 1930s.

Veterinary kit from 1910

Veterinary kit from 1910.

Some of the items were exhibited as a collection at the Canberra Museum and Gallery last year, and many remain at Old Graham. The auction includes dream finds for collectors, such as an enamelled sign for Agency for Cooper’s Sheep Dip, a 1920s HMV gramophone in working order with 78 rpm records, and the late addition to the auction, a commemorative cast-iron tank end from a Furphy Farm Water Cart optimistically inscribed ‘In Anticipation of an Australian Republic’.

The collection, says ALLBIDS’ Andrew Whitehead, shows the resilience and self-reliance of farmers in Australia during the late 19th and early 20th century.

“You can see from the items themselves, farmers and rural people bought things that were practical and durable, because of the isolation of their homes,” he said. “Many items were over-engineered to last, as there were no ways to return things if they didn’t work, or they broke.”

Ceramic spirit barrel 19th century

English ceramic spirit barrel 19th century

“The items are all practical, whether work or household items. They all fulfil a function, whether for entertainment like the wind-up gramophone, food preparation, lighting or working a rural property, it reflects the fact that farmers had to be independent of modern conveniences like electricity,” he said.

Royal Doulton teapot

Rare Royal Doulton teapot circa 1925

“There is also a range of artworks for sale on the site, depicting life through the eyes of farmers and their families,” says Andrew. “There’s not much to do out there in the bush if you’re a farmer with some spare time, painting in either oil or watercolour was one of the hobbies available to them around the turn of the century.”

Artworks depicting rural life

Artworks depicting rural life

Collectors will be pouncing on special finds, such as the Royal Doulton Kookaburra and Wattle Teapot with Black Handle and Trim, which is a rare find.

“What we have listed in the auction represents an enormous amount of dedicated time to find the items, it’s a lifetime’s work. It’s a great opportunity for buyers as it pulls all the items from an entire era into one place,” says Andrew.

The auction is being conducted online by ALLBIDS until Wednesday, 25 March.

To see and bid on items from the clearing sale or find out more about the live auction, visit ALLBIDS.

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