Top 10 most collectible Englishmen (and women!) in history



2015-06-26 13:41:32

Top 10 most collectible Englishmen (and women!) in history

On St George's Day, we look at the 10 Englishmen most sought after by collectors

Good old St George may have been a Greek soldier in the Roman army, who is the patron of no less than 20 othercountries, but he has nevertheless been adopted as the embodiment of all that's English.

Yet, for collectors, the epitome of Englishness lies in these 10 figures from the nation's history, each as iconic as the last.

Withthe Englishamong the most fervent collectors in the world, it's little wonder the collectibles of these national heroeskeep rising in value year after year.

Oliver Cromwell

 Upon gaining power, Cromwell immediately issued a new law barring any potential king from making a claim to the throne

The "Lord Protector" is well remembered as the warty-faced villain who banned Christmas, and it certainly seems Cromwell wasn't the ideal dinner guest. Yet, despite his genocidal tendencies, to some he remains England's libertarian hero, one of a scant few to succeed against the monarchy.

To collectors, good or bad is irrelevant. What's important is his iconic nature and the significant mark he lefton English history.

The document marking Cromwell's abolition of the monarchy in England sold for 13,750 (23,097) in 2012, while the coat of arms taken from his hearse made 4,000 ($6,719) at Sotheby's in 2013.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton King James II Principia Despite his reputation as the 'Merry Monarch', King James II was actually something of a bookworm and had his own personal library

Born in the very English-sounding hamlet of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, Isaac Newton went on to transcend nationality, achieving international fame as the man who moved our understanding of the universe forward by centuries.

Trained at Cambridge and a member of the Royal Society, as well as a one-time Master of the Royal Mint, Newton was just about as English as you can get.

A specially bound first edition copy of his groundbreaking Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica book, which provided the foundation for all those terrible physics lessons at school, holds the record for his memorabilia.

The copy, presented to King James II himself, made $2.5m at Christie's in 2013.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana John Travolta dress Travolta was forced to ask Diana to dance by Nancy Reagan, as the movie star was too shy to approach a princess

The most recent entrant to our list, the People's Princess was well-loved by the British public, as shown by the mass outpouring of emotion that came with the news of her death in August 1997.

Since then, the tragic princess has become one of the most collectible royal figures of all time, with collectors clamouring to preserve her legacy. Her fashion icon status, charitable work and controversial later life ensure demand remains high.

The dress Diana wore while dancing with John Travolta at the White Housesold for $362,500 at Kerry Taylor Auctions in 2013.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

 A definitive image of Victorian England

Portsmouth's Isambard Kingdom Brunel revolutionised public transport, transformed modern engineering and built the Great Western Railway. That's not to mention his transatlantic steamships and now-famous bridges.

Looking every bit the Victorian man with his stove-pipe topper, and cigar flapping from his mouth, Brunel's image in synonymous with the industrial revolution. Today, living monuments such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain stand as testament to Brunel's achievements in his adopted hometown of Bristol.

In 1996, a series of pencil drawings of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, now a popular tourist attraction, sold for 54,300 ($91,215), with one collector paying 81% above the 30,000 high estimate to own them.

Charles Darwin

 Darwin's controversial book changed the way we think of life on Earth and rocketed him to international fame

Charles Darwin's five-year voyage on HMS Beagle achieved two things: establishing his theory of natural selection, eventually leading to our understanding of evolution today, and making him one of the most popular authors of his time.

Already well respected by the scientific community, Darwin's adventures to the other side of the world also made him a popular figure with the public, just like Sir Ranulph Fiennes today.

Described as one of the most influential scientific works of the 19th century, a signed copy of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, presented to a pre-eminent French zoologist, sold for $170,500 at Christie's in 2009 - an auction record for a copy of the book.

William Shakespeare

Shakespeares First Folio No publications created while Shakespeare was alive are known to exist

It's the 450th anniversary of England's national poet this week, with schoolchildren, businesses and the media taking full advantage of the date with a flurry of events and reminders of The Bard's best-loved works.

As an Englishman, Shakespeare's contribution is perhaps unrivalled by any other on this list. He invented over 1,700 words commonly used today and profoundly influenced every play, novel or poem written in the English language since his death.

What's more, he's been loathed by every English schoolchild at least once during their young lives - quite an achievement!

The first collection of his works, known as the First Folio, was published in 1623, seven years after his death. Originally sold at 1 (around 110 in today's money), it was offered unbound, with buyersspending just as much to have it bound in leather.

As you might imagine, complete copies of the First Folio are rarely seen today, with just 40 known to exist and only two in private hands. One of these sold for $6.1m at Christie's in 2001.

John Lennon

Lennon Rolls-Royce Lennon's lavish 19-foot Rolls-Royce comes complete with a double bed

Perhaps Lennon's contribution to the world isn't quite on the level of Newton or Shakespeare, but nonetheless, the Beatle made some of the best British music of the 20th century.

A lyrical genius, icon of 1960s peace activism, and musical martyr following his assassination in 1980, Lennon is by far the most collectible of all the Beatles.

The ultimate symbol of Lennon's rock n roll life, his beloved psychedelic Rolls-Royce Phantom V sold for $2.2m in 1985, setting a record for music memorabilia that has yet to be broken.

Winston Churchill

Churchill half-smoked cigar Churchill must have been called to a meeting, hastily stubbing out his cigar before an aide snapped it up

Think "Englishman" and you'll undoubtedly conjure upimages of Winston Churchill's bulldog-like face, his chubby fingers giving the famed "V for Victory" salute.

The man who ledthe countrythrough its darkest hour has become the go-to symbol of patriotism in England, and he topped the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons with ease. It's little wonder then that collectors are willing to pay top prices to own items from the nation's most potent prime minister.

With Churchill findingtime to paint while running the country, his artworks are popular at auction, with a landscape of his Chartwell estate in Kent selling for over 1m ($1.7m)at Sotheby's in 2007.

A half-smoked cigar stubbed out by the preoccupied PM sold for 4,500 ($7,500)at auction in 2010.

Lord Admiral Nelson

 Nelson did a good job of writing with his left hand after his right arm was amputated

A true swashbuckling Englishman at a time when English ships ruled the seas, Nelson is famed for facing off with Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar.

By this time, he had just one arm and had lost an eye, but nonetheless continued to pursue Napoleon's fleet across the seas with a stiff upper lip.For many, Nelson stands as the ultimate symbol of the nation's military might.

A letter written by Nelson with his left hand, shortly after his right arm had been amputated, sold for 54,500 ($91,500)at auction in July 2013.

Elizabeth I

 The flame red hair of Good Queen Bess is as renowned as her temper

Let's face it, most of our knowledge of Queen Elizabeth I comes from Miranda Richardson's "Queenie" in Blackadder.

However, Elizabeth was one of our most iconic and popular monarchs, finally bringing the Renaissance to medieval England and ushering in a period of stability.

Under Elizabeth, Shakespeare wrote his finest works, while great adventurers such as Francis Drake brought exotic goods to England for the first time.

Meanwhile, at war, Elizabeth's navy demolished the Spanish Armada, leading to her famous speech:

"I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm."

Not only are Elizabethan collectibles rare, they are also valuable. Far from the most expensive item, a "cursed" saddle used by the queen on a state visit to Bristol in 1574 sold for 19,000 ($31,917).

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