Do you have one of these rare Royal Doulton figurines?

PUBLISHED: 14:27 25 November 2017

Waiting For The Boats: This sought-after Royal Doulton figure from 1917 was signed by the firm's art director.

Waiting For The Boats: This sought-after Royal Doulton figure from 1917 was signed by the firm's art director.


Collectables: Mike Hicks looks at the varying fortunes of Royal Doulton figures.

People do like to collect things that are available to be seen in a catalogue, invariably numbered or described, or even pictured. The best example of this would be stamps, and that catalogue? Stanley Gibbons of course.

But the packets of mixed stamps never seemed to have the ones you wanted. Nothing changes!

For years and years, people have collected Royal Doulton figures. The figures were started in the early part of the 20th century of ladies in crinoline dresses, and enormous variants on that theme. Some of the figures produced were a little risqué: these are some of the highest-priced ones that you can collect today.

Others were experimental and most of those that you can collect bear a number on the base, known as the ‘HN’ number. They are colourful, attractive and very well made, and probably from the 1960s right through to the end of the 1990s, they were one of the most popular things to give as presents. They came well finished, in attractive colours and invariably they were boxed - the perfect gift.

In recent years the interest has waned enormously, to the point now where they have somewhat dropped off the edge of the collectors’ list. I saw somebody who had been to the Newark Fair and found a dealer’s stand covered with Doulton lady figures, all priced at £15 for something that cost, originally, nearer to £100.

So, is this the time to get in and start collecting again, in the hope the next wave of interest will start fairly soon? Well, that’s the gamble you have to take.

That said, there ARE figures which are very much sought-after. These include trial figures that never actually got into production.

Recently, at an auction in Glasgow, at McTears, there was a large group called ‘Waiting for the Boats’, or ‘Looking for the Boats’. A very influential character called Charles Noke at the Doulton factory appeared to be the decorator for this group, and at 12in high, it was large.

Many of these early figures had a very short production run. Some were even produced to order, and could be decorated to a colour scheme to suit your choice. This particular model is known in various colourways. The fact that it has been signed by the Art Director, Charles Noke, added enormously to the interest. It had come from a simple house clearance in the Glasgow region.

It had an estimate of £300-£500, which in these days, is a very high figure for such an item, but in the end it was bought by an on-line bidder in England, who paid the enormous sum of £6,900 for this rarity. The figure sold was probably made around 1917, just after the ‘HN’ numbers were introduced.

The HN number was used as used as a prefix after the name of Harry Nixon, who devised the colour schemes for the figures, and recorded all the painting instructions for the pattern books for the artists employed in the factory.

Sometimes the factory numbers were not adhered to or the colours. These variants are sought out by collectors and make a premium.

The very first figure to have an HN number was a small child, in what looks like a nightdress, called ‘Darling’. It was produced from 1913-28. It was in light grey in colour and is normally collected, not because of its colour and its interest, but because it is the ‘No 1’.

Just to give you some idea of the sequence of numbers, they certainly go up to 4,000 and more, so an incredible range of figures to collect, all of which have a scarcity value or are common. Your problem is to sort out which is which; plenty of reading, plenty of handling the figures, might give you a better idea.

So, maybe this is the moment to acquire one of these very attractive figures. Prices are as low as they have ever been, and yet the quality, colour and attractiveness has remained constant. So start with collecting number one... only another 4,000 to go!

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