Cash in the attic! Rare telescope fetches sky-high price

Auctioneers are encouraging people to see if they have any ‘cash in attic’ after a telescope was sold for an astronomical price.

Bosses at Gildings Auctioneers in Market Harborough advised people to have a root about in the attic or garage after the telescope sold for nearly ten times its estimated value.

The mid-18 th century lacquered brass Gregorian-type telescope in a fitted mahogany case, sold for £4,712, at Gildings after being estimated at £400 to £600.

Gildings director Will Gilding said: “The price achieved by this telescope just hows that there could an item which people have hidden away in the attic which could be quite valuable.

“My advice would be to have a look about in the garage or wherever and maybe look again at that item that has been passed down through the family over the years but you have forgotten about.

“Now might be the time to dig it out and have fresh look at its potential value as the coronavirus restrictions are forcing us to stay at home.

“There could indeed be cash in the attic. The telescope was made by John Bird, a highly regarded instrument maker who was active in his workshops in London’s The Strand between 1745 until his death in 1776.

Read More
Read More

“He mainly produced large-scale instruments, notably including an 8-foot quadrant at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, meaning this small ‘desktop’ example of his work is a rarity.

“For specialist collectors of scientific instruments, early examples by notable makers always create a stir at auction,” said Mr Gilding.

“This was certainly the case with this telescope, which is clearly signed ‘J Bird’ and replicated by a trade label in its fitted mahogany case.

“Whether Bird’s own workshops produced smaller scale instruments of this kind themselves, or whether they were sourced from trade makers is unknown, however, it is rare to see an example signed ‘J Bird.’”

The high price for the telescope was achieved despite some tarnishing to the lacquered brass and blackening of the interior of the tube.

Video Loading

Video Unavailable

Click to play
Tap to play

The video will auto-play soon8Cancel

Play now

The instrument was a cherished possession of a family of stargazers, having been bought as a gift in the mid-20th century for the current seller’s brother-in-law, whose parents both worked at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in the early 1900s.

“Examples of other early technological instruments and musical players also performed well in the auction, proving that this area of the antiques and collectables market can often generate strong and even surprising results thanks to the nuances of early technologies,” said Mr Gilding.

“For example, a lot featuring four early General Post Office telephones realised £595 and an Edison ‘Standard’ phonograph, still in working order, made £322, including charges.”

The sale took place as an online-only auction.

Those with similar collections of scientific instruments and mechanical musical players who are interested in selling can arrange a Covid-secure valuation by visiting www.gildings.co.uk.

.