Military artefacts stir interest at Sandton auction
THE NDEBELE beadwork didn’t move off the floor, but a collection of rare military badges proved to be popular at an auction in Sandton yesterday.
Earlier this week, a 1km array of rare Ndebele beadwork that depicts 100 years of South African history went on display before the auction, during which 50 pieces were up for sale. The beadwork is no longer made and some of the older pieces were from the late 19th century.
However, at the Stephan Welz & Co auction, only a small amount of the beaded artwork was sold.
The auction also had the largest collection of Victorian helmet plates and rare South African and British military badges. Known as the George English collection, it covered the period from 1879 to 1914.
Capetonian George English, a 60-year militaria collector, who died earlier this year at the age of 84, was well known in the collecting fraternity.
His long-lived interest in militaria stemmed from his peacetime service as a reservist with the Dukes (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles, now known as the Cape Town Rifles) in the 1950s.
His collection of Dukes badges and associated items was perhaps one of the best in private hands, said Peter Digby of Stephan Welz & Co.
The collection included 50 Victorian and Edwardian helmet plates, as well as a pouch belt, sabretache badges, plaid brooches of South African Scottish units and other rare badges.
The auction also had a white metal Zulu War helmet plate of the Natal Hussars that was worn from 1869 to 1887, when the unit was absorbed into the Natal Carbineers. Only about five of the badges are known to have survived.
Another standout item was a rare white metal helmet plate of the Cape Town Irish, a unit that existed from 1885 to 1891. It is one of only three such examples known to exist. The helmet plate was estimated at between R6 000 and R10 000, but sold for double that at R22 736.
It was the first time an Umgeni Rifles officer’s cap badge from 1907 had come on the market. It sold for R15 915.
SLOW MOVERS: Some of the Ndebele beadwork in the large collection of Ian Ball, an English-born New Zealander. Only a small amount of the artwork was sold at the auction.