Beatrix Potter memorabilia can fetch in excess of £20,000
Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at the world of a world-famous Lake District storyteller...
This summer, plenty of us might be staying local and heading up the road to the Lake District And I know top of the list for many will be Hill Top, home to the creator of some of the most enduring and best-loved children’s characters.
Born 155 years ago this week, on 28th July 1866, Beatrix Potter created anthropomorphic creatures like Jeremy Fisher, Benjamin Bunny, and Mrs Tiggywinkle. Charming but never twee, they inspire enduring love and interest from children, adults and collectors alike.
Naughty Peter Rabbit and his siblings first appeared in letters to the four year old son of Beatrix’s former governess, in 1893. These early letters alone sell for £10,000 -15,000 if they feature original illustrations.
In 1901 Beatrix had 450 copies of ‘Peter Rabbit’ printed privately. Making a nice return on their original one shilling cover price, these privately printed editions are now worth in excess of £20,000! Leading to a contract with Frederick Warne in 1902, all initial 8,000 copies sold before printing, and a publishing phenomenon was born. Beatrix herself sought to have her creations lifted off the printed page, producing homemade clay templates around 1907. It took until 1948, five years after her death, for Beswick to produce her ten most popular characters, to massive demand.
Early and rare figures are the most sought after and valuable. The first figure to be discontinued, in 1967, was the 1955 introduction Duchess. If you find the very rare original, holding flowers (not the later pie), with the backstamp BP-1a, it could be worth well over £1,000.
Backstamps are worth researching for dating and valuing Beatrix Potter figures. Border Fine Arts now produce a popular series of the characters, however the discontinued Beswick and Royal Albert figures remain the most collectable.
These charming figures currently in the centre are from the Royal Albert time of production, priced £24-£29. The beautiful biography of Potter, featuring many of her illustrations, was originally on sale for 12/6 in 1949; it is now £33.
The popularity of Beatrix Potter continues, with the Royal Mint featuring several of her characters on 50p coins since 2016. Keep a look out for the first Peter Rabbit £5 coin, minted in April this year. If it increases in value at a similar rate, it could end up putting a smile on even grumpy Mr McGregor’s face!