An ‘extremely rare’ medieval silver gilt seal matrix discovered in a field in Lincolnshire by a man using a metal detector has sold for £1,900 at auction.

21st December 2012

An 'extremely rare' medieval silver gilt seal matrix discovered in a field in Lincolnshire by a man using a metal detector has sold for £1,900 at auction.

The 14th century love or loyalty seal, believed to have been dropped by a nobleman of the day, was bought by a collector from the south of England who was bidding over the telephone during the sale at auctioneers Golding Young & Mawer on Wednesday (December 19).

Auctioneer John Leatt said: "This seal was discovered in a field in East Keal, Lincolnshire, in the last two years and was extremely rare.

"We were aware of very few seals of this age that had come onto the market and certainly none that had been in as good condition or quality.

"Before the sale, we had lots of interest from private collectors which was reflected in price achieved on sale day. This seal certainly made a higher price than similar seals offered for sale on the open market."

The seal matrix has been identified and authenticated by the British Museum and also disclaimed as treasure trove under the Treasure Act of 1996.

The word 'seal' has two meanings - it refers to the seal matrix, a metal object, usually engraved with a design and often an inscription, which was used to seal a document, and the seal impression, a piece of wax or similar material attached to a document upon which the seal design was imprinted using a matrix.

The image on the seal identified the author of a document and was supposed to prevent forgeries or people tampering with official documents. They also enabled illiterate people to declare their consent to an agreement even if they could not sign their names.

Silver seals are the rarest of all seals and would have been used by the elite of society. They were very expensive and a goldsmith would have been commissioned to produce them. The engraving on high status seals is superior as the metal is softer and easier to cut than cheaper metals such as bronze.

Elsewhere in the sale, a Western Australian Aboriginal painted and carved spear sold for £400.

The vendor, who did not want to be named, inherited the items from his sister who lived in Lincoln and sadly died earlier this year.

He said: "The spear is a corroboree spear which was used in special Aboriginal tribal ceremonies and is very rare.

"My mother and father were given the spear as a gift from a missionary lady who worked in the far north of Australia near the Torres Strait in the Gulf of Carpentaria in around 1958.

"My father was a vicar working in Australia at the time and this lady was very fond of my parents. She also offered them a fish spear but my mother declined it. However they were delighted and overwhelmed to receive the gift and it took pride of place in their home for many years.

"When my parents passed away, my sister asked for the spear and displayed it on a wall in her home."

A corroboree is a ceremonial meeting of Aborigines during which they interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume and tell the mythical history of the tribe.

Meanwhile, a late Victorian double gas powered magic lantern, sold with a selection of slides, made a hammer price of £750 and a very good quality binocular microscope made by Ross of London, sold with various lenses and attachments, made £1,000 against a pre-sale estimate of between £400 and £600.

In the furniture section, a Victorian burr walnut piano front Davenport with four side drawers sold for £950

One of the most unusual items in the sale, a set of six Chinese pith or rice paper paintings, which depicted subjects including torture and execution, sold for £500.

Among the silver and jewellery, a pair of silver sauce boats, made in Dublin in 1939 and featuring Celtic scroll borders, handles and shaped legs, sold for £440.

The bygones section featured a number of enamel signs, the highlight of which was a brightly coloured sign by Sunlight Soap which sold for £380 against an estimate of between £200 and £300.

The sign, which had been consigned from a house clearance to the North East of Lincoln, offered a 'reward of £1,000 to any person that can prove that this soap manufactured by Lever Brothers contains any form of adulteration whatsoever'.

Mr Leatt said: "This was a rare sign in wonderful untouched condition which, considering it was probably on display in the late 19th century, shows great confidence in their brand.

"There is a strong collectors market for such signs, particularly very decorative signs such as this, and we are delighted with the price it achieved for our vendor."

A series of 30 lots of postcards in the bygones section made a total hammer price of over £2,100. The collection, which came from a property in the centre of Louth, featured scenes of Lincolnshire and the surrounding areas.

Elsewhere in the sale, a lot containing three albums of early 20th century and later postcards sold for £380 and several comic books and magazines, including titles such as Forbidden Lovers, Roy Rogers and Bob Swift, made £420.

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