Lancashire auctioneers have been told to guard their big game trophies carefully following a crafty theft on the eve of Sworders’ February 22nd Country House sale. Among the Victorian dining chairs and antique desks were eight African black rhinoceros trophies – complete with their much prized horns. Most were safely stored away, but one had been used as a display piece, much to the delight of the burglars who turned up later to lever it off the wall.
Police believe the theft was committed by professional thieves, for the illegal Chinese medicine market. Rhinoceros horn is highly prized in Chinese medicine. CITES recently made it illegal to sell rhino horn at auction in the UK, extending the ban to include mounted trophies (which were previously considered “worked items” and thus exempt.) However, full taxidermied specimens, i.e. stuffed heads with horns attached, are still considered to be worked items and thus can be sold.
The moth-eaten head sported two 19” horns, plainly attached by staples. Mounted, like the other horns, on a shield it weighed around 70 kg and had an estimate of £20,000 – 30,000. However, it will be worth a lot more to the traditional Chinese medicine market. The other seven trophies made a total of £368,000 on the day of the sale – over £52,571 each, plus premium.
Elsewhere, high sales were achieved for both Victorian dining chairs and antique desks. For Lancashire bidders, the prize of the day was a Victorian mahogany pedestal desk , with a Norwich stamp, which sold for £7000. If you are interested in larger antique desks, Preston antique dealers regularly have them in stock.
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