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Toys for Boys, Captain Scott’s Relics, Kray’s Paintings on Sale

Captain Scott Expedition
A photo from the expedition of Captain Scott. Scott became national hero in 1912 when he and a quartet of companions reached the South Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen and a team of Norwegian explorers had beaten them four weeks earlier. Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

A model steam train that was an expensive toy for a grown-up boy in the days before the Bugatti Veyron and the Goldstriker platinum iPhone is being sold at auction in London in November.

At the end of the 19th century, the Manchester-based miniature-railway enthusiast Percy Leigh built an elaborate system that was described by Harmsworth’s Magazine in 1898 as the most costly in the world.

“The 10,000-pound toy,” as the magazine dubbed it, cost the equivalent of 919,302 pounds ($1.42 million) in today’s money, according to the inflation calculator of the website

London-based Bonhams will be offering a six-inch-gauge model steam engine from the Leigh’s system in its Nov. 5 sale of veteran automobiles. The working locomotive and tender, together with four passenger coaches and three wagons, are expected to fetch between 25,000 pounds and 35,000 pounds, the auction house said in an e-mailed statement.

“What gives these added value is that they were unique commissions,” Leigh Gotch, the head of Bonhams’s toy department, said in an interview. “They weren’t bought at Hamleys. Leigh had them made to his exact specifications.”

The locomotive, a replica of an express from the London and North Western Railway, originally cost about 350 pounds.

“Some men spend their money on racehorses, others on yachts, but this railroad of mine is more to my fancy,” Leigh said at the time, according to the Bonhams statement.

Antarctic Scott

Relics from Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole will be offered for auction 100 years after he and his party left England for Antarctica.

Robert Scott became a British national hero in 1912 when he and a quartet of companions reached the South Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen and a team of Norwegian explorers had beaten them weeks earlier. All five members of the U.K. team died while attempting to return to base.

Canadian-born Charles Seymour “Silas” Wright, a member of the support team, died aged 88, in British Columbia in 1975. Wright’s grandson will be offering his archive at Christie’s International in London on Sept. 22.

“These relics tell an extraordinary boys’ story,” Nicholas Lambourn, Christie’s director of exploration and travel, said in an interview. “They allow people to get within touching distance of their heroes.”

The consignment includes a pair of Wright’s skis, bristling with nails to allow him to walk across Antarctic ice. These are valued at 6,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds, while an archive of expedition photographs, some unpublished, is expected to fetch as much as 50,000 pounds. Wright was navigator for the search party that found the bodies in 1912. The young Canadian spotted the tip of the explorers’ tent protruding from the snow.

Photographic negatives, valued at 4,000 pounds to 6,000 pounds, include an image of the makeshift grave.

Artist Kray

More in the category of British anti-hero, the East End gangster Reginald “Reggie” Kray, like his younger twin Ronnie, turned his hand to painting while serving a life sentence for murder.

The Krays dominated London’s gangland during the 1950s and “Swinging ‘60s” through a network of nightclubs and protection rackets. In 1969, the twins were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of mobster George Cornell and hitman Jack “The Hat” McVitie. Reggie died in 2000, shortly after being released from Wayland prison, Norfolk.

Five paintings by Reggie -- including an oil inspired by the 1886 Edgar Degas painting, “The Tub” -- are being offered at London-based Bloomsbury Auctions on Sept. 30. Entered by an art dealer, the works date from the mid-1980s and bear the stamps of Parkhurst and Wayland prisons on the reverse. The group, together with five letters, is expected to fetch between 2,500 pounds and 3,000 pounds, said Bloomsbury.

In January 2009, one of the oil paintings Ronnie Kray produced in prison sold for a hammer price of 4,800 pounds at an auction in west London.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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