Will bidders have a flutter on fairy photographs

A Cotswolds auction house is offering photographic proof that fairies ‘exist’ when a set of 100-year-old photographs go under the hammer later this month.

Photograph of The Cottingley FairiesAuctioneers Moore Allen & Innocent will be selling examples of the infamous Cottingley Fairies, which were first published in 1917 and exposed as hoaxes in the early 1980s.

The photographs were created by two cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, who also feature in the images, which they admitted were made by posing with cardboard cut-outs held in place with string and hair clips.

The Cottingley Fairies – named after the Yorkshire village where they were created – were hailed as genuine by many, including Sherlock Holmes creator and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

At the last auction of the year at Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester, bidders will be offered the chance to purchase two contemporaneous prints, made in very limited numbers in or around 1920 to be sold at theosophical lectures.

Alice and the Fairies, featuring nine-year-old Frances, is expected to achieve £1,000 to £1,500 while Iris and the Gnome, posed by 16-year-old Elsie, should fetch £500 to £800.

The photographs come from a relative of the Reverend George Vale Owen, one of the best-known spiritualists of the early twentieth century.

Also offered for sale is a copy of Conan Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies, published in 1922 by Hodder & Stoughton, which carries an £80 to £120 estimate, and a copy of the The Guards Came Through, signed and inscribed on the cover ‘to the Rev G Vale Owen yours very sincerely Arthur Conan Doyle Jan 20/20 which will be sold along with two photographs of Conan Doyle and Vale Owen with an estimate of £200 to £300.

Elsewhere in the sale, which takes place on December 13, highlights include:

  • A Balthazar of Champagne, the oversized bottle contains 12 litres of 1997 vintage Laurent-Perrier Brut – 16 times the size of a standard bottle of Champagne. It is expected to achieve between £300 and £500.
  • A single bottle of 1945 W&J Graham port, which is expected to achieve £300 to £500
  • A single bottle of Macallan whisky brought out to celebrate the 35th anniversary of satirical magazine Private Eye in 1996. The bottle has a unique stencilled label created by the famous cartoonist Ralph Steadman, and the strictly limited run of 5,000 bottles were individually numbered. Bottle number 2476 is expected to achieve £2,000 to £3,000.
  • A large collection of silverware from a local private client, including solid silver tableware and four early 18th century cast silver candlesticks with an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000
  • A pair of cufflinks made from the buttons of a waistcoat worn by a courtier of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, and gifted to a friend in England. The lot commands an estimate £200 to £300.
  • A fine cotton petticoat in white, lined with lace and embroidered with the cypher of its original owner, Queen Victoria, in 1836. Tailored for the fuller figure, the lot carries an estimate of £500 to £800.

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