Sunday 2 May 2021

Questions About Surfacing of Another Champleve Enamelled Harness Mount at Hanson's

"When I heard the valuation I thought, this is not possible – 
it must be a joke. [...] It’s unbelievable.”
Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio

  Car boot sale buyer of
                  unreported antiquities               
I think we can predict that this one will not be entered onto the PAS database just days before the sale in the questionable manner that the Too-Bad-All-Berkshire (Haddenham) Harness Brooch was (Bethan Shufflebotham, 'Car boot 'chunk of old metal' set to sell for thousands at Hansons auction' Staffordshire Life 24 APR 2021). The object is set to go under the hammer in Hansons’ May 20-21 Historica Auction with a guide price of £1,000-£2,000.

A chunk of "old metal" bought at a car boot sale could sell for thousands of pounds at auction. The bargain buy was picked up by former Amazon delivery driver Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio, and sat in a box for two years before he discovered what it really was. After Miguel’s father-in-law spotted an article about a similar object selling for over £50,000 at auction [...], and realised the £10 car boot purchase bore similarities. The 38-year-old landscape gardener, from Ashford, said: [...] “I bought it at a car boot sale in Middlesex about two years ago, maybe longer. I can’t remember exactly. It was in a general box of old coins and bits of metal that I paid around £10 for. I never spend much at car boots but like to buy old coins and metal toy cars, that sort of thing. “Something else actually took my eye in the box the harness mount was in. I had no idea what it was, or that it was so old and valuable. After reading the article, my father-in-law said it might be worth something
Really? My father-in-law does not know what's in that old box of mixed stuff I bought in a car boot sale two years ago. And I do not think I'd show him, frankly. Having got access to his son-in-law's junk, it was very astute of him to see what it was. And what features in particular made him think this unknown flat piece of metal was 'similar' to the T-shaped curved bit? Would it be that they have an almost identical patina, suggesting that these two harness pieces of similar date may have lain in very similar burial conditions? And of course, Mr Aparicio has no receipt or other documentation of this purchase, has he? It seems an odd thing to buy just for the hell of it, to what use did he intend to put it, a flat plate with wobbly edges and a hole in the middle? But it's a good job that it was put in the box with other items, explaining how he bought it just by accident.

In fact this is all a case of incredible serendipity, the seller had no idea what it was, mixed it with other stuff while they could have sold it separately, then his wife's father just by chance spotted just this item among all the other junk Mr Aparicio admits he buys in the sales. What's more, the day the Hanson's auction was on, he just happened to buy a newspaper ("I might never have known about it if my father-in-law hadn’t bought a paper, and he doesn’t usually buy papers"). Odd.

So, where actually did the item come from? Why was it not reported on discovery? Who was the finder and what was their relationship with the Middlesex car boot seller?  If it was not reported in England to a museum or PAS, was that because it was found in another country - such as France?  

If Mr Aparacio likes to buy old coins and metal objects, has he ever owned a metal detector, or belonged to a local metal detecting club? 

A dealer grasps a harness fitting (left) with a dealer's
 grubby fingernails and (right) a similar item (Hanson's)*

But of course this is the problem with artefact hunting, there are by now millions of items of what Adam Daubney calls 'floating culture' (collectors call them 'orphan objects') floating around loose out of the ground and separated from any documentation they may ever have had. Some end up in car boot sales, others on skips and in landfill. Very few go to museums after a tekkie dies. 

I'm guessing this Mr Aparicio is the one from Egham Surrey (1), 70 km from Haddenham Bucks where the other harness piece is reported to have been found. Readers of my earlier texts on this questionable sale might remember that although the PAS says the item was found the year previously (but are refusing to answer questions on how that was determined), the auctioneer told a different story of its finding (three years ago). Confusion is increased by the account of the 'Too-Bad All Buckinghamshire Harness Brooch' in Treasure Hunting Magazine suggesting that the item had been intentionally deposited, for example as a hoard. This is all very puzzling, and it is interesting that a second piece of elite harness with champleve enamel is turning up with the same dealer from a location not very far from the other, although the finder of this one is not known, but this item has the same patina and all that... pure coincidence of course. 

I suggest it might be important for the PAS and British Museum to see what other antiquities Mr Aparicio has stashed away that he states were bought in  car boot sales but that his father-in-law has not yet worked out for him what they are.
(1) Interestingly, the Hanson's puff piece on this says something very odd: "Meanwhile its owner, Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio, a 38-year landscape gardener and former Amazon delivery driver from Ashford, Middlesex...", Ashford (next to Egham) is now in Surrey, having been affected by civil administration boundary changes ... in 1965. If Mr Aparicio does not know even which county he lives in, it's not surprising that he really cannot remember anything much about buying the object 


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