Here are some hand-painted figures produced by the Sugarlump Studio,a small Hampshire pottery.
Unfortunately,they ceased production in October 2002,citing high UK production costs.
Which is particularly unfortunate when the subsequent emergence of Chinese outsourcing seems to have rescued what's left of our ceramics industry,underpinning similar small companies like Robert Harrop.Although it's frightening to know that you can send even small production runs half way round the world and it still works out cheaper than doing it here.
But it came too late for Sugarlump sadly,and after 7 years of production that was that.
And quite a sudden decision too apparently,because the 16-strong Herbs collection is incomplete,with some characters never making it into production at all,and others only running to a handful of examples.With the rarest by far being Bayleaf, with fewer than 10 in existance.
Which obviously explains why one sold on eBay for over £600 in June 2008 and over £500 in Feb.2012.And I doubt the rather cruel irony was lost on company founder Andrew Clark,even if his first thoughts were probably something stronger than "how ironic" ! And I'm glad I took some screenshots or I'd be struggling to believe it myself.But that's what genuine rarity value does for you of course. June 2008 February 2012
The Sugarlump website is still accessible (link under the photos) And after the Company's demise,it was being maintained by the man who designed it,Adam Bull - "....free of charge in my spare time,because I'm a big fan of Andrew's work,and believe that the information may still be useful to collectors".
Andrew clearly wanted to draw a line under the whole venture however,and failed to renew the domain name in 2005.
But,fortunately,it was bought by a fan who simply wanted to secure the site's future.So Adam's still maintaining it with the new owner's blessing,and the plan for the foreseeable future is just to keep it ticking over as a point of reference.
That said,I've listed the full range below just in case it doesn't stay the course.Because there's no collector's club or fansite to fall back on if it doesn't.
The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley Classic BBC kid's animation by Michael Bond
If you skipped the text above.......
The company ceased trading in 2002.
So their website is only kept ticking over as an online epitaph & source of reference. But it does show all the other ranges they produced too,including ones for The Magic Roundabout and The Clangers.And you'll also find answers to quite a few questions about the company and its products in the guestbook.
The Herbs featured in a series of 12 fine porcelain collector's plates entitled "The Golden Age of Children's Television", released in 1994. Each one is approximately 8" in diameter,trimmed in 22ct gold,and came with a certificate of authenticity.
And the images are transfer-printed still photos taken from each of the following........
Muffin The Mule, The Woodentops, Bill and Ben, Pinky & Perky, Pogles Wood, Magic Roundabout,
Trumpton, Camberwick Green, The Clangers, Paddington Bear, The Wombles. Oh,and The Herbs.
Are those the ones you would've chosen ? Good news ! The full size pics are much better quality than the thumbs
And how many do you even remember ?
Personally,I'd have replaced the ludicrous Pinky and Perky with Bagpuss. (cue Pink Porker backlash !)
Good to see Pogles Wood included,as it's often overlooked.And no surprise that Camberwick and Trumpton get a look in and poor old Chigley doesn't.
Impeccable taste choosing The Herbs of course.Although it's a bit of an odd choice to stick Mrs.Onion
and a Chive on it rather than,say,Sir Basil and Lady R. But hey-ho.
Any good ?
Well,hand-painted and lovingly crafted..............they ain't.
And they can all be picked up on ebay for next-to-nothing,which kind of says it all I suppose.
The famous,John Beswick ceramics factory was established in 1894 in Longton,Stoke-on-Trent,bought by the Royal Doulton Group in 1969 and finally closed at the end of 2002.
They were known primarily for their figures of animals and fictional characters.
Ebay sales figures for complete sets, 2009 to present :- (anyone know what the book prices are ? - email on homepage)
Unless stated to the contrary,all were sold as 4 seperate lots. All had boxes and certificates,and were listed under the correct category with no damage or wear mentioned. And these are indeed all the ones that have been listed !
- 2009 June - 263 and 300 1 lot
- 2009 Sept - 204 no mention of any boxes or certicates
- 2010 July - 187 certificates but no boxes
- 2010 Oct. - 221 certificates,but no boxes
All of which means what exactly ?
Well,I suppose we all believe what we want to believe based on whether we're buying or selling.
But it's pretty evident that prices have definitely cooled-off,and seem to have settled into a fairly predictable sort of range over the past few years. In fact,not too far removed from their original retail cost ie.£45 each / £180 for all 4.Which probably explains why less are being put up for sale.
Statistically,it appears to be a toss-up whether it's better to list them together or in 4 seperate lots.....Parsley usually fetches the most,but there's not a vast amount to choose between them.....and you shouldn't notice too much drop-off even if you're just selling 1,2 or 3 of them.
And don't forget that all those comments are based purely on ebay sales.And there are lots of trade sellers with their own websites.Not to mention all the many toy & antique fairs,where buyers at least have the benefit of seeing the merchandise close-up before buying.
The main thing to remember though is that Beswick is not only a finite resource,but an ever-diminishing one too as more and more inevitably get damaged over time. So a mint example with box & certificate should always ensure you get a decent return.........at least until the Chinese get around to faking them.
Anyhow,all four were modelled by Shane Ridge and based on Ivor Wood's originals.
2,500 were produced of each. And the original catalogue price was £45 each.
No. 4056 "Sage the Owl" Height 7.5cm
No. 4057 "Dill the Dog" 8.9cm
No. 4058 "Parsley the Lion" 9.5cm
No. 4059 "Bayleaf the Gardener" 14.6cm (ref.numbers source -"Storybook Figurines" by Jean Dale)
So,the limited edition Herbs range seemed such a perfect fit that it's surprising it only materialised in 2001,which was very late-in-the-day........for both parties.
I say "2001",but they're not in the very first Doulton Direct catalogue,dated "Spring 2001".
And whilst they do appear in issue 2,dated "Autumn 2001" (left),none of them are flagged up as "new".So they either came out in 2000 and weren't included in that 1st issue for some reason. Or it was an error not to mark them as "new" in the 2nd.And I'd probably plump for the the latter,in the absence of anything concrete. (Note:- There was definitely no "Summer 2001" issue printed.)
It's logical to assume they would've brought out some of the other characters if those initial 4 had done well.And you'd like to think the fact they didn't had more to do with the factory's closure than poor sales.
But it's unlikely we'll ever find out just how many of the 10,000 figures were actually sold,or somehow made it into circulation.Which is a pity,if only because it has such a large bearing on resale values.
Talking of which...............what are they worth now ?
Well,the rather glib answer is simply "what someone's willing to pay"of course.But,fortunately,book prices and sale precedents help to keep things slightly more predictable.........
On this page ..... Based purely on quality,I'm not entirely sure it's right that Beswick should be sharing a page with the likes of the Danbury Mint. But at least the Sugarlump Studio ensures there's some respectful distance between them.
- 2010 Dec - 190 1 lot -no pics.just doulton catalog page used
- 2011 Jan - 240 certificates,but no boxes
- 2012 Aug - 129 1 lot -no certificates + water-dmgd boxes
- 2014 Apr - 151 price for 3 as Sage failed to sell.
- 2014 Nov - 150 parsley £85,bayleaf £65,dill & sage both unsold