Farmer's fascination sparks windfall

A SUFFOLK farmer's fascination with military insignia which he collected for more than 20 years brought his family a surprise £57,804 auction windfall.

A SUFFOLK farmer's fascination with military insignia which he collected for more than 20 years brought his family a surprise £57,804 auction windfall.

John White who farmed at Peasenhall near Yoxford pursued his hobby between 1882-1908, never spending more than £20 a year on the badges and buttons of Victorian and Edwardian regiments.

They were all packed in tissue paper and stored in a large wooden trunk. It went with him when the family moved to the Isle of Wight where it was stored in an out-building and forgotten for years.

The Whites moved again recently and the trunk was opened for the first time to reveal a roll call of forgotten regimental memorabilia which sold for more than double the £26,000 - £32,000 pre-sale forecast at Bonhams in Oxford.


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"This was one of those dream discoveries you don't think will ever happen," said Tony Cribb, a specialist in militaria at the auction house.

"Mr White was collecting at a time of great change in army insignia and many of these things were quite exceptionally rare. They aroused phenomenal interest in the militaria world."

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The tiny badges tissue-paper wrapped badges were packed carefully into period boxes advertising toothpaste or soap and were accompanied by receipts showing they cost him between 1s 2d (6p) and 1s 9d (8p) each. The most expensive item in the sale was a collection of 31 badges for regiments of the Imperial Yeomanry representing County and colonial units from the County of London sharpshooters to the king's Colonial. The group made £1,880 against a forecast of £800-£1,000.

A collection of 20 badges and buttons from Ireland made £1,645 (£800-£1,000) and a dozen cap and collar badges from the 21st (Empress of India's Lancers) took £1,234 (£700-£800).

A single badge from this group cost Mr White 1s 5d (7p) his family were said to be "delighted" with the result.

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