The Wisdom of David

– when it comes to antiques

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 2 June 1957

THHERE are right times and wrong times for making admissions. David Jacobs, host and star of Granada’s Make Up Your Mind every Monday, just picked the wrong one.

We were on the premises of a London firm that specialises in hiring to the theatrical profession every kind of “prop,” from 17th century chintz curtains (if they had chintz in those days) to spindly-legged contemporary armchairs.

David was there at my invitation – to see just how good he is at valuing objects, which is the torture he puts contestants through. He’d just picked up a natty piece of antique china, worth something like £120. Balancing it on two fingers, he said:

“I’ve had to take out an insurance policy against breaking things. I’m always liable to bust something when I’m snooping around looking for objects for the programme.”

The silence that followed was broken by a swishing sound… the manager of the store breaking through the sound barrier in an effort to reach David before his insurance premium became due!

David Jacobs
DAVID JACOBS – “I’ve had to take out an insurance policy…”

Happy David Jacobs. (Happier insurance company.) He didn’t break, smash, drop, knock over or even dislodge a single item during our get-together. And, take note: when our session was over, I had the impression that if David were to appear as a contestant in his own show, he’d walk off with all the prizes.

We started quizzing him with a German beer mug (empty). “Had one, not as old as this, on the programme,” said David. “I remember somebody from British European Airways winning it. I’d say this in worth £4.” The value turned out to be a fiver.

He picked up a piece of china with an “N” stamped underneath it. “Napoleon?” I asked, confidently showing off.

“Made in a Naples factory,” corrected David, who was rapidly beginning to emerge as an expert … especially on antiques. (Later I found they are his hobby… he fills his house with them.)

Here at Old Times Furnishing, a Chinese wall drape, containing every colour of the rainbow, was the next test. He classified it as “not worth a great deal really – say £20.” He was a fiver out. And that took us to a French workbox – and a catch question.

“Not worth a light,” claimed David, breezily. “This is not the original top. Instead of this flower motif there should be a Sevres plaque. The rest is genuine, but the funny top makes it worthless.”

My deep-laid trap had gone awry. The man knows his stuff.

On modern furniture – although he doesn’t particularly care for anything contemporary – he was right on the market. Within ten shillings on a mahogany sideboard. Within half-a-crown on an ordinary chair. Five bob out on an armchair. Bang on the mark for a mattress.

We tried antiques again… weapons this time. He picked a deadly looking sword from a batch of them, swished it through the air, tried the edge and complained: “It’s not very sharp.”

It wasn’t. But as a valuer, David Jacobs is.

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