High stakes in card game between stuffed squirrels

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It might look a little nuts, but there are high stakes in a game of poker being played between two anthropomorphic red squirrels, who will be going under the hammer at a Cotswolds antiques auction next week.

The unusual piece of taxidermy almost certainly inspired by the work of Walter Potter, the eccentric taxidermist who posed stuffed kittens taking high tea and bunnies at school.

But this piece of Victorian taxidermy – which carries an estimate of £500 to £800 – is by the renowned Hooper & Sons of Wells, Somerset, who are generally known for their faithful mountings in naturalistic settings.

The tableau evokes memories of Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin, who is just the kind of squirrel to have made a living from Texas Hold’em after his career as a riddle setter was cut short by Old Brown, the owl.

Bidders in the taxidermy section at Moore Allen & Innocent’s Sporting Sale in Cirencester on Friday, January 31 can find owls and other birds of prey, native and exotic mammals – including no fewer than 13 mounted fox heads – and fish.

Among the best is a 4 lbs, 7 3/4 ounce Tench, which was caught by W L Davis in the canal at Coed-Y-Dinas on 14 July, 1946.

Mounted in a naturalistic setting inside a bow-fronted case by Cooper & Sons of Hounslow, Middlesex, the fish is expected to achieve between £600 and £800.

Also originally found in water, but collected using a paleo hammer rather than a rod and line, is a collection of six fossilised ammonites on stands, which should achieve £60 to £80.

At least 65 million years old, they’re undoubtedly the most antique antiques on offer at the sale, unless you count the 80 fragments of the Nantan meteorite (estimate £50 to £80), although they spent most of their time whizzing through space before crashing into China in 1516.

The collection of fossils also includes examples of mammoth, bison and horse bone found in the North Sea.

Staying in the sea, an innovative silent check, narrow drum Hardy Perfect fishing reel – dating from around 1910 – is expected to attract bids of £500 to £600.

The silent check refers to the muffling of the clacking noise the reel makes when the fish is hooked, and was used for fishing sea trout where stealth was the key to success.

Also innovative, and equally rare, is an Illingworth Number 1 casting reel. This forerunner of the fixed spool reel used a household cotton reel as a spool.

Included with its original box, bearing a Patent 1905 label, collectors are likely to be lured into parting with up to £1,000.

And from aquarian to equestrian, a set of jockey scales could find use at one of the many dieting clubs that habitually spring up in the new year.

The wooden chair, with height stick and weights by W & T Avery Ltd of Birmingham, was presented – presumably to a racing club, although the memorial plaque is not precise – by a group of friends in memory of Brother Dan Brodie of the Hemming Lodge of the Freemasons in 1938.

The scales will measure a person – presumably not a jockey, unless he is mounted on his horse at the time – up to a weight of 24 stones.

For a full auction catalogue, log on to www.mooreallen.co.uk

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