Rude and rare biscuit tin goes under the hammer

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Auctioneers are used to printing errors turning otherwise mundane items – bank notes, stamps – into collector’s items, but a tin going under the hammer in Cirencester in the new year really takes the biscuit.

At first glance all looks well in the Edwardian garden party scene illustrating the lid of Huntley & Palmers Ginger Nuts. Ladies in gowns, bonnets and chokers sip tea on the terrace, while children play in the garden beyond.

But what is that naked couple up to in the bushes at the back of the picture? Are those carefully camouflaged dogs in the foreground doing what it looks like they’re doing? And does it really say that on the jar of marmalade?

The uncommissioned additions were spotted soon after the tins hit shop shelves in 1980, and were quickly recalled. But a few thousand are believed to have made it into circulation and, once in a while, an example is offered for sale.

Legend has it that the rude additions to the image, which was based on the work of the renowned Victorian illustrator Kate Greenaway, were added by a disgruntled employee who was sacked without compensation.

Later, freelance illustrator Mick Hill put his head above the parapet and said he’d added the rude pictures “out of devilment,” and held no grudge against the company.

One of the 8 inch tins will be among the lots at Moore Allen & Innocent’s auction of antiques in Cirencester on Friday, January 4, with an asking price of £80 to £120.

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