Australian auction a reflection of two hearts united in collecting passion

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 13th March, 2024

When hearts and minds from across the globe unite as one, the results can have a lasting impact on all those around them.

So it was for Michael and Valerie Gregg – he from Guernsey in the Channel Islands and she from the New South Wales town of Wagga Wagga.

Both shared a passion for collecting and, over 65 years, built an eclectic collection of silver, Australian furniture, ceramics, jewellery and pottery unrivalled anywhere in the world.

Despite their totally different backgrounds – Valerie, born in 1934, became a nurse at Wagga Base Hospital before working and travelling extensively throughout Europe and North America – their paths crossed in the small northern New South Wales town of Brewarrina, population 1000, when Michael, who was two years younger, took a job as a jackaroo on a remote but nearby cattle station.

They immediately clicked and, after marrying in 1968, settled in a sandstone cottage in Cremorne, a harbourside Sydney suburb.

Over time, they became stalwarts of the Sydney collecting scene, attending most gallery openings and occasionally being asked to officiate.

As they are now both of an advanced age, their collection is being auctioned by Melbourne-based Leski Auctions from 10am Sunday March 24 at 727-729 High Street, Armadale.

According to the company’s Harry Glenn, the collection could bring up to $1 million at auction.

“This sale contains 800 lots but there are another 50 boxes of jewellery and ceramics to come (at a later date)”, he said.

Michael’s love was Channel Island silver. His collection is so rare it is one of the finest in existence and has sometimes been exhibited in England and Jersey.

One great example is lot 74, a circa 1775 George III Channel Islands silver coffee pot, made by Edouard Gavey for Mary Mauger with her name inscribed on the base.

Channel Island coffee posts from this period are extremely scarce with merely 12 examples recorded and the only one hallmarked by Gavey.

Leski Auctions has a catalogue estimate of $10,000-$15,000 on the pot for which Michael paid twice this figure when he purchased it.

Not to be outdone, Valerie amassed pre-1850s goldrush Australian silver from New South Wales which these days is almost impossible to find.

These are featured in the auction’s opening lots and include items such as a circa 1835 Alexander Dick colonial silver christening mug (lot 1) and a circa 1830 colonial silver cream jug by the same maker (lot 2).

A fabulous collection of jewellery from the Western Australian goldfields around Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie is another auction highlight.

The pick of the items are two 19th/20th century goldfields brooches (lots 203 and 204) attributed to Donovan & Overland and respectively titled Leonora and W.G.U.E.A.

Each carries a catalogue estimate of $10,000-$15,000 and Harry Glenn describes the latter as unique.

Indigenous jewellery only adds to the auction appeal with items like Lola Green’s “Marina Lady 2019” King maireener (mariner) green shell bead necklace (lot 293), one of several of she has in the auction, bound to garner plenty of interest.

Contemporary ceramics is another collection attraction with particular emphasis on works by female indigenous Australians, including such creations as Tasmanian Gloria Fletcher Thancoupie’s signed stoneware bowl (lot 406).

An unusual find is a Brett Whiteley hand painted vase (lot 391), thrown by Derek Smith from Blackfriars Pottery. This also carries a $10,000-$15,000 catalogue estimate and is a rare example of the late artist’s, normally renowned for his colourful more abstract painting commentaries on urban life, foray into the world of ceramics.

Furniture can also be regarded as a collection mainstay with a 19th century colonial Huon pine wotnot (lot 630) a major feature along with an early 20th century Australian blackwood blanket box (lot 638) by renowned Australian sculptor and wood carver Robert Prenzel.


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