Neil Collister an auction house favourite

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 20th July, 2015

The late Neil Collister was the sort of collector most auction houses would pay good money to have in the room at sale time.

There was always some item – be it smalls or antique furniture – that would grab his interest every time he frequented his favourite Melbourne or Victorian regional auction houses and his collection grew steadily.

An accountant by profession, Collister even learned French polishing and took an interest in upholstering so he could either keep or restore his antique purchases to good order.

However, it was a chance encounter more than 20 years ago with leading English porcelain dealer Pamela Rowan that sparked his interest in quality and unusual English porcelain.

“He saw her on TV discussing some rather unusual figures and got in touch with her,” explained his wife Marg.

From then on, Pamela Rowan sent many items (always well wrapped in large boxes) to the Collister home – and the couple even stayed with her during a trip to France.

The resultant collection is an outstanding mix of quality Dr Wall Worcester, Bow, Longton Hall, Nantgarw, Chelsea and Derby porcelain, sterling silver and fine furniture – and would make any collector envious.

Many of his furniture was purchased from leading Melbourne auction houses and antique shops during the 1980s – and international concerns such as Sotheby’s and Christies.

Collister died in July after already consigning his collection for sale to Philips Auctions managing director Tony Philips – whom he had known for about 15 years – at his forthcoming auction from noon on Sunday August 2 at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern.

Many of his porcelain items are so rare they are illustrated in various books on English porcelain by leading authority Geoffrey Godden.

These include an extremely hard to find 18th century Worcester potted meat jar, Worcester cup and saucer, Worcester tankard (with green ground) and an 18th century Chelsea plate featuring fancy birds and moulded feather and scale border.

Other porcelain items include numerous Bow figures, a Bristol trio (illustrated in one of Godden’s books) and a Longton Hall pair of candlesticks ex-Rouse Lench Unite Kingdom collection that featured in Bernard Watney’s book on the subject.

The sterling silver portion of the collection comprises large salvers, a hot water urn, Georgian wine funnel, Victorian tea sets, pair of Georgian tea caddies, coffee pots and cutlery sets.

The furniture is only fine quality and was bought for investment purposes. One of the best examples is a six-leaf Georgian mahogany extension dining table.

Furniture items, all purchased in 1983, include a Victorian davenport, a D-end extension table, a secretaire bookcase and a cylinder top desk.

In the same year, Collister purchased a burr walnut credenza, and then returned 12 years later to pick up a Sutherland table. Another purchase in 1997 was an 1825 long case clock with a triple weight Vienna regulator.

Some of the more expensive furniture items were acquired at the former Geoff Fiske Antique Galleries including a cross-banded walnut display cabinet Collister purchased in 1984.

Other Fiske items included a Victorian boardroom table, Regency sofa and Minton & Coalport vases – collectively purchased in 1985.

One of the more intriguing items on offer is a pierced Satsuma vase. A similar example is for sale in America on the internet for $70,000.


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