Anstruther burgh seal fetches £40k

Anstruther burgh silver seal
Anstruther burgh silver seal

A RARE 400-year-old silver burgh seal which hailed from Anstruther has sold at auction for just under £40,000.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely the 1613 seal, which has not been seen by the public since the days of Cromwell, will be coming home.

Anstruther Community Council and Fife Council’s museum service had joined forces and finances in a bid to secure the extremely rare item – which had a pre-auction estimate of £5000-£7000.

Martin Dibley, secretary of Anstruther Community Council, said: “We had nowhere to keep it or insure it but we thought let’s just get it and we can worry about that afterwards.”

However, a fierce bidding war on the floor and the phones at Lyon and Turnbull’s auction house in Edinburgh proved too expensive in the end.

“We did our very best but we just don’t have that sort of money,” said Mr Dibley.

“Whoever bought it seemed to want to go to any lengths to secure it. The price was astronomcal but, at the end of the day, this was a quality piece of Scottish silver.”

Not only was the piece the earliest ever example of a hallmarked Scottish silver seal to come to the market, it offered historians a chance to finally see the burgh’s earliest known armorial shield.

The seal was last referred to in the family papers of a St Andrews lawyer in 1899 and had belonged in private collection ever since.

The auction house admitted valuation was “virtually impossible”.

Silver expert Colin Fraser said: “Comparing items sold previously usually provides us with a good rule, but there’s been nothing like this ever sold before.

“It’s unique and quite amazing. To see a piece of pre-1620 provincial silver is almost unheard of.”

In the end, private and institutional buyers battled it out before the hammer finally fell at £30,000.

With buyers’ commission and VAT to pay, the successful bidder had to pay £38,700.

Lyon and Turnbull declined to reveal whether the piece was secured by a UK or foreign bidder, confirming only that it was a private buyer.

“We are certainly pleased. I thought it had the potential to go well above the estimate but you never know in the market,” said Mr Fraser.

“It does prove how much interest there is in quality antiques, especially pieces of national importance such as this.”