A world of weird wonders await at Christie's Out of the Ordinary auction

From Apollo 13 flight plans to a 2ft-wide cigar box in the shape of Harrods, Christie's Out of the Ordinary auction really is for the person who has everything.
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Some things are so unusual, or just plain weird, they defy being categorised for an auction. So Christie’s in South Kensington is holding its second Out of the Ordinary sale, a kind of rummage sale for oligarchs. The first, last year, raised £1,283,755, and the big surprises that sold for far above their estimates were a huge dinosaur skull, at nearly £200,000, and the egg of an extinct Madagascan elephant bird which went for £67,000 — some omelette. 

For the person who has everything, there’s something in this sale, from fossils to taxidermy, weaponry, rare film props and posters, historical curios, modern art and furniture, in more than 160 lots. Each item is a foolproof talking point, and, even for non-buyers, all will be on show as a fascinating art exhibition starting next Monday, while online bidding for selected lots is already under way.

The diversity is remarkable. There are the Apollo 13 and 14 flight plans from the Seventies (lot 178, £1,000-£1,500), or a 1939 Enigma cipher machine (lot 25). There’s another elephant bird egg, and — with the lowest estimate — a dinosaur vertebra for £500-£800 (lot 76). 


Lot 172: outsize fibreglass cherries (£2,000-£3,000)

Collectable props include an Energiser Bunny automaton, used in those familar battery adverts. Lot 172 is a group of four outsize glossy fibre-glass cherries used in a cosmetics shoot with supermodel Coco Rocha (estimate £2,000-£3,000).

Lot 40 is John Rocque’s famous 1746 map of London, in 24 sheets (estimate £30,000-£40,000). To go with it, you could buy a George III sedan chair, at £1,500-£2,500 (lot 95). From 1887 come two 3½ft-high carved marble and gilt angels from a St Paul’s reredos dismantled in 1940 after bomb damage (lot 26, £20,000-£30,000). 


Lot 93: Harrods cigar box, 1927 (£70,000-£100,000)

From 1927 comes lot 93 (estimate £70,000-£100,000), a 2ft-wide cigar box modelled as Harrods, the result of a 1917 wager. Harrods chairman Richard Woodman Burbidge bet Harry Selfridge that six years after the end of the First World War, Harrods’s turnover would outstrip Selfridge’s. He won — and this beautiful object was the prize. Less pricey is a David Linley architectural jewellery box, done for Dunhill in 1994. It’s in the online sale, for £7,000-£10,000. 


Lot 131: Thirties Metropolis Man chair (£1,200-£1,800)

From about 1930 comes the Bakelite telephone on which Queen Mary may have discussed the abdication of her son, Edward VIII in 1936 (lot 90, £1,000-£1,500). Also from the Thirties is Metropolis Man, a cute anthropomorphic chair (lot 131, £1,200-£1,800). Modern figurative furniture includes a walnut and sheepskin desk and chair with webbed feet by David Warner (lot 12, £8,000-£12,000), and Cheeky Hippo, a glass-topped table held up by a bronze hippo (lot 34, £2,000-£3,000). Either would look good illuminated by lot 60, an Italian 60-light Dandelion hanging light designed by Achille Castiglioni for Flos in 1988, in polished chrome, steel and glass (£3,000-£5,000). There’s also a set of 12 Fifties Fornasetti plates decorated with Montgolfière balloons (lot 182, £1,500-£2,000).


Lot 12: walnut and sheepskin desk chair (£8,000-£12,000)

Fun as well as decorative is an Allied Artists 1958 film poster, Attack of the 50ft Woman (£10,000-£15,000) and a very rare electro-mechanical “Mata Hari” pinball machine made by Bally in 1977 (lot 127, £12,000-£15,000. 


Lot 127: rare "Mata Hari" pinball machine (£12,000-£15,000)
The pièce de résistance is lot 49, a rare French late 19th-century wind-up peacock made of papier-mâché and real feathers, which struts about and raises its fan. It has a hefty £15,000-£25,000 tag but can’t fail to impress.

Out of the Ordinary, September 3 at Christie’s, SW7. Extended viewing from August 4. Details at christies.com

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