Antique Silver Dog Collar Auctioned

Finding prized antique dog collars at auction
By Claudia Kawczynska, February 2016, Updated August 2021
Antique dog tag

Even if we can’t be there in person to marvel and bid, we love checking out the offerings at the annual Bonhams sale of canine art and artifacts on February 17 in New York. As is customary, there will a trove of historical paintings of pedigreed dogs, many of the hunting variety on display. Though we enjoy these paintings of faithful companions, we find the objects de canine and their fascinating back stories much more to our liking.

One such highlight is a Victorian silver collar created in 1883 for a dog named Help. The shaggy black Scotch Collie was trained and handled by John Climpson, a passenger guard on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. The dog was equipped with a collection box, and traveled extensively throughout Britain and France from 1882 to 1889, raising money for the “Orphans Fund”—a charity that assisted children of railway workers who had died on the job. The tag on his collar was inscribed with a London address where donations would be “thankfully received & duly acknowledged.” His appearances at railwaymen’s meeting, fundraisers and dog show made Help a celebrity, and prompted a legion of charity-collecting dogs.

The source of the dog’s name? Here’s a clue: Help’s image appeared on badges with the slogan “Help Our Noble Railway Dog,” with proceed from the sales of the badges going to orphanages. During his lifetime, Help brought in thousands of pounds sterling to aid the Orphans Fund. Upon his death in 1891, at the age of 13, a railway magazine ran a tribute: “No dog probably lived a more useful life the did ‘Help.’” His lovely silver collar and tag is estimated to sell for $2,500 to $3,500.

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Antique tags and collars of historical note and belonging to celebrated dogs have become a highly prized collectible in recent years. Bonhams handled the sale in 2010, of a leather-and-brass collar that Charles Dickens used on his dog (shown above), eventually selling for the princely sum of $11,590. A few years later, a brass-and-leather collar from Joe, a sled-dog Husky who died during a 1903 expedition to Antarctica, sold for nearly $12,000 at Bonhams in London. So, hold on to those old dog collars, they may well become a family heirloom one day.

Bonhams “Dogs in Show and Field” auction is scheduled for February 17, 2016 beginning at 10 pm EST. The auction and pre-auction display is held at Bonhams’ New York venue and is available for viewing and bidding online at bonhams.com.

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