Most Beswick collectors focus on one type of animal. Cattle are currently the most popular, particularly among farming communities and butchers. Large, impressive Beswick bulls can command values of up to £2,000. Calves are generally less valuable, but are still extremely popular with collectors, who often buy calves to match the cows and bulls already in their collection. Public pressure in the 1980s brought about the reintroduction of calf figurines after almost all were discontinued in the mid 1970s. The later models (pictured right of earlier model below) were altered, becoming stockier to conform to new breed standards and arguably less charming, but they are still desirable.
Almost all Beswick’s cow figures were modelled by either Arthur Gredington or Graham Tongue. With meticulous attention to detail, these talented men created accurate reproductions of champion stock after days spent on the farm with the animal in question. Some models have kept the name of the name of the bovine model that inspired the artist, for example ‘Ickam Bessie’ (model no. 1350), a brown and white Aryshire cow modelled by Gredington in 1954.
The Connoisseur Range was introduced in 1967. The cows in this series were modelled extremely accurately, decorated with a satin matt finish with which more detail could be achieved, and mounted on wooden bases. When Beswick was acquired by Royal Doulton in 1989, it was predominantly these figures that transferred to the DA (Doulton Animals) line.
As with Royal Doulton’s figurines, rarity is the key to value. Lesser known breeds, such as the Galloways, were given a short production, and are highly sought after. Friesians, however, were produced in large numbers and are, in general, not as valuable. The exceptions are three Friesian figures produced in a rare ‘red’ colourway for the Beswick Collectors Circle in 1992. Only 130 examples of each of the red Friesian ‘bull’ (1439C), ‘cow’ (1362B) and ‘lying calf’ (2690) were ever produced and are extremely desirable today. These figures, and several other Collectors Club only figures, were marked with a special B.C.C. backstamp as well as the normal Beswick backstamp, which is worth looking out for as it usually marks a rarer figure.
It’s also worth looking out for figures by Colin Melbourne, particularly those from his CM range (the pig is pictured below), which includes a cow (model no. 1410). This highly stylised series differs radically from the typical Beswick output, and has therefore never been popular with the vast majority of Beswick collectors, who generally look for Realism and detail. I think this is likely to change in the future as fashions change, and meanwhile you can pick up one of these strange, modern sculptural creations for less than £200.
Find out more...
'The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Beswick Animals', by Diana Callow, John Callow, Marilyn Sweet and Peter Sweet
'The Beswick Price Guide', by Harvey May