It’s bunny money! Dust off those figurines… if they’re Bunnykins, they can make a fortune
Bunnykins tableware and figurines have been loved by British families for generations. Millions will have fond memories of eating from plates, bowls and cups with the distinctive rabbit borders and delicate illustrations.
But while some Bunnykins pieces, made by British manufacturer Royal Doulton, hold little value today, some are commanding record prices.
Next week, Potteries Auctions in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is holding a sale that includes a four-inch high Royal Doulton Bunnykins prototype of a rabbit witch sitting on a broomstick valued at up to £800. The same sale also has a Bunnykins court jester valued at £200.
At a similar sale last year, the auction house sold a 1998 prototype Bunnykins figurine of rabbits raising a toast around a grandfather clock for a record price of £35,500 – smashing the sales estimate of £600. Leah Gibson, of Potteries Auctions, says: ‘Such incredible prices can be fetched when two bidders in the same room are desperate for one piece. This is exactly what occurred at this auction – and could happen again.’
Demand is rising in Britain driven by nostalgia – with people fondly remembering pieces kept on the mantelpiece or in a cabinet by their parents or grandparents, says Gibson.
Cheers: The 1998 Bunnykins prototype sold for a record price last year
‘We also sell a lot of Bunnykins figures to Asian markets – in countries such as South Korea and Japan – that have a taste for British pieces, as well as collectors living as far away as Australia,’ she adds. ‘The growing international market increases demand to push up prices.’
The oldest figurines tend to command the highest prices. That is because over time they become increasingly rare as pieces are chipped, broken or thrown out.
Royal Doulton started making rabbit figurines in 1939, before abruptly stopping production the same year with the outbreak of the Second World War. If you have one of this initial batch of six figurines – either Billy, Mary, Farmer, Mother, Freddie or Reggie – it may be worth £1,000 or more.
Bunnykins figurine production did not restart until 1972, but even rare later models, such as the magician and carol singer, can fetch four-figure sums. Unlike the figurines, Royal Doulton continued to manufacture Bunnykins tableware after the breakout of the Second World War.
One of the earliest – a 1930s ‘Christmas menu’ plate signed by one of the first artists Barbara Vernon (daughter of the Royal Doulton manager) – can sell for £150. A rare 1940s ‘airmail’ plate by the same artist might go for as much as £160. Later pieces – such as a 1960s seven-inch woodland scene of bunnies – can fetch perhaps £90. Bunnykins cup and saucer sets from these eras can also fetch three figures if still in top condition without any chips.
Alex Froggatt, head of homes and interiors at auctioneer Sworders, believes aesthetic appeal is helping to drive popularity.
‘Modern tastes have changed and there is definitely a shift away from decorative pieces from a bygone era that were once proudly put out for display,’ he says. ‘But pieces with an ageless quality, such as Bunnykins, often do not look out of place inside a modern home.’
Potteries Auctions and Sworders, as with other reputable auction houses, can provide free valuations and advice for those wishing to sell or buy Bunnykins. Although you might expect to pay a 20 per cent premium by using an auction house, the benefit is that any purchases should come with a guarantee of authenticity. Using an online auction website comes with risks that you could be dealing in fakes.