Five collectibles with fascinating backstories

5. Harrods cigar box

Harrods silver model
The model was made for the chairman of Harrods after he won a bet against H Gordon Selfridge

This silver cigar box in the shape of Harrods has a lot more to it than meets the eye. In 1917 the head of Harrods and Selfridges bet one another that they could outdo the other's annual takings six years after the end of the war.

The winner would be presented with a model of the loser's store.

The wager wouldn't be settled until 1927, but Harrods were ultimately victorious. Chairman Richard Woodman Burbridge contacted Gordon Selfridge, who graciously accepted defeat.

It was decided that Burbridge would have a model of his own store rather than his competitor's, and the model was manufactured in Harrods' workshop, with Selfridge footing the bill.

The lot is due to auction with a £100,000 ($169,200) estimate in Christie's Out of the Ordinary sale on September 3.

4. John Brown's leg irons

John Brown irons
John Brown was hung after his failed assault on the Harper's Ferry arsenal - Image: Heritage Auctions 

John Brown (1800-1859) was a militant white abolitionist who was killed attempting to ferment revolution among indentured slaves in the southern states of the US.  

He was one of the key figures in the violence and unrest that beset Kansas during the 1850s and was responsible for the killing of five slave supporters in 1855.

Buoyed by his success and notoriety, he led an assault on an armoury in the town of Harper's Ferry in West Virginia 1859 but was captured by marines led by Robert E Lee and summarily hung.

The event is considered one of the key flash points in the runup to the civil war.

These leg irons were used in his detention and sold for $13,145 at Heritage Auctions in June 2013.

3. Bonnie and Clyde's guns

Bonnie gun
Bonnie Parker's .38 Colt Detective Special was discovered strapped to her thigh - Image: RR Auction

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow terrorised the central states of America during the Great Depression, robbing stores and banks and leaving a trail of bodies before the law caught up with them in Louisiana.

Both were shot dead in their car as the passed at speed along a dirt road near the town of Bienville Parish. It's thought a posse of four men fired a total of 130 rounds into the vehicle.

Inside they discovered a significant collection of guns and ammunition, some of which the posse sold off as memorabilia after the various states reneged on paying reward money.

These two weapons, a Colt Model 1911 automatic found in Clyde's waistbound, and a .38 Colt Detective Special strapped to Bonnie's thigh, sold for a combined total of $504,000 at RR Auction in October 2012.

2. Viking broadsword

Christies Viking sword
The sword was recovered after the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 - Image: Christie's

By far the oldest item on this list, this broadsword has a history that stretches back almost 1,000 years.

It was recovered from the battlefield at Stamford Bridge in 1066 by a member of the de Bohun family and was later wielded at the battle of Bannockburn in the 14th century.

While the blade is original, it was remounted on a new grip with a pommel that bears the de Bohun coat of arms.

It's due to auction in Christie's Out of the Ordinary sale in September.

1. Charles I chess board

Charles chessboard
Charles I was obsessed with chess and is said to have taken this board to his execution - Image: Sotheby's

When Charles I (1600-1649) was executed after his defeat at the hands of Oliver Cromwell he is alleged to have taken two items on to the scaffold with him - a bible and a chessboard.

After his death it passed into the hands of his chaplain, Bishop William Juxon.

The piece is made from amber and is thought to have been presented to the king by his father, James I.

Charles' devotion to the game was such that he continued to play even as he received the news that the Scottish, who protected him in the aftermath of the civil war, were to hand him over to English.

The unique lot sold for £601,250 ($970,600) at Sotheby's London in 2012.

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