The term ‘duty dodgers’ is applied to pieces that were not sent for assay during the period 1720-58 when a steep tax was placed on silver. Silversmiths had a variety of methods of escaping this tax – including transposing marks from small articles to large or overstriking marks from older pieces.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell
In today’s market these pieces are illegal to sell unless submitted to the Antique Plate Committee at Goldsmiths Hall for assessment and extra marking. However, less nefarious ways of ‘duty dodging’ in the Georgian period were evident, that although illegal at the time, are legal to sell today.
Specialist John Rogers, head of silver at Chiswick Auctions, will offer three of these, all made in London, in his October 23 sale.
The first is a 47oz silver gilt cup and cover of 1734 by Edward Pocock (estimate £1000-2000). Here, although the cup itself was sent for assay, the cover was withheld and instead only partially struck with the maker’s mark at various angles four times over. As the tax was applied based on the weight of the article, a portion of the duty was evaded.
In a similar vein is a crémier or hot milk pot c.1755 (estimate £500-800), an uncommon form more typical of French rather than English silver. Again, this item was not submitted for assay and instead carries four maker’s marks for John Wirgman. It is possible that this object, perhaps a private commission made for a client 20 years or so after the covered hot milk jug had fallen from fashion in England, may be a little below sterling standard.
The third example is a pair of butter shells c.1735 by Benjamin Godfrey (estimate £400-600), which bear his maker’s mark plus three indecipherable pseudo marks that together have the impression of the official four hallmarks. The crest is for Brabazon of Leicester and the Brabazon family as the Earls of Meath (established in Ireland, 1627).