Sisters Surprised to Discover Sporting Treasures Worth $10,900 Hidden in Their Garage

BY SWNS TIMEJanuary 19, 2022 PRINT

Two sisters were stunned to discover rare cricket and boxing memorabilia worth thousands of dollars in a garage after putting off a clear-out due to their fear of spiders.

Nicky Lane, 69, and Karen Douglas, 68, were bowled over when they uncovered the incredible sporting collection in dusty suitcases at their late mother’s house in Bath, England.

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Suitcase found in the garage filled with old photos, many relating to Johnny Douglas. (SWNS)

The retired civil servants began clearing out the property after losing their mother in early 2021 at the age of 92, but left the garage last as they were both petrified of spiders.

When they finally summoned up the courage to tackle clearing the garage, they were left amazed to find sporting treasures lost for decades, including an old suitcase tucked away at the back which was packed with memorabilia relating to legendary former England and Essex cricketer Johnny Douglas.

“Though we knew some photos relating to Johnny Douglas existed, we had no idea where they were, or how much had been saved,” Nicky said. “There turned out to be lots of photos and autograph books too. The suitcase was packed with cricket memorabilia.”

However, it didn’t stop at just that, there was more. In a box stashed at the back of the meter cupboard, the most valuable item of all was discovered—a silver tankard from 1860 awarded to iconic English bare-knuckle prizefighter Tom Sayers.

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Tom Sayers tankard. (SWNS)

Richard Madley, one of the world’s leading sporting auctioneers, based in Wiltshire, was invited to assess the collection with expert Charlie Ross.

“For me, making discoveries like this is a labor of love,” Richard said. “Charlie and I sat around the dining table with Nicky and Karen to go through everything.”

According to Richard, no one had looked at the archives for decades and thus the sisters were surprised by their reaction.

“This archive is very rare,” Richard said.

The sisters believe the items had been in the garage since 1985, the year their father died, and before that in a loft at their parents’ former home in Bath. The collection is now expected to fetch 8,000 pounds (approx. US$10, 900) when it goes under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, on Jan. 22.

The 161-year-old tankard itself—belonging to “the Muhammad Ali of his time”—could fetch 5,000 pounds (approx. US$6,800) alone.

“This isn’t about the money, though. We want these items, which have been buried at the back of a garage for decades, to be seen and treasured by sports fans,” Nicky said. “We think there might be interest in Australia because Johnny was well thought of over there.”

She further explained that the Australians gave him the nickname “Johnny Won’t Hit Today,” a nod to the nickname he’d already gained, “Johnny Will Hit Today,” which was a play on his initials.

The collection comes to them through family descent—the sisters are granddaughters of Johnny Douglas’s brother, Cecil “Pickles” Douglas, a renowned and respected boxing referee.

Johnny died at sea, aged 48, off the coast of Denmark just before Christmas trying to save the life of his father, J H Douglas. They were on a ship rammed by another vessel in fog when their captains, who were brothers, tried to exchange festive greetings.

“Douglas was a phenomenal character, an all-rounder who played for Essex from 1911 to 1928,” Richard said. “He also captained the England team before and after the First World War.”

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Charlie Ross, Karen Douglas, and Richard Madley with some of the memorabilia. (SWNS)

Providing more insight on Douglas, Richard said he was an untiring fast bowler and an obdurate batsman. He also had the rare distinction of winning a gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 1908—for boxing.

“The boxing connection helps to explain the Sayers find,” Richard explained. “The silver tankard, given to Sayers from ‘admirers of English pluck’ from Montreal in Canada, was right at the bottom of the box.”

Richard got it cleaned, did some research, and soon discovered that it was special.

“Sayers is revered. Born in Brighton in 1826, he was like the Muhammad Ali of this day,” Richard said. “Though only five feet eight inches tall and never weighing much more than 150 pounds, he frequently fought much bigger men and won.”

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Johnny Douglas sports memorabilia collection. (SWNS)

In a career that spanned from 1849 until 1860, he lost only one of 16 bouts according to Richard. Sayers was also recognized as a heavyweight champion of England in the last three years before his retirement in 1860.

“He was a national hero, so much so, £3,000 was raised from the public for his retirement. Sadly, he died aged only 39 in 1865, his life taken by consumption,” Richard said. “I would expect strong interest in the Sayers tankard from Canada as well as the UK.

“It was a totally unexpected discovery among the rich cricketing memorabilia relating to Douglas.”

Additionally, a 1921 photo of Douglas being presented to King George V, HRH Prince of Wales, and The Duke of York at Lord’s is also among the collection.

This is believed to be unique, as it shows three British monarchs in one place at the same time.

Signed photos of the England cricket team in South Africa and the Australian team in 1921 have also been uncovered in the “rich archive of autographs, photographs, and memories.”

According to Richard, collections such as this don’t auction often.

“This find has well and truly bowled us over,” said owner of Hansons Auctioneers Charles Hanson. “I expect strong interest from cricket memorabilia collectors worldwide.”

Meanwhile, boxing fans, Charles said, have a rare opportunity to bid on that special tankard presented to legendary fighter Tom Sayers.

Epoch Times Staff contributed to this report.

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