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A Time to Shine

Every day at Graham Budd Auctions is different in what it tends to throw up. We’ve seen before that one minute you can be talking about a football potentially worth several million pounds and the next, you are trawling through a box of programmes looking for that hidden gem. Both are equally as special and just as rewarding.

Just last week, we were provided with one of these special moments when a box was delivered to the office for our March 2023 auction. The contents would make everyone stop and take notice. Hidden within and wrapped carefully in bubble wrap was one of the most stunning and beautiful trophies I think I have ever seen awarded in sport.

Bearing a hallmark to trace its origins to Birmingham, the helmet within was fashioned in the style of that worn by the 1929 Speedway English Dirt Track League riders. It was awarded once a fortnight to the winning rider at the event and, in fact, the item bears the names of 19 of those that achieved the accolade. It’s truly something to behold with a red eagle motif fashioned on the front, beautifully preserved leather fittings and a real “Art Deco” feel to it (as you would expect from a significant item of that era).

The competition was renamed the Northern League in 1930, so it would seem that this beautiful object was only the flavour of the month for one season, even though there are other “Golden Helmet” competitions in the sport (the oldest being in Greece). Incidentally, and for the purpose of being accurate from a description point of view, the helmet itself isn’t golden. Not even a tinge of the precious metal and colour there. It’s silver, so I suppose it’s a golden silver helmet, or indeed a silver golden helmet. You can make your own minds up on that score! What’s certain though is that, whether or not the item was being competed for, the name stuck around.

To be perfectly honest, this is something that, whether you like Speedway or not, is a real stand-out piece. We believe that it spent many years on display in the cabinets at Belle Vue before financial issues saw it removed and given over to private hands ever since. It’s also something that I had never expected to see. Every inch of its beautifully crafted shape screams class, and I could open up a decent debate on what it actually is. For instance, it’s a sporting trophy (you can’t really argue that) but there would be a fair shout as to it being a piece of art. I could have it on display and enjoy its difference to all else, simply being enchanted by its lines and form (hark at me, I really must cut down on watching Antiques Roadshow!)

The helmet also comes with a complete set of cigarette cards in colour, bringing all of the Speedway greats of the era if not to life, certainly to the eye and the conscience. All 19 names appearing on the piece are included in the set - a lovely way to make the connection with names from a different time who, I am sure, would have been honoured to lift such a statement piece.

It is, without a doubt, a wonderful piece of our sporting heritage and is there to be enjoyed and appreciated. A guideline estimate of between £3,000 and £5,000 should see it attract some admiring attention when it comes under the hammer in our March sale.

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