Questions we are often asked

I have just come to own a rocking horse/carousel horse, what is it worth? It's dapple grey, has a leather saddle, real horse hair, and a swing stand like your horses. - Most rocking horses are outwardly somewhat similar, many have been repainted, and it simply isn't possible to identify without photographs or a viewing. Rocking horses are worth from $100-200 to many thousands, it's impossible to say without seeing it.

How do you know who made a rocking horse if it has no identifying marks? - I like to say "you'd probably recognise a Holden Commodore even if it was resprayed pink and had no badges". It's a bit like that. When you look at them all the time, you recognise them whatever state they're in.

Can you give me some pointers on what to look for in a rocking horse? - Absolutely. Please click here for a buying guide.

I have an old rocking horse I no longer want, what next? - Firstly, make absolutely sure you don't want it. You may find you're more attached than you thought, regret selling it and then it's unlikely you can get it back. If you're selling because of financial stress - the money probably won't go far, then the horse is gone. If there's no sentimental attachment there are several ways to move it on. The first step is to get a realistic idea of its value. I can usually help with this.

Would you buy my rocking horse? - Possibly. There is usually something particular we've been asked to find, and a few are in regular demand. If you have one we're looking for, we may buy it or send a buyer directly to you. We are scrupulous about being fair; if you have something valuable I'll never say it's anything less than it is, I WILL tell you what it is and will NEVER take advantage of anyone who is unaware of their horse's worth. I like to be able to sleep at night: I always offer prices that are fair and generous - even if it means I lose a bargain - and have often paid many times what was being asked because paying the right price was the right thing to do.

Who does your woodwork, leatherwork and repairs? - I do everything myself except turning, and make most of my own tack. Although I'd love to, I don't turn because I can't hope to be as good as my turner with 20 years' experience, and it's inefficient to even try. On occasion, if time is tight I get outside assistance with repairs but this is NEVER without consent of the owner. Specialised tack comes from people in England who are good at making it, sometimes if time is tight I order standard tack custom made from England too. I always acknowledge others' input.

Someone told me that in a proper restoration you're meant to use wood, not filler. - That's right. I repair all missing or damaged wood with new wood that is fitted, glued in and carved to be indistinguishable from the original. I don't just fill and paint over faults..

What is antiquing? - A warm-coloured clear glaze put over new paint to soften the colour and mimic the colour of aged varnish (although I believe many old horses had a golden hue from new). Regardless of the final colour, rocking horses usually start out as blue-grey during painting. Antiquing does a few things: it adds life and depth to the colour, it gives it a look of being old, it makes the colour more neutral and the horse looks better in most colour schemes, and evens out contrast: it's all too easy for a newly restored horse to look blue with a yellow mane - not a good look! Even a barely-visible antiquing coat brings together the colours into a harmonious whole. I use different recipes, depending on the look I'm trying to achieve.

Do I need to have antiquing done when you restore my horse? - No, this is optional and entirely up to you. I prefer it and recommend it - particularly when using blonde hair - but will follow your wishes.

What do you mean by original and what's the big deal? - If a rocking horse that still has paint (and hopefully accessories!) put on when it was made, and hasn't been altered, that's what is meant by "original". Generally a horse with original paint - depending on condition - is more historically interesting to enthusiasts, and that interest makes a horse more valuable. Nobody makes Ayres/Lines/Roebuck etc any more, and original surviving examples become more sought-after as they get fewer with time. Even if shabby, it's usually desirable to preserve original condition (work done would be conservation rather than restoration). Often original paint is present and salvageable under later overpainting; I avoid stripping original paint and the default option is to reveal and save whatever I can but this is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

My rocking horse is too precious to be ridden, how do I discourage the kids? - Why? Unless your horse is frail or a retired antique whose historical value means it's best left, assuming it's sound, let it "live"! (But if you have such a precious old horse, you might consider getting a basic one to play with. Many people do). To my eye a rocking horse has more soul if it's allowed to show signs it has been enjoyed. One day your kids will grow up; if they've played with your horse they'll have fond memories of it, treasure it and keep it when it passes to them, and it will mean as much to them as it does to you. Maybe more. Of course you may prefer a museum piece, which is lovely and rewarding, but I wonder if that might not be better left until the children are bigger...?

How can I ship a rocking horse myself? - I risked quite a lot to learn what I know about shipping, and that is my stock in trade as much as anything else. Please understand that the knowledge it took me a lot to gain is not available free of charge.

Can I restore by myself? - Probably! Although I won't say it's easy straight off, the skills can be learned and the materials freely available. Give it a go if you think you'd enjoy it. Unless you alter a horse, it can be redone if you're not happy with it. (PLEASE don't go stripping off old original paint or throwing out the bits you pull off though!)

If I send my rocking horse to you for restoration, is it safe? - Touch wood! I am insured, so if the unthinkable happens I know it's not much consolation but at least you will be compensated.

How do I know if a rocking horse is a good investment? - You don't. Nobody knows, and only time will tell. NO investment is ever guaranteed, and anyone who tells you a rocking horse is a guaranteed investment - be wary. A good buy should and usually does yield modest growth, but investment potential depends on the price - often it has room to grow, often it doesn't. There's a limit to how much anyone would pay for even the most desirable horse in the world, if it's you paying that it's unlikely you'll gain much. Rocking horses are a small niche market and as such, sensitive to small changes in the number and quality of horses available and people buying. A knowledgeable, ethical seller can only give you an informed opinion on likely potential, based on a horse's quality, price, and their observations of prices paid - paid, not asked - for comparable horses over time. A rocking horse is such an emotional purchase, the best way to choose one is go for the one you love and don't worry about financial gain. Then if you need to sell and make a gain it's a nice bonus; if you can't recover the cost price nothing can take away the the pleasure of having had it.

I know this is probably silly, but I never got over wanting a rocking horse as a child. Even I'm now I'm a grown man/woman and too old for it, I still want one - This happens often. A good proportion of rocking horses go from here to be "Big Oh" birthday gifts (40, 50 and 60). In any case, I'm the last person to judge. I'm a university-educated professional, and left behind a good career with good pay (and other benefits)!

I was prepared to spend quite a bit on a premium rocking horse but I REALLY like another for less, it's plain, it's not the make I wanted and it sounds silly... but it talks to me. - So what? Half your luck! If you love it, and the price is appropriate, go for it and spend the change on something else or leave it in the bank. It doesn't have to be rare, original, have illustrious provenance or anything else. Of course these are all desirable attributes, but if something more humble takes your fancy - so be it! Don't ever feel you need to justify your choice or that it's a lesser choice, YOU are the one who is to have it in your house. Different horses appeal in different ways and no horse will suit everyone: each has its place.

I can only afford a humble horse, but there's another one I love I can't stop thinking about - This happens too. Firstly - even the cheapest rocking horse costs a lot as toys go, I always respect whatever limit YOU are comfortable with and only suggest options within it. But if you choose one horse while you really want another that happens to be over, in the long run it may be a better buy than the cheaper one - within reason, of course. If you can stretch (and if the price is appropriate! Always check, especially if you're extending), that horse will be cherished while anything else will always be second-best. It happens that people fall in love with a horse that was over their budget but buy another that "will do" then they can't forget the first one. Sometimes they come back and buy it anyway and end up with two, sometimes it's gone and people buy SEVERAL trying to capture that feeling again.

I've looked at another horse, and was told the asking price was low as the seller is a collector, not a dealer out to make a huge profit. -Hmmm. If you love the horse, and you're happy with the price, fine. BUT check the facts, that's not strictly fair. Collectors often pay top prices, and more for shipping. I try to keep my prices competitive and often sell comparable horses for less than collectors ask. This is a cottage business, which I run because I love rocking horses and restoring them. I get genuine pleasure out of seeing people have the rocking horse they've wanted for years. I had a corporate career and if "huge profit" was my aim, I'd go back to an office or open a boutique (where I don't get hot, cold, dirty, exposed to toxic matter, hurt my back or hands). Yes, I put a margin on my cost price - so does the collector, make no mistake - but that's hardly compensation for the workplace comforts I gave up to be a restorer. I consider myself a restorer rather than a dealer and restoration is my main income source - but I need to add a small margin to cover costs such as storage and insurance. Fortunately my costs are very low, working from home.

I do not bid unreasonably at auction. When deciding whether to purchase for stock, I make a conservative estimate of what I could reasonably ask for a horse here, and stick to a corresponding maximum purchase price. That way I maintain asking prices for finished horses that are consistent and attractive compared to doing it yourself. Very rarely, I do bid whatever it takes to acquire a horse... for my own collection, never for horses intended for sale. I buy differently if for a future buyer as I'm strongly against inflating prices; I even prefer to assist people to buy their own and offer restoration afterwards in order to help clients get the best horse possible for their money.

If you are a restorer, why do you have so many for sale? - English rocking horses are my passion. If there was a good variety and number of English horses here, I probably wouldn't have put so much effort into establishing a stream of interesting and varied horses rarely seen here that are available to buy should anyone like one. Now that there is a good variety, I am scaling back importations to only bring in horses I find to be remarkable in some way.

If I buy a rocking horse from you, what do I get for my money? - You'll get a rocking horse that's AT LEAST what you believed it was. Occasionally a horse turns out to be much more! You can view the horse, take time to ask questions and get informed, honest answers. Everything I know or learn about the horse will be disclosed to you. I'll direct you to relevant information so you can check facts yourself and decide in confidence. I assist with freight. You can trade the horse in if we get something else that you like better. If something has gone wrong and it's my fault, I'll fix it. In short, this is not a shop, this is a service. You are completely protected - not only because I have a registered business and you are protected by consumer law, but because I treat people the way I wish I was treated when I purchase goods or services. I am very proud of the wonderful relationships I have with my clients and a few trusted people I now consider friends and partners; I never forget that they honour me with the extraordinary trust they place in me.

How long does it I take to get my rocking horse if I commission one? - I'm heavily booked and at this stage am not able to estimate how long the wait is until I clear my list. For that reason at the moment my book is closed for new restoration bookings, but I am still able to direct you to have a horse restored elsewhere.

As a guide: from the time I start, though, an average-sized (40-50") horse in reasonably sound condition typically takes 4 weeks in the workshop to completion. Extensive repairs or replacing parts takes longer... but not always.