One of my other interests, apart from wargaming, is motor racing - especially the history of Grand Prix racing, and I maintain a casual interest in the actual examples of old cars which still survive. There is always a lively debate about what constitutes a genuine specimen and what doesn't. For example, if someone now builds a perfect 1955 Lancia D50, entirely from genuine 1955 factory spare parts, that does not constitute an authentic historic car, since the entity (and chassis number) did not exist in 1955. Now - just suppose that, back in 1955, Alberto Ascari had written off his works Lancia in practice at Monaco, and the mechanics had worked all night to create an entirely new car for the actual race, using exactly the same heap of spare parts - that would now be a genuine historic car, if it were still around.
Lancia D50 - genuine
Next case: suppose someone wishes to buy, say, one of the 1954 works Maserati 250F cars - the chassis number being identifiable as the one in which Fangio won the Belgian GP (say). If genuine, this is going to be worth an absolute fortune. However, if the car has really had a full life as a competitive car, and then has subsequently been maintained and raced in Historic racing, then it will have been fettled, patched, repaired, and renovated for 50-odd years, and it is possible that there is not a single part of that vehicle which is original - except maybe the chassis plate! The actual entity, however, is regarded as genuine if it has existed continuously since manufacture. You may recognise the celebrated Executioner's Axe conundrum. This is not entirely a straightforward matter - yes, this is the actual axe which has been used to execute traitors since the 15th Century, though, naturally, it has had many replacement handles and at least one new head over the years.
Move on. A long time ago, I was sitting in the National Library of Scotland, reading an old, leather-bound copy of the English translation of Maximilien Foy's history of the Peninsular War, and was horrified to find that the book was defaced - someone had obviously taken exception to the bold Maximilien's views, and had expressed his patriotic outrage, in pencil, in the margins of several dozen pages. Shaking, white with indignation, I reported this to the girl at the lending desk (not least for fear that she might think I had done it!). She checked the records, and reported back that the book had come to the library from the estate of the 5th Earl of Rosebery around 1930, and that the annotations were almost certainly the work of the Earl, or possibly of his father. In short, the pencil scribbles were part of the provenance of the book.
So much for the ramble around the subject - now to the point. Today I noted that 10 unpainted Hinton Hunt Line Chasseurs a Cheval have been purchased on eBay for some £260. You may do the conversion into your currency of choice, but that is a great deal of money. I am aware that the value of these miniatures is also influenced by whether they are original issue or the later Clayton products, so there is a definite thread of provenance and authenticity in there, whatever you or I may think of the actual sums involved. Someone has been prepared to pay a certain amount to obtain the genuine article.
Now it gets a little complicated. I have seen, at first hand, some of Clive's ex-Peter Gilder Hinton Hunt Napoleonic cavalry. They are breathtaking - individually animated, some with bases replaced with sheet brass, wire harness and flat wire sword blades added and so on. My personal favourite was a trumpeter of chevauxleger-lanciers, converted from a trooper, with the cord of his trumpet made from plaited wire. So what are these things worth? I know that some of them have been bought and sold within living memory, so a value must have been placed on them. I guess that the fact that Gilder converted them adds greatly to their worth and, like the ex-Rosebery book, the mods were carried out so long ago that they have become an important and essential part of the character of these models. I also guess that, if I had hacked them about myself, the value would be approximately zero. Hmmm.
What brought all this to mind, if you will kindly excuse the jump from the sublime to the agricultural, is that I am currently working on some Minifigs s-range Spaniards. As ever with s-range, I rather like the figures but I really don't like their enormous bayonets. They are very robust, and they are part of the tradition of s-range, but they do look a bit silly alongside figures from other manufacturers. And, as ever with s-range, I find it is Groundhog Day. Once again I have given serious thought to shortening and slimming down the bayonets to improve them, and once again I have chickened out, primarily because these are very old figures, they are expected to be like that, and it would feel wrong to change them.
So - just as on every previous occasion - I'll leave them unaltered, and I suppose that this is the correct thing to do, even though I shall continue not to like their bayonets very much. I'm also pretty sure that Peter Gilder would have just changed them, without a second thought, and he would have been right, too.