I have a small collection of shark figurines and collectibles, but this box from Harmony Kingdom is one of the most detailed and the nicest. ‘Tin Cat I’ is one of the Harmony Kingdom “Jests, ” which are small boxes. If you remove the lid there is a small, attached item inside.
Many people collect the Harmony Kingdom series, but I was only interested in the shark jest, because of my nickname, Sharkey. I love all the detail on this box/ figurine. The basic idea is that there are three sharks circling the bow end of a small boat that has sunk. The boat’s name is ‘Tin Cat I, ’ an anagram for Titanic. There is a touch of humor, as is typical of Harmony Kingdom, in that a diver was also exploring the wreck, and now he is trapped in the boat, waiting for the sharks to leave. See photo.
The details are part of what appeals to me about this piece. In the top/ lid there is a chain, capstan, and barrel. On the sides you can see seaweed, a skull, chain, a starfish, plants, the ends of the planks, the name of the boat, and detail in the boat’s planking. You can also see the diver peeking out. If you remove the lid, there is a small barrel (attached) at the bottom of the box.
‘Tin Cat I’ was designed by Peter Calvesbert, and first offered in 1996. The first 990 pieces had a dark brown hull, after which time they were all produced in the tan tones like mine. In the fall of 1996, the shark’s tails and fins were shortened a little bit. The design was retired in April 1998. I purchased mine in December 1998. The official Harmony Kingdom line is named Small Treasure Jest.
The Harmony Kingdom line comes from Chalford, England, and was conceived by Martin Perry (founder and chief designer) as a way to capture the quirkiness and elegance of Japanese netsuke. The designs evolved and developed a style all their own.
There was a Royal Watch Collector’s Club which gave members access to extra pieces not available to the public. I think the Club no longer exists, but those special pieces are, naturally, more sought after. You could get a booklet with all the figurines listed, to check off which ones you owned (and presumably be attracted to ones you wanted).
This was more expensive than most of the sharks I own, but I bought it on a very special trip to Alabama, and so it also serves as a memento of that vacation.
Was this a good investment as a collectible? Probably not. ‘Tin Cat I’ is currently available on eBay for as little as $16, and as much as $55; recall that the original price was $45. But, I didn’t buy it as an investment, but as part of my humorous collection of sharks, I treasure it.