The biggest poster auction ever. Perhaps.

Manchester Piccadilly station poster morphets auction

As mentioned below, the Morphets sale last month was a one-off spectacular the likes of which may not be seen again for some time.

This was certainly true in the Crownfolio household, where the event involved three computers (two downstairs for watching while child-minding and cooking, one upstairs for actually placing bids) and an entire day spent in front of screens watching one poster after another reach what seemed to be eye-watering prices. I don’t think my nerves can stand anything like that again for some time to come.

Morphets themselves are trumpeting it as “The biggest and most important sale of posters that has ever been held…”  But was it really?

It certainly wasn’t the biggest in terms of turnover.  The sale realised £410,000, which Christies, and I am sure many other auctioneers, have definitely surpassed before.

Then what about the prices?  I for one had hoped that a combination of the recession and the sheer quantity of posters on offer all at once would mean that on the whole prices might be low (subtext, and we could pick up a bargain or two). But as poster after poster flashed past, the overwhelming impression was of new highs being reached with almost every lot going for at least a hundred, sometimes several hundred pounds over its estimate.

bromfield swanage poster morphets auction £400

Now, however, in the cold light of day, the prices don’t seem to have been breaking records, more at the low end of average.  (Disclaimer: I’ve only checked the items I was interested in, along with a few star lots – if other things did perform well, please do let me know!)  But what did make the achieved prices seem dramatic were the surprisingly low estimates.  Perhaps they had also thought that the recession would have left everyone too broke to buy so many posters.

So sale volume, good but not exceptional, prices good too – but so far no cigar. And probably not the greatest poster auction ever held.

But what was genuinely extraordinary was having so many railway posters being sold in one place.  Whereas your average Christies or Onslows sale might have twenty, thirty, perhaps a few more in amongst the Mucha and friends, here that’s all there was: different periods, different styles and different destinations all the way from the first lot to number 593 ten hours later.  So yes, if you like railway posters, it was probably about as big as it’s ever going to get.

But as we slowly worked our way through every region of Britain and Ireland, I gradually came to realise one thing.  Which is that I don’t really like many railway posters very much.  And the more I saw of them, the less I liked them.  I’ll try and explain why in my next post.

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