It’s the economy, stupid

At least that’s my theory. I can’t account for the Onslows’s sale otherwise.  More posters than usual didn’t sell, or didn’t make their reserves, and very few indeed made more than their estimate.  It seems that after two weeks of hearing about nothing but austerity budgets and cost-cutting across the board, everyone is now too frightened to spend money on posters.

There were a few honourable exceptions.  This World War Two poster reached £420, from an original estimate of £100-150.

Lend a Hand on the Land WW2 poster fron onslows

I don’t quite know why; plenty of other wartime posters didn’t sell that well, or at all, and it’s not even a particular design classic – I prefer the idea of the Londoner’s Land Club (which I would join in a flash if it still existed) to the actual poster itself.

A few other categories did well – Munich Olympics posters, and a smattering of French things and old things that I can’t get too excited about.  This Frank Sherwin poster also went for £20 over its £600 high estimate.

Frank Sherwin Redcar British Railway poster from Onslows

But many classic railway posters weren’t as popular as they might have been.  Lots of Terence Cuneos and landscape Quad Royals were passed over.  As was this delightful chap, from Studio Seven.

Studio Seven British railways Dogs Need Tickets too poster 1957 Onslows

I’d have thought him irresistable, but not even cute can sell in a recession it seems.

Mind you, I can see why there might be a shortage of buyers here.  After Morphets and Bloomsbury’s big railway poster sale in New York, I imagine quite a few collectors may have spent over their annual budget already.  Or they may just have auction fatigue.  I’m getting quite close to it, and I’ve hardly bought anything.

There were some exceptions to the general trend though.  The Shell Educational Posters all did well, almost all of them selling at their £50-70 estimates.

Shell Guide to Sussex poster Rowland Hilder from Onslows

Which is possibly surprising, because the set on eBay which I blogged about recently, have almost entirely failed to sell for £60 each.  (Should you fancy a bargain, they’re now coming round again at a more enticing £39.99 each.)

Other than that, the strange rule of the poster world was once again proven, which is that original artworks are less valuable than the mass-produced reproductions that sprang from them.  (Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Benjamin).  There were a whole set – nine in total – of Frank Newbould railway safety posters.  Each one paired the poster with the artwork and one or more original design treatments.

Frank Newbould Railway safety posters with original design onslows

You’d have thought it would be a museum or a collector’s dream; but none of them made their £150-200 estimate, and a few failed to sell altogether.  I’d love to know where they came from.

Also of interest is that a selection of 1960s London Underground posters (like this 1963 Frank Dobson) almost entirely went for £55-60 each.

Frank Dobson bus tour poster for London Transport 1963

Which perhaps makes the estimates at the Morphets sale look more reasonable, a thought which quite perks me up.  Perhaps I’d better go and order that truck then…

But if you fancy buying any posters in the meantime, Onslows will consider offers on any of the unsold lots, so take a look, there may be a bargain or two to be had.

Disclaimer:  this is an entirely personal view and has probably missed lots of interesting prices out.  Please feel free to point them out, or to suggest any other theories you may have about why auctions and prices are as they are.

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