Spring Madness

We’re all broke and there’s a massive recession, it should all be doom and gloom.  Except in eBay, it seems, where hope springs eternal in springtime and posters are going for silly prices.  Even ours.

I wasn’t planning on revisiting our own selling fiesta again, but the results have been startling enough to deserve comment.  Furthermore, I also owe at least one eBay seller an apology.  Having taken the mickey out of someone with the temerity to put one of the black and white Britain tourist posters on at £49.99, we then went on to sell one for £108.

Vintage British travel poster Teignmouth early 1950s eBay

I know. You may consider me well and truly astounded.

But what makes this worth telling you about is that it’s almost a scientific test of the market.  Because we’ve tried to sell these posters on eBay at least twice before in the last three or four years.  And we’ve had no takers at all, even when we put them on at 99p (yes, really).  Now, suddenly, they’re worth £30 on average, and some much more.  That’s quite a change, not only in value it seems to me but also in sentiment.  As though vintage posters are now established in people’s minds as valuable objects, so that even posters like these, which are very much on the fringes of what is usually collected, are seen as worth buying.

Quite apart from the fact that this unexpected bounty allows us to buy new posters (of which more later), it also proves something which I’ve been feeling for a while, which is that eBay is generally on the up.  This is a real contrast to my perception of the auctions where, at best, prices are static but in many cases seem to be declining.

This isn’t just a question of prices alone, people also seem to be willing to trust much higher-quality posters, that might previously have gone to an auction house, to the rough and tumble of eBay.  Like these two classic (that’s classic in the sense that lots of other people would be prepared to spend good money on them rather than classic I actually like them) railway posters, on sale in the States.

Frank Mason Stour and Orwell vintage LNER travel poster 1932

Frank Mason Tyne vintage LNER railway poster 1932 eBay

They’re both finishing in a couple of hours, but I thought worth pointing out anyway, as they’re good examples of the trend.

Also across the Atlantic, another example of what I was asking about the other day, railway posters printed specifically for the US tourist market.

vintage British Railways poster Durham river view American

It’s not my favourite kind of image (in fact it reminds me of the Ladybird Peter and Jane books more than anything else) but it is very interesting in that it’s a post-war example of this kind of publicity, which is the first I’ve come across.  More research clearly needed, although possibly not by me.

Back in the UK, this really lovely Underground poster by Clive Gardener from 1936 came up on a Buy It Now for £150.

Vintage London Underground Poster Clive Gardiner 1935 Virginia Water

And then it went very quickly.  I’m not surprised.

Worthydownbookstore have also put some more posters up as Buy It Nows too.  Now all labelled as post-WW2, so perhaps they’ve been reading this.  Hello, if you are. I’m also pleased to report that they do, as they say they will on their listings, accept reasonable offers.  So we spent some of our eBay gains on this Fitton.

James Fitton Milk HMSO public information poster 1946

And, just because I can, here it is on display at Britain Can Make It in 1947.

James Fitton milk poster on display at Britain Can Make It 1947

Finally, a game.  It’s called Spot the Padden.

P&O menus on sale on eBay

The winner may well get a bargain, as the whole lot currently stands at £1.04.  Mind you, they do also get a lot of paintings of birds and miscellaneous wildlife too.  Proof that not everything produced by P&O in the 1960s was design gold.


  • Just wanted to say a big thankyou for showing the Durham poster. I grew up here and spent many hours as a schoolboy in this very spot painting and drawing the view. I agree with the “ladybird” reference but I had to buy it. I got it for only 38 dollars which I think is a snip.
    And of course I’m fascinated that my little city was advertised as a holiday destination in New York.
    Keep finding stuff.

  • That’s brilliant – I’m very pleased to have helped (especially for just $38 too). Mr Crownfolio wanted to say that he too sat there as a student and so had a soft spot for the poster too.

  • I am very interested in the poster of Durham Cathedral on your web site. I agree with you it is a bit like the Ladybird books. But I am the little girl fishing in the river. (The smaller of the two). How did you come across the poster and is it possible to have a copy? Or even buy an original.

    My name at the time was Catherine Pattinson and the older girl is Jennifer Eden. My father was the Precentor (a canon at the Catherdral) and Jennifer’s father was the organist.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Catherine Attkinson

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