Mounting prices

Another day, another post, and once more we’re back on the subject of auctions.  This is partly because I am so occupied with cleaning floorboards and painting walls that I haven’t had time to write the big post on The North that I want to write.  But it’s also because the blighters just keep on coming.

Although today it is not a new auction but the Christies’ sale just gone, which I can’t ignore for two reasons.  One is that the prices were insanely high, again, and the other is that it gives me a chance to be smug.  But you’ll have to wait until the end for that.  First, the prices.

The Christies’ results page offers you the ability to sort by price achieved, an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  The first few are either Russian or Mucha (a name which, for reasons too complicated to explain, is always pronounced in my head as Muuu-ka in a broad Lancastrian accent).

The first British showing is this LNER poster by Andrew Johnson, which fetched a mindboggling £11,250.

Andrew Johnson North Berwick LNER golf poster 1930

Clearly people who play golf and collect posters have more money than they know what to do with, a point which explains the next stop on our journey too.

Reginald E. Higgins (1877-1933)  ST. ANDREWS  lithograph in colours, c.1925

That fetched only just short of £10,000 too.

After that, it gets more interesting though (I’m ignoring lots of film posters along the way because I don’t understand them, apologies if this is annoying).  We’ll zip past the Cassandres and the Cuneos, along with the job lot of Fougasse posters that fetched £5,000, and stop at these two, which both fetched £3,500.

David Klein (1918-2005)  NEW YORK FLY TWA  offset lithograph in colours, c.1960

Charles Shephard (1892-)  THE GOLDEN ARROW, PULLMAN  lithograph in colours, 1931

Either way – for a David Klein or for a purely graphical 1930s railway poster – that’s quite a lot of money.  It’s also worth noting that most of the posters that I picked out in advance of the sale were not the ones which fetched the highest prices.  That’s good news, idiosyncratic taste means that I may yet still be able to buy posters.

But not for long.  Some of the big surprises were further down the rankings, like this Abram Games which fetched £2,000 (and I did actually single out).

Abram Games (1914-1996) JERSEY lithograph in colours, 1951 poster

But even more surprising is this Reginald Mount, which also went for the very same amount.

Reginald Mount (1906-1979) STAGGERED HOLIDAYS HELP EVERYBODY offset lithograph in colours, c.1951

Now what on earth is going on here?  The Games I can accept, it’s a classic design by a classic designer and prices probably are going up (well they certainly are if Christies is having anything to do with it).  But the Mount?  I am utterly bewildered.  It’s not so many years ago that Mr Crownfolio and I were at Onslows, hoovering up job lots of Mount/Evans posters for £20 or £30 a go, posters which I believe came from Eileen Evans’ own archives.  It’s not even his nicest design – if that’s worth £2,000, what’s a reasonable price for this then?

Mount Evans vintage waste paper salvage poster propagandas world war two

Or this?

Mount Evans vintage save gas and electricity post war propaganda poster austerity

Answers on the usual electronic postcard please.

I am, however, preparing to eat my own words.  Back in the day, when this blog first started. I wrote about how Christies had increased their minimum lot price.  I thought that this was a bad thing for the market in artists like Eckersley and Games (I hadn’t even considered Reginald Mount in there) as without the Christies prices, the value would fall.  And for a year or two it looked as though I’d called it correctly.  But now, well, I stand corrected, and surprised to boot.  Will it last though?  We will have to wait and see.

Further down the listings though is this Eckersley Lombers.

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978)  SCIENTISTS PREFER SHELL  lithograph in colours, 1938

One thousand two hundred and fifty pounds worth of Eckersley Lombers to you at Christies prices.  But rather pleasingly, not to us, as we’ve just bought a copy on eBay.

Eckersley Lombers Shell poster from eBay

It’s not framed, it needs a bit of smoothing out, and it’s still the most expensive poster we’ve ever bought.  But it’s wonderfully bright and comes with a rather pleasing sense of having beaten the system.  You can’t get that at Christies these days.

  • Dear CF – about time! Poster prices, as I have said on here before – are too cheap and were due an upward revision. They are often great art and are an excellent inflation hedge. They look cheap to foreign investors bankrolled in non-sterling currencies. Caveat: domestic UK posters probably dont appeal to the foreign investor. This said, if one is sitting on a lot of stock, isnt this a good thing?

  • …forgot to mention the other farly surprising fact in this latest Christie’s sale (particularly in light of your upward revision to minimum lot prices point Mrs C)… is that only 23 lots in the entire sale failed to make £1,000.

  • You’re right in everything you say, and I’m sure that when small Crownfolio comes to put us in a nursing home, she’ll be glad to be able to fund a week or so of it from the posters. But I can never quite get myself into the mindset of a dealer, I’m sure I’d be much better off if I could. Instead of thinking, ooh good, expensive stock, I just think of all the posters I can’t now afford.

    Interestingly – and I’m not sure I’ll find the willpower to post about this for a bit – the Christies halo did not extend to today’s Bloomsbury sale. Except of course for the Dorrit Dekk lots, which were, of course, the only ones we wanted.

  • What is this concept of ‘enough posters’ of which you speak?

    Anyone know who did get them by the way?

  • Oh, and Mr Crownfolio has told me that I need to point out that most of our Mount Evans posters are not that good and definitely not worth £2000. This is true.

  • I’m really at a loss to explain the discrepancy between the prices realised at Christies and those elsewhere. The gap is so massive. For example, there were some great (and inexpensive) posters at the recent Solent and Talisman railwayana auctions, as well as at numerous auctions houses dotted around the country (see Ok, so rich collectors don’t want the hassle of searching for the posters themselves and inclusion in a Christies sale gives a certain glamour to even a humble poster – but differences in price of hundreds and thousands ? Full marks, though, to the excellent team at Christies for developing the market. I wonder whether it will have a knock on effect at Onslows, whose winter sale is in December.

  • Yes to all of that, with a particular yes to seeing what happens at Onslows. Very interesting indeed.

    I haven’t posted about it yet – although Iwill do if I get the chance later in the week – but a selection of posters went through Bloomsbury Auctions last week, with nothing like the hysteria of Christies.

  • Enough? Sorry!

    More seriously, I’m not sure you are comparing like with like; I bet you can’t sell your Shell poster at Christies South Ken and make a profit. The Eckersley Lombers at Christies is condition A-, backed on linen and framed. Yours might well be stuck to that black paper with PVA and be beyond sensible restoration. Even if not, it still needs removing from the backing and fixing on linen and framing, which will cost you £200-£300.

    The Bloomsbury sale largely lacked posters with the visual appeal of the Christies ones. Their Underground ones were very dull indeed.

    The Christies New York Klein you posted above always does very well and was ‘about the right price’; the Bloomsbury Paris Klein I guess isn’t anything like as popular as the New York because Parisians (or even Americans in Paris) don’t want American posters?

    The Christies Vegas Klein made £2,000 (lot 35); the Bloomsbury Vegas Klein (lot 71) made £200. But they’re different posters, and only the Christies one is Vegas-relevant, the Bloomsbury one is of a pack of playing cards.

    McKnight Kauffer made £750 at both sales, for pretty similar posters (I prefer the Bloomsbury one, but I suspect the Christies one is rather rarer).

    But yes, CSK is a marketing wonder. Try buying perfectly ordinary furniture there; it’s just the same. It’s all ‘top London prices’ and a far cry from the old days – only 15 years ago they sold second-hand linen bedsheets. Their stuff is (almost) always in superb condition, and very visually appealing. No Newbold Stratford posters for them!

  • Don’t worry, the Shell poster is only sitting on the black paper (that’s the eBay sellers’ picture, I ran out of time to take one of my own). And it’s in pretty good nick, so I don’t think we’d be out of pocket on it.

    For the rest of it, though, I am sure you are right. And yet I can’t help the nagging feeling that all of those posters would have gone for more in the Christies Sale. But do keep coming along and telling me where I am not seeing the nuances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.