I’ve said this many times before, but what makes a poster valuable or not is not just a mystery to me but a source of constant puzzlement. As far as I can tell, condition, fashion, the name of the designer, the kind of auction and much else besides are all fed into a whirling vortex and a price pops out the other end, but how the process actually works I do not know. But I do now know a bit more about at least one of the variables, and that, bizarrely, is house prices.
Mr Crownfolio and I were watching an evening auction go by at the end of last week (if you are wondering why it’s not one I’d mentioned before, more later). Everything was going for a bit more than the estimates, which were rather pleasingly cheap. Then we were very surprised to see this seemingly unremarkable poster go for £400 (I don’t have the exact prices I’m afraid as the auctioneers don’t list them online).
This was a bit mystifying as it’s not a known poster, not by a known artist and generally didn’t have a huge amount to recommend it it over any of the other similar posters which had already gone past. Until we started to wonder whether it was down to the location. That bit of North Norfolk is now Notting-Hill-on-Sea. So, we figured, there must be lots of very rich people with the pressing need to buy a poster to decorate the holiday cottage. Fortunately, the very next lot allowed us to put our theory to the test.
As a poster it’s neither better nor worse – the colours are perhaps nicer but I’d probably mark it down for the rhodedendrons. But the big difference is that Colwyn Bay doesn’t get that many visitors from West London. So we watched, and lo and behold it went for £150.
There were lots of other posters of that ilk in the auction, which mostly went at around about the £200 mark.
And then there was this one.
A rather lovely Tom Eckersley which just happens to be the reason that I wasn’t flagging up the auction on here in advance. For a change, too, it’s good news as we won it. And for £160 too. Which only goes to show that however much I generate theories, there’s just no telling with poster prices.
For more proof of that, do you want a look at another auction from today? Up for grabs were five out of the six Sunday Times posters by Patrick Tilley. (These by the way are old pictures for illustration, not the ones that were actually for auction, but they don’t look much different to me.)
We either have one set of these (Mr Crownfolio’s theory) or one set and some spares (my belief) but anyway, we thought we’d put a low bid in, just in case they went for very little (and there’s always an appeal in cornering the market). But I’m not going to tell you how low a bid because we were very, very wrong.
The posters went for a somewhat boggling £1550. Which is actually only £300 per poster but is still a lot of money. Especially when the estimate was £150-250 for the lot. I wonder where this lot came from? And the bids too come to that?
That Sheringham poster is uncommon. I sold one for that sort of money a couple of years back. I think there’s a lot to be said for your theory about middle class coastal ghetto-isation. However, as time-served Norfolk visitors, me and Mrs L. know the massed ranks of Hampsteadites, Islingtonians, Notting Hillbillies etc pretty much avoid Sheringham ( unless the kids want to ride on steam trains ) . Holt, Burnham and Blakeney is yer actual habitat for them. Which suits me just fine. It means you can generally park in Sheringham and Cromer without being harassed by fleets of huge Range Rovers driven by tiny women and full of kids and slobbery dogs. This could all change though as Waitrose have opened in North Walsham. Local property experts predict a southward drift of the tribe.
Excellent, a proper field report. Maybe Sheringham is the closest they can get in poster terms? Or maybe the whole thing is a giant red herring? Will we ever know?
The Sheringham poster was done by Tom W Armes, my stepfather, and was the third one commmissioned by British Railways. He was well-known in Sheringham and Norwich, having held a number of one-man exhibitons in both places in the 50s and early 60s (he died in 1963). I am aware of a number of collectors who are likely to bid up his works on the rare occasions they come on the market, so a bidding war may have been why this fetched £400. This was not his favourite of the 3 by any means, and the rather incongruous-looking train top right was not his work, being added by the publishers for obvious commercial reasons.
Apologies for being so late to this, but thank you for the information, it’s always good to find out more about the history behind these.