Price Conspiracy

Now, I know I’ve been saying recently that eBay prices are going up and can sometimes be a match for the auction houses these days.  Clearly I am not the only person to have come to this conclusion.

A seller called the design conspiracy (a name just asking for a snarky comeback) has put this poster on.

1928 London Transport poster Austin Cooper golliwog

For £500.

Now it is an Austin Cooper London Transport poster, and it is framed.  But it’s a picture of a golliwog, it’s just not going to happen.  It probably wouldn’t have happened anyway even if it were a picture of an ickle fluffy bunny, but it’s definitely not going to fetch that for a golliwog.  And in case you think I’m being harsh, it’s already failed to sell and been relisted at least once.

However, that is the pricing of a sane person compared to our next offering.

Andrew Hall London Transport poster 1965 Imperial War Museum

This is by Andrew Hall from 1965, it is not framed and it too is on offer for, wait for it, £500.

We bought one on eBay  a few years ago; it cost us £19.99.  I think someone is going to be a bit disappointed here.

Amazingly though, I can top that.  Here is a Terence Cuneo poster (not one of my favourite phrases, I must say).

Terence Cuneo Forth Bridge scottish holidays railway poster

Quite apart from the fact that it seems to have been bolted onto the wall, it’s an odd one.  Come to Scotland for your holidays, it’s trying to say, but the picture is not beaches or promenades but the Forth Road Bridge.  Perhaps the engineering holiday market was bigger than I imagine.

Peculiar though that may be, it’s still overshadowed by the price, which is a truly boggling £3,100.  Has a Cuneo poster ever gone for that kind of money, particularly one with brown sellotape marks on it?  Surely not. (Bidding has actually ended, but I still had to show you anyway).

There are still a few bargains out there, though.  Two of which may be the subjects of my next post.  Watch this space.


  • The poster is, I think, on a tiled floor, held flat by beer cans, which I have seen before, a number of times recently, on e-bay sales of BR posters. Same beer too, I think [I don’t touch the stuff so I’m not sure]. It appears to have at least one tear in it as well as the sellotape marks [see the top of the left-most fold and, possibly, the top of the right-most fold as well].

    What amuses me a little about the design is that the shadows show that the train is heading South… I like the picture though, but then I like steam railways.

  • Yes, they have and do go for these prices, Cuneo was probably the most widely loved railway artist, etremely popular. Ok, it’s Christies, but here is one example:

    I’m sure I’ve seen others in this sort of price range, too. including, I think, Onslows. I, too, love steam railways but these are not what I would call good poster design – simply fine art oil paintings with a caption and logo, no attempt at integrating image and typography and none of the simplification of line, etc, that typifies good poster design.

  • Blimey, I’d not realised that he went for quite that much, but there you go. And I agree with your thoughts about the design too, but I think Cuneo pictures of trains are almost a seperate market on their own really.

    And yes, they probably are beer cans. I was just rather amused by the idea of someone bolting a poster to the wall…

  • Not referring specifically to the Cuneo poster, in response to John I would suggest that most of us {?} can recognise a badly designed poster, but good design is much more subjective. It may have a pretty picture [and fashions in such things change], it may use colours in a striking way [ditto] or it may be very elegant. All of these judge by hindsight, and from a collector’s or designer’s viewpoint.

    So far as the advertiser is concerned the main criterion is “Does it get enough potential customers to make the choices I want them to make?” Sometimes banal wins that contest with ease, even though you might not want it on your wall. I do wonder if BR and LT in particular issued so many posters just to relieve the frequently dreary station environments, and perhaps because of real or imagined obligations as nationalised industries. Any thoughts?

  • Absolutely. The purpose and wider context of posters is something that I am always banging on about (in contrast with the collector’s urge to clean them, frame them and hang them on the wall in the direct expectation that this makes them a work of art).

    I think that BR did produce posters to fill up station walls – it’s something I’ve written about a bit here:

    Also in that are some thoughts about why railway and LT posters are more likely to end up framed and on the wall, because, oddly, they look less like advertisements than some other posters. Let me know what you think.

  • Thanks for the reference to your earlier blog, which I had not seen before. It says quite a bit of what I was thinking, but better! The railways in the 1920s were aware of design changes – carriage interior design of that era shows art deco influences, which had disappeared by the late 1930s in favour of something more modernistic, for example, whilst Southern Railway architecture of the 1930s was often strikingly different from what had preceeded it. Poster design, too, had clearly changed from the pre-WWI era. So, was the ‘chocolate box’ artwork of idealised country scenes simply a reflection of perceived public taste, rather than anything more significant?

    Alternatively, was there was in fact a concious desire to influence or even educate the masses? Most railway company directors of the time were part of ‘the establishment’, for want of a better term [no political implications intended]. At the same time, LT and the Post Office were public corporations run by people who often had the same backgounds as senior civil servants. As wartime concerts were to show, such persons often provided what they thought people ought to want… Also some contemporary types of artwork were quite closely associated with extreme political movements, so the country scenes could be seen as a display of overt conservative values. All of which is really only saying that advertisers’ motivations may be more complex than at first appears.

  • Yes again to all of that. Here are some prior thoughts on modernism and railway posters:

    modernism and shell:

    and somewhere I have also chuntered on about GPO posters being good for you too.

    On the latter thought, there is a whole book about this particular strain of inter-war medicinal modernism, and I will try and dig it out of the pile to give you the correct title, but its subtitle is Medieval modernists.

    And one day I really ought to index Quad Royal, so that people other than just me can find things…

  • Err.. those aren’t bolts and it’s not on a wall. They are can of Red Stripe shot from above. Given the context, wouldn’t Irn Bru be more fitting?

  • Thank you. That does rather explain the price, doesn’t it?

    Sometimes – when I’m not staring at a blockbuster Christies auction – I fancy that prices are falling. Then sometimes, mostly when I am buying things, I think that they are going up. I have no idea, really, do I?

  • The Map House, Knightsbridge, was at Masterpiece this year. With Underground posters they had purchased from Posters with a Purpose. The mark up was eye-watering. And they’d sold a good chunk of them on the first couple of days.

  • Go on, what kind of prices?

    I’ve looked at their website but can’t find anything on there – still, always amusing to see a website that looks as though it ought to have been embossed onto leather.

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