Getting the measure

I got somewhat over-excited towards the end of last week, when Mr Crownfolio pointed out this in a forthcoming auction.

Paul Nash 1960s reprint of rye marshes shell poster

Clearly this is a framed Paul Nash Shell poster of Rye Marches, and the reason I was getting into such a tizzy about it was that it had turned up at an automobile auction near Chippenham, with a valuation of just £80-120, and with a seeming mis-dating to the 1960s.

Now given that these posters usually go for several hundreds of pounds, sometimes thousands, I thought that this might be our only chance to buy one, so I started eyeing up the Crownfolio savings (still currently earmarked for things like doors and carpets) with a view to bidding on both that, and the Ben Nicholson which was accompanying it in the sale.

Ben Nicholson guardsman poster shell 1960s reprint

It seemed – almost – plausible that an auctioneer who specialised in cars might get this wrong, even if we might have been outbid at the actual sale itself.  (The internet is, after all a double-edged sword; it allows us to find things in obscure auctions, but it also lets every other blighter find them too.)

But then I took a closer look at the listings.  And it turned out that the auctioneers were right after all, curse them.

These aren’t 1930s posters at all, they are much later reprints.  How could I tell?  From the measurements.  A ‘proper’ Shell poster has dimensions of 30″ x 45″, their own rather unique size meant to fit the side of a lorry.  But the posters on sale here are 20″ x 30″.  So there is no way that they can be the real thing.

At which point I calmed down.  But it did make me realise how often Mr Crownfolio and I use the measurements as a way of judging when we’re considering posters, and I thought that this was something worth pointing out on here.

This probably isn’t a new idea to most of you, and of course there are lots of other ways of evaluating a poster when it’s there on paper and can be examined properly.  But should an apparent bargain turn up at a far-flung auction, or appear on eBay, the size can be a very big clue as to whether this is the bargain of all time or a great big flapping turkey of the first order.

Of course, we’ve nonetheless still bought a few turkeys in our time (at least one of which has been a reprinted World War Two poster), but I think that probably goes with the territory of buying from eBay.  Sadly Mr Crownfolio and I both have the amnesia caused by acute embarrassment, and can’t remember the details.  Sorry about that; maybe I’ll go and dig it out one day and you can all laugh at us.

That said though, if you do want to look at the Paul Nash or the Ben Nicholson on your wall, and you’d like it to take up a bit less space than normal, then there will be a couple of bargains going at Castle Combe later this week.  Just as long as you know what you’re getting.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted October 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    You couldn’t be more right, in the world of “Vintage” posters, size is everything (ish). What gets to me is the number of Auctions and people on eBay who don’t bother to mention the size of a poster they are selling. This either means that they are going to lose out on bids from seasoned collectors who won’t bid unless they know it to be the correct size, or they are trying to sell a repro without saying it is. Neither of these options can be good for anyone really. In some ways it’s no different to other retail – it makes no sense to sell furniture or clothing if you don’t tell people the size! Obviously it leads to mistakes and I, like you, have a couple of embarrassing purchases based on lack of information, but I guess we learn from it.

  2. crownfolio
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Well exactly. Perhaps we should all own up to our mistakes on here one day?

  3. Posted November 3, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    It looks like one of the aforementioned Shell posters in now on eBay with a price of £399 – it does at least admit in details to what it is and it’s size, but £399 seems quite steep for a 1969 copy.

  4. crownfolio
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha – well spotted. And good luck to them, I shall watch and see what happens with interest!

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