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Right, there is no way on earth that I am going to be able to do today’s auction justice.  This is partly because I am tired (I had to get up at 5.45 am to go to Stonehenge, don’t ask) and partly because it is tomorrow, but mainly because it is just such a vast, sprawling and wonderful beast that it would be impossible to cover all the highlights in one blog post.  So this is just a taster, and you really do have to go and look at the catalogue yourself.

The auction in question is the posthumous sale of the collection of Bob Date, who was a dealer in books and ephemera, and clearly blessed with exceptional taste.  Along with the collecting gene, clearly, as there is tons of the stuff.

How do I know he had good taste?  Well he liked Barnett Freedman, to start with.

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'Modern Furniture & Design by Bowmans,,'; London, 1930; together with 'Bowman's Furniture, Ring Up The Curtain..', same publisher, 1936, both square 4to; photographic trade catalogues of 'Unit' furniture with fine cover designs by Barnett Freedman printed in various colours
Lot 219, est. £150-200

But there’s so much  more than just catalogues.  How about an accordion folded, peepshow diorama?

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'In Winter & In Summer You Can Be Sure of Shell..'; rare accordian-folding peepshow diorama from a design by Freedman, comprising eight colour litho card sections with paper sides, reading 'Be Up to Date Shellubricate',
Lot 217, est £300-500

Or perhaps an entire archive of more than a hundred items of almost limitless Freedman glory?

Barnett Freedman archive items

 

Chromoworks publicity Barnett Freedman
Lot 221, est. £2,000-3,000

And there are also posters too, and not just by Freedman either, although he is of course represented.

Barnett Freedman, 'Circus, Go By Underground', printed by Curwen Press, two colour lithographs London Transport poster
Lot 846, est. £500-700 (two posters)

And not just by the known posters either.  This – which I assume is for the Festival of Britain – is fantastic.  If somewhat large.

After Barnett Freedman, an extremely rare Shell advertising billboard poster, in four parts Festival of Britain poster 1951 Shell
Lot 911, £1,000-2,000

And there’s plenty of posters by other artists too, scattered throughout the tail end of the auction.

After Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, 'Football', a rare 1933 London Transport poster, printed by The Baynard Press
Andrew Power, 1933, lot 864, est. £500-800

Paxton Chadwick, 'The South Gets More Sun', a 1930s Southern Railway Poster
Paxton Chadwick, 1933, lot 933, est. £100-150

After Dame Laura Knight, 'Victory Delayed' poster, printed by J. Weiner Ltd, colour lithograph World War Two poster
Dame Laura Knight, lot 927, est. £50-70

And not just posters, but books about posters too, whole lots of them.  And books about canals, and trains, and architecture, and books of designs for the Curwen Press.  And then there’s the ephemera, which is here in industrial quantities.  You could probably start up as a dealer just by buying one lot like this.

A collection of approx. five hundred and forty items, to include: labels; advertising; book plates; packaging; a few postcards; etc., 19th century to modern, largely in fine condition. (Approx. 540)

That’s lot 98, if you’re interested, estimated at £200-300.  Although I have no idea how the values will work out tomorrow, it really could go either way.  Possibly these are wild under-estimates and there will be a crazed frenzy of buying the like of which I have not seen for a while.  Equally, it could go the way of Morphets, and people will be so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff for sale that some things will slip by for almost nothing.

I am, obviously, hoping for the latter as there are one or two things we’ve got our eye on, but I have to say I think it’s a pipe dream.  Over the last few days, the estimate on one item I’ve been looking at – a Paul Nash lithograph since you ask – has risen from £150-200, to £500-700.  Which means we won’t be getting that, or much else either I should think.  But watch this space.

 

Special purchase

My initial thought when I first looked at the new Onslow’s catalogue a few weeks ago was that someone had better ring the BPMA, because they’ve been burgled.  Then I read the auction blurb more closely, and of course it says

including duplicates from the British Postal Museum & Archive
Collection

Panic over.

What they actually mean, it turns out, is duplicates from the BPMA collection, mostly featuring the work of Stan Krol.  You can buy single posters like this.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Round the clock service, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 683 1952 Round the clock service
Stan Krol, 1952, est. £100-150

Or indeed this one, which I love for drawing my attention to a problem that I was hitherto utterly unaware of.

Stan Krol (born 1910) To loosen frozen covers, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 535 1949 to loosen frozen covers use salt and hot water
Stan Krol, 1949, est. £100-150.

Both of these come with a bonus set of small size Post Office ‘art’ posters as well.

Art posters job lot John Minton etc

They must have hundreds of them, but even so it’s a funny way of getting rid of John Mintons if you ask me.  But no one did.

Anyway, back to the Krols.  If you want more than just a single poster (and have no desire for a John Minton), you can buy job lots of six.

Stan Krol (born 1910) A group of six 1950's GPO posters including Use Block Letters, Stick Correct Stamps, One red stamp book and Round the clock services, each - 37 x 24 cm; and one other Spencer Market Place Norwich GPO
Stan Krol, est. £150-200

And this lot is repeated three times.  Although there’s no escaping those art posters here either, you get a bonus Norwich Market Place (as shown above) whether you want it or not.  I’m guessing people mostly don’t if they are having to give it away like this.

That’s not the end of it either, there’s also another job lot of Krols, this time for the Post Office Savings Bank, also available twice over.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Post Office Savings Bank, five different designs, printed for HMSO, each 37 x 24 cm; and one othe
Stan Krol, est. £60-80

No Norwich Market Place in sight here either, which is a bonus.

Now I have two thoughts about this.  One is that it massively increases my knowledge of the work of Stan Krol, which can only be a good thing.  While the GPO posters are all on the BPMA website, the majority of the Post Office Savings Bank ones haven’t been digitised yet so some are entirely new to me.

But the other is that this is no way to sell off an archive.  Flooding the market with duplicates like this surely isn’t going to get the best value for the museum.  The result is going to be something like the final Morphets sale, when people were so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff on offer than poster after poster went really cheaply.  (Morphets have taken the online catalogue down from their server now, but I used to regularly go back and look at the fantastic posters that went for £40 or so and wish we’d bought everything).   But that was an estate sale, after Malcolm Guest’s death, so they had no choice.  Given that they had choices, I can’t help feeling that the BPMA aren’t handling this very well, and will not be getting the maximum value from their holdings. An instructive contrast is with the recent London Transport Museum sale, where there were no duplicates at all.*

This is particularly true of some of the more expensive posters in the sale, like these McKnight Kauffers.

E McKnight Kauffer (Edward 1890-1954) Outposts of Britain Posting Box at Lands End, GPO poster PRD 200 1937
McKnight Kauffer, 1937, est. £500-700

The description says very firmly that these are the much rarer large format posters (they are a slightly odd 30″ x 36″).  So then why sell them as individual posters, but then also as two pairs, and finally a set of four.  They’re a lot less rarer as the result of that.  Surely four would have been enough for one sale, with another batch next year, and so on.

But the sale isn’t entirely duplicates, there are also some single posters too, including a small handful of the van side posters that I love so much.

Andre Franion (dates not known) 2 1/2d for Inland Postcards, GPO poster PRD 1083 1960 For Inland Postcards
Andre Franion, 1960, est. £70-100

Guess what, you get a free John Minton with that too.  But I’m still tempted, even though I have no idea how I, or anyone else, would display something that’s almost a metre long.

Other delights include this Alick Knight.

Alick Knight Remember Inland Post Cards need a 2d Stamp, GPO PRD 785
Alick Knight, 1955, est. £100-150

I’m also very pleased to see the estimate on this Zero too.

Zero (Hans Schleger 1898-1976) Address your letters plainly, printed for PRD 260 GPO by W R Royle 1942
Hans Schleger (Zero), 1942, est. £400-600

This is because we’ve got one, and as a general rule anything I buy tends to lose rather than gain value so it’s nice to see something bucking the trend.

This is of course just a small selection of the GPO posters available, so it does pay to go and look at the catalogue yourself.  In the meantime, this can stand as an example of the vast number of this type of poster that are on offer.

Peter Edwards (dates not known) Old Compton Street, Soho, original GPO poster PRD 1078 1960
Peter Edwards, 1960, est. £70-100

There are also a whole range of other posters included as well, including the usual Shell educational posters.

Rowland Hilder (1905-1983) Shell Guide to Warwickshire, original poster printed by C Nicholls 1963
Rowland Hilder, 1963, est. £50-100 (with four others)

The 1914 centenary effect is also still holding strong, so there’s a set of World War One posters, including another Alfred Leete Lord Kitchener at a vast estimate.

Alfred Leete (1882-1933) Britons (Kitchener) "Wants You" Join Your Country's Army ! God Save the King !, an original but trimmed copy of the recruiting poster printed by the Victoria House Printing Company Co. Ltd. September 1914
Alfred Leete, 1914, ezt. £1,000-1,500

This is turning into the Keep Calm of World War One, as the rarity and high auction values brings yet more examples out of the woodwork with every new auction.

Speaking of which, for a change there isn’t a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in this sale, although you can have one of either of the others from these series should you wish.

Description	Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory, original WW2 poster with red background and white lettering and Crown, printed 1939
Anonymous, 1939, est. £300-400

Mostly, the WW2 offerings are more of historic than visual interest, the exception being a pair of Abram Games.

Abram Games (1914-1996) Talk Kills, explicit WW2 propaganda poster depicting soldier wearing helmet in the sea, PR 76 printed for HMSO c.1942
Abram Games, 1942, est. £400-500

What with all of this, it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t that many railways or London Transport posters this time round, although this circular Tom Eckersley is a delight.

Eckersley (Tom 1914 - 1997) Exact Fare Helps the Conductor, circle poster published by LT 1945 Exact Fare helps the conductor
Tom Eckersley, 1945, est. £100-150

A number of the London Transport posters – although not the Eckersley – are listed has having come from another London Transport Museum Sale, run by Sotheby’s in 1993.  I’d have loved to see how the values had changed between then and now, but sadly this date is just a bit too early for me to find the answers online.  So if anyone does have a copy of the catalogue and can run the comparison, I’d be very grateful.

And finally, there is this.

lounge-suit-ons-109
Anonymous, £20-40

A simple poster, doing its job.  Can’t argue with that.

 

*Underneath all the debate about how to sell off museum archives lurks a bigger question, which is whether museums should be selling off their collections at all.  Generally I tend to think no, because what people might discard as ‘worthless’ now could well turn out to be highly prized in later times, and also because museums have histories themselves, and these histories need to be recorded.  And because then people won’t give stuff to museums if they think it might be sold in the future, and the reasons go on and on and on.  But I do think posters are a slightly different case, precisely because they aren’t unique, and therefore it is possible to have too many.  As long as the museum has enough to cover losses, and damage and loans, then I can’t really see a good reason why they should keep 12, or 20 Stan Krols, just because they have them.  But I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on this too.

 

Inequalities

I know that it’s been said before on here, but it’s a thought that’s worth repeating.  Not all old posters are nice.  Not all of them are examples of great graphic design either.  Some of them are, quite frankly, mediocre.

Book Early and Go northwestern

I’ve been reminded of this truth by a lot of coach posters which has just come up in an auction (the auction itself was today, but I’m not suggesting that you’d want to buy them).  They are described as:

Approx. 20 various posters, mainly for coach tours to UK seaside and city destinations (Blackpool, London, Glasgow). All with wear – staining, torn edges and corners, to varying degrees. Approx. average size 29” x 20 ½”

But none of them are the usual suspects.  There’s no Daphne Paddens here, nor anything by Harry Stevens or Studio Seven either.

London coach poster north western midland red

In part I think that this is because a good number of these posters are actually pre-war.

Kendal poster archer ribble coaches

Southport Coach poster North Western Coaches 1930s

But even the ones that might date to post 1945 aren’t the same as the ones we are used to seeing.

Bridlington Coach poster North Western Coaches

They’re produced by northern coach companies to start with.

Yellow coaches map poster

Almost all the posters that I like and which get sold at auction and on eBay are, it’s worth noting, for more southerly companies.

Harry Stevens vintage east anglia coach poster 1950s

Now I have a theory about this – which has to remain a theory for the moment because I can’t face the prospect of researching the histories of various bus companies and their takeovers.  I think that the good quality coach posters are an aberration rather than the norm, because they were all the work of one bus company, and that’s Tillings.

They were a huge conglomerate, who ran a vast number of local bus and coach companies in the years before and after the Second World War.  (Can I just say that I’ve had to look up several bus history pages in order to make that statement, including one which invited me to listen to a man singing a song about Eastern Counties buses, so I’m already well out of my comfort zone here).  The posters I like – so the Paddens and the Stevens and so on – are, I am pretty sure, all produced for Tillings companies.

Lovely Royal Blue Daphne Padden coach poster

So it’s not that coach posters tend to be good design.  It’s Tillings’ coach posters that were good.  I like to imagine them being commissioned by some unknown coach guru, equivalent to Frank Pick at LT, or Jack Beddington at Shell, but who has, sadly, disappeared from history.

Meanwhile, in other, Northern, coach companies, the same standards of taste were not being applied.

594

All of which proves, once again, that we have to apply a lot of critical thought to the posters that we’re presented with in archives (and, frankly, by blogs like this).  They are sifted and sifted again: by what happens to survive, by what people decide is worth keeping, by what gets photographed and digitised, and by what ‘curators’ like me decide to show.  But that isn’t the whole picture, by quite a long chalk, and whenever something marginalised like this comes up, we should pay close attention.

Oh, and while I’ve been writing this blog post today, the auction has been and gone.  So I can now tell you that the posters fetched, £320, well over the estimate of £150-200.  Which also goes to show that taste is a very variable thing.

Enquire promptly

We’ve hardly recovered from Christmas here, but nonetheless, the auction year is already gearing up, beginning with the GCR auction on February 7th.

There are posters.  Quite a lot of posters.

A BR(W) double royal poster, SOMERSET, by Wootton British railways
Wootton, 1952, est. £150-300

A rather large number of them are of this ilk; pretty post-war depictions of landscapes and towns courtesy of British Railways.

A BR(S) double royal poster, SALISBURY, Charles I, visit 1651 British Railways
Claude Buckle, 1952, est. £100-200.

Although I do quite like the way it equates history with a bad pong.  That’s the visit of Charles I, by the way.

I do have one gripe about the auction, though, which is that not very much effort has been put into ascribing dates, or even artists to the posters.  Take the Salisbury smell, above.  That’s down in the catalogue as being Anonymous, but it took me all of two minutes on Google to discover the date, and that it’s by Claude Buckle.  A piece of information you’d think might increase its value, and hence the auctioneer’s commission.  And all of the dates on here are ones that I have found, not them.  Poor show.

But I mustn’t grumble too much.  For a change,  there are actually a few nifty bits of graphic design in amongst the conventional pretties.  This example is actually pre-war.

An LNER double royal poster, LOST PROPERTY, ENQUIRE PROMPTLY, by Sav,
Sav, est. £80-120

I’d like to think that the Sav is short for Savignac, but as I can find another, 1946, railway poster with the same signature but not of anything like the same quality, I am inclined to suspect not.

This next, while good design, is probably a bit too effective for most people’s taste.

A BR(M) Safety awareness poster, NO, showing a skull between wagon buffers
Anonymous, est. £80-120

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a feeling that I used to know who that poster was by, and I think it’s Pat Keely, while the internet is hinting that it might be by Leonard Cusden.  But if anyone out there knows better, please do say.

This Hans Unger is considerably cheerier, and a great deal more desirable.

A BR double royal poster, GO MID-WEEK BY TRAIN, by Hans Unger
Hans Unger, 1962,  est. £50-80

I have just been to that London by train; this is how you may imagine me travelling.  Including the hat.

While this is rather good of its kind too.

A BR(M) quad royal poster, LANCASHIRE COAST, (anon), a montage of coastal views between Southport and Morecambe
Anonymous, 1957, est. £80-120.

As has been the case with the last few railway auctions I’ve looked at, there are also a handful of World War Two posters included, of which this is my favourite.

A double royal poster, JOIN THE WRENS and Free A Man For The Fleet
Anonymous, est. £150-300.

It looks a bit like a Beverley Pick, although I have some nagging memory that either Henrion or Zero did a lot of the Wrens advertising at the time.  Still, it’s a World War Two poster, so the chances are that we’ll never know for sure.

And finally, a conundrum, in the form of an entirely new (to me) poster for Ramsgate.

A BR(S) double royal poster, RAMSGATE British Railways
Anonymous, 1961, est. £80-120.

Surely this has to be Chapter Four of Alan Durman’s Ramsgate romance, with the baby all grown up and playing.  And Mrs Ramsgate has bought herself a new swimsuit at last.

Tantalisingly, the NRM don’t give an artist for their copy of the poster, but the date is 1961, two years after Durman’s couple were holding their baby up in the surf.  How can it be anything else?

And even if it isn’t, it’s still a bargain at that estimate.  What are you waiting for?

See London

Onwards and upwards then, onwards and upwards.   Which today means London Transport Auctions, whose next auction is on November 1st.

As ever, along with the opportunity to buy a conductor’s hat or the radiator grille from a Routemaster, there are also a fair number of posters, some of them being rather good.  Really rather good – I would quite happily buy any or all of the posters on today’s blog, the only exception being the one we already own.  So this is going to be a relatively straightforward scoot through what’s taken my fancy, with the posters being allowed to speak for themselves.  For a change.

As I’ve been mentioning John Bainbridge quite recently, shall we start with him?

Original 1953 London Transport double-royal POSTER 'Buckingham Palace' by John Bainbridge (1919- 1978) who designed posters for LT from 1953-1957.
John Bainbridge, 1953, est. £75-90

Original 1956 London Transport double-royal POSTER 'Epping Forest' (Dick Turpin) by John Bainbridge (1919-1978) who designed posters for LT from 1953- 1957.
John Bainbridge, 1956, est. £40-60

And look, we have not only dates but proper estimates too from these lovely people.  Although the estimates, even allowing for some edge wear, do seem quite conservative, so it will be interesting to see what these actually go for.  I’m less likely to live with a royalist guardsman, but I’d happily pay £60 for Dick Turpin any day.

There are a couple more posters from the same year as the second Bainbridge, both excellent, which makes me wonder if someone went on a buying spree that year, and the results have just emerged from the attic.

Original 1956 London Transport double-royal POSTER 'The Tower' by Hans Unger (1915-1975)
Hans Unger, 1956, est. £75-100

Original 1956 London Transport double-royal POSTER 'Visitor's London' by Frederic Henri Kay Henrion (1914-1990) who designed posters for LT from 1942-1956.
F H K Henrion, 1956, est. £75-100

I have, briefly, written about this Henrion series before, but they deserve some more attention really, for being both insane and at the same time very, very ahead of their time.  But now is not the moment.

And that’s not the end of the 1950s classics either; there are also these two to take into consideration.

http://vintageposterblog.com/2010/09/17/ahead-of-his-time/#.VFEX_4d3agQ
Victor Galbraith, 1959, est. £75-100

 Original 1953 London T ransport double-royal POS TER from Coronation Y ear 'Kensington Palace' by Sheila Robinson (1925- 1987) who designed posters for L T 1951-53.
Sheila Robinson, 1953, est. £70-90

Or if you fancy something smaller, there is this Harry Stevens bus poster for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Original 1959 London Transport POSTER 'Lord Mayor's Show' by Harry Stevens (1919-2008)
Harry Stevens, 1959, est. £50-100

On a price per square inch value (I’m estimating here, I haven’t actually worked it out) I don’t think that Stevens is worth that much more than Unger – or indeed than most of the posters I’ve already mentioned above.  But, as ever, I am quite prepared to be proved wrong.

Now I do tend to prefer post-war graphics but I’m not leaving out the earlier posters from the sale, it’s just that there really are very few of them in comparison.  There are one or two wartime ones, of which this Bruce Angrave blackout poster is probably my favourite.

Original 1942 WW2 London Transport POSTER 'In the Blackout.....make sure it is the platform side' by Bruce Angrave (1914-1983)
Bruce Angrave, 1942, est. £75-125.

Plus there is also this rather lovely little 1938 bus poster, but I’m sure I like it because it’s not so much of the thirties as pointing the way forward to the Festival of Britain styles of the early fifties.

Original 1938 London Transport POSTER 'A.A.A. Championships, White City' (Amateur Athletics) by Harry Blacker (1910-1999) who designed posters for London Transport in 1938/39.
Harry Blacker, 1938, est. £75-125

Apparently after being a designer before the war, Blacker gained fame in the 1960s as a cartoonist, particularly for the Jewish Chronicle.  But he did a number of posters, so I will keep an eye out for him.

Meanwhile, these were issued in the early 50s, but aesthetically are a product of the decade before.

Pair of original 1951 London Transport POSTERS 'Men Conductors Wanted' & 'Women Conductors Wanted' featuring an illustration of a speeding double- deck bus with a conductor hanging on to the platform pole. By an unknown artist.
Anon, 1951, est. £60-75

And obviously, you need two, because no man would become a bus conductor if the poster were addressed to women, or vice versa, would they.

There are, as ever, more posters, so do go over and have a look at their catalogue.  Meanwhile, I will be back next week with the Christies auction, and, possibly, some more thoughts too.

 

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.