The Hound of the Poster-Bills

For Sherlock Holmes, the essential clue was the dog which did not bark.  In the case of this blog, the attentive observer might have noticed that not every auction gets a mention on here.

Studio Seven vintage British railways poster 1957 dog tickets
Studio Seven, 1957, for sale at Onslows est. £500-600

Sometimes this is simply because I can’t think of a thing to say about them; sometimes, however, there is a motive.  Which is usually that there are some posters that we want to buy up for sale and I’d rather not be pushing up the prices by broadcasting their desirability all over the internet.  Sorry about that.

Hence my stony silence about the most recent Van Sabben auction on November 12th.  While this was mostly the usual cornucopia of foreign posters and Dick Bruna (which is of course allowed, they are Dutch after all), in amongst that were a handful of interesting British posters, with the added bonus that, being sold abroad, they might actually be affordable.

Prize exhibit was this, which is yet another example of posters that I have fallen in love with as a result of blogging about them.

F H K Henrion big rabbit vintage World War Two Home Front poster

I’m slightly concerned that the ickle fluffy bunny being presented as food may turn Small Crownfolio vegetarian if we get it framed, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Even better, though, it wasn’t a single lot.  Along with it (and not illustrated on their website) came this classic too.

Lewitt HIm vintage world war two propaganda poster shanks pony

And as if that was not enough, there was an Ashley Havinden too, albeit with slightly less wall appeal.

Henrion death off the road vintage road safety poster 1950s

Once we’d decided to buy that, it only seemed sensible to put a couple of other bids in too.  With the result that we now also own this Reginald Mount, which I think is just post-war.

REginald Mount vintage propaganda poster waste paper builds houses CoI

That also wasn’t alone, but came with this related Mount/Evans.

Mount Evans vintage waste paper salvage poster propagandas world war two

Along with a third that I’ve never seen before but rather like.

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

Oddly, this lot cost us more than the Henrion/Lewitt-Him triple bill, which is a bit strange if you ask me.

Now you might think it a bit stranger that this Unger GPO poster, however stylish, was the most expensive lot of all, especially as it is only 10″ x 15″.

Hans Unger vintage GPO pack parcels carefully poster 1949

But then just look at what it came with.

Lewitt Him vintage post early world war two GPO poster 1948

Lend a Hand on the Land Eileen Evans World War Two propaganda poster

Harella henrion vintage post war fashion poster

Play safe vintage ROSPA safety poster

The total bill was a bit eye-watering but the chance to get posters as good as these doesn’t come up very often.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself, even if we have to buy a slightly cheaper house as a result.

Disclaimer: Mr Crownfolio pointed out that a reader of this blog might think that we were over-monied plutocrats just buying posters hither and thither because we can.  This is, however, not the case.  We don’t own yachts, right now we don’t even own a single house never mind one in every resort.  We don’t even go out to dinner that much.  We just buy posters.

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Surf, psychosis and Audrey Hepburn

Remember I asked last week where all the traditional railway posters have gone?  Well now I know the answer: they’re all in the forthcoming Onslows Sale.

Ronald Lampitt (1906-1988) St. Michael's Mount, original poster printed for BR(WR) by British Colour Printing c.1948
Ronald Lampitt, 1948, est. £500-600

There’s no shortage of them yet, that’s for certain.  In fact, in some wierd inversion of the natural order of the world, Onslows are currently offering a much more traditional set of posters than Sotherans.  Strange, and yet true.

Jack Merriott (1901-1968) Newquay, original poster printed for BR(WR) by Waterlow c.1954
Jack Merriott, 1954, est. £800-1,000

There are hundreds of them, really, please do go and see for yourself.  In fact I’d quite like it if you did as there are almost certainly some goodies which have passed me by.

All of which is not to say that there aren’t some other kinds of gems in there as well.  My pick of the sale has to be this, which is fabulous and I think underpriced.

F K H Henrion (1914-1990) Changing the Guard, original poster printed for London Transport by John Swain 1956
F H K Henrion, 1956, est. £100-150

But I’m more than happy to point you at this because we already have a copy and very nice it looks in its frame too.  As the estate agent said, it’s the foreshadowing of Pop Art in 1956, while at the same time insane genius at work.  Go on, you know you want to.

I also have no designs on these two James Fittons, because we’ve bought quite a bit of his work over the last year – by quite a bit I mean two or three posters, and we don’t have the wall space for even those.  I’m a bit less keen on the blackout poster; and while the clown is lovely, I suspect that it is lovely enough to fetch quite a high price too.

James Fitton (1899-1992) Inside its bright outside its dark, original poster printed for London Transport by Waterlow 1941
James Fitton, 1941, est. £200-300

James Fitton (1899-1992) Its safer by London Underground, (Clown on Tight rope) original poster (without title) printed for LT by Baynard 1937 - 102 x 63 cm
James Fitton, 1937, est. £400-600

Now I do rather want this Royston Cooper, although probably not at that price.

Royston Cooper Hastings & St Leonards, original silk screen poster printed for BR(SR) by Planet
Royston Cooper, est. £250-300

Hastings never looked so Continental.  It’s not alone either; there’s a fair amount more late 1950s early 1960s travel posterage  in there alongside the traditional stuff.

Anon Be Budget-wise ! Buy a Shopping Ticket to London, original poster printed for BR(SR)
Anonymous, est. £100-120

(Audrey Hepburn on a cut=price day return if you ask me.)

John Cort Country Afternoon Tickets, original poster printed for BR(SR)
John Cort, est. £100-120

Not only railway posters but also coach travel too.

Studio Seven Britain by Motor Coach, original poster printed by Waterlow -
Studio Seven, est. £40-60

I can’t work out whether the Morphets Sale is still feeding through into the rest of the market, or the rest of the market has woken up to the potential of this kind of design.  Either way, I rather like it.

The kitschier side of the 1950s is also represented here, and at prices only slightly lower than you might find at Sotherans too.

Alan Durman (1905-1963) Herne Bay on the Kent Coast, original poster printed for BR(SR) by Baynard 1962
Alan Durman, 1962, est. £600-700

I will be watching this kind of poster closely to see what they actually make.  I’m not entirely sure I approve of the trend here – are these posters actually that much better than the ones above them –  but that’s a thought for working out on another day in another post.

Although this Bromfield does get the Quad Royal seal of approval, even if it does look as though she’s standing in front of a giant bee.

Bromfield So near to the sea, original poster printed for BR(SR)
Bromfield, est. £160-180.

And it’s cheaper too.

There’s plenty more in this catalogue too, not least the World War Two posters, but this post has gone on for quite long enough already.  So I’ll deal with the rest of it next week, which gives you plenty of point me at all the interesting posters that I’ve missed too.  Then I’ll also explain why we’re probably not going to be buying anything from Onslows this time round (it involves a rabbit and pony, that’s all I’m saying for now).

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In touch with the everyday life of the nation

As promised last week, another look at Sotherans and their new-found love of posters which I had hitherto never thought of as valuable, never mind the preserve of a Mayfair dealer,  But I am always willing to learn.

What’s most interesting about the latest crop of posters that they’ve put up on their website is that there are a whole slew of GPO posters in there.  This, by Donald Smith has to be my absolute favourite.

Donald Smith Vintage GPO poster Post Office Savings Bank

So much so that I almost thought about paying the £125 that they want for it.  But didn’t, you’ll be relieved to hear.

I’ve mentioned my utter lack of knowledge about Donald Smith before (when a few of his posters, including the one above, turned up in the 1962 Poster Annual. Unfortunately nothing has turned up to change that since then, so I still can’t tell you the first thing about him except that he made very good posters indeed.

In the same sort of vein are a Stan Krol and Harry Stevens.

Stan Krol vintage gpo poster post office savings bank

Harry Stevens Vintage GPO POster Post office savings bank knight

There’s a weird lack of consistency in the dimensions of these posters which is a bit puzzling, as they must have been made for a whole range of different displays.

Just to add further variety, there are also a couple of what I think are GPO schools posters, although I’ve never seen them before, both proudly promoting the Post Office’s role as a promotor of national unity, ‘in touch with the everyday life of the nation’.  Which is probably something which should have been thought about a bit more before so many of them were closed down.

Walter Hoyle Harlow New Town GPO schools poster

Norman Jacques vintage GPO poster schools

The sheer joyous optimism about new town life in Harlow in the Walter Hoyle poster at the top is rather wonderful, while the Norman Jacques below more falls under alright if you like that sort of thing.  Neither of them, though, are ever going to be worth £145 in my book.  Nor is this other Hoyle going to persuade me to part with £225 either.

Walter Hoyle GPO savings poster 4 nations

But the griping about the prices is really a bit incidental.  What’s odd (and if I’m honest a bit unnerving) is that this kind of poster has suddenly found its way into the mainstream.  I am bemused, I really am.

Further bemusement is also caused by finding this anonymous CoI poster in there too.

CoI vintage civil defence poster post war

I’m guessing it’s early 1950s, but is there really a market for Cold War memorabilia?  This Beverley Pick is at least a bit less of a surprise.

Beverley Pick ATS vintage world war two propaganda poster

But what still confounds me most about all of this is how the usual fare of Cuneos and railway landscapes have almost completely vanished from the Sotherans roster.  To be sure, there are one or two in there, but not in the swarms there once were.  Instead, they’ve been replaced by, well, this kind of thing.  Posters I like and am interested in to be precise.  And I’m not sure I like that, I don’t think I’m ready for my tastes to become mainstream.  Quite apart from anything else, I’ll never be able to afford another poster again.

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Quite a Lot

Incoming at Crownfolio Towers has been the story this week.

Three times in the last couple of weeks a job lot of posters has come up on eBay and, as no one else seemed to want them very much, three times they’ve ended up as ours.  Net result, more posters than one household strictly needs (35 in total, if you must ask).

So we are now the go-to people for vintage dental hygiene,

Vintage 1950s dental hygiene poster Ministry of Health CoI HMSO

food hygiene posters

Vintage Food Hygiene posters Ministry of Health CoI

and 1960s road safety messages.

Dixon of Dock Green RoSPA cycling proficiency poster

Lucky old us.

Now, these kinds of lots are interesting for a whole heap of reasons, many of which I’ve gone over on here before.  They’re a window into sets of posters which might otherwise have disappeared entirely.  I can’t imagine there are too many collectors of posters about dustbin hygiene management, to start with.

Ministry of Health vintage 1950s dustbin hygiene poster CoI

Or supersized flies.

Guard food against flies vintage CoI Ministry of Health poster

Lots are also interesting because they tend to preserve bad posters along with the good, and quite a few of the posters we have bought are, if I’m honest, second-rate.  But then, if we’re just writing about what’s graphically appealing, is that a proper reflection of what really happened? To start with, we’re writing a story that’s going to change every time tastes alter.  Although some posters might never make it back into fashion.

Rabbit Teeth Matter vintage tooth care poster

If they were ever there in the first place.

What’s more, there’s quite often something to be learned from seeing a group of posters together, even if it’s just the taste of the person who collected them at the time.  These lots offer an insight into some of the less glamourous jobs the CoI were doing in the 1950s and 1960s.

CoI ministry of health vintage food hygiene poster

While the RoSPA posters do give a real sense of an entire campaign, probably at about the same sort of time.

Vintage ROSpa road safety poster 1960s

Vintage RoSPA road safety poster 1960s

Vintage RoSPA road safety poster 1960s

All of which is the intellectual justification, but an even bigger reason for buying job lots like these is the hope, never far from the mind of the collector, that lurking in the pile might be a hidden gem.  And we did get lucky this time; the dental health set included this Reginald Mount which I’ve never seen before.

REginald Mount tooth care poster for ministry of Health CoI 1950s

Which considering that the entire set only cost us 55p, really has to be a bargain.

I also quite like this RoSPA poster, even if it is a bit battered.

Vintage RoSPA road safety poster 1950s

But for us, lots have a particular compulsion.  This is because, once upon a few years ago, we bought a huge lot of posters from eBay, based only on a single shot of a pile of posters spread on someone’s floor. Admittedly that pile did seem to contain a Guinnes poster, two 1950s London Transport posters and quite a bit more, so we bet quite a lot of money on it, having both promised each other that there would be no recriminations if it turned out that we had spent a lot of money on a pile of rubbish.

Fortunately, it was worth every penny. Below are just a couple of the unexpected joys that came out of the package when it finally arrived.

Macfish of lovelyness by zero

Sheila Robinson poster as part of heap

There were plenty more too – most of the classics in our collection came from that one single purchase.

We’ll probably never get anything like that again. But even so, it’s still almost impossible to pass on a lot of posters when we see one, just in case.

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The New Wave

I thought I’d said pretty much everything I could say about Sotherans by now, in particular about the unlikelihood of being able to sell posters at such prices in a world where, thanks to the internet, everyone should agree on what a poster is worth.   But it seems that modern technology  has made precisely no difference at all to their business model, because this year they have once again produced a new catalogue, and the prices are just as jaw-dropping as they have ever been.

Anglesey Norman Wilkinson LMS Poster 1930
Norman Wilkinson, 1930, £1,995 – sold

So far, so not news.  But this set of posters is worth taking a look at, because it marks an interesting change in the focus of the company, and so perhaps also a movement in the market more generally.

It is true that they still begin with the traditional railway landscape/Terence Cuneo favourites that we have come to know, like this Somerset poster by Jack Merriott.

Jack Merriott Somerset British Railways vintage poster 1960
Jack Merriott, 1960, £1,500

I do also have to note that this Somerset British Railways Map is apparently £760, unbacked, mostly because we bought one for £16.99 on eBay a while back.

JP Sayers British Railways Somerset Map
J P Sayers, 1937, £765

And then sold it for £56 a few years later.  I thought we’d done well, but clearly not.

But there aren’t as many of these as you’d expect.  Very soon the catalogue shifts into an entirely different gear, one which might be called cheerful British kitsch.

Bexhill on Sea vintage british railways poster 1961
Anonymous,1961, £800

In fact a few pages in the catalogue look more like a romp through Quad Royal than an up-market poster sale.

Page from sotherans catalogue

There are some good posters in here – I did actually type great and then deleted it, because mostly they’re not.  They’re bright, they’re very 1950s, but what they are not is classic graphic design (although I might just have to make an exception for a this stick of rock).

Eastbourne vintage travel poster 1950 Bromfield British Railways
Bromfield, 1950, £685 – sold

What’s really interesting though is that almost all of them have sold, and for prices that they just wouldn’t reach anywhere else.

Southport, vintage British Railways travel poster 1965
Anonymous, 1965 (??), £485

The interest in this style is not entirely a new thing.  When I first started going to poster auctions in about 2002, Christies had just started selling these kinds of poster, and they were doing very well in the their auctions too.  But when Christies introduced their new £800 minimum lot price, this rather ruled them out.  Clearly though, as this catalogue shows, the demand for them hasn’t gone away.

R M Lander come to hastings by train vintage british railways poster 1962
Lander, 1962, £685 – sold

Sotherans could be accused of pushing it to the limit, mind you.  As I’ve mentioned before, these two Harry Stevens posters are not exactly rare.

Harry Stevens vintage London Transport poster Travel Enquiries
Harry Stevens, 1974, £85 – sold

HArry Stevens litter vintage 1974 London Transport poster
Harry Stevens, 1974, £85 – sold

In fact they have been swilling all over eBay for some time.  Right now you can buy a framed copy of the top poster for £21 should you wish, and a portrait version of the lower one for £23.  Which does make me wonder whether Sotheran’s buyers are too foppish and tweedy to have come across the internet at all.

But it goes further.  There are a slew of posters on there without much in the way of merit.

Birthday Savings vintage post office savings bank poster Rex Moreton 1960
Rex Moreton, 1960, £195 – sold

Happy and Carefree vintage Post office savings bank poster GPO 1960
Anonymous, c.1960, £125

They’ve sold too, when you’d struggle to get a tenner for them on eBay.  Really, who are these people? And how can I sell them some posters?

To be fair, there are also one or two nice GPO posters in there too, like this Eric Fraser.

Eric Fraser, vintage GPO poster, Neutron generator c1930-40
Eric Fraser, c.1930-40, £225

Along with one or two good LT ones too.

Peter Roberson London Museums vintage London Transport poster 1956
Peter Roberson, 1956, £500

Enid Marx vintage London Transport poster 1965 The Science Museum
Enid Marx, 1965, £500

Although this William Fenton has to be in the ‘stretching it to get a tenner on eBay’ category.

William Fenton dull bus vintage London Transport poster of dull buses
William Fenton, 1969, £250

While you’d have to pay me to take this one away.

Bus Stop Poster 1970
Anonymous, 1970, £55

Worth noting too is this Mount Evans, which has to be one of the better pieces of post war design in the whole catalogue.

Mount Evans Britain CoI poster 1967
Mount/Evans, 1967, £350

The style is modern rather than kitsch, but it still represents the same movement away from landscapey railway posters and towards something more interesting (at least if you’re me).

So what does it all mean?  My first guess would have been that the world is running out of railway posters and so dealers like Sotherans have been forced to diversify.  But in fact, it’s the more modern posters which have been selling for them, leaving more traditional fare like the Somerset posters still for sale.  So this must be what people, even the rareified breed who go to Sotherans want these days.  Which is probably worth noting, not least because it gives the rest of us a good chance to do some upselling from eBay.

Now, I would send you off to the Sotherans catalogue to take a look at what’s sold for yourself.  But literally while I was typing this post, they took that page down, although you can still see an online version of the print catalogue.  So I think that more of the posters than I have listed are sold, but I’m not able to check that any more.  They have, however, replaced it with a new set of posters for sale, including a very interesting set of GPO Savings posters. I’ll take a proper look at them (and their prices) soon, but if you want to take a peek before then, you can find them here.

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Service Please

I’ve been meaning to post these two small items for ages.  They came to us with the assorted collection of Daphne Padden design materials which we got earlier this year, but what with them not being flat and all, I’ve only just got round to photographing them.

They’re both designs for Marks and Spencers.  This first one was I think a working design.

Daphne Padden Yoghurt pot design for Marks and Spencer

Although the main image on the pot is printed, there’s a small piece of paper stuck on the back which says 5 ¼oz  (150g).  Perhaps it’s the start of metric weights requiring a small redesign.

The second is very much the finished article though.  It’s a tin, although I can’t say for certain what it ever had in inside, because all it says on the bottom is Marks and Spencers.  Most likely tea though.

Daphne Padden tin design for Marks and Spencers

I particularly love the way that some of the staff are looking out at us as they do their rounds.

Daphne Padden tin design for Marks and Spencers
The Marks and Spencer archive (which will be opening in a spanking new building in Leeds next year) must have tons more of this kind of thing.  Although the company has used some of it recently (if you go into its store cafes, there are large wall panels with a montage of old packaging images, but they’re all cropped and so a bit frustrating),

I think they could do more, like give some of their packaging the Sainsburys treatment.  I’d buy it, anyway.

And a final point, my local library is fantastic.  In the course of writing this, I thought I’d could do worse than look at the Marks In Time book that came out in 2009.  So I ordered it online.  Before I’d finished this piece, the email had come through saying that it was waiting for me whenever I wanted to come and get it.  Who needs Amazon when you’ve got libraries that good.

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