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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The Price of Everything

Today, a miscellany of stuff, mostly for sale.  And it’s a mixed bag of good, bad and ugly.  Shall we start with the latter?

This, um, rarely seen poster is being sold by an American auction house in an internet auction on Sunday.  Although I tell you this more as a warning than an invitation to buy.

British Railways British Transport Hotels 1978 Winterbreak poster

Truly, proof that the golden age of the railway poster was dead and buried by 1978.  Amazingly there is a bid on it too.

To cleanse your eyes after that, some lovely Daphne Padden.  Travel On Paper are selling this classic for what looks to me like a very reasonable dealer price of £275.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue coach poster 1957 fishermen and cat

Now I’m not sure what Daphne Padden is actually worth these days (and I know that I’m saying this from the persepective of someone who’s got quite a few of her posters, and am therefore not exactly an unbiased observer, but hey).  On one hand, other dealers are selling less good posters by Daphne Padden for £450+; on the other, we got our copy of the poster above at Morphets, last year, for just £65 and something else came with it, even if I can’t remember what.  So, what’s the actual value? I haven’t got a clue. Anyway, Travel on Paper are at MidCentury Modern in Dulwich on Sunday 20th if you want to look at some of their posters or just say hello.

Over on eBay it’s the same story, posters of varying quality at seemingly random prices.  Shall we start with cheap, but rightfully so.

Ebay 1950s National Savings Bank poster Casual Earner Regular Saver

It’s a National Savings Bank Poster, but I can’t tell you any more than is on the listing I’m afraid.

While this railway poster, with a similar womens’ magazine styling to its illustration, has a starting bid of $210.

British Railways Southern Region Folkstone poster 1959

 

But it is being sold by a dealer, PosterConnection, so perhaps the price isn’t so surprising.

Meeting them somewhere in the middle is this H M Bateman Save Fuel poster which seems very reasonable at £48 Buy It Now, especially considering it’s 20″ x 30″.

H M Bateman don't be fuelish WW2 propaganda poster

The more I think about that, the more I think it is a bargain; the better known examples of these can go for £200 or more at auction.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The seller also has this ATS poster, from a series which has been mentioned on here before, and I believe is by Beverley Pick.

Beverley Pick World War TWo ATS propaganda poster

This is currently on a £68 Buy It Now, which is rather more like what it would fetch at auction, but still not unreasonable.

Finally in this heap of odds and ends, a couple of follow-ups to previous posts.  When I wrote about John Burningham the other day, I couldn’t find an image of his cats in a boat coach poster that I’d liked so much at the exhibition.  But Liz Dobson very kindly sent me a photo.

John Burningham boatload of cats coach travel poster lovely

I’ll add it to the post as well, but I thought I’d show you here too as it’s so great.  And if you do happen to have a spare one…

And following on from my musings about airline posters, Martin Steenson of Books & Things pointed me at this Lewitt-Him AOA poster, which he currently has for sale.

Lewitt Him AOA poster vintage travel

While it doesn’t have the expansive blue skies or vapour trails of their other posters, I still think this has a strong connection to the visual language of the war in the air.  Because it looks to me like nothing so much as a wartime aircraft recognition poster.

World War Two aircraft recognition poster

Were there other areas where the visual memory of the war spilled out of the national subconscious and into peace time like this?  Surely there must have been: the war was too all-encompassing to be easily forgotten, however hard people wanted to try.

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Blue Sky Thinking

I could really do with a good auction now.  Even though we don’t have the wall space for anything else and probably would end up buying next to nothing, I’d still enjoy the excitement.  So, after Swann Galleries emailed to say that they had a wonderful set of London Transport posters in their forthcoming auctions, I did get my hopes up a bit.

And it is true, they do have some great and rare London Transport posters coming up.  It’s just that they are all too early for my taste (and therefore also too expensive for my means as well).

Montague Black, 2026 vintage London transport poster 1926

Jean Dupas fetches high prices, but it’s all a bit too much out of the Art Deco style manual for me.

Jean Dupas Transport of joy Vintage London Transport poster 1933
Jean Dupas, 1933, est. $2,000-3,000

Quite a few of them are tram posters too, and for some reason I’ve never really fallen in love with a tram poster, not even one for a Pullman tram.

Shop early by tram vintage travel poster Blair 1929
Rene Blair, 1929, $800-1,200

Interestingly, these are a different format to the mainstream of London Transport posters – double crown rather than double royal – and were presumable displayed somewhere else.  But where?  On trams, or on their stops? And why wee they different?  Can anyone enlighten me?

mcKnight Kauffer vintage London Transport theatre poster 1930
McKnight Kauffer, 1930, est. $800-1,200

The McKnight Kauffer above is a classic, but not even that can tempt me.  Only this single Dora Batty has a small attraction for the Crownfolio wallet.

Dora Batty from the country to the heart of town vintage london transport poster 1925
Dora Batty, 1925, est. $1,200-1,800

Mainly because I would like to think of myself as dashing chic-ly into London every so often.  Of course it doesn’t happen, I don’t look like that and even if I did try it would take a whole lot longer than half an hour.  Where can she live that is so bucolic and yet so close? Aylesbury? Guildford? We may never know.

There are plenty more posters along these lines if that’s what you want, but little else to report, apart from one nice David Klein at an even higher price than before.

David Klein New York vintage airline poster TWA 1960

Along with these two airline posters, from the Czech Republic and Australia respectively.

Schlosser CZECHOSLOVAK AIRLINES / IT'S O.K. WITH CSA. Circa 1946. vintage travel poster
Schlosser, 1946, est. $800-1,200

RONALD CLAYTON SKATE (1913-1990) ANA / COVERS AUSTRALIA / COAST TO COAST. Circa 1955.  Vintage travel poster
Ronald Clayton Skate, 1955, est. $800-1,200

Why I find them interesting is that both remind me of the Lewitt Him and Abram Games airline designs of a similar period, and together they represent what seems to be an international visual language of air travel just after the war.  These infinite blue skies are the very newest thing, am image of  how the airlines have made the whole world available to you, at least if you have enough money.

Abram Games BOAC poster 1949
Abram Games, 1949

It’s easy to forget just how exciting and how modern air travel would have been then.  Very few people would ever have seen such open skies before, so of course they became a symbol of the glamour and speed that the new airlines could provide.

Lewitt Him, vintage airline travel poster 1948 Poster Connection
Lewitt Him, 1949

Vintage Lewitt Him BOAC poster 1948
Lewitt Him, 1949.

Except there may be a bit more to it than that.  Because some people had seen those skies before, and a few more people had seen the trails that aircraft could leave too.  The ANA poster at the top reminds me very much of Paul Nash’s painting, The Battle of Britain.

Paul Nash Battle of Britain 1944 IWM good art I thank you

So while these blue skies are on one hand a simple representation of brand new freedoms, I think there is also a bit more meaning within them.  These posters are rewriting some of the most potent imagery of the war, turning it from terrifying to exciting.  There is no need to fear the trails that these aircraft leave, or the wide blue skies in which they fly, not any more.

Battle of the Bulge 1944 vapour trails
Battle of the Bulge, 1944

So these posters are not only being modern, they are also reminding the viewer that this new world has been built out of the conflict that came before.  Swords are forged into ploughshares and the war in the air has brought us intercontinental jets.

Strube vintage world war two RAF poster

 

Henrion BOAC vintage travel poster 1947 Swann
Henrion, 1947.

We might find it hard to make the connection now, but at the time the link must have been very obvious.

Vapour trails from Battle of Britain 1940
Battle of Britain, 1940

Which means that the reassurance and the rewriting must have been very necessary too.

The Few vintage World War Two propaganda poster

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