Is Your Letterbox Efficient?

I was just thinking that it had all gone very quiet on the auction front, when what should come along but a whole auction full of posters at Bloomsbury.

It’s an interesting hotch-potch with almost every form of poster you can think of represented in the mix.  So there’s foreign posters and railway posters.

PIPER, Raymond NORFOLK BROADS railway poster
Raymond Piper, est. £200-400

Alongside ski posters and London Transport posters.

FITTON, James (1899-1982) CIRCUS, London Underground lithograph in colours, 1937 London Transport poster
James Fitton, 1937, est. £200-300

UNGER, Hans (1915 - 1975) PIMLICO, London Underground offset lithograph in colours, 1972 poster
Hans Unger, 1972, est. £200-300

I’ve never seen that Unger before, although it’s not, in my book, one of his best.  The pricing is a bit, well, interesting as I can’t see that the Unger and the Fitton are in any way comparable in quality, but according to the estimates, they are.

In addtion, there are plenty of poster types that have been mentioned on here before, such as David Klein posters and aeroplane posters with lots of blue skies in them.

Note the increasing prices for David Klein; had I had the foresight and money to buy some a few years ago, I would be thoroughly quids in.  But I didn’t, and anyway, I would only have wanted to keep them.

KLEIN David (1918-2005) SAN FRANCISCO, Fly TWA offset lithograph in colours, c.1958, poster
David Klein, 1958, est. £1,400-1,800

LEWITT-HIM LEWITT (1907-1991)HIM (1900 - ) AOA USA lithograph in colours, 1948 poster
Lewitt-Hi, 1948, est. £150-250.

Another poster that I keep mentioning on here is this McKnight Kauffer from 1938.

KAUFFER, Edward McKnight ARP lithograph in colours, 1938,
McKnight Kauffer, 1938, est. £140-180

As ever, it turns up with the matching Pat Keely.

KEELY, Pat Cokayne (?-1970) ARP lithograph in colours, 1938 poster
Pat Keely, 1938, est. £140-180

My theory about this – and I have said this before but I think it’s worth repeating – is that these posters come up so often because they were deliberately saved.  They were, I believe,  the first propaganda posters issued by the government in advance of World War Two.  So they were a novelty, and also a harbinger of a great event that I am sure quite a lot of people could see coming.  So, if the chance arose, they saved them for posterity, or the grandchildren, or for all the other reasons that make people keep otherwise insignificant pieces of paper.

Move forward two years and the whole British population is drowning in slogans and propaganda, coming at them from newspapers, leaflets and the radio, as well as from posters.  So the last thing they want to do is keep one as a reminder.  In any case, there are so many, which one to choose?  So the latter posters survive in dribs and drabs, mostly saved by accident.  But these first ones, people knew they were important and they kept them.

Fortunately, not everything in the auction is something seen before.  This, for example, has to be one of the least obvious posters ever.

ANONYMOUS BETTER BROWN THAN LILY WHITE offsetlithograph in colours, c.1960ANONYMOUS BETTER BROWN THAN LILY WHITE offsetlithograph in colours, c.1960 poster
Anonymous, c. 1960, est. £200-400

Artist not known, but more than that I have no idea what it is on about either.  Nor, it appears, does Bloomsbury.  Any ideas anyone?

Most exciting, for me at least, are these.

ECKERSLEY, Tom (1914-1997) POST EARLY. GPO lithograph in colours,  poster
Tom Eckersley, est. £150-200

This is just one of five, yes count ’em, five sets of GPO posters, each with ten posters in them.  Including, in this lot, a reminder of what a good designer Harry Stevens is at his best.

STEVENS, Harry (1919-2008) BY AIR MAIL. GPO lithograph in colours, 1951,  poster
Harry Stevens, 1951, est. £150-200

I would bid on them, but judging from our last experience with the Dorrit Dekk lots, these will go for a lot more than the estimates.

AITCHISON YOUR LETTERBOX…GPO lithograph in colours poster
Aitchison, est. £150-200 

And I’m not surprised.  This values them at £15-20 a poster; I reckon they’d go for more than that on eBay.  Although I don’t, to be fair, know what the other posters are, they may all be dogs of the first order.

BROMFIELD FOREIGN LETTER. GPO lithograph in colours, 1951 poster
Bromfield, 1951, est. £150-200

We’ve emailed Bloomsbury to ask what they are, and when we get an answer, I’ll let you know.


Today’s post is crowdsourcing, Quad Royal style, because lots of very kind people have been sending me links to posters on sale or sold recently.  So the least I can do, of course, is share them.

The first, and following on nicely from my last post, is this Daphne Padden poster for British Railways, which is up for sale in America via eBay.

Vintage Daphne Padden British Railways poster Lancashire Blackpool tower.

It’s a great poster, and one that I have never ever seen before and can’t find much trace of either, apart from the fact that one sold in the Midlands about three years ago.  Despite all that, and an attempt at a frame, the price seems a bit steep to me at £300+ for a starting bid.  But thank you to Mike Jacob for putting that my way nonetheless.

Also forthcoming, and emailed to me by Mr Crownfolio upstairs, is a Christies poster sale.  But don’t get too excited, this is an Olympic special, and there are very few Olympic posters I can get enthusiastic about, with this Richard Beck from 1956 perhaps the only exception.

Richard Beck 1956 Olympic poster
Richard Beck, 1956, est £800-1,200

And I definitely don’t want to buy an Olympic torch (there are a surprising number on offer too).  Given that, there isn’t a great deal else to report from the catalogue.  All I can point you towards are a handful of McKnight Kauffer’s.

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954)  EARLS COURT MOTOR SHOW  1937
McKnight Kauffer, 1937. est. £700-900

The one below has to be my favourite, although this is less a result of the image than the estimate.

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954)  ENO'S "FRUIT SALT"  lithograph in colours, 1925,
McKnight Kauffer, 1925, est. £1,200 – 1,800

We got another one of this series on eBay about eighteen months ago, only for a small fraction of what Christies thinks it is worth, an experience which never fails to please me.  And it’s a nicer image, to boot.

There is also a classic Abram Games.

Abram Games (1914-1996)  JOIN THE ATS  lithograph in colours, 1941
Abram Games, 1941, est. £2,000 – 3,000

Along with this Peter Roberson, which I am guessing only slips through Christies minimum lot requirements thanks to the Festival of Britain interest.

Peter Roberson (1907-1989)  VISITOR'S LONDON, FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN  lithograph in colours, 1950
Peter Roberson, 1950, est. £1,200 – 1,600

My favourite British poster is probably this obscure and slightly pallid Victor Pasmore.

Victor Pasmore (1908-1998)  LONDON GROUP  lithograph in colours, 1948
Victor Pasmore, 1948, est. £600 – 800

Note the use of British in the sentence above.  Because once again, the local talent is having to compete for my attention with a small but lovely set of David Klein posters.

David Klein (1918-2005)  MIAMI, FLY TWA  offset lithograph in colours, c.1960
David Klein, 1960, est. £800 – 1,200

David Klein (1918-2005)  LOS ANGELES, FLY TWA  offset lithograph in colours, c.1958
David Klein, 1958, est. £800 – 1,200

David Klein san fransciso 1958
David Klein, 1958, est. £800 – 1,200 

That first one in particular is fabulous, if a touch unaffordable.

The bad news is not just the small selection of posters I want to look at either.  As far as I can tell from Christies’ Calendar, this will be their only poster sale this spring.  And eBay’s gone into the doldrums too.  There’s nothing left for it, I may have to start trawling the railwayana catalogues to keep my hopes up.

There are still a few glimmerings in the provincial auction scene as well, although I might have to get my act together a bit in reporting them to you.  James Manning pointed out that Dreweatts have been selling more Percy Drake Brookshaws in a recent sale.

Now I say more because one of my first ever posts on here was about some of his posters being sold at the same auction house.  Both then and now they seem to have come from the artist’s family, who have clearly been disposing of what they have in dribs and drabs.  And also saving the best stuff until last.

A London Underground advertising poster, 'While Others Wait - A Season [Ticket] / Takes You Through', 1928, by Percy Drake Brookshaw (1907-93)

What’s most amusing about these lots is the discrepancy between the estimates and the results.  I would have been very happy to get the poster above for the £50-60 that Dreweatt’s estimated.  Sadly it went for £550.  Although perhaps not sadly, given that I missed the sale.

That wasn’t a freak occurrence either, all the posters reached similarly high prices.  The boat race poster below was estimated at £100-150, but sold for almost ten times that, £1,100.

A London Underground advertising poster, for the University Boat Race, 'Saturday March 31st - 9.45 a.m. / Nearest Stations: Putney Bridge, Hammersmith / Ravenscourt P[ar]k, Turnham Green & Chiswick P[ar]k', 1928, by Percy Drake Brookshaw

While this classic would have been the bargain of the century at its £60-80 estimate.

A London Underground advertising poster, for the University boat race, 1937, by Percy Drake Brookshaw

But it too went for £1,100.

I swear I will never ever fully understand the poster market.  Prices like that make me think that the internet is doing its job in flattening out the market, as anyone with an interest and a tiny bit of understanding of searches on websites can find almost any lot up for sale and bid on it.  But why doesn’t that work with eBay then?  Why can we buy a McKnight Kauffer on there for a tenth of its Christies price?  I think we might need to write a specialist piece of poster market theory, so if there is an economist in the house, can they get in touch?  And for anyone else, please do keep sending the auction links and anything else that takes your fancy, they’re very much appreciated.


Auction fever (or not)

The next Christies poster sale is upon us; the lots are online, the printed catalogue is sitting on my desk.  But I’ve been avoiding writing about it for the last few days, mainly because I can’t work up much enthusiasm for what’s on offer.

This, if I am pushed, is probably the best of the bunch.  But it’s American, so it doesn’t really count, even if it is by Herbert Bayer.

Herbert Bayer Eggs vintage American wartime poster
Herbert Bayer, c.1940, est £700-900

The next best offerings are also American, a selection of TWA travel posters by David Klein.

David Klein travel poster Christies Auction
David Klein, c.1958, est. £1,000-1,500

David Klein vintage TWA travel poster
David Klein, c.1960, £1,500-2,000

I’ve pondered the excellence of these before, because they have a quality which no British poster of that era really manages, an intense optimism about modernity, not simply as an ideal to be aimed for (which is much more the British mindset) but as something experienced in the present moment.  They are glad to be alive in this modern world and the joy is infectious.

David Klein vintage TWA poster
David Klein, c.1960, est. £700-900

In the realms of things which I really should be contemplating, there is a Fougasse I haven’t seen before.

Fougasse vintage WW2 propaganda poster salvage
Fougasse, 1942, est. £600-800

Along with an interesting and early McKnight Kauffer.

McKnight Kauffer Cornwall vintage Great Western poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1933, est. £800-1,200

And then two Landers which are not new but now come with quite eyewatering estimates.

Lander Paignton vintage railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800

Another Lander Paignton railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800
I’m intrigued by these posters; they’re not necessarily the best of his work but they come up time and again at auction, unlike anything else he did.  It could be that there are just more of them about, or it may be a self-perpetuating phenomenon: because people have seen them fetch good prices before, that brings more out of the woodwork.  But he did do more interesting stuff, and I’ll post a few of our (rather battered) examples one of these days.

Then there is also this.

Daphne Padden vintage railway poster Hastings and St Leonards
Daphne Padden, £1,00-1,500

Now it is by Daphne Padden, because it’s signed Daphne Padden, even if at first glance it looks much like her father’s style of work.  Judging by  the style of clothing, it must be from the very start of 1950s, so is probably one of her very earliest posters.  Which makes it interesting, but I can’t say I particularly like it.  Although the estimate suggests that Christies think that a large number of people will be expensively intersted in it.

There are other mildly interesting lots; a few from London Transport, of which my favourite is this Bawden.

Edward Bawden 1936 Vintage London transport poster Kew Gardens
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £600-800

As ever, there are also the usual slew of railway posters including lots of pretty landscapes and detailed pictures of trains.  This one does at least get a prize for being, er, different.

Flying Scotsman Greiwurth poster 1928
Greiwurth, 1928, est. £3,000-5,000

Oh to live in the simpler age before Freud thought of phallic symbolism.

Overall, though, the excitement just isn’t there.  Really I think that – with the odd exception when a great collection comes up for sale – Christies’ sales just aren’t for me any more.  The higher minimum lot value means that so much of what I’m interested in – the Royston Coopers and Tom Eckersleys – just don’t appear there any more.  But these posters also not turning up anywhere else instead.  So where have they gone?  Are you sitting on a heap of these things and don’t know what to do with them these days?  In which case, I might be able to help.

While I’m on about auctions, I should for the sake of completeness tell you that Poster Auctioneer have a new auction coming up tomorrow, but again with very little British interest in there, so you’ll have to make do with this Donald Brun instead.

Donald Brun

Most of their posters are Swiss, which isn’t unreasonable for an auction house in Switzerland.  What’s more puzzling is that Poster Connection, who are in the States, also have an auction stuffed with Swiss posters this time round.  You can choose between an ample selection of Swiss graphics.

Hans Neuburg Zurich artists poster 1966
Hans Neuburg, 1966, est. $360

Or simply posters for Switzerland.

Herbert Leupin Pontresina vintage travel poster 1949
Herbert Leupin, 1949, est. $500

There are a very few British posters in amongst all the snow and sans serif, of which the most interesting is this Norman Weaver.

Norman Weaver vintage 1948 travel poster BOAC
Norman Weaver, 1948, est. $500

With a rarely-seen Abram Games coming up a close second.

Abram Games Vintage BOAC poster 1947
Abram Games, 1947, est. $600

But all is not lost.  Swann Galleries have promised me that there are some lovely London Transport pieces in their forthcoming auction.  I’ll let you know as soon as it appears online.