There are a lot of posters about at the moment; it’s only Monday morning and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Not only have there just been the Christies and Onslows sales, but there’s also quite a bit coming up on eBay too. I’d like to sum it up in some kind of executive summary of the market at the moment, but however hard I try, this eludes me. So I’m afraid you’ll just have to bear with me as we sift through the evidence.
One feeling I have is that prices, and more importantly expected prices, are going up. Take these eBay items, for example. There’s a signed, recent, Tom Eckersley poster for £295, which has to be more than even a gallery would charge for it.
In an interesting take on eBay selling strategies, this was previously on offer for a £175 Buy It Now, but when it failed to sell, they relisted it and upped the price.
Even more excitable is the seller of this 1935 GPO Schools poster by John Armstrong, for sale for a rather steep $2,950 Buy It Now.
He is also accepting Best Offers, as he explains in rather breathless red text on his listing.
The highest offer of the 3 that I have received is $ 2,155 I will let it go to the next offer of $ 2,200.
While I know that this is a classic poster reproduced in all sorts of texts, I don’t actually like it very much and so I am able to resist this offer, or indeed pretty much any kind of offer which didn’t involve giving it to me for free.
These Shell posters, even though they are a full set of the highly-desirable Trees, by the highly-desirable SR Badmin, are surely up at the top end of the value range too at £350.
And I say this with some confidence, given that we have just got four of the Roads of Britain in this series for the grand sum of £15, including (I have said this before, and I will say it again) my favourite Shell educational poster ever, the Ridgeway by David Gentleman.
This coach poster, too, is probably also overpriced at £75 – although it’s very fashionably retro and so probably would go for much more than its £75 asking price in the right gallery.
Expensive doesn’t just apply to posters, either. This lovely little booklet with illustrations by Barbara Jones has a starting price of £90.
I begrudge this price a bit less though; it’s a rare book, published in just after the war and on that very contemporary subject of good design in the home. Having said all that, you can also find it online for just £60, so maybe it is a bit over-priced too.
The Christies auction didn’t come cheap either. These two posters were the stars of the show, both dramatically exceeding their estimates.
The Alexeieff above went for £34,850 (est. £15-20,000) while the McKnight Kauffer Underground poster sold for £27,500 (est. £8-12,000).
The Kauffer poster is particularly interesting, because a copy also turned up in the Swann Galleries auction a few weeks before, where it went for £20,580, so the price wasn’t just a flash in the pan (or even a flash from the fist).
As for the Christies’ auction as a whole, my initial reaction was that the prices seemed steep; but when I took a closer look, most sales were within the range of the estimates. What this means, I don’t know (and would love to have anyone else’s thoughts on the matter). My guess would be that some posters are getting more expensive, and that Christies are now, with their minimum lot policies, concentrating on these. There may also be psychology involved, though, too; if there’s nothing priced at £150 or even £250 in an auction, does it make the high prices seem more reasonable? To some people at least, if not me.
But fear not bargain hunters, because there are still cheap posters on eBay, even cheap underground posters. These ducks, for example, are starting at just £29.99, and are linen backed to boot.
They’re by Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly and date from 1948, while this 1923 MacDonald Gill London Transport map of Barrie’s Kensington Gardens is even cheaper at £25, although it hasn’t reached its reserve at that price, so may not be as cheap as it first appears.
Elsewhere – in the U.S. to be precise – this 1947 London Transport Central Line extension poster by Hans Schleger/Zero is perhaps better described as reasonable at £148 rather than cheap. But it is wonderful enough to justify the price.
Although if you do want a cheap Zero poster, that’s on offer as well; this British Railways museum poster from the early 1960s is a bit more crumpled, but then it is on with a starting price of only £2.99.
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps you might like this Daphne Padden Post Office Savings Bank poster – one of my favourites – currently still at its starting price of £10.
Once again, eBay also offers me the opportunity of pointing out how badly designed most National Savings posters are. This is also a savings poster, and it has an owl on too, but that’s all it has in common with the one above.
It, however is priced at £49.99. I have nothing more to say on the matter.
All that remains is the Onslows sale, which seemed to be neither cheap nor expensive, so I’d be interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts, or indeed about any bargains you may have bought. But it is worth remembering that they do take offers on unsold lots (until 18th June) so a second look at the online catalogue might prove worth your while.