Perfect Imperfections

inverted-jenny-stamp

This is the Inverted Jenny. Printed in May 1918, it feaures a Curtiss JN-4 which is performing a quite unintended aerobatic manoeuvre. Buying one would cost at least half a million pounds today. It owes its extraordinary value to two factors: the obvious printing error and the fact that only one hundred exist. The location of all but two had been known for many years but in May 2016, one of the missing ones turned up. It sold at auction for $1.5m. The final one (known simply as ‘number 66’) is still out there somewhere.

In fact it’s worth keeping an eye out for mistakes on any postage stamp though – even modern ones – just in case you have a rarity on your hands. A recent article catalogued 32 different errors including colours, watermarks, perforations (or the lack thereof), paper, offsets and unprinted areas where a foreign object becomes embedded on the stamp. And in case you thought modern technology would make such mistakes even rarer, you might be surprised to learn that our current Queen’s reign is something of a Golden Age for stamp errors….

A 13p ‘Sweet Briar’ stamp issued to celebrate the Royal National Rose Society in 1976. A small number were printed without the price and all but three were destroyed before they reached the point of sale. One was sold in 2010 for £85,000.

Paper Money

Ephemera (n) items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity”. As any baseball card or pulp fiction collector will tell you, those expectations were sometimes very wrong indeed and the market for newspapers, advertisements, football programmes, tickets, mail order catalogues etc. is alive and well. Take this full season’s worth of home programmes from Chelsea’s 1972-1973 season for example. Let’s just say that you won’t get them for 5p each in 2019! The original prices of classic paperback fiction by Zane Grey, Ian Fleming or Edgar Wallace have also risen considerably.

John Barrett is one of the market’s veteran ephemera dealers and his stall is a fantastic snapshot of just how varied this field is. He has a particular love of press photography of the 1930’s and 40’s but keeps track of a wide range of printed material. So what should we be keeping hold of today as a potential windfall for our grandchildren? “Anything and everything” says John, “it’s almost impossible to predict. Although I should think that there will certainly be a strong market for women’s football programmes as the sport continues to grow”.

You heard it here first.

Buoyant Market for Titanic Memorabilia

Titanic-postcard-authentic

Hailed as ‘unsinkable’ before its maiden voyage on 11 April 1912, the Titanic retains an iron grip on the popular imagination. This is reflected in high prices for any contemporary postcards featuring the ship and, in particular, ones printed or posted before it sank. Most coveted of all is a card written on board and posted at the layover in Cork (then Queenstown) before it left on the ill-fated journey to New York. One such card written by a maid who wrote “I wish you were here, it is a lovely boat and it would do you good. Am just going on deck” fetched £8,500 at auction last year.

reverse-titanic-postcard-1912

Inevitably, unwary buyers (particularly online) can be caught out by fakes but this is the real thing: a Rotary Photo card posted just six weeks after the sinking and is signed by someone we know only as ‘J.H.’. His wry comment “I thought you would like this card” highlights just how dramatic this event was for people at the time and there was a huge demand for Titanic postcards immediately after the sinking. Some studios even used images of Titanic’s sister ship Olympic to cash in on this.

Photographs of the real Titanic show that the lower deck promenade is enclosed along the length of the ship while only the front half of the upper ‘A’ deck (circled) is similarly enclosed.

West Africa’s ‘red gold’

copper-african-manillas

Such was the value accorded to copper in early African civilisations that it came to be known as ‘red gold’. This was the prinicipal currency along the West African coast for hundreds of years and these ‘manilla’ or bracelets were worn by women to display their husband’s wealth. While some wore them on their wrist or ankle, a more ostentatious wife might wear a ‘King’ manilla (top right) as a necklace.

Other forms of exotic currency regularly traded at the market include katanga crosses, bochies (both also of copper), cowrie shells, silver Tok coins and base silver bar monies from Thailand in the shape of leeches, boats or a tiger’s tongue (with characteristic serrated texture).

A Safe Pair of Hands to Carry the Past into the Future

Visiting the market from Torquay with his Dad last Saturday, 11 year old Zach is normally looking to add more decimal currency to his collection. On this occasion though, it was a Freemason’s Chronicle on one of the ephemera stalls which caught his eye. Some might wonder what appeal such an esoteric old volume might have for a young lad just starting secondary school but Zach’s answer spoke volumes about his maturity. “It’s not the actual monetary value. I just love the history of the item” – clearly a young man of taste and discernment! We look forward to seeing him again.

The Goldfish Club

Anyone with a spare £1,150 can join the Groucho Club in London. But no amount of money can buy you membership of the Goldfish Club. The brainchild of C. A. Robertson, who was Chief Draughtsman at the (then) largest air-sea rescue equipment manufacturer in the world, this status could only be conferred on airmen whose lives had been saved by a life jacket or dinghy. Gold signified the value of human life with the fish obviously referring to the water.

From its inception in 1942 the club fluorished as air crew in the unfortunate position of having to ditch over the sea discovered a silver, or rather, gold lining to their situation. Members were given a laminated card (designed to survive their next encounter with the water) and a silk badge. The original material for these was donated by readers of the London Daily Express who gave up their evening dress suits for the cause. Although uniform regulations meant that they couldn’t be openly worn, most airmen had them sewn under the flap of their left hand breast pocket. By the end of the war the Goldfish Club had almost ten thousand members and it remains active today https://tinyurl.com/y3qh4cbc

Another typically unusual find from charingcrossmarket.com – every Saturday in the heart of Central London.

Insignia of the Westminster Rifles

Originally formed after the French invasion scare of 1859, the Queen’s Westminster Rifles were an infantry regiment in the British Army for the next 101 years.  It served with distinction in both wars playing a part in both the Battle of the Somme and El Alamein.

Seen here are two RB (Rifle Brigade) patches, the dark green one being worn on the side of the tropical Sikh headgear, the pugri, while the khaki one was stitched on the shoulder. KRR denotes the King’s Royal Rifles while the red hand is from an ulster formation. The beautiful silver detailing of the George and dragon scene is taken from the front of a WWI officer’s cap. 

Military patches and insignia have always had their devotees but this branch of militaria is becoming ever more popular.  Start your own collection or enhance an existing one this Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors Market.

Nearly time for the credits

As the lights go up for the last time this weekend at London Film Festival why not drop into Charing Cross Collectors Market this Saturday and browse for a souvenir among the merch from yesteryear. Alongside the movie memorabilia is an eclectic mix of collectables including stamps, coins, militaria, ephemera and antiques. Occupying a site in Central London just opposite the Embankment Tube station, the market can trace its lineage all the way back to the 1690’s before some of our dealers were even born. So pop in, say hello and see just why the best treasure has always been kept underground….

In the market for movie memorabilia

It’s London Film Festival! And with the British Film Institute just across the bridge we’re ideally placed for anyone wanting a quick break between events. Stretch your legs and take the Thames air with a stroll across the Jubilee Bridge. Find us opposite the entrance to the Embankment Tube Station just near Starbucks. A fascinating array of movie memorabilia and ephemera will be on sale alongside our other collectibles. You’re sure to find something of interest whether it’s classic headshots of the glitterati from the classic era of the silver screen, promotional postcards for films of the sixties and seventies or posters for modern classics. We look forward to seeing you!