The 20mph Edwardian Speed Demon

Travel back in time to the cobblestone-laced roads of Edwardian Britain, and you’ll uncover the charming tales of early motoring, replete with mustachioed gentlemen in goggles and duster coats. Amongst such anecdotes, a delightful piece of motoring history has recently surfaced, involving a certain Percival Alexander Douglas-Barry Esq. and his encounters with the law.

In the summer of 1909, Percival found himself on the wrong side of the burgeoning traffic laws. With his motor car clocking speeds over 20 miles an hour – quite the feat in those days – he caught the attention of the Cheshire Constabulary. Percival received a sternly worded yet handwritten note, advising him to put a brake on his enthusiasm and ease off the accelerator.

Fast forward to a chilly January in 1932, and our intrepid motorist once again found himself in a pickle. This time, the offense was a tad dimmer: failing to keep his vehicle’s lights burning bright enough to reveal the registration numbers, a requirement under the Road Transport Lighting Act of 1927. This transgression led to an official summons to court, a more serious affair but still handled with that personal touch only a handwritten document could convey.

These letters, penned by the officers of the law, offer a quaint peek into the early days of traffic regulation. They not only remind us of how far we’ve zoomed ahead in the realm of vehicular laws but also hark back to a time when even a speeding ticket had a personal touch.

Battle Scars Worn With Pride

The Wound Stripe is a British military award introduced in 1916 to honour soldiers wounded in battle during the Great War. These stripes, worn on the left sleeve of the uniform, became a symbol of bravery and endurance.

Initially, the stripes were made with gold Russian braid, but this proved impractical for soldiers as they required sewing onto the uniform and were difficult to keep clean. In response, an all-brass version was created for durability and ease of maintenance. Another variant included a zinc backing plate, which might have been a cost-saving measure or a response to material shortages during the war.

For collectors, the Wound Stripe offers a tangible link to World War I. It represents the personal sacrifices of individual soldiers, as reflected in the variations of the stripes’ materials and design.

Photographs from the era bring these stories to life, showing the individuals and the hospital staff who played vital roles in the war. Each stripe and photo is not just a collectible; it’s a piece of history, a remembrance of the trials faced and the resilience shown in life-threatening situations.

Postcards from the Palace

This week we feature a series of Victorian-era postcards and a singularly notable piece—an admission ticket to the Crystal Palace dating back to 1857.

This isn’t any ordinary ticket; it’s a modest cardboard rectangle that once granted entry to one of the most famed attractions of Victorian London. On Monday, August 3rd, 1857, for the price of 1s. 6d., visitors could immerse themselves in a spectacle of culture and engineering marvel, all in aid of charitable causes supporting widows, orphans, and those in distress. It’s more than memorabilia; it’s a snapshot of social history, of leisure, charity, and the grand exhibitions of the age.

Turning to the postcards, we’re greeted by the grandeur of the Crystal Palace itself. They show images of the palatial structure, showcasing its glass facade and the intricate ironwork that held the massive edifice aloft. Printed in Germany—a detail made necessary by law at the time—these cards offer a glimpse into the building before it succumbed to flames in 1936.

This array of postcards and the admission ticket together tell a story that’s emblematic of an era. They evoke a sense of nostalgia, not just for a building that was once a beacon of the industrial age, but also for the everyday moments of the people who visited and marvelled at its wonders.

Pieces of history jukst like these are waiting for you every Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors Market. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or new to the fascinating field of historical ephemera, stamps, coins, militaria or collectables of all kinds, there’s always something to pique your interest and transport you to the past.

The Enduring Allure of Titanic Ephemera

In the realm of collectibles, Titanic postcards hold a distinct fascination, carrying with them the echoes of a bygone era and the tangible feel of history. For the general collector, these cards serve not just as mementos of the past, but as investments whose value can appreciate over time.

Unused Titanic postcards issued before the infamous sinking in 1912 start at a respectable £25. However, the true allure for enthusiasts lies in the provenance and context of these snippets of paper. Cards sent by individuals with any tie to the tragedy tend to command higher prices, linking the owner directly to a poignant chapter in history. Not to be overlooked is the postmark – a small detail that can significantly inflate a card’s worth, anchoring it to a specific time and place in history.

Each card is a frozen narrative, a vessel for stories that may include hopeful messages penned on the brink of disaster, or jubilant notes from passengers unaware of the looming catastrophe. In the universe of ephemera, these postcards are not merely static images; they are dynamic storytellers, gateways to personal journeys, and icons of maritime heritage. Whether tucked away in a collector’s album or displayed proudly, Titanic postcards remain coveted treasures that continue to captivate and intrigue.

Georgian chic: a mudlark’s prize

Imagine holding a piece of history in your hand, one that has been slumbering in the murky depths of the Thames for over two centuries. A mudlarker, with eyes like a hawk and patience of a saint, stumbled upon a treasure near Blackfriars—a silvered brass Georgian buckle from around 1750. Such buckles were the height of fashion, a symbol of status, fastening the shoes of well-heeled gents or adorning the belts of society’s finest. This relic, once lost to time and tides, now serves as a tangible whisper from the past, reminding us that the river, much like history itself, keeps its secrets—until one day, they resurface for us to marvel at. What stories could it tell? Who did it belong to? The allure of the Georgian era lives on in this small yet significant artifact.

Typical of the sort of historic treasure you’d find on any given Saturday in Central London… Where else but Charing Cross Collectors Market?

The Case of the Vanishing Flag: A Fusilier’s Badge

This week we’re examining this 1941 badge from the Inniskilling Fusiliers, marked by the elusive maker “S.D.A. & CO 41.” Amidst World War II’s pivotal moments, this battalion was in British India, later thrust into the Burma campaign’s arduous battles, notably under the 14th Indian Infantry Division in Arakan.

The badge stands out with its Enniskillen Castle representation, conspicuously missing the customary St. George flag—a detail that stirs curiosity. Was it a strategic omission for combat practicality or a field adaptation? It’s a tangible piece of the battalion’s adjustment to the exigencies of war.

Contrasted with its predecessors, which proudly sport the flag, this badge’s alteration marks a distinct chapter in military regalia. It’s a remarkable emblem that connects us directly to the tactical and symbolic nuances of its era.

Collectors appreciate such items not just for their rarity, but for the historical dialogue they invite. This badge, with its enigmatic mark and altered iconography, offers a snapshot into the daily realities of wartime—where even the smallest details like a flag on a badge could be subject to change in response to the environment and the necessities of war.

Marked by History: A Personal Postcard from the RMS Lusitania

In 1913, a passenger aboard the RMS Lusitania sent a postcard home to his son in North Wales. It was a simple gesture, a snapshot of life aboard one of the world’s greatest ocean liners before its tragic sinking. The front of the postcard depicted the majestic vessel, with the sender’s cabin marked for his son to see.

Today, this postcard stands as a piece of history, not just for its connection to the Lusitania, but as a reflection of everyday life in the early 20th century. The value of such a postcard lies not in the low-value stamp affixed to its corner, but in the postmark and handwritten note on the back, which provide a direct link to the past.

For collectors, the allure of this postcard comes from its authenticity and the human story behind it. It’s a tangible reminder that history is made up of real people and their experiences, not just events. As an artifact, it serves as a humble yet meaningful representation of the era and the ill-fated ship itself.

The Ortega Odyssey: Spoons, Splashes, and Bravery at Sea

In the realm of collectibles, few items stir the heart and imagination quite like maritime memorabilia. And within this ocean of treasures, items linked to historic voyages are particularly coveted, valued not just for their rarity but for the stories they carry across time and tides.

Today, we have the privilege of peering into such a time capsule, thanks to letters penned by a certain Fred Cobb of Doncaster, England. These aren’t just any letters; they were written aboard the RMS Ortega during its maiden voyage in April to March—a pivotal moment before the world was engulfed in the turmoil of the First World War.

Fred’s letters to his parents capture the innocence and adventure of sea travel at the time. He recounts an amusing deck game, a quirky tradition where passengers hurled the ship’s spoons into the swimming pool, diving in after them. With a triumphant tally of 44 spoons, Fred emerged as the victor of this whimsical competition. Such lighthearted moments stand in stark contrast to the grave destiny that awaited the RMS Ortega.

The dealer who discovered these letters reminds us of the RMS Ortega’s dramatic history. As war erupted, the ship’s captain, Captain Kinnier, refused to yield to the threat of capture. Instead, he made a daring escape through shallow, uncharted waters—a move that would earn him the Distinguished Service Cross from King George V and other commendations from the French Government and the Admiralty. This tale of bravery on the high seas is the stuff of legends, the kind that adds immeasurable worth to these seemingly mundane letters.

These papers do not just recount a young man’s maritime adventures; they are silent witnesses to a captain’s valor, to a world on the brink of change, and to the spirit of an era that valued honor above safety. Captain Kinnier’s legacy, his awards, and the thrilling escape of the RMS Ortega through the Nelson Strait, only to be met by the Chilean warship Admiral Lynch, are narratives woven into the fabric of these letters.

As we unfold these yellowed pages, we’re not just reading words; we’re summoning spirits of the past. We’re reliving the gaiety of a bygone era of steamships and the valorous acts that defined it. These letters are more than paper; they’re portals to the past, and they are priceless.

While technical details from The Ships List provide a dry account of the RMS Ortega’s specifications and journey, it’s the personal anecdotes and the connection to historical events that truly captivate us. After all, it’s the human experiences, the stories of individuals like Fred and Captain Kinnier, that transform objects into treasures. In the vast ocean of collectibles, items like these are the rare pearls that remind us of the depths of human courage and the timeless allure of the sea.

Sentiments in Silk

Silk postcards from World War I are fascinating collectibles, offering a glimpse into communication from over a century ago. These postcards are not merely keepsakes but historical documents that provide insight into the war’s personal side.

For collectors, certain aspects elevate a card’s value. Cards that feature a soldier’s full name or service number are particularly sought after. They allow for personal histories to be unearthed, connecting us to individual stories from the past. However, it’s worth noting that many cards were sent within envelopes, obscuring these details.

Regiment-specific cards often fetch a higher price. Limited production means they’re rarer, thus more desirable to collectors. Similarly, cards with inserts—some even hand-painted—are especially valuable. These inserts enhance the uniqueness of each card.

The Army Service Corps card has an insert containing a poignant pencilled message dated 16/1/18. While it lacks the soldier’s full identity, preventing us from learning his fate, the message captures a moment in time—a snapshot of enduring human connection amidst conflict: “all the things in all the world cannot express how much you are loved by your loving husband Bert, 16/1/18”.

In contrast, standard flat cards without inserts, though still valuable, are more common and lack the personalized touch that can significantly increase a postcard’s worth.

Silk postcards are more than just collector’s items; they are artifacts that reflect the era’s communication methods and the personal experiences of soldiers and their families. Each card tells a part of a larger story, and for collectors, the chase is as much about the narrative as it is about the item.

All Stamps Deserve A Happy Ever After

The stamps pictured here are a type of philatelic issue often dubbed “wallpaper” by those in the stamp trade due to their high color, abundant limited editions, and the fact that they are seldom used for actual postal services. Commonly produced in large quantities with vibrant designs, they often feature popular themes like Disney characters and are aimed at the collector’s market rather than everyday mail.

Such issues are considered an excellent entry point for novice philatelists due to their aesthetic appeal and accessibility. Despite their name, which suggests a less prestigious standing among more serious collectors, they have the potential for appreciation over time.

For example, if purchased in the early 1970s for 15 pence today they might fetch about £1.50 today. This represents a tenfold increase, demonstrating that even “wallpaper” stamps can serve as a modest investment vehicle!

Collectors might view such stamps with mixed feelings due to their mass-produced nature and minimal postal use, but the return on investment over several decades shows that they can still hold financial value. Obviously, certain sets – like this one – may have a higher cultural value depending on the theme.