Cool, calm, collecting

Whether it’s stamps, coins, theatre tickets, records or baseball cards, collecting is actually good for us. Simply being absorbed in a task which is not required of us by work or personal relationships is an excellent way to put the cares of the world to one side and psychologists agree that this is a very real benefit of any collecting hobby.

As we age, it becomes ever more important to keep the grey matter active. Regularly immersing ourselves in the history, provenance and characteristics of a collection is a great way to exercise our powers of observation, memory and judgement.

As a collector, you are part of a distinct social sub-group with a shared interest. Immediately, there is a rapport with any fellow collector and the social benefits of a mutual hobby often lead to lifelong friendships.

Finally, as the world continues to turn at an ever dizzying pace, there’s the nostalgia for a particular period in history. The past isn’t going anywhere soon. It can be a comforting anchor in the eye of the storm that is 24 hour news cycles. Whether it’s the football programmes you started collecting in childhood or finding an unusual coin in your change, collecting often has very mundane, but very enduring, roots. And while the average age of collectors in traditional fields like coins and stamps continues to rise, it has become an even broader church. The bug of collecting is every bit as strong in today’s children and while Happy Meal plastic toys and Pokemon cards might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they just might prove to be a gateway drug.

Bigger Than Christmas

While Hogmanay may be a bigger deal in Scotland, the New Year is even more important in two other countries where it’s still marked by a flood of traditional mail in the form of postcards: Japan and Russia.

Last year in Japan for example, two billion New Year’s greeting postcards were sent, an average of 15 for every person in the country. These nenga-hagaki are generally seen as a way of expressing gratitude for all those who have helped you over the past year – hence why it’s so hard to leave any friends or family out! It’s considered a bit rude not to reciprocate the gesture so you can see why people try to cover all the bases.

In Russia, of course, Christmas was banned as a religious holiday from 1929 along with Christmas trees. In 1935 though, (with Stalin’s blessing), they became ‘New Year Trees’ as an alternative celebration when Grandfather Frost brings presents to children. New Year remains the principal holiday celebration in Russia to this day with Christmas a relatively minor affair on January 7th – in line with the Russian Orthodox calendar.

Almost inevitably, the most common theme of Soviet new year postcards is a cosy view of the Kremlin. Some reference Communist achievements in the space race to help Grandfather Frost on his rounds while lots of the more colourful ones are playful depiction of rosy cheeked children or comic hares, the traditional animal of the Russian New Year.

Our final words of the year are just to say a huge thank you to all of the Market’s traders, visitors and supporters who have helped make the best of an extremely trying year. We’ll be back just as soon as we can. Happy New Year to you all!

Caveat Eator

Normally we’re big fans of putting our money where our mouth is but on this occasion we’d recommend a modicum of caution. It’s only natural for everyone to want as big a helping as they can manage after Christmas dinner in the hope that they will be the one guaranteed good luck for the next year but no-one wants to watch the Queen’s Speech in their local A and E. Even a pound coin can be easy to miss if you’re – somehow – still ravenous. But if you’re going for that really authentic touch by using a silver sixpence (available at all good collectors markets in the Charing Cross area this Saturday from 7am till 2pm), you need to be even more careful. Not only is it a good deal thinner, it’s worth much more than a pound.

Take note though: post war sixpences contain no silver at all. Only the ones minted between 1920 and 1946 were struck in 50% silver. Before 1920 that figure was 92.5%.

EDIT: Thank you to Peter Hicks who pointed out on our Facebook page that it was actually a silver 3d that was inserted into puddings. The sixpence was for new brides on their wedding day.

We’re Back! (Again!)

Yes. Once again the Shangri-La of the collectors’ world will be open to the public tomorrow – not quite as usual because of course we’ll be taking all the usual precautions to keep everyone safe. But the main thing is that London’s second most famous trading floor will once again bring together philatelists, numismatists, deltiologists, militaria buffs and collectophiles of all kinds. Some dealers are packed up by 2pm and early birds will always get the first chance to see what our traders have on offer so make sure you don’t miss the boat. We’re dying to see you – just don’t forget your mask!

Some good news at last

We’re delighted to announce that, subject to the precautions set out in a previous blog post, the market will reopen next Saturday 5th December. With London being placed in a Tier 2 category, we can meet all the criteria for safe operation which is really great news coming as it does just before Christmas. We have been inundated with enquiries since the announcement so we know lots of you are keen to catch up and bolster your collections. Quite honestly, we can’t wait to see you all again and next Saturday can’t come soon enough!

Definitely Open For Business (Almost) As Usual

In today’s blog post we’d just like to reassure visitors on two points: yes, we’re still open and, yes, we’re taking every precaution to ensure the safety of both the general public and our dealers. Central to these precautions is the requirement to wear a mask. Don’t worry if you forget yours as they are available for £1 on the door (with complementary disposable gloves).

A one way system is in place meaning that visitors must enter by the Villiers Street entrance (by Costa Coffee) and exit by the stairs leading up to The Playhouse Theatre. We carry out a temperature test on all dealers and visitors with a non-contact infra-red sensor. Anyone failing this test is asked to return home and self-isolate. A one metre social distancing protocol applies in all areas of the market.

Although these measures are inconvenient, they are a prerequisite for the safe operation of the market which will always be our number one priority. We look forward to seeing you this Saturday.

Collectopedia: Old Photographs

While modern digital images are produced, consumed, archived and deleted in uncountable numbers these days, this has increased the appeal of photographs from an era when capturing images on actual film (or even plates!) was highly regarded as an unparalleled scientific miracle. They are a fascinating window into a world gone by, documenting the lives, loves and preoccupations of our ancestors.

To the amateur collector, they can also offer the opportunity to make a small fortune – providing, of course, that you know what you’re looking for! Consider the example of Randy Guijarro who spent $2 on three old photographs. When he looked closely at one image of several cowboys playing croquet (above) he thought he recognised the face but it was what he was wearing that really caught his eye. “I defy you to find another cowboy wearing a cardigan” he said. Sure enough, experts have authenticated only the second known photograph of Billy the Kid. It’s worth is estimated at a cool $5 million. Paper money, indeed.

All sorts of old photographs are always available for sale at Charing Cross Market and this week is no exception. As an example, we have this memento from the Great War – nicely personalised thanks to the subject dedicating it to a former brother in arms. “To Larry, in memory of days spent together in France and Belgium. From J. R. Kennedy 5/4/1918”.

Peaky Blinder

A real rarity this week as we showcase a pre-1914 production khaki serge service cap, as worn by all non commissioned other rank soldiers. This one bears the badge of the Shropshire Light Infantry. A softer variant, the trench cap, came out during 1915-17 soon to be supplemented by the much more protective steel shrapnel or ‘Brodie’ helmet.

This fine example was found on a boat in the back garden of a house. It has suffered a degree of moth damage on top (pictured) but has otherwise survived the intervening one hundred plus years remarkably well – just one item among many available this Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors Market.

Collectopedia: Autographs

While collecting beer mats has the grand name of tegestology, the only name for last week’s hobby of toby jug collecting is, well, toby jug collecting. Today though, we have a fine example for those of you into philography, or autograph hunting.

Although modern autograph hunters are becoming a rare breed nowadays (the preferred method of recording a meeting with a celebrity being the ubiquitous ‘selfie’), the market for authentic signatures of those who are no longer with us remains strong. A uniquely personal record of our passage through the world, authenticating letters, contracts, marriages and treaties, our signature has always been considered important. Arguably, this is even more true today in an age where our identity has largely been digitised. Many younger people today have never, and will never, write a cheque for example.

And autographs don’t get much bigger than this. We know that Churchill, like his father before him, was a freemason and also dabbled in several other esoteric organisations, one of which was the Ancient Order of Druids. A photograph of 1908 shows him at one of their meetings quite prominently. However, this festival programme of 1920 describes him as the Order’s Chairman suggesting that he retained his interest in the Druids rather longer than had previously been thought. Either way, we think the signature of perhaps our Greatest Briton certainly epitomises the phrase, a ‘collector’s item’.