Majestic Memorabilia

This week we’re featuring some highly topical items sent to us recently by Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria.

Firstly an official pass for a motor vehicle to be in Westminster during the late Queen’s coronation in 1953. It’s impossible to see in the photos but the registration numbers of the vehicles has been pencilled in on the front: JK2204 and RV7074 for ‘Westminster Bank’.

And then there are a couple of much sought after ‘real photograph’ postcards. The one from 1939 shows the King riding in Windsor Great Park alongside the princesses. Princess Margaret has her horse on a training lead held by her father. The other portrait photograph of the Queen was taken by Dorothy Wilding at a time when this would have been really quite unusual!

The First Collectors Market of the Carolean Era

Of course, we’re open again this Saturday and with the recent passing of Her Late Majesty, the throne falls to the former Prince of Wales, Charles III. And so the second Elizabethan age becomes the second Carolean era (following that of Charles II – that of Charles I is often known as the Caroline Age).

The date is yet to be announced for Charles’ coronation but plans were laid for the ceremony – Operation Golden Orb – many years ago and reviewed on a regular basis. This will in all likelihood be a very religious affair consecrated at Westminster Abbey.

Naturally, stamp, coin and banknote collectors will be following announcements from the Royal Mail, the Royal Mint and the Bank of England closely as our currency changes to reflect our new constitutional reality. In line with tradition, on coins Charles’ profile will face the opposite direction (left) from his predecessor. On stamps, however, the monarch only ever faces left.

Her Majesty The Queen 1926-2022

Like so many around the UK and the wider world, we were saddened by the news that Her Majesty The Queen has passed away. As our longest reigning monarch she led with grace and selfless devotion. Our thoughts and prayers are with The Royal Family at this difficult time.

Although the Market will be open tomorrow as usual (September 10th), we will be closed the following Saturday as a mark of respect.

Finding Your Niche

Becoming a world authority on anything is no mean feat. Yet it’s surprisingly easy. A general collector may have a smattering of knowledge about their pastime but once you start to specialise, it’s very easy to be the expert in your field.

Take stamps. If you wanted to collect German ones you’d be hard pressed to rival any of the existing authorities on the subject. Yet once you decide you’re going to specialise in those from the hyerpinflation period during the Weimar Republic, it becomes much easier to get a handle on all you need to know. Drill down further and restrict yourself to stamps which were overprinted with values in excess of a million marks and it’s easier still.

An expert, we’re told, is someone who knows more and more about less and less. But on their turf, you can’t beat them.

So why not pop down to the Market this Saturday and find your niche.

The Root of All Money

The introduction of new coins or banknotes usually excites a lot of public and media interest but have you ever wondered about the first coin produced? While we know that various early people were bartering for things they prized at least 40,000 years ago, currency as a representation of inherent value is more difficult to pin down. We do know that some natural objects were used in this way, like mother of pearl shells in the Americas or cowry shells (pictured) in many parts of Africa and Southern Asia. In 1892, in Tanzania, an egg cost between 3 and 5 cowry shells while two balls of soap cost 100.

Yet the first named currency is the Mesopotamian shekel which dates from about 5,000 years ago. Yet we do not have any physical examples until the shekel was first minted in the seventh century BCE. As it stands, the earliest example we have is the Lydian Lion (on display in the British Museum right here in London). Made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, it is stamped on one side only and believed to have been worth about one month’s pay.

Very much OPEN

Not that you could ever have doubted it, but we will of course be OPEN as usual this Saturday. Those stamps, coins, military items, autographs, postcards, African ethnography, beer mats, football programs, memorabilia, antique toys, and all manner of everything else just will not collect themselves!

House of Collection

The urge to collect is one of our basic human instincts. Our brain is hardwired to recognise patterns, amassing a huge store of data against which we compare any novelty to see where, or if, it fits in.

Whether it’s coins, stamps, military patches, autographs, football programmes, African ethnography or any one of countless other collectibles, for whatever reason a certain subset of precious things will appeal to us and we have to have one. Before long, it’s two and twenty years later the guest bedroom gives up any claim to be anything other than a shrine to rare vinyl records from the sixties.

NFTs are all very well but no-one has ever, or will ever, be able to touch one with their hand. Thanks all the same but I’ll stick with my WWII Airfix models.

Stamps of Defiance

Putin obviously believed he’d conquer the whole of Ukraine in a matter of a few weeks. It turns out that the Ukrainians, like their stamps, take some licking.

The inspiring stories of their resistance to Russian aggression has been celebrated in two fine stamps seen here. The first celebrated the cheeky response of the tiny garrison on Snake Island when asked to surrender by two Russian warships. The soldiers were captured but have since been returned and hailed as heroes.

Titled ‘Good evening, we’re from Ukraine”, the latest stamp records a quite incredibly common scene played out on the nightly news: a Ukrainian tractor towing away an abandoned (or even stolen!) Russian tank.

Both designs were the result of open competitions and are available to foreign collectors through their website.

Bring Me Beermats

We’ve mentioned tegestology (or the collecting of beermats) on this blog before but we failed to mention their connection to one of Britain’s best loved comedy duos of all time.

The official Beermat Collectors Society was founded by Chris Walsh in 1960. How and why Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were recruited as the Society’s first Presidents is unclear. But what we do know is that theirs was far from an honorary distinction. They may have been involved initially as a bit of a joke but theirs became a genuine interest and they amassed a fairly sizeable collection themselves. This interest was immortalised in a Pathe newsclip of the time and you can find out much more about this fascinating hobby at the British Beermat Collectors Society website.