Objet d’Art?

France’s most beautiful stamp? Some people think so. The intricate engraving of an Aéropostale plane above central Paris was printed on paper of a quality normally reserved for bank-notes. Its high face value was significant enough to see it secured with a red burelage overprint (the wavy lines) to deter forgery.

The plane is a Caudron Simon, a version of which Saint-Exupéry was flying when he crashed in the desert in 1935, the year before the stamp was printed. Few stamps reward such close inspection as this one and it is a credit to the artist, Achille Ouvré, that so many iconic buildings are identifiable in what amounts to a miniscule work of art.

“For Style and Value”

The slogan of a high street institution for generations in Britain, now consigned to a place in our cultural history books (and the ephemera stall at Charing Cross Market).

  • Outfitted British men from 1876
  • Wound up in 1998
  • Named after two brothers
  • Neon red storefront logo
  • Established in Birmingham

It is, of course, Foster Brothers. Well done if you’ve arrived here from one of our social media posts with the right answer.

This is a detail from a magazine advertisement from the 1930’s. Collectible ephemera of all kinds, including football programmes, postcards, magazines, books, journals and letters are regularly available at the market every Saturday.

DIY Dog Tag

It’s 1916. It’s your first tour on active service in the Royal Army Medical Corps and you’ve landed an exotic posting to what was then the Ottoman Empire. There’s so much to explore and experience. So why spend time having a silver coin engraved with your name and regiment? Although the pyramids show this is certainly a souvenir, the real reason Captain Lionel Graham bought this at a local bazaar that day has far more to do with the everyday reality for a soldier in wartime.   

The British Army had been issuing identification tags to its men since 1907 but these were now being made of vulcanised asbestos fibre.  Soldiers rightly believed that these would not last long underground or underwater.  Many, like Captain Graham, had their own made and it is highly likely that he wore this until his death, of a stroke, in Beirut during WWII.

By then a colonel, Graham had lived an exceptional life. A Cambridge graduate, he was an excellent sportsman – particularly at golf and tennis, winning several notable tournaments abroad. His friends knew him as ‘Nap’ and his obituary merited publication in the British Medical Journal.  One more forgotten hero? Well, aside from the survival of this very personal, very poignant item, if you’ve read this, absolutely not.

WWI ‘Silks’ – Affordable Antiques

All collections begin with a single acquisition. That first purchase might only cost a few pounds but it will be remembered forever by its owner, much like the original recipient of this Great War ‘silk’. Hand made by French and Belgian women and sold to members of the British Army wanting to send a special postcard home, these were enormously popular. Many are in excellent condition on account of being treasured by anxious relatives. Some, no doubt, were the last such message they received.  

In recent years, considerable doubt has been cast on the somewhat sentimental idea that these heirlooms were in fact the product of a female cottage industry. Recent research seems to suggest that the high numbers produced must have involved machine looms
https://trc-leiden.nl/trc-digital-exhibition/index.php/silk-embroidered-postcards/item/91-who-made-them However, this does nothing to diminish the emotional value of what they must have meant to both sender and recipient over 100 years ago.

Designs usually involve patriotic or sentimental messages sewn around flags, flowers or regimental colours but most are very affordable and an easy way to begin a fascinating collection. Whether it’s stamps, coins, militaria, ephemera or other antiques, you’re sure to find something which will excite your interest at Charing Cross Collectors Market – every Saturday, 7am – 3pm.  

A Parting Gift from Dear Old England

Dating from the mid-nineteenth century, these buttons form part of the uniform worn by prisoners sentenced to transportation to Australia or Tasmania. The buttons and uniform remained property of the Crown but one can only imagine how rigorously that was observed on the other side of the world. In any case, new arrivals quickly found that they could be used as currency in their own right since buttons made in the colony were very plain in comparison. The smaller button sewn onto the black silk rosette formed part of a bicorn hat and the uniform as a whole was cleverly designed to allow prisoners to get dressed and undressed while still bound in chains joined at the wrist and ankle.

Starting them young

Like this young family, many passers by find us by happy accident and are always amazed by the variety and interest of what our dealers have on offer. No doubt these two budding collectors pestered their parents to visit the market before passing out with exhaustion when faced with so many collectable coins, stamps, postcards, antiques and military items. See you again soon!

A British Cultural Icon and a Design Classic

The world’s first adhesive postage stamp is probably also the most recognised anywhere in the world. Featuring a profile of queen Victoria in 1840 when she was just 20, this image remained the same until her death aged 81. Edges often appear lopsided as they were printed in a sheet and cut up by hand and the red franking mark proved easy to rub off so was soon replaced. Ultimately, almost 70 million Penny Blacks were printed but their considerable age means only limited number survive. To answer the obvious question, mint ones go for upwards of £3,000 but you can usually add a used one to your collection for about £100. And, yes, you can usually source one at Charing Cross Collectors Market every Saturday.

Wish you were there?

The Edwardian splendour of classic rail travel is recalled in this rare mint condition promotional postcard for the Great Central Railway (1897-1922). The company would later form part of the much larger London and North Eastern Railway. Today it survives as the UK’s only main line heritage railway (http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/)

Postcards, coins, stamps, militaria and ephemera of all sorts attract interested amateurs and discerning collectors alike every Saturday at Charing Cross Market. See you there.