It’s all here…

Whether it’s a (defused!) WWII grenade, a set of Italian stamps commemorating the international gymastics competition of 1951, a silver tetradrachm from the third century BC or an Eagle comic from 1983 featuring Dan Dare taking on the evil might of the Mekon….chances are we’ve got it.

This is just a sample of some of the treasures on offer every Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors’ Market. Add to your collection (or start one!) this Saturday in the heart of Central London.

Cheaper Now Than In 1939

RAD Nazi women badges

This fine collection of women’s Nazi work service badges will be on sale this Saturday at Charing Cross Market. Prices vary but it will certainly not cost you six months’ work of up to 76 hours a week.

The Reich Labour Service or RAD was set up in 1935 as a way of managing unemployment in Germany. It was compulsory for men but voluntary for women until war broke out. Most women worked on farms, factories or in domestic service. With no real wages on offer, the Nazis created a hierarchy of badges to motivate and reward them.

They fall into one of three types: the Arbeitsmaid (bronze worker), the Maidenführer (silver leader) and the Lagerführer (camp leader). Design changes mean we can date them all to particular (war) years. The ‘iron grade’ badges bottom right were awarded from 1941 on completion of six months war service in addition to six months as a ‘volunteer’.

Medal That Cost Engraver His Sight

Smaller than a penny but minutely engraved with the profiles and (names!) of 21 European royals, this medallion is a touching tribute from one old man to his colleagues at a Birmingham die sinking factory. Approaching the end of his working life and with his sight failing, the man (whose name we don’t even know) spent every spare moment working to create something for his workmates to remember him by. The intricate work took seven years’ and hastened his blindness. He used the die to cast just five examples and then broke it up, retired and died within a few months completely blind.

Although Queen Victoria is the central portrait on one side and the (then?) Prince and Princess of Wales on the other, this is very hard to date. Various other nobles, the Duchess of Connaught and Princess Louise among them, can be seen round the outside. The only source we have is the Daily Mail article seen here but if anyone knows any more please get in touch.

Grim Allusions

Two classic French ‘metamorphosis’ postcards from around 1905-1910. Some artists delight in reminding us that, no matter how much fun we’re having, we’re all going to die. Hence the two ladies bidding each other ‘au revoir’ in a sunlit park are oblivious to the shadow of Death who may have other plans for either one (or both) of them. The other card is titled less ambiguously. ‘Tête de Mort’ hints that even the carefree happiness of the two children sledging is overshadowed by the inevitability of the grave.

This device is known as a memento mori – in Latin “remember you will die” and it was a common feature in a great deal of Western art. While the recipient of such cards might well appreciate the skill involved in creating the illusion, it seems pretty grim as gifts go. Most surviving examples are real photograph postcards though so they often fetch good prices. Just remember that you can’t take them with you…

Less Than Perfect Harmony: Man and Machine In Postcard History

Bad news has always sold well and disasters often feature on early postcards like this one from New York in 1905.  Ironically, it occurred on September 11th when a high-level train jumped the tracks killing eleven passengers and one passer by.  The driver was held responsible immediately went on the run being arrested two years later in San Francisco.

Accidents involving all kinds of transport are a particularly prevalent theme from postcards in the early part of the twentieth century. The lack of safety features and an arrogant belief in our superiority over mere machinery would provide no shortage of subjects.  Any number of picture postcards feature the aftermath of car, plane and shipwrecks, a bemused public gawking at a tangle of metal and scattered debris. Yet some of the more sought-after postcards actually show the ‘before’ picture of notable disasters. Cards featuring the Hindenburg or the Titanic in their pomp have particular appeal.

The Instagram of Yesteryear

RFC-postcards

Easy, effective, instant global communication is something we now take for granted thanks to email, WhatsApp and all the other platforms available to us. It was different just thirty years ago and it was unimagineable during the Great War. At a time of national crisis with hundreds of thousands of people displaced because of military commitments, the postal service played a vital role in keeping families in touch and maintaining morale among servicemen and women. Receiving a postcard nowadays is always welcome but its receipt was generally greeted with far more joy a hundred years ago.

This series of cards was sent by John Moorcroft to his wife in Epsom. The fronts show a variety of aircraft used by the RFC in whose service he was employed at Aldershot. On the back he writes to tell her of impending leave and the train he plans to take. Happily, he survived the war but for some families a simple postcard was the last message they ever had from a loved one.

Deltiology, as postcard collecting is known, is now the third most popular collecting hobby in the world (after stamps and money). 1989-1919 is regarded as the Golden Age when picture postcards were extremely popular but collections can be centred on any period, theme or location.

Whether you’re wondering if it’s for you or you’re a seasoned deltiologist, there’s sure to be something interesting to discover at Charing Cross Collectors Market this Saturday.

Earn Your Stripes this Saturday

militaria advertisement charing cross market

Whether it’s your first foray into collecting or you’re a seasoned militaria veteran, you’re sure to find something to spark your interest this weekend at Charing Cross Collectors Market. Browse to your heart’s content among the medals, uniforms, patches, de-activated ordnance, battle reports, insignia and other paraphenalia which has found its way down the decades to a stall in central London. Just holding items like these in your hands can summon up a sense of time and place which you may only have read about in the history books. And if militaria isn’t your thing, we have lots of other dealers who specialise in postcards, stamps, coins, ephemera and ethnography.

It’s not every day that you can see such a cornucopia of the unusual and unique. It’s just Saturdays. Between 7am and 3pm. At Charing Cross Market.

Trench Art Matchbox Covers

It may seem incredible to us now but only a hundred years ago smoking was widely regarded as benificial to health. Governments praised its effects on morale whilst also pointing to the soothing effects of lighting up after periods of action or enduring intense bombardments. There is no doubt that it encouraged mateyness – sharing a fag being an easy way to strike up friendships and official estimates of December 1914 state that over 96% of British soldiers were smokers. At a time before automatic lighters, that meant looking after your matches as much as your smokes – no easy job in a muddy trench for weeks at a time.

Many soldiers stored their matchboxes in brass or copper covers like those pictured so they wouldn’t be crushed in a pocket. Often, having lots of time on their hands, they would personalise or decorate them in some way. The most valuable show the chap’s name and service number as their war record can then be confirmed with the national archives.

The aluminium(?) cover in the photo is unusual in that it shows a German prisoner of war pushing a loaded wheelbarrow below the words “comm on Fritz”. It belonged to “R J Elliott of 322 Q Coy” – Q Company being the poison gas unit of the Royal Engineers. Typical examples sell for £15 – £20 but this one is more likely to fetch three times that.

A footnote to this item is the popular superstition that it is bad luck to light three cigarettes from one match. This is supposed to have originated during the Great War when an enemy sniper would be alerted to a target’s location as the first cigarette is lit, ready his rifle and adjust range for the second before taking aim and firing at the third. It’s a neat story and would seem to make a lot of sense. Yet no references to the bad luck associated with “three on a match” have been found before 1919 so there goes another myth!

Lone Star State Visitors

Cementing Texas’ reputation as ‘the friendly state’, Paige Henderson and Karen Preece paid us a visit last Saturday. Old hands at sightseeing in the UK and veteran antique market enthusiasts, they were delighted to find Charing Cross Collectors Market in the heart of London. Both left with special souvenirs of their visit: Paige, on the left, found a Victorian silver spoon while Karen picked up its Georgian vintage counterpart. “We’ll definitely be coming back and we’ll bring our husbands next time – they’ll love it!”

WWII ‘blood chit’

WWII blood chit

Today’s new phrase comes courtesy of this RAF ‘blood chit’. Issued to airmen during the Burma campaign, this 29 x 45 cm piece of silk could be the difference between life and death if you were brought down over enemy-held territory. In seventeen different languages, it states “Dear Friend, I am an Allied fighter. I did not come here to do any harm to you who are my friends. I only want to do harm to the Japanese and chase them away from this country as quickly as possible. If you assist me, my Government will sufficiently reward you when the Japanese are driven away.”

Blood chits were first issued systematically by the British during the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842 but have since become standard issue for certain personnel deemed to be at risk of becoming isolated in hostile territory. They were widely used by US aircrew during the Korean and Vietnam conflict and are still issued today. However, because there were cases of hostile governments torturing and killing anyone – and even their families – involved in offering such assistance, successful examples of their use are now classified.