Slava Ukraini!

Like the rest of the civilised world, we have watched recent events unfolding in Eastern Europe with horror. The scenes of death and destruction caused by the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine are an unwelcome reminder that rampant nationalism is as big a threat to peace as it was a century ago.

We will be donating all the takings from this week’s market in aid of the British Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

No Debate About This Uncommon Market…

Simply put, we’re the UK’s only weekly market for specialist collectors. Stamps, coins, banknotes, militaria, ephemera, African ethnography, antiques…Charing Cross Collectors Market has it all. We couldn’t be more centrally located just next to the Embankment Tube station. Look out for the entrance just next to Costa Coffee.

Whether you’re a seasoned collector, just starting out or just curious about what’s on offer, you can be sure of a warm welcome from Jim, Bridget, Dougal the Market dog and all our experienced dealers. We never even know ourselves just what rare and amazing finds will be on show but it’s well worth arriving early for the best bargains. See you there!

Thread Badge of Courage

As the US got more heavily involved in Vietnam, the need for unit patches had to scale rapidly. Often these were supplemented by individual units who would have them made locally based on their own drawing or design. The patch would be ready next day and the design kept as a template for future orders.

Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria says that the key to collecting Vietnam patches is to look out for when and where they were made. Beyond that, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any unusual patches, such as might have been made for small special forces units.

GIANG DOANTUAN THAM : River Patrol Recon Force 61
A pair of locally made US patches from early in the Vietnam conflict…
…and the reverse showing the handiwork which created them.

As an example, a pair of hand made badges like these would be highly sought after. They were commissioned by the Green Beret Special Forces who made up the first boots on the ground in Vietnam. Their official designation here was the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG).

A badge with rainbow effect for the ODA-6 7th Special Forces Group

A Branded Childhood

Doug Larson described nostalgia as a “a device that removes the ruts and potholes from memory lane” and it’s often true that, almost without knowing it, our hands fumble for a pair of rose tinted spectacles whenever we look back to our childhood or adolescence. And it really doesn’t take much to transport us back across the decades to a time which seemed, and in fairness probably was, so much simpler.

Perhaps it’s the smell of a coal fire, the sound of a particular song or the taste of a favourite meal cooked ‘just right’. Or maybe it’s something as simple as a packet of Kellogg’s Sugar Ricicles, “twicicles as nicicles”. The bright commercial tapestry which formed the backdrop of our youthful lives is tinged with all sorts of bitter sweet emotions.

In 1963 one forward looking young man named Robert Opie began to collect contemporary packaging from all sorts of products. Things which were regarded as being of no consequence and routinely thrown away he would tuck away for posterity. In time, his collecting obsession grew to encompass bottles, signs, tickets, toys, games, postcards, comics and newspapers. Today the Robert Opie collection has a permanent home at the Museum of Brands in Central London and he has compiled a number of fascinating hardcover books stuffed full of visual memories of days gone by. Nostalgia like this is surely what A E Housman described as “the land of lost content…The happy highways where I went / And cannot come again.”

Holocaust Memorial Day

As regular readers will know, Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria consistently sources the most marvellous historical items for us to feature. However, although this blog has featured some really quite remarkable treasures over the last few years, in my view none of them have been either as poignant or as precious as these: letters written by an inmate of Dachau concentration camp.

A very fitting post for Holocaust Memorial Day, they are a haunting reminder of one of humanity’s lowest points. There are four letters in all, dated 14-2-194, 7-6-1941, 1-9-1941 and 12-4-1942. Written by Johann Jaworski to his wife Maria at an address which appears to be No.(/Apptment?) 37, Horst-Wessel-Strasse, Litzmanstadt. Litzmanstadt was the Nazi name for the Polish city of Łódź, part of which had been turned into a ghetto following the invasion of 1939. It was the second largest ghetto in the whole of occupied Germany.

As for the street name, this was one of thousands of streets which were renamed after figures revered by the Nazis. Horst Wessel was a brownshirt leader who was assassinated by two Communists in Berlin. Goebbels subsequently used his death for propaganda purposes and the Horst Wessel Song became the party’s official anthem.

It is rare indeed to find such letters but even more unusual to have the envelopes which held them. Few people who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis wanted to keep the envelopes bearing a stamp with either his image or former President Hindenburg. Both letters and envelopes bear the camp name, the terms and conditions of use and have been stamped by the camp censor.

 

Serial Thrillers

It would be a terrible omission to mention collecting banknotes (as we did on last week’s blog) without a follow up post one of the most collectable aspects of notaphily: serial numbers. Significant sums have changed hands for the rights to own notes which are considered to bear statistically significant numbers. Take the example of the (then new) £10 note issued in 2017 featuring Jane Austen. Because one eagle eyed opportunist spotted that the serial number began AH (a rare prefix) and contained 1775, the year of Austen’s birth. It sold on Ebay for £3,600.

Several online articles appeared in the wake of the sale, speculating that serial numbers containing the exact date of her birth or death might also fetch “thousands”. Readers were also advised to be on the lookout for notes featuring the prefixes JA01 and JA75 but reports of how much money could be made were certainly exaggerated and haven’t been borne out by events.

It’s generally accepted that sound advice is to watch out for the lowest serial number for any new note. There is a queue since convention dictates that number AA01 000001 is always given to the Queen and the next few are often distributed to the heir apparent and leading figures in the government. However, any number below 200 could fetch good money at auction so it’s almost worth seeing every banknote as a potential lottery ticket. Good luck!

Collectopedia: Notaphily

While coin collecting, or numismatics, is the more common specialism of anyone with a penchant for currency, banknotes have their own equally dedicated, if not quite so wide, following.

The first banknotes made their appearance in China as far back as the seventh century. Although Marco Polo returned from his travels with some examples in the thirteenth century, the concept would not be widely adopted in Europe for a further four hundred years.

Just as with stamps, the variety is so great that the budding collector is best advised to find a theme in which they have a natural interest. Perhaps you have a penchant for animals, portraits or the banknotes of a particular country. More specialised still are the notaphiles on the lookout for certain serial numbers or notes featuring signatures.

As might be imagined, factors affecting the value of a note include its overall condition and, above all of course, its rarity. A case in point is the world’s most valuable banknote: the US 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Bill. Only seven are known to exist in the world – and only three of them will ever be held in private hands. It is known as the Grand Watermelon because of the plump zeros on the reverse. Forget face value though. The last time one came up for auction in 2014, it went for a cool $3.3 million.

Another Royal Milestone

It was six years ago that Her Majesty became the longest serving British monarch, overtaking her illustrious great-great grandmother Victoria. Of course, since then she has been gloriously breaking her own personal best on a daily basis.

She will celebrate her next regal landmark in a month’s time. Although she wouldn’t be crowned until 2 June 1953, she became the British Head of State de facto on the death of her father, George VI. On 6 February this year, she will therefore have been our queen for a full seventy years.

At a time when any number of commercial brands are trumpeting about their own anniversaries (World Nutella Day anyone?), it is reassuring to know that we can still rely on the Royal Mint to focus on matters of substance.

And so we have this series of really stunning new coins to mark her Platinum Jubilee year. Available through the Royal Mint’s own website, they include what is, perhaps surprisingly, the first fifty pence coin celebrating a royal event. This year’s annual set also includes fitting tributes to Dame Vera Lynn, Alexander Graham Bell and this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

New Year, New Hobby…?

If you’ve ever wondered about what draws so many people into the magical world of collecting, why not come down and join us for the first Charing Cross Collectors Market of 2022 this New Years Day!

With knowledgeable traders to help you find your niche and tables full of bargains, you’re sure to find something which will spark your imagination. Whether it’s militaria, stamps, coins, banknotes, ephemera, antiques, postcards, autographs, football programmes…on any given day this is just a sample of the treasures for you to browse through. And you’ll always be sure of a warm welcome from Bridget, Jim and, of course, Dougal the Market Dog!