Two postcards from 1901

Photographs in the early 1900s were often printed with a postcard reverse so they could easily be sent by mail. This one features a poignant portrait of an elderly woman, evidently named Belinda Woods, dressed in a practical and worn outfit, suitable for outdoor work. She stands against a backdrop of dense foliage, holding a wicker basket and a walking stick, presenting an image of resilience and a life of labor.

On the reverse of the postcard, a handwritten message addressed to Mr. M Shaw c/o Mr. Doyle’s East End, Oxford reads: “My dear nephew just a line to ask you if you have got your stockings yet? I not should like to know no more this time, from aunt.”

The other card, also from 1901, shows the Shire Hall & Institute in Worcester. Although cards like this have topographical value, they are much less likely to be one offs like the one of Belinda Woods.

Postcards from the Palace

This week we feature a series of Victorian-era postcards and a singularly notable piece—an admission ticket to the Crystal Palace dating back to 1857.

This isn’t any ordinary ticket; it’s a modest cardboard rectangle that once granted entry to one of the most famed attractions of Victorian London. On Monday, August 3rd, 1857, for the price of 1s. 6d., visitors could immerse themselves in a spectacle of culture and engineering marvel, all in aid of charitable causes supporting widows, orphans, and those in distress. It’s more than memorabilia; it’s a snapshot of social history, of leisure, charity, and the grand exhibitions of the age.

Turning to the postcards, we’re greeted by the grandeur of the Crystal Palace itself. They show images of the palatial structure, showcasing its glass facade and the intricate ironwork that held the massive edifice aloft. Printed in Germany—a detail made necessary by law at the time—these cards offer a glimpse into the building before it succumbed to flames in 1936.

This array of postcards and the admission ticket together tell a story that’s emblematic of an era. They evoke a sense of nostalgia, not just for a building that was once a beacon of the industrial age, but also for the everyday moments of the people who visited and marvelled at its wonders.

Pieces of history jukst like these are waiting for you every Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors Market. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or new to the fascinating field of historical ephemera, stamps, coins, militaria or collectables of all kinds, there’s always something to pique your interest and transport you to the past.

The Enduring Allure of Titanic Ephemera

In the realm of collectibles, Titanic postcards hold a distinct fascination, carrying with them the echoes of a bygone era and the tangible feel of history. For the general collector, these cards serve not just as mementos of the past, but as investments whose value can appreciate over time.

Unused Titanic postcards issued before the infamous sinking in 1912 start at a respectable £25. However, the true allure for enthusiasts lies in the provenance and context of these snippets of paper. Cards sent by individuals with any tie to the tragedy tend to command higher prices, linking the owner directly to a poignant chapter in history. Not to be overlooked is the postmark – a small detail that can significantly inflate a card’s worth, anchoring it to a specific time and place in history.

Each card is a frozen narrative, a vessel for stories that may include hopeful messages penned on the brink of disaster, or jubilant notes from passengers unaware of the looming catastrophe. In the universe of ephemera, these postcards are not merely static images; they are dynamic storytellers, gateways to personal journeys, and icons of maritime heritage. Whether tucked away in a collector’s album or displayed proudly, Titanic postcards remain coveted treasures that continue to captivate and intrigue.

Marked by History: A Personal Postcard from the RMS Lusitania

In 1913, a passenger aboard the RMS Lusitania sent a postcard home to his son in North Wales. It was a simple gesture, a snapshot of life aboard one of the world’s greatest ocean liners before its tragic sinking. The front of the postcard depicted the majestic vessel, with the sender’s cabin marked for his son to see.

Today, this postcard stands as a piece of history, not just for its connection to the Lusitania, but as a reflection of everyday life in the early 20th century. The value of such a postcard lies not in the low-value stamp affixed to its corner, but in the postmark and handwritten note on the back, which provide a direct link to the past.

For collectors, the allure of this postcard comes from its authenticity and the human story behind it. It’s a tangible reminder that history is made up of real people and their experiences, not just events. As an artifact, it serves as a humble yet meaningful representation of the era and the ill-fated ship itself.

The Ortega Odyssey: Spoons, Splashes, and Bravery at Sea

In the realm of collectibles, few items stir the heart and imagination quite like maritime memorabilia. And within this ocean of treasures, items linked to historic voyages are particularly coveted, valued not just for their rarity but for the stories they carry across time and tides.

Today, we have the privilege of peering into such a time capsule, thanks to letters penned by a certain Fred Cobb of Doncaster, England. These aren’t just any letters; they were written aboard the RMS Ortega during its maiden voyage in April to March—a pivotal moment before the world was engulfed in the turmoil of the First World War.

Fred’s letters to his parents capture the innocence and adventure of sea travel at the time. He recounts an amusing deck game, a quirky tradition where passengers hurled the ship’s spoons into the swimming pool, diving in after them. With a triumphant tally of 44 spoons, Fred emerged as the victor of this whimsical competition. Such lighthearted moments stand in stark contrast to the grave destiny that awaited the RMS Ortega.

The dealer who discovered these letters reminds us of the RMS Ortega’s dramatic history. As war erupted, the ship’s captain, Captain Kinnier, refused to yield to the threat of capture. Instead, he made a daring escape through shallow, uncharted waters—a move that would earn him the Distinguished Service Cross from King George V and other commendations from the French Government and the Admiralty. This tale of bravery on the high seas is the stuff of legends, the kind that adds immeasurable worth to these seemingly mundane letters.

These papers do not just recount a young man’s maritime adventures; they are silent witnesses to a captain’s valor, to a world on the brink of change, and to the spirit of an era that valued honor above safety. Captain Kinnier’s legacy, his awards, and the thrilling escape of the RMS Ortega through the Nelson Strait, only to be met by the Chilean warship Admiral Lynch, are narratives woven into the fabric of these letters.

As we unfold these yellowed pages, we’re not just reading words; we’re summoning spirits of the past. We’re reliving the gaiety of a bygone era of steamships and the valorous acts that defined it. These letters are more than paper; they’re portals to the past, and they are priceless.

While technical details from The Ships List provide a dry account of the RMS Ortega’s specifications and journey, it’s the personal anecdotes and the connection to historical events that truly captivate us. After all, it’s the human experiences, the stories of individuals like Fred and Captain Kinnier, that transform objects into treasures. In the vast ocean of collectibles, items like these are the rare pearls that remind us of the depths of human courage and the timeless allure of the sea.

Sentiments in Silk

Silk postcards from World War I are fascinating collectibles, offering a glimpse into communication from over a century ago. These postcards are not merely keepsakes but historical documents that provide insight into the war’s personal side.

For collectors, certain aspects elevate a card’s value. Cards that feature a soldier’s full name or service number are particularly sought after. They allow for personal histories to be unearthed, connecting us to individual stories from the past. However, it’s worth noting that many cards were sent within envelopes, obscuring these details.

Regiment-specific cards often fetch a higher price. Limited production means they’re rarer, thus more desirable to collectors. Similarly, cards with inserts—some even hand-painted—are especially valuable. These inserts enhance the uniqueness of each card.

The Army Service Corps card has an insert containing a poignant pencilled message dated 16/1/18. While it lacks the soldier’s full identity, preventing us from learning his fate, the message captures a moment in time—a snapshot of enduring human connection amidst conflict: “all the things in all the world cannot express how much you are loved by your loving husband Bert, 16/1/18”.

In contrast, standard flat cards without inserts, though still valuable, are more common and lack the personalized touch that can significantly increase a postcard’s worth.

Silk postcards are more than just collector’s items; they are artifacts that reflect the era’s communication methods and the personal experiences of soldiers and their families. Each card tells a part of a larger story, and for collectors, the chase is as much about the narrative as it is about the item.

Open this Saturday…

…and every Saturday! As the final market of 2023 arrives, we’ll be stepping into the new year with a smile as broad as this fellow. He’s obviously delighted to have ‘copped a Blighty’ in time to enjoy the festive season with his loved ones in 1916. The rakish civvy suit is rather at odds with his officer’s cap but we’ll let the artist off as Anne Rochester was better known for illustrating children’s books!

Slipping Past the Censor

This week we’re following up on our Second World War military mail with some from the Great War. Rarely do ones from this period tell us much of what was happening. Often it’s just: date, field post office, officer’s signature and the censor’s mark. The soldier’s name and service number would usually count as a bonus!

However here we’ve got one that slipped past the censor. It gives us a glimpse into the shock which awaited those chaps who’d hitherto had no experience at all of the realities which awaited them. This particular example was sent from the front to a camp in Hatfield. The sender is a rifleman writing to another in a different company but both were part of the 17th Battalion, the London Regiment.

Dear Bert, just a line in answer to your most welcome letter. Thanks for the address, G Garwood got wounded  in the leg. We were in the big battle, I saw plenty of sights i will never forget. Write more next time.  Jim

There’s a note on front with the place name removed. More than likely by the officer that signed it (who looks like E. Chandler?)

Terror of the German Sausage

At a time when seeing any powered flight was extremely rare, one can only imagine the fear which must have filled British civilians encountering Zeppelins for the first time. These lumbering behemoths may have been vulnerable to bad weather and, in the end, the attention of the Royal Flying Corps but for a time they had an effect on British morale out of all proportion to the threat they actually posed.

Although by the end of the war 564 Britons had been killed by Zeppelins with another 1,354 injured, the threat was all but over by 1917. Better ground-based anti-aircraft guns helped but it was the RFC’s use of incendiary bullets that really spelled the end of the Zeppelin raids.

This postcard from April 16, 1915, makes light of it all with the caption ‘German sausage over Lowestoft – frightfulness amounts to one broken glass, two horses and one sparrow killed’.

Public Billet Doux: Postcards in Wartime

These four hand coloured postcards sent between two French star crossed lovers express sentiments which were obviously deeply felt. The very fact that these cards are still here today hints at how much they must have been treasured by the couple in question.

Our other example was bought in France by a British soldier and sent home to a sweetheart he rather endearingly calls ‘Peechums’! He’s also pleased to hear about the ‘two Zepps being fetched down’. The date means this relates to the night of 23/24 September 1916 when two newly designed and built Zeppelins were destroyed. One, L32 was shot down by Frederick Sowrey, RFC, aged 23, and crashed near Snails Farm, South Green, Great Burstead, Near Billericay.