Feed the Guns!

It’s not always the most expensive lots that capture the attention of our valuation team here at Toovey’s. Such was the case when specialist Nicholas Toovey discovered a fascinating view in amongst a group of London postcards.

“At first I thought it had been put in the wrong collection” said Nicholas, who continued “the uncaptioned view would look more at home with similar unidentified views of Continental Europe, perhaps Belgium or France, that was until I turned it over!” Fortunately at some time in its history a helpful owner had identified the scene in pencil on the reverse – surprisingly this postcard actually depicts Trafalgar Square in London!

A curious scene unfamiliar to most, the ruined church tower covers the statue of General Gordon and the fountain has become part of a destroyed farm house, there is even a windmill. On closer inspection the people milling around are not soldiers but people walking around soaking in the atmosphere of this highly imaginative fund raising event. As they walked around the artificial trenches, visitors were invited to place money inside howitzers and a military truck, or purchase certificates from the modified breech of a captured German gun, thus giving the campaign the name ‘Feed the Guns Week’. Held in October 1918, this transformation in London was the main focus of a nationwide campaign to sell war bonds during the First World War. These efforts raised over £31 million nationwide with captured guns making appearances all round the country.

The postcard, Lot 3128, will be offered individually on the 11th August 2015 with an estimate of £25-35 in Toovey’s Auction of Paper Collectables. Despite its modest estimate, this postcard provides a fascinating glimpse into the past and is sure to delight a collector in the near future.

The Art Nouveau Postcards of Alphonse Mucha

‘Juin’ from the set of twelve postcards ‘Le Mois’ depicting the months of the year
‘Juin’ from the set of twelve postcards ‘Le Mois’ depicting the months

The artist Alphonse Mucha has been described as ‘monumental figure’ in the Art Nouveau Movement. His postcards are rare and highly sought after.

Art Nouveau was a reaction to academic art of the 19th century schools of Realism and Impressionism. It often combined forms and structures inspired by nature with curved lines.

Toovey’s postcard and paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey, comments “Throughout my career the postcards which have delivered the highest sums of money at auction have been postcards of Titanic interest, those relating to the Suffragettes and the Art Nouveau movement.”

Toovey’s postcard and paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey
Toovey’s postcard and paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey
Alphonse Mucha, postcard, after a design for the Societe de Bienfaisance Austro-Hongroise
Alphonse Mucha, postcard, after a design for the Societe de Bienfaisance Austro-Hongroise

I ask Nicholas about the collection of Mucha postcards already entered by a Sussex collector into his next specialist sale to be held on 11th August 2015. He replies “Alponse Mucha has always been prized by collectors for his artistic expression of the Art Nouveau. In my opinion he is the very best of the Art Nouveau artists.” Influenced by his relationship with Sarah Bernhardt, the leading actress of the Belle Epoch in 1870s France, Mucha produced posters, advertisements and menus in Paris. With the exception of ‘Le Mois’ and some other seasonal designs, his postcards are generally small images of large posters or cover designs. Rich in the symbolism of nature they idealize the female form. The fluidity of the arabesques of their hair and the foliage still engage the senses of the viewer today.

My eye is taken by a postcard of a lady in a white dress, her arms are outstretched and she is seated in a throne-like chair beneath a crescent design. Nicholas explains that this postcard is a copy of a design for the Societe de Bienfaisance Austro-Hongroise which Mucha produced in 1898. He says “This card is very rare. It’s estimated that there are only between thirty-one and seventy-five examples in the world.” The palette is subdued, almost faded, which is typical of Mucha’s work. These particular postcards are chromolithographically printed, a form of colour printing developed in the 19th century.

The series ‘Le Mois’ is the most famous of the sets from the Paris publisher, F. Champenois, who issued most of Mucha’s graphic works. The twelve ‘Le Mois’ postcards have titles reflecting the months of the year, seen here is the card for June. Each provides a romantic Art Nouveau depiction of a young woman emblematic of the season.

‘The Lady in a Pink Dress’, a menu card distributed by Moet & Chandon
‘The Lady in a Pink Dress’, a menu card distributed by Moet & Chandon

Strict postal regulations at this date meant that you could only write the address and fix the stamp on the back of the card. Therefore, space was left for your message on the front. Nicholas explains that, although not detrimental to the value, a premium is always paid for them in such wonderful unused condition as seen in this example. Postcards by Mucha in this condition can achieve over £100 for a single card. But they still represent exceptional value to the collector seeking a period example of Mucha’s work.

In 1900 F. Champenois published a set of ten menu cards after watercolour designs by Mucha. These were distributed by, and bear the name of, the famous champagne house Moet & Chandon. The design allows space to write your menu framed by ‘The Lady in a Pink Dress’ who holds a vine.

Toovey’s next specialist sale of Postcards and Paper Collectables will be held on Tuesday 11th August 2015 and entries are still being accepted. Toovey’s postcard and paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey, is always pleased to offer advice whether you are interested in selling or acquiring postcards in this buoyant market. He is a member of the Postcard Traders Association and can be contacted on 01903 891955 or via auctions@tooveys.com.

Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 10th June 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Maiden Voyage for Titanic Letter at Toovey’s Auction

RMS Titanic off Cowes ©Toovey's
Postcard of RMS Titanic passing SY Alberta off Cowes
Original Titanic Letter at Toovey's Auction ©Toovey's
Titanic letter to be offered at Toovey's

The ill-fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic is one of the most famous marine disasters of all time and needs little introduction. The sinking of the White Star Line ship on 15th April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg, was made ever-more memorable with the 1997 award-winning movie by James Cameron.

Titanic in Dock at Southampton ©Toovey's
Postcard of RMS Titanic in Dock at Southampton

A previously unrecorded and unpublished letter, to be offered in Toovey’s forthcoming auction of Paper Collectables, was written on board Titanic by the wealthy American heiress Georgette Alexandra Madill, later Mattei. It details that the 1st class passenger had arrived at Southampton at 11.30am and, after exploring the ship, had set sail at noon. It also states: ‘The “Oceanic” & “New York” were moored beyond us and just after we had left the dock the “New York” broke her cables & drifted into our stern – it was most exciting!’ This lesser-known incident was very nearly a serious accident, caused by the huge displacement of water that Titanic generated. The two smaller ships were lifted by the huge bulge of water, which dropped into a trough; SS City of New York’s cables could not take this sudden strain and snapped. New York drifted towards Titanic and it is reported that a collision was only a few feet away, but a nearby tugboat helped take New York out of the path of Titanic. Madill shared a cabin with her cousin, Miss Elisabeth Walton Allen, and was travelling with her mother, Mrs Elisabeth Walton Robin, and her maid, Miss Emilie Kreuchen. All four survived the disaster, being rescued in Lifeboat 2.

The 3-side letter, dated April 10 1912, is on RMS Titanic headed paper and was presumably sent to the recipient, Doris, from either of the stops at Cherbourg or Queenstown. It carries a £2000-4000 pre-sale estimate and will go under the gavel at Toovey’s on 24th February 2015. The letter was discovered by Toovey’s during a valuation for probate at a local property. The deceased’s family were completely unaware of the letter’s existence and have no knowledge of how the recipient, the deceased’s mother, had come to know Miss Madill.

Also included in the auction are a group of postcards featuring RMS Titanic, consigned by other vendors. They include a detailed photographic view of the ship moored at Southampton, a view of Titanic passing the sailing yacht Alberta off Cowes, written on the reverse by the yacht’s owner, and scenes relating to the unveiling of the Titanic Memorial in Portsmouth.

Postcard of the Unveiling of the Titanic Memorial ©Toovey's
Postcard of the Unveiling of the Titanic Memorial

August 2014 Postcard Auction Sale Report

Henfield Station at Toovey's Auction
'Henfield Station' postcard, sold for £120

Toovey’s auction of Paper Collectables on 12th August included 146 lots of postcards. With only three lots failing to sell, there is no shortage of talking points:

Partridge Green Station at Toovey's
'Partridge Green Station', sold for £110

Private collectors went loco for a small group of individual postcards of Sussex railway platforms. No less than four successful collectors express-ed an interest, each chuffed with their purchases, once again proving the Sussex postcard market is far from station-ary! Bad puns aside, £120 was paid for an RP of ‘Henfield Station’ with a steam engine entering the now-vanished station. The exact same view with small loss to one corner only made £30, reinforcing the difference condition makes to the private collector. RP views of ‘Partridge Green Station’, ‘The Station, Southwater’ and a different view of ‘Henfield Railway Station’ each sold for £110.

Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500
Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500

Topographical postcards were popular throughout the auction but Sussex views continued to steal the headlines. An RP titled ‘Sussex Pruning Camp’, offered with a similar RP, sold for £95. A group of 4 postcards of Partridge Green, including a scarce RP of ‘Jolesfield Windmill’, achieved £140. A similar group of 13 postcards of nearby Cowfold and Shermanbury realised £240 and 31 postcards of Henfield sold for £420. All of these lots went to private collectors.

Outside of the Sussex scene, notable prices included 8 postcards of Barnes and Isleworth, which topped £120. An album of 52 postcards of the Channel Islands, predominantly Jersey, went at £320. A group of 160 of Middlesex reached £340 and £20 was paid for a slightly faded RP of ‘Finchley Rd Station’. A private collection of postcards published by LL performed well too, including a 286-postcard collection of London, which sold for £480.

Little Nap the Chimpanzee postcard, sold for £60
Little Nap, sold for £60

Topography was not the only area of interest. Leading the fray at £1500 was an album of 74 postcards, including a brilliant selection of regimental embroidered silks, which went to an internet bidder despite the busy room. One of the surprising results of the sale came in the form of a single RP of ‘Little Nap’, a chimpanzee dressed-up as Napoleon, which, after a battle between a private collector and the internet, sold for £60 in the room.

1 of 6 by Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380
Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380

A good selection of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and glamour postcards also attracted serious interest and stiff competition among bidders. A group of 6 Art Nouveau colour postcards by Umberto Brunelleschi was hotly contested, largely due to their great condition, selling at £380, just over £60 per postcard and nearly double their mid pre-sale estimate. 4 Italian Art Deco postcards by M. Montedoro achieved £130 and 9 postcards by Raphael Kirchner realised £160.

Arguably among the scarcest of postcards included in the auction was a large group of composite puzzle postcards, divided into 11 lots. Highlights included a set of 4 colour printed postcards titled ‘Fridtjof Nansen Nord Polar-Expedition’, which sold to a collector at £130, and a set of 6 French hand-coloured postcards of Barnum Circus, which went for £140. To view all the previous sale results click here.

Toovey’s next auction of Paper Collectables, including postcards, stamps, cigarette cards, photographs, autographs and ephemera, will be held on 4th November 2014. Whilst this auction has now deadlined,  four have been scheduled for 2015 due to the popularity of the Paper Collectable auctions at Toovey’s. Contact us to discuss your postcard collection for one of our future specialist sales.

By Nicholas Toovey, a member of the Postcard Traders Association. Originally published as a Sale Report in Picture Postcard Monthly October 2014 issue.

Once upon a time…

Lot 3333 (Front and Back of the Menu)

The history of an object can add value or increase an object’s saleability dramatically, which is why provenance is so important to many antique and collectable items. It was announced recently that The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) is to issue provenance certificates for pieces sold by members, as part of a series of changes to modernize the trade association. In their blog announcement BADA state:

Provenance is a crucial element in the sales process and of importance to the art market at large, and for the first time, the fact that an object has been bought from a member of the British Antiques Dealers’ Association can now be recorded as part of its permanent provenance.

People also love a good story, so family history can distort or exaggerate the facts of an item’s history. For this reason, documentation detailing the history of a valuable object is often crucial. The BADA certificates will provide this in the future, in the same way that receipts and letters from times gone by help substantiate the family tale.

Many items have a story to tell without the need for provenance or family history; they are self-explanatory and often fascinating in their own right. The sales of Paper Collectables at Toovey’s are one of the specialist areas in which these items appear most frequently.

The sale on 12th August 2014 includes a group of royal menus (Lot 3333), collected by one of the royal chefs. These 150 or so menus were swept up after various state, official and other meals as a memento of the vendor’s culinary work for H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. Having worked on H.M.Y. Britannia and at Windsor, Sandringham, Buckingham Palace and Holyroodhouse, the vendor’s collection offers a fascinating insight into ‘how the other half live’. Among the menu cards is one of particular interest. Dated ‘Samedi Le 25 Decembre 1993’ and offering a list of delectable dishes, this menu is fascinating because of what is written on the back. The inscription, by a nine-year-old Prince Harry, asks of his brother: “William, What are you talking about Signe [sic] back =.” This eight-word note conjures an image of what the royal meal might have been like for a young boy eager to play with his presents on Christmas day, rather than sitting at a stuffy dinner table with conversation circulating well above the nine year old’s sphere of interest and understanding. Of course, at this date his mum, Princess Diana, would have been at the table at Sandringham.

Lot 3339

From the prince’s charming note to the villain’s devious missives, with a macabre group of four letters from John George Haigh, better known as the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ (Lot 3339). The group of two typed letters and two autograph letters are all addressed to Miss Bishop and concern the whereabouts of Mr McSwan. Haigh had supposedly taken over Mr McSwan’s affairs so that the latter could go to Scotland to avoid the Second World War. By the time these letters were written in 1945-46, however, McSwan had already been dead for nearly a year, murdered by Haigh, who subsequently dissolved his body in sulphuric acid and poured the remains down a manhole. More victims followed, similarly dissolved in a warehouse which Haigh rented in Crawley. Further local Sussex interest is provided as, after his arrest, Haigh was remanded in custody at Horsham Police Station and was charged with murder in the nearby court house, today known as the Old Town Hall. In the courtroom it took just minutes to find Haigh guilty and he was hung for his crimes on 10th August 1949. The initials ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘G’ can be seen in the top corner of each letter, inscribed by a later hand, presumably as a reference for them being used as evidence.

Lot 3192

The heroes of this blog post can be found on the vintage picture postcards offered in the auction. The outbreak of the First World War was during the Golden Age of postcard production and so many of the postcards provide either a visual or written commentary of the war years. These first-hand accounts might be seen in group portraits of troops prior to leaving for the horrors of the war, or in the images of bomb-damaged cities. They could also be in the brief, censored messages sent home from the front line on the back of French embroidered silk postcards, like those seen in Lot 3192. Postcards and ephemera can provide valuable primary sources for those researching and studying the era. A revealing glimpse into one side of the First World War is presented in Lot 3153, a collection of 24 postcards, the majority of Münster Prisoner of War Camp. Including postcards of the Detention Block and Officer’s Mess, this group of postcards provides a visual snapshot of everyday life in a prisoner-of-war camp during the Great War.

Lot 3153

The Sale of Paper Collectables on 12th August starts at 1.30pm. Viewing for the auction is on Saturday 9th August between 9.30am and 12 noon and on Monday 11th August between 10am and 4pm. With about 350 lots of Stamps, Postcards, Cigarette and Trade Cards, Photographs, Autographs and Ephemera on offer, there is plenty in this auction for collectors and traders to choose from, hopefully meaning they will live happily ever after!