Postcards: A Glimpse of the Past

 ‘Soldiers leaving Horsham during the European War September 10th 1914, No.1’
‘Soldiers leaving Horsham during the European War September 10th 1914, No.1’, a photographic postcard published by Bon Marche of Horsham, circa 1918

The belle époque of postcard sending was between 1899 and 1914. At the height of this craze, a reported average of more than 723,000 postcards were sent every day. Each card was delivered the following day and all for a halfpenny a time. As people posted cards they also started to collect them. With an estimated 264 million postcards delivered in a year, it is no surprise that photographers and publishers popped up in towns and villages across the British Isles to cash in on this boom.

Postcards were printed lithographically, photographically and in letterpress, some were even hand-coloured or tinted. With such a rich diversity of photographers and printers, there is a rich variety of postcards to delight the collector. If your passion is social history, saucy seaside humour, vintage cars, topography, railways, churches or almost any other subject you can think of, there will be postcards for you.

Due to Post Office regulations, postcards started out smaller than the familiar size most of us would recognise today. These ‘court-size’ postcards were only allowed to have the address on one side, so any message would have to be shared with the publisher’s image. In 1902 the Post Office changed their rules, allowing for the more traditional postcard size. At the same time a dividing line was introduced on the reverse, allowing space for the address and, for the first time, a message too, freeing up the entire front for a pictorial design. Postcard collecting was the hobby of many Edwardian ladies in particular but it waned with the outbreak and experience of the 1914-18 Great War. The light-hearted days, of which postcards had been an expression, were passing.

Toovey’s postcards, books and paper collectables specialist is my brother, Nicholas. Thanks to Nick’s personal interest in postcards, his specialist expertise and continuing promotion of sales of paper collectables and postcards, Toovey’s are one of only a very few auctioneers to have been accepted for membership of the Postcard Traders Association (PTA) in the country. So it is to Nick that I turn to find out what makes a postcard valuable. “Condition is very important,” says Nick. “Prices are considerably higher for mint examples than for worn cards. Be careful though, – a very rare card can still be valuable even if not perfect. Most cards will have the odd bump after almost 100 years, which is often acceptable to collectors who tend to favour these older cards. Perhaps more important is the subject and rarity of the image.”

Photographic postcards are the ones which most delight Nick. “They provide an accurate and unedited view of our country’s past – familiar scenes, now changed, and social history a century ago.”

‘The Mystery Towers’
‘The Mystery Towers’ at Southwick, a photographic postcard by Joseph Gurney Ripley, circa 1918

There are plenty of interesting postcards relating to Sussex. Take, for example, the two postcards illustrated; both date from the time of the Great War. The first was part of a collection of postcards relating to Southwick in Sussex. The image was taken by the photographer Joseph Gurney Ripley. It depicts two huge structures, which were constructed at Shoreham and Southwick in Sussex. These forts were built as part of a proposed chain of twelve, which would have been sunk between Dungeness and Cap Gris Nez, to deter U-boat attacks along our shores. Building began in June 1918 under a cloud of secrecy and Sussex locals nicknamed them ‘The Mystery Towers’. The Armistice came in November 1918 and they were never deployed for their original intention, although they were still being constructed as late as 1920. One of the towers did become the Nab Tower off the Isle of Wight. The collection of 267 postcards sold at Toovey’s for £2,900.

The second is titled ‘Soldiers leaving Horsham during the European War September 10th 1914, No.1’ and was published by Bon Marche, a company established by Frank C. Lewis, who in the years preceding the First World War became Horsham’s leading postcard maker. Many of these postcards are notable because of the quality of the photographs. Their images included towns and villages across the west of Sussex. A copy of this card could be bought today for about £15 at a postcard fair.

Where should Sussex collectors begin if they would like to explore collecting postcards? “I’m always pleased to advise,” Nick explains. “The important thing is to see as many postcards as you can and compare one with another, so that you begin to be able to see differences in quality between images, publishers, subjects and condition and to see how these differences affect their value. When you are starting off, though, always ask advice. Those involved with postcards are usually delighted to share their experience.” Aside from Nicholas’s specialist auctions, the three main postcard fairs locally are held at Haywards Heath on the first Saturday of every month, Shoreham every other month and Horsham once a year. A valuable resource for postcards of Sussex interest is the website www.sussexpostcards.info.

Nick is presented with endless albums of postcards in his work; does he ever tire of them? “No,” he replies without hesitation. “I never know what I will find and it’s always exciting to discover images which I haven’t seen before. People bring in albums for sale in my specialist auctions all the time and they are often surprised and delighted by how much they are worth. It’s a pleasure to share one’s knowledge and passion for postcards with others.”

Whatever your interests, postcards provide an opportunity to acquire wonderful images and a glimpse back into the past.

Toovey’s next specialist auction of postcards and paper collectables is to be held on 6th August 2013 and Nicholas is accepting entries until 3rd July 2013.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 12th June 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

NADFAS & Toovey’s Raise £780 for Mary How Trust

NADFAS Day at Toovey's
Rupert Toovey and Chris Winter with members of the Storrington NADFAS at Toovey's

The monies are now in and Toovey’s Special Interest NADFAS Day in aid of the Mary How Trust has realised £780.

For the second year, fine art auctioneers Toovey’s, on the A24 at Washington, teamed up with the Storrington Branch of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Society (NADFAS) in March to raise money for the local charity Mary How Trust. Rupert and Nicholas Toovey put on a series of lectures on Sussex as a centre for Modern British Art in the 20th century and collecting vintage postcards. The day also included lunch, a private view of the forthcoming auction and a valuation session of objects brought by the NADFAS members. NADFAS event organizer Chris Winter commented, “This event was oversubscribed last year, so Rupert kindly offered to run it again this year.”

The Mary How Trust, based at Pulborough, was set up in memory of Mary How by her husband and doctor in response to her battle with cancer. Today the charity screens around a thousand people a year, saving countless lives. Rupert Toovey, director of Toovey’s, said, “I am proud to be a patron of the Mary How Trust. The work its dedicated team does saves countless lives. It receives no funding from the NHS, though, so it is terribly important that we give generously to this exceptional local charity, especially in its Silver Jubilee year. I would like to thank the members of the Storrington NADFAS for their generous help.” The talks and lunch were given free of charge by Toovey’s so that all the proceeds could go to the Mary How Trust. Chris Winter concluded, “I would like to thank Rupert, Nicholas and all the team at Toovey’s for a memorable day.”

For more information on the Mary How Trust and how you might get involved, visit www.maryhowtrust.org

Members of the Postcard Traders Association

2013 has seen TOOVEY’S become members of the Postcard Traders Association.

The Postcard Traders Association (PTA) was formed in 1975 by a group of pioneering dealers who felt that the rapidly expanding hobby required a more professional approach, with regard to its organisation, regulation and direction. Today the PTA represents the foremost dealers from around the globe, auctioneers, fair organizers, publishers and accessory distributors among its members. All have been vetted to ensure that the high standards and objectives set upon its foundation are maintained to help in protecting collectors against unfair or dubious trading practices. It is, in effect, a guarantee or badge of fair trading, known by collectors and other dealers and has agreed a code of ethics which all members are required to adhere to.

Brighton Corporation Tramways Postcard
Lot 3045

Toovey’s are one of only a few auctioneers that have been accepted by the PTA and received membership to the association. It is largely attributable to Nicholas Toovey’s personal interest in postcards and is recognition for his continuing promotion of the Sales of Paper Collectables and the field of collecting postcards.

Toovey’s next auction of Paper Collectables is on 16th April 2013, the catalogue is now online and can be viewed by clicking here. The auction includes 90 Lots of postcards, including numerous vintage postcards of Sussex, the rest of the UK, China, Hong Kong and elsewhere, artist postcards by Louis Wain and Mabel Lucie Attwell, Military and Sport postcards. Also included in the specialist auction is a rare postcard of a Brighton Corporation Tramways tram showing various advertisements and the destination as ‘Seven Dials’, offered as a single item (Lot 3045) this rare postcard carries an estimate of £30-50.

Entries are currently invited for the next specialist postcard auction to be held as part of the August Sale of Paper Collectables, please call our offices for deadlines and further information.

“Bruneliana” sells at Toovey’s

The Brunel/Noble silver trunk

The Brunel Hawes Archive was successfully sold by Toovey’s in November 2010. The sale made national newspapers including the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and was even a topic of discussion by the National Trust in a fascinating blog post. Since the single owner auction it has been well reported that Toovey’s have established themselves as the leading auctioneers in the successful marketing and sale of items relating to the Brunel family. As the main port of call for selling items relating to Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is unsurprising that an array of related items have gone under the gavel at our Spring Gardens auction house.  Items offered for sale since the Brunel Hawes Archive include ‘The Great Eastern ABC’ (featured in a previous blog post), that sold for £9000. In the same auction a slightly tatty copy of  the scarce publication ‘A Complete History of the Great Eastern‘ sold for £800.  This fascinating pamphlet published by the Liverpool department Store, Lewis’s, advertised the ship’s final use as a floating music hall. A mug and nursery plate commemorating the Thames Tunnel sold for £580, showing the demand is not just for I.K., but for his father, Sir Marc, too.  Among the slightly more unusual items offered was a silver trunk that once belonged to the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel which also beared the marks of his granddaughter’s husband Saxton William Armstrong Noble, who coincidently, was also an engineer. The oak and metal bound trunk sold for £1750 in March this year.

George Henry Andrews watercolour

In April, a fascinating and possibly unique group of seven magic lantern slides were sold for £5800. Each documented the last few days of the Great Eastern and included views on deck with items grouped as lots prior to the breaking up of the ship in 1889. Two months later a mid-19th Century watercolour was consigned, titled ‘History of Steam Navigation‘, this monochrome watercolour by George Henry Andrews was probably a preliminary drawing for the ‘Illustrated London News’ for whom the artist worked for. The central view was of the S.S. Great Eastern but surrounding this was smaller titled vignettes including I.K. Brunel’s other ships the Great Britain and the Great Western. This original work sold for £3200. The most recent offering of “Bruneliana” appeared in August as part of the auction of Paper Collectables. A concertina style optical toy peepshow of the Thames Tunnel from the Wapping Entrance sold for £1100. Over the last two years a variety of photographs relating to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his engineering triumphs have also featured in Toovey’s auctions and always attract considerable interest, more of these are already consigned for the Sale of Paper Collectables on 6th November. Some people might wonder why these items appear in Sussex when the Brunels are much more associated with Bristol and London. The days of internet advertising and Toovey’s direct marketing mean that successful sales of “Bruneliana” can be held in Sussex. These items have sold to private collectors, specialist dealers, institutions and investment corporations across the country.  As the Antiques Trade Gazette reported on the 24th March “The Sussex village of Washington has to a very large degree become the preferred point of sale for Brunel material in recent times.”  Those still wanting a tenuous link with the Brunel family and Sussex however, can find one in the schooling of Isambard Kingdom. Between 1816 and 1820 the young, future engineer attended Dr Morell’s Academy in Hove, where it is believed he nearly choked on a half sovereign. As a result of this local connection the Brighton & Hove 673 double-decker bus is named after the famed engineer – an arguably useless piece of trivia to finish with!

Brighton & Hove Albion Football Paper Collectables

Lot 3050: Brighton & Hove Albion Football Postcards
Lot 3205: Brighton & Hove Albion Football Programmes

Other than antiques, fine art and collectors’ items, one of the main topics of discussion in Toovey’s Sussex saleroom is football. With the performances, refereeing decisions, goals, managers, saves, fouls, form and transfers often debated, the saleroom has on occasions transformed into an arena of football punditry. Who will be managing England at the 2012 European Championships seems to be a current hot topic of conversation. It would appear that the forthcoming summer of football and the millions wasted on strikers who can’t find the net in the Premiership seem to be overshadowing the mighty performances of one of our local teams, Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls were newly promoted into the Championship this season and appear to have settled into their much-awaited new home at the AMEX stadium.

The East Sussex team were founded in 1901 and originally played in the Southern League, before being elected to the Football League in 1920. Arguably their greatest spell was in the 1980’s, whilst playing in the top division they had a cup-run that took them to Wembley in the F.A. Cup where they played Manchester United, losing after a replay. The forthcoming sale of Paper Collectables on Tuesday 17th April includes Lot 3205, a large collection of football programmes mostly relating to Brighton and Hove Albion. Included in the lot is a series of programmes that follow the cup run of the 1982/83 season, including the semi-final, final and replay, these three all have the original ticket stubs for the matches included (see illustration, click for an enlarged image and again for further magnification), the lot carries a presale estimate of £100-150.

In the Postcard section of the same specialist sale is Lot 3050 (see illustration, click for an enlarged image and again for further magnification). This lot comprises a group of 10 photographic postcards of crowd scenes at the football matches of Brighton and Hove Albion. Dating from 1910 to circa 1929, the majority of the cards were published by the Hove-based photographer Thomas Walter Stephen Wiles, later Deane, Wiles & Millar, or the Brighton Camera Exchange. The postcards show a different era of football, the anonymous faces looking out are dressed in their Sunday best at a time when financial investment in the sport was considerably different.   It was also a different era for the Seagulls as these were taken at their former home, the Goldstone Ground. Amongst the supporters and collectors these postcards are always sought after, particularly those featuring cup-runs (as some of these do) or those against rival clubs. This lot carries the presale estimate of £50-80 and is offered alongside Stamps, other Postcards, Cigarette Cards, Autographs, Photographs and Printed and Manuscript Ephemera in Toovey’s Sale of Paper Collectables on the 17th April 2012. For viewing times for the auction please click here.

Under manager Gus Poyet, Brighton and Hove Albion are currently competing for a Play-off place in the Championship, and in the absence of any Crystal Palace supporters at Toovey’s, we wish them the very best of luck!