Tales from the auctionroom
by Michael Perry
At the beginning of October, I went to buy a birthday card at my second-choice local card shop and was amazed that the selection available was severely reduced by the large number Christmas cards already on display. My favourite card shop had closed because it was principally a newsagents cum stationery shop – newspaper sales continue to decline and letter writing has almost died out altogether.
Since the beginning of this Century, the two major firms producing picture postcards and originally greetings postcards have closed their doors. Bamforth & Co. closed in 2001 and J Salmon, the country’s oldest postcard publishers, stopped production in 2017 after about 100 years in the business.
My daughter, commendably, sends me cards featuring family photographs cleverly produced by an online company and, in a small way, illustrates the reasons for the demise of the card companies.
However, some of the most fascinating lots that pass through the auction rooms are the early 20th Century postcard albums. Some contain up to 500 cards, a mixture of Christmas and birthday cards (at the time often printed as postcards), topographical cards, actors and actresses from the stage and silver screen, comic cards from the seaside resorts, silk embroidered cards sent home from France by soldiers in WWI, some unique photographic postcards of vintage coach outings and regimental football teams, etc. Altogether a glimpse of life and culture from 100 years ago.
From Daleks to Noddy
Postcards are but one section of Capes Dunn’s most eclectic auction the ‘Collectors Sale’, held four times a year. The other sections in the sale include toys; model railway; football programmes and sporting memorabilia; coins; stamps; cameras and photographica; textiles and costume; militaria; medals and antique weapons (last year a 17th Century flintlock longarm with an estimate of £800-1,200 sold for an astonishing £42,000).
Often these auctions include oneowner collections. Recent examples have included the contents of the ‘St Annes on-Sea Toy and Teddy Bear Museum’; the late Sir Gerald Kaufman’s collection of cinema posters; the UK’s second largest collection of Daleks, which included 17 full-sized models – they certainly presented an intimidating line-up in the saleroom! In past recent years, there was a collection of electric shock therapeutic machines and a collection of Noddy memorabilia. I still smile when I remember driving home in the Manchester rush hour in Noddy’s car – a topless, doorless runabout painted in Noddy’s livery.
Wandering round the saleroom on the public view days, you can not help but be fascinated by the range of interesting and individual items on display.
As I personally look to the future and to 2020 in particular, as I will then have completed 60 years with Capes Dunn, I wonder whether I, thanks to new technology, will be conveyed to work in a driverless electric car, to stand on the rostrum in an auction room devoid of people
who are all at home bidding on the internet via their mobile phones or virtual home assistants. Or maybe I will be a hologram.