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March 2002
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EDITORIAL

Railwayana. There’s a term that’s been added to the English vocabulary only recently. The prices fetched at auction by some of these lumps of dirty hardware amaze me, as probably it does many people.

I watched a hushed audience at an auction last year as two name plates sold for over £40,000 each. These were unique, exceptional, extremely old, and with attractive names. LNWR name plates now seem to regularly exceed £10,000 each and with several bidders willing to pay that one can only say that the price is correct because it has been set by market forces.

What though, of the ‘modem’ BR totems which regularly sell for four figures? These pieces of mass-produced pressed steel are far more common than their pre-Nationalisation equivalents which fetch much lower prices.

At another sale last year a small cast iron LNWR sign from a station waiting room door sold for over £300. It was a nice sign and I do not dispute that it was attractive, and perhaps reminds its purchaser of something from his youth. Why, I was even tempted to bid for it myself. Soon after came a book of blueprints from Wolverton Works, which I was able to buy on behalf of the Society. Now one does not

 

hang a book of blueprints on the wall, but the information contained in that possibly unique volume is priceless, as it lists and illustrates different types of carts and barrows then in use. I am sure this will in time be referred to by many members including modellers and historians. The price was half that of the station door plate, yet from the point of view of historical significance, compared to the door plate it should have cost thousands.

So how does one value a piece of hardware from an engine, a cast iron number plate from a humble wagon, a work of art in the form of a mass-produced but now rare poster, or even a photograph? How does one equate a 150 year old letter or booklet to a fifteen year old nameplate from an IC 125?

If you now expect me to give an answer you are in for a disappointment, because I don’t know. All I can say is thank goodness we all have different interests, because if all the people who regularly fill railwayana auction halls around the country were interested in the same things as me, then I’d never be able to afford to buy anything!

Mike Williams

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