Last month in Harrogate, auctioneers Morphets held a sale of what is thought to be the biggest collection of vintage railway posters ever to come on the market.
The 580 posters, offered on January 15-16 alongside original
artwork, advertising placards, railway notices, books, railway
office furniture and ephemera all came from the Knaresborough home
of the late Malcolm Guest, a lifelong railway enthusiast who died
Born in Torquay in 1943, Malcolm Ivor Guest developed an early
love of the Great Western Railway. Before he took up his place to
study architecture in Cardiff in the early 1960s, he had a
temporary job in the publicity department at Paddington Station.
When offered a full-time position he seized the opportunity.
Under the new regime of British Rail, most of GWR's publicity
material was considered superfluous and was disposed of, but
Malcolm had the foresight to save as much as possible and so
started his vast collection.
Pre-sale interest was so strong that Morphets decided to
relocate the sale from their normal saleroom to the more spacious
environs of The Pavillions of Harrogate at the Great Yorkshire
Showground. Despite the snow, there was a good turnout of private
buyers, the poster trade, museums and a number of county councils
looking to buy for their tourist boards.
Interest was predominantly from the UK, but there were also some
keen American bidders, with one New Yorker remaining on the phone
for the entire eight and a half hours of the first day's sale. But
most surprising was the impact of internet bidding, no doubt
accentuated by the adverse weather which meant that many were
unable to reach Harrogate. Some 222 bidders registered online via
the-saleroom.com and accounted for almost a quarter of the
The first day of the sale offered posters and original artwork
and saw 99 per cent of lots find buyers, with 91 per cent sold on
the second day of railway collectors' items, artwork, archives,
books and ephemera. The total was £411,392 over the two days, of
which £100,000 sold to internet bidders paying an additional three
per cent premium for the comfort of staying at home.
The highlight of the Guest collection was a jovial view of
Southport's Lido, a quad royal produced in c.1925 for LMS, which
made the top price of the sale at £6200, more than double a
£2000-3000 estimate. Fortunino Matania is known for his glamorised
images of a number of, perhaps less than glitzy, British locations,
and this illustration of the Merseyside resort embodies the bygone
glamour of the British seaside. This was the top auction price
recorded for the poster, followed by £4500 at Christie's South
Kensington in 2001.
Above: the view of Southport by Fortunino Matania which
topped the Guest collection of railway posters sold by Morphets.
Entitled 'The Lido', it took £6200.
Whilst this poster extolled the virtues of balmy Southport in
the summer, the previous lot, also by Mantania, advertised its
credentials as a winter resort. Southport:
Wintertime, printed for LMS by Waterlow & Sons Ltd c.1930,
was graded condition B+ with an estimate of £2000-3000 and sold for
Both posters were among 267 in the collection of the larger quad
royal size, measuring 3ft 4in x 4ft 2in (1.01 x 1.27m). Generally
these fetched somewhat higher prices than the smaller double
royals, 3ft 4in x 2ft 1in (1.01m x 64cm), of which there were 313.
Predictably, familiar holiday destinations were popular, with
posters advertising the golden beaches and thatched cottages of
Devon and Cornwall selling particularly well.
A rare image of the Cotswolds by John Cater, printed for British
Railways by Jordison & Co., in condition A also proved popular.
It sold at £1200, above hopes of £200-300.
The Guest collection included three copies of Speed to the West
by Chas H. Mayo, a quad royal printed by Jordison & Co for GWR.
Estimated between £1000 and £1500, with two in condition A and one
A-, were all snapped up at £1800, £1900 and £2200 apiece. The
previous top price for this poster was £1800 for a B+ copy in 2008
at Christie's South Kensington.
The romance of the Flying Scotsman also proved alluring.
A stylish and rare 1932 quad royal by Philip Zec for LMS LNER
titled By Night Train to Scotland, in condition B, belied
a £400-600 estimate to sell for £3200.
Other Scottish posters were popular, in particular Scotland: Its
Highlands and Islands (off Staffa) by Tom Gilfillan, printed by
John Horne for LMS. In condition A this attractive poster made
£2800 against an estimate of £800-1200. Elizabeth Pepper Darling,
owner of Morphets, was overwhelmed by the interest in original
artwork produced for the posters. Against cautious estimates, a
good number of these made it into the top 25 prices of the
Most desirable was a watercolour by Frank Henry Mason RBA
(1876-1965) of Dartmouth estuary, 8 x 20in (20 x 51cm), an original
design for a carriage print commissioned by GWR.
Estimated at £250-350, it made £3200. An oil on canvas of
Surfers on a Cornish Beach by Jack Merriott, commissioned by GWR
for a Newquay poster, 2ft 9in x 2ft 1in (84 x 64cm), sold at £3000,
above a £600-800 estimate.
The posters notched up the bulk of the sale total (around
£300,000), and the second day attracted a slightly different crowd
of predominantly railway buffs.
The second highest price of the sale, £5500, was achieved by a
class 49XX steam engine plate for the locomotive Wardley Hall. The
hefty 5ft 8in x 20in (1.73m x 51cm) brass and painted metal plate
was sold with the associated brass cabside number plate, and had
been estimated at £6000-8000.
But this is not the end. The Knaresborough house has yet more
riches to relinquish.
These will be included in Morphets' March 4 sales, most notably
the 84 pen and ink drawings by William Heath Robinson, originally
commissioned by GWR for their Railway Ribaldry book published in
The buyer's premium was 15%