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What comes to mind when you hear the name Aleister Crowley?

Reproduction, © Bloomsbury AuctionsOccultist, magician, poet, novelist, mountaineer, painter, author. The Wickedest Man in the World. Founder of a religion. A bit of a nutter.

Whatever comes to mind when Aleister Crowley is mentioned, it won’t include the word ‘boring’, anyway. The notoriety of his name possibly lies behind the £11,000 bid online by a private American collector for an original silk ‘magical’ outfit with embroidered decoration he once owned and wore, most famously in a celebrated 1934 Associated Press photograph showing him with ceremonial dagger and arms outstretched. more »

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Read all about it – the ultimate Cassandre poster

Cassandre poster

So successful was the poster designer Cassandre (1901-68) that he set up his own advertising agency in the 1930s.

He is perhaps best known for his Art Deco design for the transatlantic cruise liner Normandie, the perspective of his illustration conveying the sheer vastness and grandeur of this icon from the golden age of steam travel.

However, it is another Cassandre design that is seen as the rarest and most sought after, and it was this poster that appeared at auctioneers Van Sabben in the Netherlands on November 15. more »

Boxing clever – the £20,000 Dinky toys


It is widely known that rare old toys can be worth a lot of money, but these pre-war delivery vans advertising commercial brand names proved to be that extra bit special.

The market for Dinky toys is filled with serious collectors and these are exactly the sort of trophies they are after.

In 1934, when the brand was in its infancy, each van cost sixpence, but today those few examples that have escaped metal fatigue and playwear can command remarkable sums. more »

Winston Churchill and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Watson’s Victoria Cross

Photography Jan Starnes © Dix Noonan Webb LtdWhen Winston Churchill was a war correspondent he wrote in his 1898 book The Malakand Field Force of an officer he encountered on the North-West Frontier: “The attention of the reader is directed to the bravery of this officer. After a long day marching and fighting, in the dark, without food and with small numbers, the man who will go on, unshaken and unflinching, after he has received a severe and painful wound, has in respect of personal courage few equals and no superior in the world.”

The future Prime Minister had accompanied a column that relieved the courageous man in question, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Watson of the Royal Engineers. Watson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, and that medal is included in a group being offered in the sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria to be held by Dix Noonan Webb in London on December 11. They are being sold by descendants and are estimated at £150,000-180,000. more »

Marilyn Monroe 1940s #Selfie

M29893-7 003Selfies are nothing new – as a self-portrait of Norma Jean Baker taken in about 1940 shows.

Later known as Marilyn Monroe of course, the future star is seen as a smiling teenager in a wide-brimmed straw hat and lipstick, a rather innocent and charming picture contrasting starkly with her more famous sex symbol days.

Seeing as mobile phones were not exactly common in 1940s USA, this image – which was given to a family member – was taken in a photo booth. Nearly 75 years on, in an era where selfies are somewhat easier to arrange, the photo is being offered with an estimate of $8000-12,000 in the Vernacular Photography, Fine Photographs & Photobooks sale at Swann Galleries in New York on December 11. more »

Ship figurehead from the last of the Brazilian slavers

BLOG slave shipDespite the fact that the British government had declared the trade in African slaves to be ‘contrary to the principles of justice and humanity’ by 1808, a ship’s figurehead to be offered at auction in Essex shows that the Royal Navy was still fighting the vile practice 43 years later.

A decent amount of Britain’s wealth had been based on slavery, it should never be forgotten, but the Slave Trade Act had outlawed the trade, if not slavery itself (the later Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom).

A series of agreements relating to the abolition of the slave trade were made with other countries that regarded the West African coast as a source of manpower for their colonies on the other side of the Atlantic – Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. more »

Play it again, Sam

BLOG Hollywood PianoOk, no-one actually said ‘Play it again, Sam’, but why spoil a good story? Bidders at the Bonhams Hollywood Memorabilia sale in New York on November 24 clearly didn’t mind too much, with one buyer in particular shelling out $2,900,000 (£1,840,400) to buy the famous piano featured in Casablanca.

In the 1942 film Sam (Dooley Wilson) does play As Time Goes By after being asked by Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) when she strolls into Rick’s Café Américain – and he does so, stopping only when Rick (Humphrey Bogart) comes storming out to say: “Sam, I thought I told you never to play that song….” Sam does play the song a few scenes later, at Rick’s behest (“Play it!” Rick snarls, not “Play it again, Sam”…) as Rick drowns his sorrows (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine!”), and remembers his brief, passionate affair with Ilsa in Paris. more »

Harry Beck’s 1936 London Tube Map

BLOG Harry BeckLike every idea touched by genius, Harry Beck’s famous Tube map has been an inspirational design copied worldwide.

The Underground electrical draughtsman produced his wonderfully simple and logical answer to depicting a confusing and ever-expanding network with a first sketch back in 1931.

Rather than emphasising distance and geographical accuracy, like other maps, Beck (1902-74) based his on the circuit diagrams he drew for his day job to create coloured, criss-crossing lines. more »

Relics of the war to end all wars

BLOG WW1 itemsThis rather jolly model of a steamroller crushing the Kaiser on the way to Berlin is one of over 200 lots of First World War crested china coming up at C&T Auctioneers’ sale in Kent on December 2.

While crested china is not uncommon, it is unusual to have so many from a single collection being offered. The steamroller pictured is one of the more unusual designs. Manufactured by Arcadian and with the town crest of Bridgend, it is estimated at £650-850.

Such china was created in many different forms, ranging from figurines of sailors and soldiers to new weapons such as tanks, zeppelins, submarines and planes, with even bombs, grenades and bullet taking their place. more »

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