2012 Cartophilic Convention in Lincoln.

by John Devaney

 
   

This year’s AGM was hosted by the Lincolnshire Branch and was a tremendous success despite the inclement weather. Both the dealers and collectors, according to the many I talked with, had a very successful time over the two days and the atmosphere remained vibrant, friendly, and relaxed. There was a huge assortment of cartophilic treasures on offer with several stalls literally ‘bulging at the seams’! The hall itself was suitably spacious and one could mingle without feeling suffocated or crowded out. To add to the comfort, there were plenty of chairs provided at each stall. Tea and refreshments were readily available throughout the day from the lounge area at the main entrance.The piped pop music caterwauling over the intercom system was a tad off-putting but the general enthusiastic hum of animated conversation soon succeeded in drowning out the din.

I reported for duty at the side entrance for the dealers and was greeted, at the door, by CSGB Treasurer David Scuffham. I dared to ask him about my expenses and he growled with disgruntled indignation. No need for any guard dogs here I thought to myself. Seriously, though, David did a grand job and those steely eyes remained ever vigilant. Master organiser Dave Davis was overseeing the preparations and guided thedealers into the hall with silkily smooth efficiency.

As I innocently surveyed the activity, Dave’s Second-in-Command (or should that be ‘First’!), Maggie, noticed me with hands in pockets idly jangling my loose change in anticipation of purchases to come. I gave her a warm smile. She gave me a stone cold grimace. I was, in her eyes, a slacker! She pounced on me with practised paratrooper efficiency and promptly issued orders that I was to patrol the emergency doors. Her excellent organisational ability could not be argued with. I tried, in vain, to soften her indomitable disposition when I noticed fellow collector Mark, standing a safe distance behind her, signalling that he had some cartophilic ‘goodies’ for me. I pointed him out to Maggie and pleadingly uttered “but temptation is calling me”! She was having none of it and banished me instantly to the lonely sidelines of the hall. Not quite the welcome I was expecting but well done Maggie for keeping this card- distracted Editor out of temptation’s grasp.

As the dealers settled-in, I watched with detached curiosity as they each went about displaying their cartophilic merchandise for the collecting hordes to drool over. I never realised the careful preparation that goes into each dealer’s stall and the sheer physical effort needed to transport and lift the albums into place. Dave Davis pointed-out a spare empty table in the ‘no man’s land’ opposite the LCCC table and named it as ‘The Meet the Editor Table’.Apparently, I was meant to sit at this table and greet people as they walked passed. I was not sure this was going to work. Anyway, I gave it a trial run but found that passers-by either felt sorry for me sitting there all on my own or were wondering why my cards weren’t lying on the of himself as he was in younger days! table! I have to confess that, after half-an-hour of this isolated vigil, I deserted my post and hastily mingled with the crowd. I expect to be court-marshalled by the CSGB Council any day now.

A grand total of 147 CSGB members attended on the Friday, with 46 members arriving on the Saturday, together with 132 paid visitors attending throughout the weekend. An additional 26 visitors gained entry via the voucher system. Five new members joined as a result of attending the Convention.

Sam Whiting, our Publicity Officer, has commented that the Friday session remains the most popular with both the collectors, who are at their keenest to buy, and the dealers. He adds:“Whether the wallet suffers or the enthusiasm wanes on the Saturday is something the CSGB would have to discuss for future events.” Both the attendance figures, and comments I’ve received from the dealers, would seem to bear this out. In regard to visitor numbers, Sam considers that the remote location of the venue may have contributed to a lower attendance as, obviously, a city centre venue has the possibility of attracting passing trade; especially on the Saturday.

Sam was particularly pleased to see representatives from Canada, Australia, China, and the USA and feels this bodes well for the continuing popularity of cigarette cards into the 20th century. I was personally glad to have had the pleasure of talking to Dennis Owyang and his associates who enlightened me a little regarding their continuing research activities. His stall was a fascinating, if somewhat incongruous, combination of ornate oriental card issues and bubblegum card brashness. Apparently, he’s got a hotline to The Garbage Pail Kids as well as a spiritual link to the more refined cultural elegance of oriental card mysticism. A man of many parts!

Other attendees I would particularly like to mention are Peter and Margaret Wright who I had great pleasure in renewing my friendship with and catching-up with the ‘Garden Gnome’ gossip; mad blarney-man Paddy and his sidekick Mark with his cartophilic ‘type’ toolbox and scarey skull- emblazoned T-shirt ; Digital Demon Stuart Arnold for the internet advice and coming to my rescue with some spare camera batteries; Peter Beer for his ‘haggle ‘til you drop’ persistence and Neville Proctor who takes it all calmly in his stride; Derek Syrett and his wife Kim for their friendly banter and for having the most impressively staged card-stall : Bernard shows Brian how things are done! display (see gallery);‘King of Victoriana’ John Shaw and his charming wife (who thinks it is about time I got hitched!); gum card specialists Graham Convey, Mike Hughes, John Harvey, and Chris Prozzetti whose fascination with ‘A & BC’ relics I share; and all the keen collectors and branch members who I had the good fortune to meet as I ambled down The Hall of Cards. A special mention goes out to John and Ann Cahill for their constant companionship and also to Bernard Wickham and his long-suffering apprentice, Brian (The Patient One!) Claridge, who were such friendly and jovial company at the ‘B & B’ and “The Gateway” diner.They are an extremely cordial and good-natured pair of dealers who, despite knowing the inside stories relating to the ‘end numbers game’ and other tricks of trade, continue to possess a down-to-earth integrity, honesty, and love of the hobby which I greatly admire. here is no doubt that the Convention helped to reunite many old friends and consolidate new ones. There was a definite buzz of renewed kinship amongst the crowd as they rummaged amiably alongside each other in search of their individual pasteboard treasures. Being relatively new to the scene, I’m still putting faces to the names but, I’m glad to report, all the faces were friendly ones and I received many positive and encouraging remarks on my work as Editor of this magazine. It was good to see Gordon Howsden who was also very supportive. He was extremely impressed with the organisation of the event and finds it remarkable that such dedicated hard work is done purely for the love of cards! He has, yet again, been voted as this year’s winner of the Cartophilic Cup for his superb “Britain in the Thirties: Part One” article and was presented with his richly deserved award at the AGM. He sadly announced that he was retiring from writing for awhile but we all hope he will be back on the scene again in the future . He goes out in a blaze of glory! Joint runner-ups in the competition were (surprise surprise!) Gordon Howsden for his second instalment on 1930s Britain and Sam Whiting for his excellent, thought-provoking, examination of card grading and its consequences for the future of cartophily.

Sam’s article is worthy of an additional mention as it is a prescient examination of the current trend for ‘officially’ graded cards; particularly popular in the USA. There is an understandable fear that vastly inflated values, propelled by such practices as the export and ‘slabbing’ of UK cards overseas, may eventually price ordinary collectors out of the market altogether. Sam wonders whether the conflict of interest between investment opportunist dealers and the more traditional gentlemen dealers may one day come to a head with possible negative impacts on the hobby. It is open to debate and Sam would very much like to hear other views on this. Are the days of a good-humoured haggle with a collector- friendly dealer coming to end I wonder?

At the AGM session on the Saturday afternoon, there was a Presidential Address conducted by John Walton (reproduced on pp.110- 111) which highlighted several significant achievements during a highly successful year for the Society. This was followed by brief reports from the various branches which all appear to be flourishing despite the recessional gloom. A good indication of this was voiced by Colin Fawcett, on behalf of the East Anglia Branch, who indicated that their club had an average attendance of 80 from an overall membership of 150. Very impressive indeed! The Reading Branch members are, according to John Cahill, still enthusiastically advancing the cause of thematic card exhibitions and competition sharing. This is definitely a cause worthy of active promotion. David Benson reiterated John Walton’s optimism about the rejuvenation of the northern club scene and the plans for our first Great North Fair at Darlington (more details about this groundbreaking event will appear in the next issue).

The AGM finished with the traditional auction session conducted by Martin Murray and ably assisted by Vernon Young and Robin Short. Colin Fawcett remarks that “some good prices were made for many rare and good quality cards.” I had my heart set on the Liquorice Allsorts Edwardian Bassett Girl at Lot No.136 but, alas, it was not to be; I was left outbid and disconsolate by a keen collector who I now think of as ‘The Lincolnshire Interloper’! As is often the case in this materialistic world we live in, the girl went to the man with the biggest pocket.The courteous bidder did shake my hand after the auction and actually apologised for taking her from me so she has ended up with a true gentleman after all. Sadly, for me, she joins a long list of ladies I have lost over the years.Winning a selection of Warus Beatles cards did help to ease the heartbreak however. The highest bid was £420 for the Turmac Sports & Pastimes silk set (Lot No.49) followed by £360 for the Taddy Royalty set (Lot No.47). Both Co-Op Buildings & Works (Lot No.45) and Wills 1902 Football Series (Lot No.130) met their reserve prices of £300 and £320 respectively. Aside from the unobtainable ‘Bassett Girl’, perhaps the most beautiful and desirable cards, to my eyes, were the Cadbury’s Old Ballad Series which, not surprisingly, caused a sudden outbreak of very fierce bidding.

Colin Mann, whose health has suffered quite badly of late, sat bravely in his mobile chair during most of the proceedings. We chatted for awhile and he confirmed that, despite his fragile condition, he is prepared to continue valiantly in his role as CSGB Postal Auction Secretary. In my opinion, he is deserving of great respect and recognition for his efforts and I hereby bestow upon him my Beyond the Call of Duty Award for 2012! Well done Colin and sincere thanks for all your help with the CNN Auction Reports.

Finally, I wish to thank Olive Chafer for sharing with me some heart-warming memories of her recently departed husband, Bryan, who was a well-loved character on the cartophilic circuit.Although his obituary appeared in CNN 289, I would like to add a few further reflections. I first met him at Orpington where he immediately deflated some of my more idealistic notions of cartophily with his earthy upfront humour. He nicknamed me ‘Smiler’ and he would delight in trying to embarrass me with his wicked- but-good-natured wit.According to Olive, he was an incurable hoarder of items as diverse as old ‘hoovers’ and ‘nuts ‘n’ bolts’ and his storage shed eventually became so cluttered that it could only be accessed through the roof. Olive recalls that he once became immovably trapped on top of this huge pile of collectables and they had a very difficult job extricated his body from it all. A helicopter air-lift was thankfully not required but it was a close call! A big part of Bryan’s card collection was available at the Convention and most of it was sold in bulk (much to Olive’s relief!) to Mike Towersey’s son, Lee, for £2,500. As Lee is also a card dealer, it seems fitting that Bryan’s collection will now be fed back into the hobby to placate the appetites of fellow cartophilists. I was very moved on hearing that his favourite chair at the London Branch was left empty for several months out of respect for this loyal and enthusiastic member who has left an unforgettable impression on all those who met him. I shall always have a smile when I think of Bryan and also when I think of Lincoln 2012.


 
A ray of sunshine in a rainy Lincolnshire field.   The hall.
 
Lincolnshire branch welcomes collectors.   Sam on duty.
The AGM and auction.
 
The president's speech   Listening attentively.
 
The Gordon Howsden cup   Some of the auction lots
Cartophilic moments.
 
Dennis Owyang with his Chinese cards   Going cheap
 
David Scuffham and Alan Stevens   Murraycards old and new
 
Stuart Armistead   Roy Davis does a brisk trade
 
Some interesting packets   Peter and Margaret Wright

 

Click here to see pictures of previous conventions.

(C) 2011 The Cartophilic Society of Great Britain Ltd.