With overseas holidays still mired in quarantine issues, it looks as if many families will holiday in the UK this summer. It will be a return to a bygone era when most people opted for fashionable resorts including Southport, Scarborough and Bognor Regis.
A knock-on effect of this refocusing on the UK holiday resort is renewed interest in vintage holiday posters as a collectable that rises in value – a tick-up in demand gently pushing up prices.
Over the last ten years, the most sought-after have risen in value by about 20 per cent. Many sell for £5,000 or more, though you can still pick up quality original printed travel artwork for less than £1,000.
SKEGNESS, £5,000: This iconic image of a frolicking fisherman – by John Hassall, issued by the Great Northern Railway in 1908 and later by the London & North Eastern – was one of the first to urge Britons to travel by train to the seaside.
Patrick Bogue is a poster collector as well as an auctioneer at Onslows Auctioneers in Dorset. He believes lockdown has added to the appeal of these posters.
He says: 'Cancelled holidays mean renewed interest in taking a break in Britain. And there is no better way to celebrate than by investing in a poster that captures our resorts as once luxury destinations.
'The golden age of travel was between the World Wars – from about 1924 to around 1931 when the Great Depression arrived. This was an era when the two great railway lines of the time – London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) competed for custom with posters promoting travel to holiday resorts reached by their trains.'
The posters promoted the glamorous side of travel, using artists and designs that captured the traveller's attention and imagination.
For example, Birmingham was an industrial powerhouse and was targeted with posters promoting holiday locations such as Weston-super-Mare and Aberystwyth – places visitors could get to in sometimes less than three hours by train.
East Coast Joys, £19,500: A set of six different posters revealing the joys of holidaying on the East Coast – the ‘drier side of Britain’. This Art Deco set was produced by artist Tom Purvis for London and North Eastern Railway in 1931.
Yorkshire workers and employees in other Northern powerhouses, such as Manchester, were encouraged to travel by train with posters of holiday hotspots that included Scarborough, Southport, Skegness and Blackpool. Those based in London and the South East were tempted by posters of seaside resorts such as Bognor Regis and Cromer.
Bogue says: 'At the time, the artists of these posters were treated with great deference. The Art Deco movement helped bring out the best of their talent.'
Art Deco helped bring out the best of the artists’ talent
Among the most sought-after artists – whose posters sell for thousands of pounds – is Tom Purvis. He is known as the 'king of the hoardings', worked for LNER and was a member of a school of LNER artists known as 'the big five'.
Others in this talented pool – whose stunning posters can still often be found for £1,000 or less – include Fred Taylor, Frank H Mason, Frank Newbould and Austin Cooper.
Night train to Scotland, £18,000: The luxury of steam railways in 1932. The artist Philip Zec produced this poster for customers of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company and London & North Eastern Railway.
Bogue says: 'The LNER artists made some of the most captivating and bold images of the era – that still look fresh almost a century later. In contrast, those working for the LMS had a more traditional approach and often employed Royal Academicians. The success rate of LMS posters was more hit and miss than the LNER images – but they also created fabulous artwork.'
Collectable artists of the 'golden era' for travel posters belonging to the LMS stable include Stanhope Forbes, Norman Wilkinson, Fortunino Matania and William Orpen.
The poster art of the era embraced a timeless appeal that still captivates art lovers and collectors. For example, LMS posters of the Lake District, Scotland and Northern Ireland by Norman Wilkinson make you yearn to visit their beauty spots, with images of a landscape largely unchanged to this day.
The Yorkshire Moors, £4,500: An evocative silhouette with a timeless appeal of a cloth-capped visitor overlooking Mallyan Spout waterfall near Whitby. Produced by Tom Purvis in 1925 for London & North Eastern Railway.
Such original travel prints might cost between £200 and £2,000 – with the condition and appeal dictating price. Posters from before the First World War are also sought after.
Perhaps the most famous is the 1908 'Skegness is SO bracing' image by artist John Hassall. This helped kickstart the travel poster revolution.
Original early Skegness posters can sell for £5,000 or more. Investors should be wary of buying unseen 'original' posters off the internet using websites such as eBay. Instead, buyers should use a specialist dealer who offers a guarantee of authenticity.
Cornwall, £1,500: The appeal of Cornwall – and its quaint fishing ports – is illustrated in this poster from 1930 for Great Western Railway by artist Leonard Richmond.