Nostalgia drives boom in transport memorabilia
Tube train luggage racks and illuminated garage signs are in demand
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home, successive weeks of lockdown almost makes one nostalgic for the daily commute to the office. Almost. But it does also offer up at least one explanation for the growing popularity of transport memorabilia.
“Collectors have gone wild for parts salvaged from decommissioned Tube trains, with goods ranging from seat fabric, station tiles and phone handsets,” says Rory Tingle for MailOnline. Sales of Metropolitan Line luggage racks from the Sixties, for example, have generated hundreds of thousands of pounds for the London Transport Museum. Lift buttons, bizarrely, are apparently especially popular.
Since the museum comes under Transport for London’s direction, it is free to keep or sell any old items that come into its hands – a lucrative revenue source, as it turns out. According to MailOnline, the museum has, over the years, sold 1,053 Jubilee Line lift buttons for a total of £26,325, eight Overground train drivers’ seats at £375 a pop and 3,554 Metropolitan Line luggage racks for £355,500.
Driving the market
It’s not just trains but also “automobilia”. “The market [in automobilia] is showing no signs of slowing, and items which might have been £50 or so a couple of years ago are now making around £250,” says collector Stewart Imber, who runs a business, Themed Garages, dressing sets for motoring events, such as the Goodwood Revival.
In October he sold part of his collection through Cambridge-based auction house Cheffins. “Illuminated signs are now really coming into their own as part of the vintage sale,” says Cheffins’s director, Jeremy Curzon. And yet, “despite their meteoric rise in popularity, illuminated signs can still be picked up at a good price at auction and we see many buyers coming to the sales looking to pick up a bargain”.
British Airways indulged plane enthusiasts in November with a sale of its surplus stock. William Edwards plates were on sale for £25, bread baskets for £42 and hot towels for £12 each. In fact, such was demand that some customers complained of delivery delays. Sensing a trick, the airline has even launched a range of 150 limited edition BOAC Speedbird suitcases this month, each made with bits of an old Boeing 747 and costing £1,935 apiece.
But it’s best to wait for transport items to be decommissioned first. Earlier last month, one fashion student ran into trouble with clothes sales platform Depop after refashioning and selling a Chiltern Railways seat cover cum bandeau top. She sold it for £15 before refunding the money and delisting the item. Chiltern Railways was not amused. “Whilst we appreciate this new take on railway memorabilia,” a spokesperson said, “…we would respectfully ask that they are left in place.”
This article was originally published in MoneyWeek