The eclectic auction: Political posters, unusual headgear – and a roll of Nazi toilet paper

Whyte’s sale includes military, political, and curious collectibles


The dictionary definition of the adjective “eclectic” is “deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources”. Whyte’s auction titled ‘The Eclectic Collector’ in Dublin next Saturday (September 17th) certainly fits the bill. Over time, even the most mundane everyday objects can become both collectible and valuable. Take Lot 220, “A cigarette given to President of the IRFU and former Irish Rugby International, William Hinton, while he was a guest of King George V in the Royal box at Twickenham for the England v Ireland test” on February 12th, 1921 contained in a silver-capped glass is estimated at €200-€300.

If a royal fag doesn’t appeal, how about Lot 503, Nazi-era “German cigarettes in original military motif boxes” for €150-€200? The three packs of 20 have the original “15 pfennig tax seal bearing Swastika” and the lot includes “two boxes of matches bearing military illustrations including SS”.

The auction features a huge range of items from militaria to political mementoes.

Lot 63, is a mahogany clock with a white enamel dial bearing the legend: ‘General Post Office – Dublin’ estimated at €2,000-€3,000. Whyte’s said “it is likely . . . that this clock hung on an office wall in a GPO building in 1916”. Why? “The GPO was officially reopened in 1929 [after being extensively damaged during the Rising] and the clocks supplied for the refitted buildings had ‘An Post’ enamelled on the dial and an ‘SE’, Saorstát na hÉireann logo on the dial.

Lot 102 is a “Michael Collins autograph signature on ‘London and North Western Railway, Holyhead, Kingstown & Dublin Express Steamers, Royal Mail Route’ notepaper, signed in pencil, ‘Miceal O Coilean - 8/12/1921’. Written on the mailboat from Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire during his journey back from London after the signing of The Treaty two days previously” (€2,000- €3,000).

Lot 124 is a 1948 General Election Fianna Fáil poster depicting “ranks of men and women marching in step with the slogan, “Step together, Vote Fianna Fáil (€200-€300).

Lot 180 is “A Siebe Gorman twelve-bolt copper and brass diving helmet”, estimated at €3,000-€5,000, used by Joseph Murphy in his role as the Dublin Port and Docks diver in the 1960s and who is commemorated by a plaque on the preserved diving bell now displayed on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

Dublin headgear of the landlocked variety is Lot 127, a “1960s Clery’s department store, doorman’s uniform cap” estimated at €200-€300.

Also recalling an era of lost elegance is Lot 324, a surviving example of the headgear worn by ‘The Blue Hussars’, officially called the Mounted Escort, a ceremonial unit of the Irish Army established in 1932 that escorted the president of Ireland on State occasions from 1932 until its disbandment in 1948. The “Hussar-pattern black seal-skin busby” is estimated at €500-€700.

Also evoking Dublin’s past is Lot 202, a 1931 travel poster, ‘It’s Sunny at Howth’ depicting children playing above Balscadden Road, published by the Great Northern Railway Company and estimated at €800-€1,200.

The catalogue sheds fascinating light on curious tradtions in Irish history. Why, for example, is ivy associated with Parnell? Lot 37 is a “bog-oak baton surmounted by a silver plated bust of Charles Stewart Parnell and decorated with carvings of ivy” to commemorate the man known as ‘the uncrowned King of Ireland’. The baton, estimated at €1,000- €1,500, carries a white metal collar engraved, ‘Presented to – Mr M. J. Murray – Chief Marshall of the – Parnell Anniversary Demonstration – held 7th Oct. 1890 – by the Parnell Anniversary Committee’. According to the accompanying notes: “Ivy as a symbol of allegiance to Parnell takes its cue from a wreath of ivy sent by a Cork woman to Parnell’s funeral, “as the best offering she could afford”. Mourners took ivy leaves from the walls and stuck them in their lapels. Ever after, the ivy leaf became the Parnellite emblem, worn by his followers when they gathered to honour their lost leader.”

A huge selection of Nazi militaria being sold by a Dublin private collector includes uniforms and items of regalia and, bizarrely, Lot 433, described as “a wartime luxury - an unopened roll of ‘Edelweiss’ brand Klosettpapier (toilet paper) intact in its original printed wrapper as issued to the Wehrmacht [defence forces of the German Third Reich] estimated at €80-€120.

Whyte’s: The Eclectic Collector, auction in The Freemasons Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2, at 11am on Saturday, September 17th. Viewing at Whyte’s galleries, 38 Molesworth Street, Wednesday to Friday (September 14th-16th) 10am to 5pm.

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