I'm always on the look out for letterpress type to buy and while browsing the internet the other day stumbled upon four cases of what looked like some very interesting type at an auction house.
The auction was too far away to travel and view in person so I only had a very poor quality image to go by. From the image it looked like an open typecase with some large, possibly 60pt + sans serif founders type, stacked on top of another three cases and I could just make out what looked like more large metal type underneath. As the auction house had the facility to bid online I thought it was worth a punt and my gut instinct said their was some really nice type hidden in the trays underneath....
I duly signed up to the auction and waited patiently for the lot to come around. It's been a long time since I've bought at auction and I always find it exciting but I was sure there would be very little interest in four battered cases of old lead type....I was wrong, very wrong. The price shot up and before I knew it I was caught up in a bidding war, a bidding war on something that I really had no idea on whether it was even worth the starting price. I was determined to win, I'd reached the point of no return and when the hammer fell the type was mine. Excited to have won but doubt already setting in that I had just paid an awful lot of money for potentially a load of old scrap.
When buying at auction the thing to always have in your mind is the final hammer price is not the price you will pay for it. On top of the hammer price you pay a buyers premium. In this case it was 22% - I remember when it used to be 10% and in the last few years it's shot up - 22% on top of the hammer price is a lot to pay for the pleasure of buying something, not only that there was an internet surcharge fee of £15 and VAT on the buyers premium. Once I had worked out what it was going to cost me in total and transport costs I was going to be stumping up a fair amount.
I drove through the following day to pick up the type slightly nervous about what I had just bought. I was taken through to where the cases were stacked (very poorly I might add, meaning that the type was in danger of getting damaged) The top cases was packed full of Stephenson Blake 72pt San serif and 72pt Grotesque Condensed No 7 - At this point the nervousness vanished. The next case was full of Stephenson Blake Cheltenham Bold in 60pt, 48pt and 36pt, the next case was packed full of Stephenson Blake Grotesque No 8 and another small fount of Stephenson Blake 60pt Condensed Sans which had taking an awful battering from the poorly stacked cases. The final case was full of Stephenson Blake Latin Bold Condensed and Gill Extra Heavy. The cases were so full that I was barley able to lift them and once loaded, I left happy. However, once the cleaning and sorting began it became apparent that there were characters missing. Most of the Q's were gone(why is it always the Q's!!!) and the occasional X and Z missing., and some were damaged. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the fount is short on characters. So all in all it was a bit of a mixed bag. It was a gamble bidding blind without seeing the type and it all turned out to be just about okay in the end. You can see some of the type below and the Stephenson Blake Latin and 72pt Sans large metal letterpress type is on eBay to purchase right now.