September 10, 2023

Bob Teevan

Supply and Demand

This color postcard was mailed from the Shropshire town of Wem to the village of Shavington in Cheshire on September 14, 1911. It contains a routine message from ‘Jack’ to the then 70-year-old Mrs. Anne Jones who was living at Chestnut House in the village. It also carries an excellent strike of a common town postmark.

The card was not purchased for any of the above but was recently added to my collection as it is titled ‘The Caradoc from the south, Church Stretton.” Church Stretton is a town I visited only a few weeks ago.

Wikipedia summarizes the town by advising that “Church Stretton is a market town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, 13 miles south of Shrewsbury and 15 miles north of Ludlow. The population in 2011 was 4,671. The town was nicknamed Little Switzerland in the late Victorian and Edwardian period for its landscape and became a health resort. The local geology includes some of the oldest rocks in England and a notable fault is named after the town. Church Stretton is in the Shropshire Hills area of outstanding natural beauty.”

Caradoc, or more correctly Caer Caradoc, is a hill which overlooks the town of Church Stretton and the village of All Stretton and offers panoramic views. Caer Caradoc rises sharply out of a narrow valley known as the Stretton Gap. It is the highest point on a high, narrow, northeast–southwest “whaleback ridge,” sometimes called a hogsback ridge. Much of the hill is composed of volcanic rock formed of narrow ridges of resistant Precambrian rock thrust upwards by movements deep down along the Church Stretton Fault.

The summit has an ancient British iron age or late bronze age fort. It is this which the hill is named after – Caer Caradog in Welsh meaning Caradog’s fort. Local legend has it that this was the site of Caratacus’s last battle against the Roman legions during the Roman conquest of Britain, and that after the battle he hid in the cave near its summit.

My brother-in-law hails from Shrewsbury and was our unofficial guide during a recent holiday. He provided lots of historic and social history facts about the area and I feel sure he mentioned that he had climbed Caer Caradoc in his youth.

We stopped at Church Stretton where my only aim was to visit the Church Stretton Antique Centre. On doing so I discovered that one dealer stocked postcards and I was fortunate enough to find some cards worthy of purchase.  It is always pleasing to find postcards which are local to your home being offered at lowish prices as local supply and demand issues suggest that these are slow moving stock.

In browsing the cards, I was permitted – or instructed – to view them at the main cash desk and by so doing my ears were privy to other customer conversations with the counter staff.

The first customer was a seller who was looking to sell two items of oriental art. He advised that he had bought both items from the same outlet – with one purchase as recent as March this year – although he now deemed them to be surplus to his requirements and he wished to raise cash to invest in other parts of his collection.

On hearing the wishes of the customer there occurred a loud, and protracted, intake of breath by the antique dealer, which was followed by something like – “Ah, you’ve timed it badly. The market for these is not as strong as it used to be and, as you know, there’s not a lot of money about these days. It’s a bit like the brown furniture market, just now, nobody wants it and young people are becoming a bit minimalist and don’t want to buy ornamental items like these.”

The potential seller agreed to leave the items with the dealer in order that he may consider an offer.

I mentioned to the dealer that I was pleased to hear that there wasn’t a lot of money about as I indeed had some ‘burning a hole in my pocket’ and I therefore anticipated some low pricing.

There followed a similar intake of breath as before and I was advised that postcards are very popular just now and as the seller had just restocked, I was very fortunate in getting a “first look” at them.

There are apparently a lot of local collectors and if I didn’t want the cards then someone would, and soon. I felt as if I was buying a secondhand car and had just been informed that someone else was in the forecourt and currently kicking the tires.

I smiled to myself with “I’ve heard it all before” thoughts running through my mind when a middle-aged couple approached the desk carrying a pair of wooden chairs. They questioned whether a deal could be done which resulted in – yes, you’ve guessed it – a noisy intake of breath by the dealer.

“Let’s see the labels” he said. This was followed by “Ah, you’re out of luck as it’s marked NTD which means No Trade Discount. I can’t knock anything off although you’re lucky to find these chairs just now as the young folk are into chairs like these and, well, they’re the ones with the cash these days. A bit of unfortunate timing. I’ll knock a couple of pounds off although that’ll be it. Do you want them?”

I was amazed at the quick turnaround which appeared to have occurred in the brown furniture market – that’s what these chairs were – and was thinking of the perhaps misplaced comments I had directed at the government for their inability to turn the economy round.

I negotiated a nearly 10% discount on my purchases and thought I was lucky to get out with the coat still on my back. The dealer was like a sort of merging of Auntie Wainright from Last of the Summer Wine and Arkwright from Open All Hours.

Would I go back? Sure, I would. I got some nice cards which I would have been required to pay more for nearer to home.

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When I hear “Shropshire”, I always think of A.E. Housman’s poetry collection, A Shropshire Lad.

Great story, and very true to my experiences of antiques markets, as well.

I recently joined the Facebook group Bob started, “People and Places behind Vintage Picture Postcards”. Good move on my part! I would describe it as “the thinking person’s postcard group”.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joe Hohmann
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