This charming box is being offered as lot 210 by East Bristol Auctions in their sale on 2&3 April. It is described as: “A 19th Century Victorian folding brass stamp box having engraved floral decoration with one side stamped with letter post rates. The four panels held together by the hinged lid atop. Marks to base for W. Avery & Son Redditch. Measures 5 cm tall.”
We can add to that description. The diamond registration mark which can be seen on the base in one of the photographs in the catalogue shows the design to have been registered on 18th March 1876. You may wonder why there is a padded cushion inside the box: yes, it is a pin cushion. The Avery company began as needle manufacturers but the son of the founder branched out into making needle cases. Even the most functional were highly decorated in the Victorian taste. Many, like this one, were novelties taking the form of real objects; in this case, a postal weight.
So, is it a stamp box? We say, “yes”. Victorian inventiveness did not stop with design and engineering; they also knew a thing or two about marketing. If an object could have dual, or multiple, purposes: all well and good for sales. One of their Patents (as opposed to Registered Designs) describes: “… a case to hold needles, pins or other small articles”; another: “Case to hold Postage Stamps, Needles, etc.” Also see our review of the book Victorian Brass Needlecases here.
In our article on embroidered stamp cases, we record many verses which appear on such cases or on their inserts which hold the stamps. A new one has just come to light which is one of the most charming:
The Head of England’s Noble Queen
On every letter should be seen
Then let our postage stamps appear
And find a safe deposit here
For just five and a half years – from the Autumn of 1985 until the Spring of 1991 – collectors of stamp boxes had their own, dedicated society. Based in the UK, it had a global reach, with members in mainland Europe and America.
In that time, it produced 13 journals. For more information and to access a downloadable archive of the journals, please go to this page: Stamp Box Society Journals
The World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893. Thousands of souvenirs were produced to sell to visitors. These included many different stamp boxes and cases. The website of the American Philatelic Society carries an excellent article about these items which may be downloaded from here. The many fine illustrations include two Mauchline Ware stamp boxes. However, it does not include the one we illustrate above. It just shows: there’s always more to be discovered.
Most European countries produced stamp boxes at one time or another. Sweden is no exception but they do not turn up in any great numbers, in the UK at least. Our picture shows the hinged lid of a simple wooden box with two sloped compartments. The basic box is similar to a common Mauchline Ware type. The Swedish one is decorated all over in pokerwork and has a small circular image inset under glass in the lid. Fortunately, identification of the image is made easy by the inscription to the back of the box: “Minne från Hälsingborg 1919” which may be translated as “Memento of Helsingborg 1919”; Helsingborg being the modern spelling of one of Sweden’s oldest cities. The grand building is the town hall built in 1897 and the equestrian statue is of Count Magnus Stenbock (1664 –1717) a military officer and statesman. This little tale illustrates one of the joys of collecting: there is so much to be learned from what we collect if we bother to do a little research.