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GWRA Railwayana






G.W. Railwayana Auctions Ltd



Here, Digger talks to Simon at GWRA Railwayana Auctions about his business buying and selling railway and other transport-related memorabilia.



Digger:  Hello Simon. Can you tell us a bit about your background please?

Simon:  My background has always been on the sales side of things. Iíve been a director of companies and on the mechanical side of things. From an early age, in my teens in the seventies, I had an interest in railway memorabilia. I bought the odd sign and put them in my bedroom. And then, by chance, in the late eighties and early nineties I met up with Tony, my partner in the business. This was quite by chance as we live in the same road. He was interested in this stuff too and was slightly older than me. Iím a country boy in Gloucestershire and we just met up by chance and started doing a bit of wheeling and dealing, getting a background as most people in any trade probably tend to do. We got a good grounding in our subjects and by natural progression we saw other people doing Railwayana auctions and felt we could do them better. We had a bit of IT knowledge Ė Tony was head of communications for the RAC based near the M6, in charge of the radio network, but then due to ill health he had to change what he was doing. Weíve been doing these auctions for about sixteen years now and used our IT background to do the website Ė I think most people who find us still find us the easiest to navigate because we keep things simple and I think thatís jolly important.

Digger: Weíre so impatient on the web arenít we?

Simon: Yes, people want to find what theyíre looking for really quickly.

Digger: Yes, youíve got a few seconds and a couple of clicks to grab the attention and get people to buy.

Simon: Itís a competitive market, but we pride ourselves on our presentation and IT skills to also add value to the items weíre selling for people.

Digger: Have you any connections with the Antiques Roadshow chaps because they often have Railwayana on there?

Simon: No, to be honest theyíre very vague. They get the odd bit on there but theyíre usually quite wrong either way.

Digger: Oops! Itís Paul Atterbury usually, isnít it?

Simon:  Heís one of the guys that does it but because they have such a broad spectrum of things you canít expect them to get it on the button. And we are really narrow.

Digger: Thatís still no excuse for them to get it really wrong.

Simon: Well, unfortunately  they do and I donít know if thatís the case for other items on programmes like that. Cash In The Attic Ė weíve had a few items featured on there and that have actually been bought by people in the audience and then entered into a specialist auction i.e. ours and still made a profit. Which is probably what they aimed to do. So whereas these TV programmes wax lyrical about what money theyíve made the vendor, weíve actually made another forty percent on top of that.



Digger: Iím not very impressed with the margins they are happy with on these roving antiques programmes Ė you know the ones which seem to be everywhere on TV. The margins they get are quite small actually.

Simon: Talking about commission rates, we are a lot more competitive than general auctions. Because weíre specialised, we can do it on a better budget because we donít do as many. But we do have auctions with 500 quality items from £50 a lot to the sky's the limit actually.

Digger: What advice would you give to someone  starting to collect Railwayana?

Simon: Buy from reputable people. Because we get a lot of people come to the auction Ė about 500 turn up in body and soul.

Digger: Have you got the online version as well?

Simon:  The online is mainly a vehicle for selling the lower valued items. At the main live auctions, where the live action happens, we do actually allow stallholders to sell their wares at our auctions. Iím really hot on fakes and forgeries and they know that they couldnít get away with selling them at our event. And most of the Railwayana guys are pretty fair people. There arenít many rogues, which is nice. Itís different on the clocks side, however.

Digger: Where are these fakes coming from?

Simon: Thereís copies which are coming from the far east and then you go into the fakes and forgeries where they are actually trying to forge the age and so on and which are actually there to deceive which is a different kettle of fish.  A lot of road signs on eBay are out and out forgeries and youíve got to be very careful. Quite a few railway signs as well and the daft thing is a lot of these copies are more expensive than the originals, so collectors need to be aware of what the true value is of an item. Itís all about knowledge and knowing where to get these things from.

Digger: These road signs youíre talking about Ė are they the ones that I vaguely remember with the reflective bits on them?

Simon:  Yes, theyíre the ones. The ones that are usually copied are the cast aluminium ones and theyíll cunningly alter the makerís name by one letter so Franco become 'Branco' and 'Gomshall' becomes 'Gowshall'. But when you look at them they have gone to town on them Ė they have aged the backs and painted them and pretended to give them a mark on the back. So certainly at GWRA Railwayana we have been very vociferous about fakes and forgeries and our policy is, if it slips through our net, then weíve obviously got a lot of collectors who are friends who come to the auction. If theyíre not happy with something, then if itís somebody we know and respect and know their particular field we will withdraw the item immediately. We will not sell it. Weíve never had one single item back in sixteen years of trading that weíve sold thatís turned out to be a fake.

Digger: Good.

Simon: Thatís my advice. Know where youíre buying from and ours are extremely well policed and you wonít buy a duff item from our auction. Thatís something we pride ourselves on. Whatís the point of making a few quid only for it to come back and get a bad reputation? Your reputationís everything in sales and auctions.

Digger: Sounds good to me. So itís all down to source and provenance?

Simon:  Yes, I really would resist some of the auction sites unless you really know what youíre doing. Yes there are bargains to be had there but youíve got to be so careful.

Digger: Have you seen that photo on the web of the old-fashioned fingerpost sign down in Kent? Itís on an old crossroads and one way points to Ham and another points to Sandwich?!





Simon: I can go one slightly better than that because Iím a collector as well. You know about the railway clocks side but also station signs and Iím a cricketer too. Iíve got Bat and Ball station sign which is coupled with Bowling which is on Glasgow suburban. It took me about twenty years to get the Bat and Ball because itís actually quite rare. And Iíve also got Clockhouse which is another station in the south. Then Iíve got some other station signs which Iíve kept as well. But then the rest of my collection consists of a few bits in the garden and then the rest is railway clocks, which is what Iíve come to specialise in now.
Digger: Does your wife love all this stuff?

Simon:  Yes, she's not too bad.

Digger: Thank God for that!

Simon: The station side slimmed down somewhat when we moved because the opportunity was there for her to put her foot down. What we specialise in at GWRA Railwayana, and what we are best at in the UK, is actually helping the general public. I think the UK is unique in that we seem to be an eclectic collecting fraternity and youíd be surprised how many people have got the odd bit in the garden shed. For me it gives me a great buzz when somebody has found something exciting. And we had a guy who bought a house in Somerset and was clearing out the garden shed. He found a little brass plate and he was going to bin it but he contacted us. The son-in-law said it had Great Western on it and it was probably worth contacting somebody about it. Fortunately he contacted us and we recognised it as being something extremely special and said straight away ď£6,000 Reserve.Ē It actually made £13,000. And that  went to one of the museums because we do get the main museums bid with us as well, such as The National Railway Museum and others. In fact several of our items are in their displays.

Digger:  The LT Museum too?

Simon: Yes, theyíre definitely acquiring items still if it fits in with their remit and theyíve bought a handful from us over the past three or four years. Which is good because itís always nice to have the museums buying items.

Digger: Yes, it gives you some kudos as well.

Simon: Yes, you build up good relationships with these people and you can turn it round the other way and use them for a bit of research. We do try and research every item we put in as best as we can and produce a full colour catalogue with roughly 400 photographs in it and 500 lots. So thatís quite a feat in its own right. Because if you look at some of the bigger auctions itís very rare that theyíll illustrate more than a handful of lots really. But we go for quantity on the photographic side and on the website as well.

Digger: People need to see an item and if there are any blemishes on it.

Simon: Thatís right and in the digital age thereís no excuse really and we try to use technology to do the photographs and upload them. Other people are still taking 35mm and snipping them out with scissors and things which doesnít give you the flexibility or clarity. We try to keep ahead of the technology because itís an important part of life today.

Digger: What are the best things about what youíre doing?

Simon: As a business and the auction side it is actually dealing with the public. Most of the dealers we know and for me the most exciting thing is dealing with the public. It never ceases to amaze me what theyíve got. And itís always nice to make somebody smile because theyíve got something which is worth more than they thought rather than the collectors who always think their stuff is worth more than it actually is. Unfortunately, Railwayana has dropped so if youíre looking at selling now is probably the best time to sell and I suppose buying is going to be better in years to come because there arenít going to be so many collectors around. It is an age-related hobby and it will time-expire.

Digger: What are you doing to make yourself future-proof then?

Simon: I donít know if you can. I think thereís probably another fifteen years of it left - the main collecting age group is probably late fifties to seventies.

Digger: There was a guy on the Antiques Roadshow who had that big collection of tickets Ė did you see him?

Simon: We actually did quite well on that. It appeared on the TV and then a week later we had a call from another guy who had a large collection of tickets and it was stunning, absolutely stunning. But he put them all in those photograph albums that peel back and said ďThere you go.Ē And I said ďWeíll sell them for youĒ but spent the next two weeks taking them all out.

Digger: Without damaging the backs?

Simon: They were okay, fortunately. That collection made something in the region of £24,000 in two sales.

Digger: Beautiful.

Simon: He wanted a new bathroom and it was an expensive one but anything above £7,000 and he was in profit. So he did more than okay.  He was a publican who had a railway-themed pub somewhere down south in the sixties and someone came in with this trunk of tickets and gave it to him. Thatís what he did with them. Comparable to the collection that was on the Antiques Roadshow. It was good that he contacted a specialist auctioneer as opposed to a general one or it would have got lost in the mish-mash and they wouldnít have been so well promoted. I think one of the tickets there was quite interesting from my point of view because one of them was for the clockmakers of the Great Eastern Railway. They were issued with a free pass and that was one of the tickets in the collection. He was allowed to travel all over the system picking up and repairing clocks. I think theyíre the kind of things that are very historic.

Digger: What are the best sellers and the best investments?

Simon: I donít give advice on investments because if youíre a collector you shouldnít be buying to invest.

Digger: Buy something that you like.

Simon: Yes, donít buy it as an investment, buy it because you like it. If it goes, up then itís a bonus. But if you get enjoyment out of it you could go and buy something in the high street tomorrow and the next day it will be worthless.  Buy it because you get enjoyment from it.

Digger: These items probably will go up in value though.

Simon: If you ask me what will carry on in value and not go down I would say clocks for starters and also posters. Apart from that, I canít see a lot further than that because everything else is related to steam trains and that era. Now that will time-expire with the generation that remember them.





Digger: I suppose if you go forward 100 or 150 years then it will just be the rarity value?

Simon: Yes, it depends, because most of the collectors are former trainspotters from the forties and fifties and sixties maybe. The diesel-related items have increased Ė first generation diesel plates. The western region diesels and warships are now more expensive than some of the Great Western nameplates by twice the amount. A western nameplate off of one of the western diesels would be roughly at todayís prices about £9,000 whereas a nameplate off one of the Great Western locos would be about £4,000.

Digger: A similar thing is happening with jukeboxes actually, because if youíd asked what was the most valuable just a few years ago then the answer would have been fifties Wurlitzers and Rock-Olas but now itís the jukes from the seventies and even the eighties that are catching up because itís the people who grew up with them that are buying them.

Simon: Iím an odd one because Iím not yet fifty so donít remember steam but I was always into it. Most of my age group are into the diesels. And most of my age group now are coming to the point where theyíve got a bit of disposable income and thatís what it revolves around as well Ė you need some spare cash if you want to collect things. You can then indulge yourself.

Digger: Surround yourself with stuff.

Simon: Yes, you can if you want to do that. But, certainly looking around at the kinds of people you get at auctions and in the collecting fraternity, my age group is the smallest.

Digger: Mainly blokes?

Simon: Yes, mainly blokes. Some bring their wives along. One or two ladies are into it but itís mainly a blokey thing. We do get a few ladies but I wouldnít say there are any avid lady collectors.

Digger: Youíre running GWRA Railwayana and the clocks business as well?

Simon: The clocks are a hobby really, that Iíve done a website for. That has progressed over the last thirteen years or so Ė the mechanical aspects of clocks fascinated me. Then I got into restoring them and one thing led to another and so I created a website which I use as a vehicle to try and further my collection. And I just sell the odd one or two on there. I also offer a free research facility if people do want any advice and Iím quite happy to give that  - if I think itís a fake then I say itís a fake and if not then I can do some research on it.

Digger: Thatís worth your time is it?

Simon: It is; I have it there in case I want to pack the day job in and I can probably jump into that and start doing restoration and buying and selling as a business. I donít do it at the moment but thatís something I could definitely do. There are one or two other people that do railway clocks but once again, the word on the grapevine is that theyíre thinking of packing it in in the next year or two.

Digger: The same is true with the vintage radio community Ė there are several people doing repairing and buying and selling but most of them are thinking of packing it in due to age.

Simon: Iím number three, probably, as far as the age goes. And if you can restore railway clocks then you can restore other ones as well and Iím mindful of this as a possibility for the future. With the auction business as well hopefully weíve got another ten or fifteen years of business and that would suit me fine.

Digger: Thanks Simon. That's been very informative and we know where to come if we need any advice or help with buying and selling Railwayana and railway clocks.

Simon: Thank you David.


G.W. Railwayana Auctions Ltd
Website G.W. Railwayana Auctions Ltd
Details Welcome to G.W. Railwayana Auctions Ltd. We are the Worldwide Specialist Railwayana Auction Company achieving World Record breaking prices Unsure how much your Railwayana Collectables and Railwayana Memorabilia might be worth? Then be reassured that 'Specialist' Railwayana items will only achieve maximum return through 'Specialist' Railwayana Auction, exactly what we are. Avoid the distraction of certain internet auctions offering to auction your railwayana, we offer the absolute thrill of 'live auctions' at our superb Worcestershire Venue. Sell and Buy Railwayana with the experts - indulge in pure nostalgia. Our results speak volumes and our Vendor promise is underpinned with the best possible service at the lowest commission rate putting all competition into second place.

Contact the railwayana auctions experts now and let us auction your railwayana memorabilia on your behalf.

Telephone: Tony on 01684 773487 or Simon on 01386 421324
Details I am a private Collector and restorer of Railway clocks. After years of collecting and restoring I thought other people might like to enjoy my timepieces and also browse clocks that I currently have for sale or exchange. I also undertake Railway Clock research which is a free service, records held of Southern Railway and L.N.E.R Railway Clocks. I am also interested in purchasing Railway Clocks in any condition and I guarantee to pay a Fair price, or I can offer exchanges.

Contact Simon  T: +44 (0) 1386 760109    M: +44 (0) 7766 951724

Top Prices Paid  for all Railway Clocks in any condition.
 Immediate Settlement and Collection.
Or if you prefer, Restoration and Conservation of your clock Undertaken.







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