Buying Stevengraphs, Bookmarks and Postcards.
1.Where to Buy? Weavings can still be found in antique fairs, shops and markets but in the internet age more seem to be offered in on-line auctions. Traditional auction houses often have silks for sale but attract a 20% plus buyer’s premium and usually have expensive shipping options. eBay and other internet sites are popular, but buying items from overseas is subject to import taxes and greater postal charges. SCA members often have duplicate designs available and a quarterly newsletter (SCA-News) devotes a page to ‘sales and wants’ that includes auction prices.
2.What to Buy? Many of the rare items today were designs that did not sell well in the late 1880s. In contrast, most outstanding and colourful designs that were produced in large numbers over several decades are the ones that sold well at the time. The prices are governed by market forces. Since the 1970s-80s there has been a fall in prices but the finest examples tend to hold or increase their value. The first rule therefore, as with all antiques, is that quality sells. The dyes used from the 1870s are light sensitive and will fade with time especially if they are framed and displayed. Look for good colour and a clean and undamaged mount. Unless you have seen a Stevens weaving in excellent condition it is difficult to compare it to one you are proposing to buy. This website has a limited number of examples in the galleries sections but for a comprehensive list with images visit www.stevengraph-silks.com that is run by an SCA member and is regularly updated.
As a general rule avoid any over mounts – most of the time they hide something nasty underneath, – pictures with splits in the silk, ones with colour runs and cut down mounts. Possibly be wary of framed items.
A guide to scarcity of different Stevengraph designs can be found in reference books by Godden, Sprake and Cottrill (see bibliography page)
Selling Stevengraphs, Bookmarks and Postcards
The selling options are the mirror image of the buying options – a choice between antique shops, auction houses and internet sites or private sale. Many SCA members are keen to add to or to upgrade items in their collections and, as mentioned in the buying section above, are able to include details in the ‘wants’ section of SCA-News. The SCA is usually available to non-members to evaluate the item or items you are considering selling and may be able to offer details in the newsletter. If you require more information then please contact us through the contact page.
Care and Preservation
In no particular order, Stevengraphs hate damp, dust, handling, folding, temperature extremes and light. Damp causes ‘rust’ marks – a form of fungal infection. Damp marks are seen in framed pictures causing darkening of the mount. Dust has an effect on darkening the pale background colour. Excessive handling contributes to splits and tears especially in bookmarks and folding has the same effect. Bookmarks sometimes become quite brittle which is probably due to a combination of heat and light exposure. The dyes used in the latter half of the Victorian era are light sensitive but also will run when exposed to moisture. Framing adds nothing to the value and may actually reduce it. Mounts are occasionally seen with worm holes.
Some weavings look as though they could do with a good clean. Many methods have been tried and failed. Any liquid cleaning attempt will cause the colours to run. Since the silk threads are incredibly thin any excessive pressure on the silk can cause damage. Some commercial document cleaning pads are available for cleaning surface dirt on the mounts but, should you attempt any process then a very gentle rub with bread can be just as effective and quite cheap … but be very careful!
Storage and Display
Keeping your collection in the best condition and avoiding all the potential hazards noted above can be challenging. Stevengraphs, bookmarks, postcards and other Stevens novelties have different storage needs. Some options were provided in a supplement to SCA-News in 2019. An emailed copy of this four page summary is available on request.
Buffalo Bill with colour run and remounted
Bookmark split, tears, faded
Postcards of Kitchener showing soiling, handling and fading effects (image left).
TS Padded card- yellowing, staining and missing silk fringe