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Sunday 18 March 2018

Could 1916 mementoes buy you a plush home?

With only a year to go until the 100th anniversary of the rebellion, auctioneers are warning that the sluggish economy could depress the prices for Rising memorabilia
With only a year to go until the 100th anniversary of the rebellion, auctioneers are warning that the sluggish economy could depress the prices for Rising memorabilia
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Anyone snapping up mementoes of the 1916 Rising today in the hope of making a quick buck come its centenary could be sorely disappointed. With only a year to go until the 100th anniversary of the rebellion, auctioneers are warning that the sluggish economy could depress the prices for Rising memorabilia.

"As the economy is slow, I don't see much of a jump in prices during the centenary - particularly at the low-end of the market," said Kieran O'Boyle, associate director of Adams Auctioneers. "If the economy was better, you might see more of a flux in prices. There may well be extra demand for Easter Rising mementoes next year but I'd only see the rather rare and historically significant items do well."

Such rare mementoes, which could include letters written by one of the seven leaders of the Rising or a sought-after copy of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, could make tens - or possibly hundreds of thousands - of euro.

However, more widely held memorabilia, such as the medals of little-known participants in the Rising or the armbands of 1916 veterans, are very unlikely to secure such windfalls.

Of course, most of these items are treasured family heirlooms, and will never be sold - but some will go under the hammer. While it may not be the best time to sell memorabilia of the Rising today, this year could be a good time to buy artefacts of the Rising - but only if you're in it for the long haul, according to Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte Auctioneers.

"The market at the moment is good for buyers because of the recession," said Mr Whyte. "But if you are buying these things, you are looking at a time frame of between ten and fifteen years for them to appreciate in value. Speculating in 1916 memorabilia today [in the hope of selling it for a high price during the centenary] might not be a great idea."

All the same, anyone who has held on to rare memorabilia of the insurrection for the last 15 years or more could double their money - or more - if they sell during the centenary. So which mementoes could be worth selling when the landmark anniversary arrives?

1916 Proclamation

Had you been shrewd enough to have snapped up an original copy of the Proclamation on the 75th anniversary of the Rising in 1991, you could have bought one for about IR£20,000, according to Mr Whyte. That's about a sixth of what you would pay today.

A rare copy of the Easter Proclamation could sell for between €100,000 and €150,000 at auction today - and you might secure more during the centenary when there is greater awareness of the Rising, particularly if new buyers start to force prices up.

Bear in mind, however, that auctioneers were guiding between €100,000 and €150,000 for an original Proclamation this time last year - so the price of this memento has not gone up since. The highest price ever paid for a Proclamation was €390,000, but this was in 2004 - at the height of the boom.

"At the time, no Proclamations had come on to the market for about 15 years - that's largely why it sold for that price," said Mr O'Boyle. Your chances of securing such a price for a Proclamation next year are therefore very slim.

Film footage

Any rare footage of the Rising could be worth hundreds of thousands of euro - particularly if you're selling it along with recordings of other historical events.

This May, Whytes will be putting an archive of restored film up for auction with a guide price of between €150,000 and €180,000. That archive includes footage - some of it unpublished - of the 1916 Rising, the 1919-21 War of Independence and the Civil War.

Among the scenes in the archive include the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, the funeral of Michael Collins, and the burning of towns and villages by the Black and Tans.

Historical letters

Letters written by any of the executed leaders of the Rising could be worth tens of thousands of euro or more - if those letters are of important historical significance.

Ten years ago, for example, an order to surrender signed by Padraig Pearse sold for €700,000. Again, as this was during the boom years, it's unlikely such a price would be secured today or in the centenary - but you should still do well if selling historical letters.

"There are some people who want to collect letters signed by the seven signatories of the Proclamation," said Mr Whyte. "You could get at least €2,000 for such a letter - maybe between €4,000 and €5,000 if there's a political story to it."

This May, Adams will be putting a collection of letters written by Pearse regarding the establishment of St Enda's School in Rathfarnham up for sale. These letters, which include new information about the funding of St Enda's, come from the collection of the Donegal-born writer, Seumas MacManus. The entire collection could fetch €20,000 or more.

Even historical letters or documents which are not linked to the Rising could earn you enough to buy a plush house in Dublin, depending on the market at the time you sell. The first draft of Amhran na bhFiann for example sold for €760,000 in 2006.

1916 medals

The 1916 medal of a figure of historical importance could fetch you tens of thousands of euro or more.

This May, Adams expects to auction the Easter Rising Medal of Kathleen Clarke, the founding member of Cumann na mBan, for between €25,000 and €35,000. Mrs Clarke is the wife of Tom Clarke - the first signatory of the Proclamation. Tom Clarke's medal, which was posthumously awarded to him for his part in the uprising, sold for €105,000 in 2006.

Of course, many 1916 medals won't sell for anything near the prices of Tom or Kathleen Clarke's - particularly if awarded to an unknown participant in the Rising. "You can expect to sell a medal with no provenance on it for about €1,000," said Mr Whyte. "If you have the paperwork, you could bring the price up to €2,000 or €3,000, depending on where the volunteer was fighting. You'd get a good price if the volunteer fought in one of the smaller garrisons, such as Enniscorthy or in the Battle of Ashbourne. Old medals are always worth getting checked out."

Photos and postcards

Original photos of the Rising could also be quite valuable as might picture postcards of the era.

"There are still families who have photos taken by their grandparents at the time," said Mr Whyte. "Photos of the GPO at the time of the Rising or photos of the fighting itself would be valuable as they're very rare. Interesting photos of the prisoners being led off by British soldiers would get a good price."

Picture postcards of the Rising wouldn't be as valuable as original photos but you could still sell them for as much as €100 a piece, according to Mr Whyte. Those postcards might include crowd scenes, images of destruction and fighting, or images of the leaders of the Rising.

It is certainly worth your while having a root around your attic - or historical collection - this Easter for any hidden gems.

"1916 will be more in the public consciousness next year - we will have to wait and see whether that's reflected in prices," said Mr O'Boyle. "We may see some new people come on to the market who want to get a rare memento of the Rising."

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