Why 'V is for Victory' when it comes to investing in Winston Churchill collectibles

It was today in 1941 that British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, gave his stamp of approval to the "V for Victory" campaign, aimed at raising morale among the allies. The simple two fingered salute has since become indelibly linked to the famous Allied victory of 1945.

Churchill, too, has become a symbol of the British fighting spirit of the time. And, today, he represents something more to collectors: a sound investment.

According to the PFC Autograph Index, which charts the value of the top 40 most sought after signatures over the last decade, a signed photograph of Sir Winston Churchill cost £2,600 ($3,950) in 2000 - but today is worth £5,950 ($9,100). That's a increase in value of 128.8%.

The value of collectibles has risen greatly in the last ten years too. While smoking may have its health risks, in the world of Churchill collectibles, it's a healthy market.

Winston Churchill's Half Smoked cigar
Churchill's cigar: smells
like a great investment

Last month, a Havana cigar given by Churchill to a diner at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo back in 1963 sold for £2,125 ($3250).

But that's only the start, a cigar that's actually been smoked by Churchill could go for double the price. At an auction in Aylsham in Norfolk, one half smoked cigar, left unfinished due to an urgent wartime cabinet meeting, sold for £4,500 ($6,900).

And Christie's also auctioned a silver cigarette case belonging to Churchill, from his Oldham election victory of 1900. With an estimate of just £1,000 ($1,500), the case finally sold for £4,375 ($6,695).

Furniture belonging to Churchill has also proved a very comfortable investment indeed.

One Chesterfield sofa from Churchill's 1950s Whitehall office came up to auction with an estimate of just £80 attached. The furniture certainly made the collectors sit up and take notice, coming in at an £7,500 ($11,500).

Churchill memorabilia can also be found in the classic cars markets too. In May this year, an auction in Dorset saw the sale of a 1964 Hillman Husky car, once owned by Sir Winston, bring £11,500 ($17,500).

The potential for a relatively low investment like this is huge. Another car, his 1938 Austin 10HP, was put up for auction at Sotheby's in 1997 with an estimated price of £6,000 ($9,000). In the end, it sold for £66,400 ($99,600).

Elsewhere, at the established higher end of the Winston Churchill memorabilia market, written documents have also proven a good historical investment. Churchill enjoyed a relatively prolific career as a writer and today signed editions of his books are worth significant amounts.

A 1932 first edition of "Thoughts and Adventures", a collection of Churchill's best known essays, came up for auction last month as part of the collection of Churchill memorabilia once owned by Malcolm Forbes Jr. Most significantly, the book was signed:

"To Neville Chamberlain from Winston S. Churchill 1932"

The autographed book, linking the pre and post war leaders of Britain, proved popular with a final price of £20,000 ($30,000) realised. 

Outside of his books some of the most sought after Winston Churchill collectibles, remain the historic written documents signed by the man himself.

At the June auction at Christie's, a set of correspondence between Churchill and colleague Eliot Crawshaw- Williams appeared at auction. The key to the sale was the provenance of the writing.

The documents included a letter from Crawshaw Williams, dated June 2th 1940, asking Churchill to seek, "the best peace terms possible," from Hitler. Also included was Churchill's swift reply:

"I am ashamed of you for writing such a letter. I return it to you - to burn & forget."

With an auction estimate of £8,000 ($12,000) attached to the piece, the letters sold for £34,850 ($51,264).

As leader of Great Britain during and after the war, Churchill also met regularly with representatives from the United States and Soviet Union. Any documents signed by members of these superpowers and Churchill continue to fetch high prices at auction.

In New York in 1998, a signed "Programme of Music by The String Orchestra of the Royal Air Force" performed during the Potsdam conference in Berlin on July 23rd 1945 was put up for sale. The programme featured the signatures of Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and Harry S. Truman amongst ten others.

Signed Photographs are
available on the market today

According to records, the document is only one of five from the Potsdam conference signed by the the three world leaders that has come up for auction since 1975.

The conference held additional significance, as three days later, Churchill was voted out of office.  The rare programme fetched £36,800 ($56,300) at auction against a £20,000 ($30,000) estimate.  Official documents would fetch even more.

Alternatively, documents from the early part of Churchill's political career offer a sound investment opportunity for collectors.

Last month saw the sale of a collection of speeches on free trade made in Manchester and the House of Commons in 1906, when Churchill was part of the Liberal party.

There are thought to be three original copies of the speech in existence, which came with an estimated price tag of £20,000 ($30,000).

However, the rare document, sold for nearly double, coming in at £39,650 ($60,600). Beyond documents, however, you will find unique art pieces associated with Winston Churchill.

A Christie's auction in May this year saw the sale of a bronze bust of the leader. The work was commissioned to Sir Jacob Epstein in November 1946, by the War Artist's Advisory committee.

Jacob Epstein was a British sculptor who pioneered modern sculpture, before passing away in 1959. The piece was sold at a 20th Century British and Irish Art auction at Sotheby's in London with an estimated price of £50,000 ($75,000) for £75,650 ($115,700).

Yet the most collectible artist in the world of Winston Churchill memorabilia remains Churchill himself. Not only a writer, Winston Churchill also painted regularly.

In December 2007, Sotheby's featured artwork from Sir Winston Churchill. One piece, painted in 1930, as a gift to friend Henry R. Luce, the painting depicted "A Village Fete, St Georges- Motel" a friend's home in Normandy.  The painting sold for £300,500 ($450,750).

The world record price for a Winston Churchill painting was set just five months earlier with Sotheby's sale of"Chartwell Landscape with Sheep." The painting was created by Churchill in the early 1940s, depicting his much loved country home which he bought in 1922. With an estimated auction price of £200,000 the painting sold for £1,000,000 ($1,500,000).

Documents signed by Winston Churchill
continue to come onto the market

Winston Churchill represents one of the safest investments in the collectibles market because, as leader of Britain during the Second World War, he represents one of the most popular Prime Ministers in British history. In BBC poll of the "100 Greatest Britons" in 2002 he was voted number one.  In America, his popularity also remains high, with Time Magazine rating him as "one of the most influential leaders in history."

Collectible memorabilia and in particular signed documents are sought after by collectors and historians alike, with institutes like The Imperial War museum constantly seeking rare pieces.

Furthermore, in just five year's time, we will not only mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, but also the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill's death, both of which could have a serious effect on demand for memorabilia and therefore its' value.

Meanwhile, the coming year will also see the two concluding sales of Malcolm Forbes Jr's Winston Churchill memorabilia collection, thought to be the biggest of its kind. Auctions are currently planned for December and June next year, and could see world record prices for Churchill collectibles.

As the British wartime Prime Minister's legacy continues to thrive, the coming decade could prove an eventful one for Sir Winston Churchill.


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