07 October 2007

Rupert Annual 1973

(Alfred Bestall.) THE RUPERT ANNUAL.The Daily Express, London 1973.

Current Selling Prices

Rupert annuals are a popular series published by the 'Daily Express'. I am not sure whether today's children read them much but I remember them as magical books and alot of kids read them into their teens. Grown ups now pay serious money for the right ones. Some people found them slightly scary, but they would probably now find some of Harry Potter's encounters frightening. They still appear every day in the Express. Certainly they are highly collectable in England and possibly by British expats all over the globe. At the excellent World Collector's net they have a good guide to all Rupert collectables -not just books but records, 'plush' bears, various games, jigsaws and Lledo diecast vans, string puppets, and the Bendy Toys' rubber Rupert which could be posed in various ways. There are also many badges and brooches and 'pins.' Of the books they say:
A lady called Mary Tourtel was the creator of Rupert, and her first cartoon strip appeared in the Daily Express on the 8th November 1920. The little bear, in many ways similar to today's character though a bit more 'bear-like', and with baggier trousers, was shown setting out to the shops in the village of Nutwood. The caption was in verse.

Mary designed many of Rupert's chums, too, including Bill Badger, Podgy Pig and Edward Trunk and dreamt up the strange, almost surreal world of Nutwood which featured people in medieval dress wandering amongst a mix of incongruities such as clothed animals (who often kept unclothed animals as pets), 'normal' humans, and weird scientific inventions. Mary was fond of using magic to whisk her bear hero away from trouble; her successor, the much-respected Alfred Bestall who took over in 1935, relied on proper twists in the plot. He also introduced a host of new characters, such as Pong-Ping, Bingo Pup, the Professor, Merboy and Tigerlily.

Alfred drew the stories up till 1965, and his last adventure was 'Rupert and the Winkybickies', though he continued to work on the annuals. In 1973, he was upset when a white Rupert was featured on the cover, rather than the traditional brown. Alfred had planned his beautiful painting around a brown bear, and felt there was no contrast between the white Rupert and the pale sky behind him. He was also aware that, artistically, there should have been a shadow on Rupert's face. To appease the artist, a handful of annuals from that year were printed with a brown Rupert, and today, to discover a 1973 annual with a brown-faced Rupert is a collector's dream.

VALUE? A fine copy is appearing in auction at Duke's of Dorchester this week. It is estimated at £5000 to £7000. Another copy in a lot is estimated at £5000 to £8000. The fact that that there are two might give a hardened dealer pause for thought as there are only supposed to be about 15 in existence. Duke's, in a slightly different version of the tale, say: 'Alfred Bestall was asked to provide the cover illustration for the 1973 annual and as per his earlier designs, gave Rupert his usual brown face whilst the illustrations within the annual show Rupert with a white face. After printing a small run of the annual, the Express decided to alter Bestall's original colourings of Rupert, changing him from brown to white at the request of many young readers who could not understand why Rupert was brown on the cover but white inside. Bestall was incensed at this decision and never illustrated another cover for the Express. The remaining run of the 1973 annual with a white faced Rupert on the cover continued to use Bestall's signature but the publishers altered the colour of the signature to disguise it in an attempt to appease Bestall. The limited number of brown faced 1973 annuals printed makes this annual particularly rare and only 12 others are believed to exist.'

I shall watch this auction and report back. Early Rupert annuals can fetch good money and the 1936 annual can currently be found on the web in a jacket at the noli tangere price of £6500. The words 'one for the pension fund' are something of a red flag + Duke's have a jacketed one (under)estimated at £200 to £300. Most guide books price it at £2000 to £3000. Bonhams achieved a £1000 for one in 2004 and Bloomsbury £1500 in 2005. Whether anyone will care about Rupert in 2020 is unknowable-- I expect they will--but not as much as they do now. By then it might have become a bear market. Annuals from the 1960s and 1970s generally go for a fiver, they also have brown faced Ruperts on the cover--remember the annus mirabilis is 1973!

TRIVIA Paul McCartney gave Rupert a fresh lease of life when he wrote the song 'We All Stand Together' for an animated cartoon based on the froggy design of the end papers in a 1958 Rupert annual. This song was a hit in 1984 and the video 'Rupert and the Frog Song' won a BAFTA award. It was generally considered a low point in Paul's oeuvre until his appalling Starbucks Album of 2007 / 2008.

A French low alcohol beer is available called Tourtel --it is sometimes known to its waggish consumers as 'Rupert Beer' and is actually the only palatable 'near beer' I have ever consumed. Below is the 1973 annual in the version that you don't want. THE BROWN FACE IS ONLY GOOD ON THE 1973 ANNUAL. [ W/Q *** ]

STOP PRESS Result of the auction of the Chaplain collection is reported thus in today's 'Sunday Express' and seem marvellous, not to say freakish--the publicity could bring other copies out and if so the price may not be sustainable - watch this space:

'Yesterday one of the rare 1973 annuals went for £23,000 and the other for £22,000 at Dukes Auction House in Dorchester, Dorset. The previous record for a 1973 brown-face annual was £16,000. There were gasps of surprise as the bidding for the annuals rocketed past the pre-sale estimates.They formed part of a stunning collection of Rupert memorabilia put together by a later writer of the cartoon, Freddie Chaplain. The items went for more than £100,000. Auctioneer Amy Brenan, said afterwards: “It proves the enduring affection people have for Rupert Bear. Bidders came from all over the country and around the world.”The daughter of Freddie Chaplain, Deborah Taylor, was at the sale. She said: “My father died in 1981 and the collection has been in mum’s bungalow until this summer when she moved into a nursing home. She decided to sell it for her nursing fees and for peace of mind.”

Ms Taylor added: “When I was a young girl, my father told me Rupert stories off the cuff and he would write down the ones I liked.” Rupert Bear is set to make a Christmas comeback as one of this year’s best-selling toys...'
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