On Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th May 2016, auctioneers and valuers Bearnes, Hampton and Littlewood will be auctioning a full head alien mask at their auction house in Exeter. Listed as item 1200 in the the auction catalogue (PDF link, correcting for incorrect spelling) lists the lot in full as:
“Dan Dare and the Mekon, a green mache Mekon publicity mask from the first Hulton Boys and Girls Exhibition, Olympia 1956, also together with a Dan Dare badge and colour separation sheets for Eagle Vol 11 No 26, 25 June 1960, together with a letter of provenance from the Hulton press publicity officer.”
It goes on to say, “Provenance – the accompanying letter explains how props from the exhibition were returned to the Hulton Press publicity department after the exhibition and kept by the publicity officer at the time.”
The guide price for this selection of Eagle related items is £300 – £500.
(Post sale update: The price realised at auction was £800.)
Brushing over the unfortunate misspelling of Eagle publisher Hultons’ name, and that this full-head mask of an ordinary Treen has been mistaken for their ruler The Mekon, what’s interesting about this lot is that it could well be a lot more than just a simple papier-mâché publicity mask. Peter Hampson, son of Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson, has pointed out that it looks very like the one that he is featured putting on in what for Eagle and Dan Dare fans is a familiar British Pathe film.
Shot in 1956 at the Dan Dare studio at Bayford Lodge in Epsom, it shows the then school boy Peter, complete with Eagle tie, being helped into the mask by artist Don Harley.
The British Pathe site gives the issue date of the film as 20 February 1956 and we know that Frank Hampson did make an appearance signing autographs at the Hulton Boys and Girls Exhibition that ran at London’s Olympia between 28th August and 8th September that same year – so perhaps he took the mask along for publicity purposes and it was never returned to him.
There are times when collectors wonder just what exactly happened to certain artefacts familiar to them from old images but which have since disappeared from view, sometimes into private collections but more often than not into a bucket.
While it’s understandable that the auctioneers, perhaps unfamiliar with Dan Dare’s history and without paperwork to support any claim that this is indeed the mask worn by Peter Hampson in the Pathe film, perhaps we have just rediscovered something that many thought had long since been lost.
Along with this very intriguing item, the auction also includes plenty of rare toys and radio-related ephemera, such as numerous lots of Meccano, including one of several Meccano magazines and three remote controlled Meccano cars; a collection of 1960s Marvel and DC Comics, including Batman, Tales of the Unexpected, also together with a collection of Alan Class (listed as Alan Glass) reprints including Mystic, Fantastic Tales and other publications; two boxes of Air Ace and War Picture Library comics; a lot of various children’s annuals; a collection of assorted toy pistols (mainly cowboy pistols), including a Man from U N.C L.E. Mauser pistol and a TV 21 Special Agent pistol and holster; a working BBC radio script for The Goon Show No 29 (fourth series) signed in pencil by Peter Sellers; a collection of Rupert the Bear commemoratives and collectables, including figures, a 75th Anniversary boxed set by Lledo, pencil set, apron etc. (and other Rupert-related lots, including Royal Doulton figures and annuals); anda JR 21 Thunderbird 3 in orange plastic with friction drive and black wheels from Thunderbirds, boxed together with Thunderbird 1, nose wheel missing some tail fins missing.
• Sale SC22: Sporting and Collectors Sale, Bearnes Hampton and Littlewood, Okehampton Street, Exeter, Wednesday, 18th May 2016 until Thursday, 19th May 2016 – Two Day Sporting and Collectors Auction
• The auction lots will be on view on the following days in the saleroom (unless otherwise noted) with limited viewing possible on sale days on Saturday, 14th May 2016: 9.00am – 12.00pm; Monday, 16th May 2016: 9.00am – 5.15pm; and Tuesday, 17th May 2016: 9.00am – 5.15pm
News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus DC Thomson’s The Art Of Ian Kennedy, Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.