Auction house’s anger at theft of rare Underground map during viewing

By Geoff Courtney

THE boss of the country’s leading London Transport specialist auction house has spoken of his distress and anger after a rare Underground pocket map was stolen while stewards were distracted before the start of a sale on February 17.

And to compound the loss, the map achieved the highest realisation of £3200 at the Transport Auctions of London sale after it went under the hammer without anyone being aware it had been taken.

All mapped out: Harry Beck with an early version of his ground-breaking diagrammatic map of the London Underground system that transformed railway maps the world over. KEN GARLAND COURTESY LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM

The map was a 1933 first edition of the world-famous Harry Beck diagrammatic design of the capital’s Underground system, and these are greatly prized by collectors and regularly fetch high prices.

The example going under the hammer at the auction in Croydon had another feature, which made it even more desirable to collectors and probably unique – it had been signed by Beck himself, resulting in the £3200 bid – a record for a first edition.

Michael Wickham, the principal of Transport Auctions of London, spoke to Heritage Railway of his distress and anger at the unfortunate turn of events that marred what otherwise was a successful sale.

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