By Tim Binnall
Hopes for a huge haul on a bevy of original Cottingley Fairy photos and artifacts put up for auction this week were dashed when the images fetched less than what experts expected and, in some cases, weren't purchased at all. Considered one of the greatest photographic hoaxes of all time, the images showing a pair of girls interacting with fairies were the subject of incredible public interest in the 1910s and spawned decades of debate over their veracity until they were ultimately revealed to be fake in 1983. Despite the truth about the photos coming to light nearly 40 years ago, the images have continued to capture people's imagination to this day.
After a pair of images sold for a jaw-dropping ten times the expected amount at an auction last October, a subsequent sale of even more fairy photos yesterday looked to be even more profitable. However, it would appear that the offerings did not generate the kind of bidding war that auctioneers had envisioned as they wound up selling for around $65,000 total, which is $25,000 less than the $90,000 estimate for the complete collection. To that end, of the 14 lots put up for auction, four went unsold altogether.
As to why these images did not inspire the same kind of feverish interest that the others did a few months ago, the auctioneer who oversaw the sale offered his opinion to a local newspaper. "It was the best selection of Cottingley Fairies pictures up for auction," Chris Albury, "but perhaps there was a bit too much choice." To that end, he said that they were able to "get a battle" going for a few of the photos, but there were others that simply drew tepid activity at best.
Perhaps the most surprising result from the auction was that the one photo considered to be the prime candidate to cause a commotion, known as 'Frances and the Fairy Ring' and seen above, found no takers. As Albury noted, this may have been due to the sheer number of images available as well as what was a strict reserve price of around $13,000 that Christine Lynch, one of the granddaughters of the then-girls featured in the photos and the current owner of the images, had been asking.
Reflecting on the sale, Lynch seemed largely unperturbed that the auction did not go as well as had been expected, telling the BBC that it was "no problem." That said, she did concede that "I'm rather surprised" that the complete collection did not sell. As to what will become of the remaining materials that she continues to own, Lynch simply stated that "they will go back in the safe again" until, presumably, the market is less flooded with fairy photos.