Old diaries recording major events can fetch thousands of pounds

As we pass into a new decade, our antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks back at fascinating diaries from the past.

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 5:00 pm
This diary is beautifully presented
This diary is beautifully presented

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2020! Where does the time go? One way people try to keep track of the years, and those all-important memories, is by keeping a diary.

Regular readers may well recall our hints and tips for collecting published editions by ‘famous’ diarists like Pepys, Churchill and Anne Frank. However you might be unaware of the interest in handwritten personal diaries of ‘everyday’ folk. Why would people collect such obscure things?

Simply put, diaries are fascinating. They invite us into the innermost thoughts, feelings and experiences of a wide range of people. Containing humour, drama, romance and heartbreak, personal diaries can be as enthralling as a novel- and you have the only copy!

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Some diaries have little value on the open market, while others are priceless. Whilst not common in the centre, we sometimes find them mixed up in boxes of novels and they are always in demand. Pictured is a selection of finds.

For selling, a little research will pay dividends in reaching the correct audience. Read as much as you can of the diary, deciphering cramped or old fashioned handwriting can take some effort.

Make notes of names, dates and locations as these clues will help determine the audience. Is the diary of historical or collectable interest? If you can determine the writer's name and town, you can search for a relative. Look on genealogy sites and post a message listing as many details as possible about the author, diary and date.

Connection to historical events or people can generate lucrative interest from historical organisations, universities and museums. The Imperial War museum, for example, recently bought First World War diaries detailing battles like the Somme for £7,000 - £8,000.

We can all dream of unearthing a famous person’s previously undiscovered diary. Despite being only 61 pages, and written when he was still a journalist, John F Kennedy’s 1945 diary fetched over $700,000 at auction in 2017!

Often the true poignant value of a diary is forging a personal link across history. And to those of you starting 2020 diaries, please write neatly- future historians may be trying to decode you in years to come!