Collecting Sherlock Holmes Memorabilia
There is nothing like reading a good mystery on a rainy day, especially if you are in England. One is inspired to grab a cup of tea, put their sleuthing hat on, and try to solve the case with the lead detective. For decades my favorite British detective has been Sherlock Holmes. Whether reading a book or watching a movie or TV series, I know I will be privy to an engaging story.
The world’s most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, created many different fictional characters during his career. The one he is best known for is Sherlock Holmes. The works of Doyle have been translated into numerous languages and continue to receive accolades around the world. It only stands to reason that there would be collectibles related to the Holmes character and stories.
Doyle’s father was Charles Altamont Doyle. He had some success as an artist, but his alcoholism held him back from a notable career. However, his mother, Mary Foley Doyle, was a different story. She loved books and was a proficient and passionate storyteller. The support she gave her son led him to become both a physician and a writer.
Doyle went to a Jesuit boarding school in England and, after graduation, went to medical school at the University of Edinburgh. While at university, he started to write short stories. One of his teachers, Dr. Joseph Bell, was a mentor and influenced Doyle’s creation of Holmes. Dr. Bell exhibited keen observation, logic, deduction, and diagnosis. Doyle eventually gave these attributes to his fictional detective.
THE WRITTEN WORD
After graduating from medical school, Doyle began practicing medicine and writing more stories. In 1886 he wrote the novel Study in Scarlet, introducing readers to the sleuth Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Holmes’s faithful friend and colleague. Study in Scarlet first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. This novel launched Doyle’s career. Doyle’s prolific writing career included the development of other characters and some non-fiction works. However, the stories and novels of Holmes are his most famous and revered. Doyle ended up writing four novels and 56 stories about the detective. As a result, there is no shortage of books about Sherlock Holmes to collect. Some are written by Doyle, and others are adaptations. These include rare first editions and other book sets and editions. The first Sherlock Holmes comic book hit the newsstands in 1955.
MOVIES AND TELEVISION
Various actors have portrayed Holmes in movies and television. Jeremy Brett offers my favorite rendition of Holmes. Granada TV produced this TV series from 1984 to 1994. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman recently portray Holmes and Watson in modern-day London. One of my favorites actors in the movie genre is Basil Rathbone. In all, over 100 actors have played the fictional detective. All TV series and movies are available in CD and DVD formats to collect.
TOOLS AND TRICKS OF THE TRADE
We will not find some of Holmes’s iconic movie props in Doyle’s writing. Only the magnifying glass crosses the film/book border. Television and movie adaptations, for instance, introduced Holmes smoking a pipe when he needed to “think” about a case. Doyle, however, never wrote that Holmes smoked a pipe. One style of pipe Holmes uses in films is the Calabash, which has a meerschaum bowl. It is known as a “Sherlock Pipe” because of its distinctive appearance. The Baskerville is another style of pipe. Both are collectible.
Sherlock Holmes is known for two signature pieces of apparel. Both are collectible. The wool deerstalker cap—with a brim on both front and back— is synonymous with the sleuth. Holmes wore this hat when visiting the country while working on a case. When in London, Holmes wore a top hat. The second item of clothing is the Inverness style coat. This outerwear is often made of wool to combat England’s damp and chilly weather. In addition, it comes with a stylish cape.
221B BAKER STREET
The fictional detective lived at London’s 221B Baker Street. Since 1990, The Sherlock Holmes Museum has been located at this address. Visitors from around the world have visited. There is a gift shop in the museum where visitors can purchase Holmes and Watson memorabilia and collectibles.
Sherlock Holmes-themed collectibles include books, comic books, playing cards, trading cards, photos, puzzle books, illustrations, magazines, and advertisements. Other collectibles and gift items are pipe racks, plates, coffee mugs, teacups and teapot sets, figurines, nutcrackers, umbrellas, door knockers, paperweights, letter openers, wine, jewelry, thimbles, pocket watch, postage stamps, walking sticks, snow globes, coins, ornaments, a compass, a 221B key chains, and home decor. Need I go on? The sheer volume and types of items available are daunting. Would we expect less from this character, who proclaims to be the “only unofficial consulting detective”?
Jeanne Lawson owned an antique shop in the Nashville area for 10 years where she specialized in ephemera. She now sells her wares online. She has an MBA and worked in the educational publishing industry in the roles of Project Manager, Editor, and Writer. She lives on the coast of Maine and enjoys collecting nautical items.
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