NSFW

There's a Guy in London Quietly Buying Up Dead People's Porn Collections

We visited Dave to look through his vaults in North London.

by Jack Cummings
27 April 2015, 1:42pm

All photos by Justinas Vosylius

There are lots of things to deal with when a close relative dies. Grief, obviously – that's the big one. Then the more tangible stuff: there's a funeral to arrange, a lot of very depressing phone calls to be made and, in a few cases, potentially a sizable collection of pornography to quietly get rid of. Until recently, that tended to mean a trip to the dump. Now, however, there's a company that will take it off your hands and pay you for the privilege.

Dave (who didn't want his surname or photo published) started webuyanyporn.com as a way to collect stock for his soon-to-be reopened vintage porn shop, Rambooks, in North London, helping himself and the community. More good news: you don't even have to be dead for Dave to buy your porn; if you're very much alive and have some jazz rags to sell, get in touch and you might be able to do a deal.

I caught up with Dave over the weekend at his shop on Holloway Road.

VICE: Hi Dave. How do these house clearances work?
Dave: Well, originally it was just a plain idea to buy some stock. I've just done one this morning. Someone called me. I went to Bow and picked up 1,000 magazines.

Wow.
They were not fantastic. Some Escorts from the year 2000 onwards. The guy called me because they found these magazines as they were clearing out his grandfather's house and didn't know what to do about it.

That's quite a collection. Do you normally get that many?
I've had thousands from different places. People usually have 100 to 200, though.

What's the most interesting haul you've had?
I once got a call from a vicar. I'll leave it at that.

What kind of thing do you sell – is it vintage or homemade?
There are some homemade books downstairs, but it's mostly all vintage from the 1950s upwards. That was the golden era of porn, with great photographers like Harrison Marks, who used great lighting. That's where porn really started. Most of these books have the details of the lights they used and aperture inside the pages, all technical.

So porn was exclusively for the photography enthusiasts?
Actually it was used to get around the law. They sold it as art.

Have you seen porn shops have trouble with law more recently than that?
Yeah. I saw it happen on a weekly basis in Soho back in the 1970s and 80s. Police would come in and say, "We think that's illegal." It's a very grey area and it's never been changed. But [the BBFC rating] R18 came in, which laid down more specific guidelines of what was acceptable.

[My] shop is kind of a representation of what Super Mags in Soho used to look like. Nobody would ever spend any money on the shops as the police would always come and smash them to pieces. Some say Rambooks is like walking into a sex shop in the 1980s.

Why do people buy vintage porn?
It's for collectors. Some people recognise their youth and tell me, "I know that girl!" Even the electrician who came in remembered one of the girls. It's nostalgia, even down to the smell the magazines give off. Playboys are thick – they keep the aroma.

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Halfway through our chat Dave decided to give me a tour of Rambooks, which is set to relaunch next week. Everything in there is vintage, from the pin-up Betty Page poster draped over the window to the shelves filled wall-to-wall with classic porn magazines.

We walked down the narrow stairs into the shop's basement and straight into the erotic literature section. There was a separate room dedicated to American collections, where I caught a glimpse of a Nazi symbol on the top of a comic-cum-fantasy magazine from 1962. Dave explained: "They all start with girls being tortured and stuff like that, but it's a story, so they'd always win and end up thrashing the Nazis."

Back upstairs it's slightly more traditional, models meticulously sorted by magazine title and period. "She became a born again Christian – so did she," Dave informed me. He's got an encyclopaedic knowledge of not only the titles, from Reader's Wives to Zeitgeist and Naughty Forties to Knickers, but of the beehived women they feature.

Rambooks seems to cater to whatever kind of fetish you might be harbouring. "Over there is a book just full of clits," said Dave's mate, Camp Freddy, confirming my thought. I wanted to know how things have changed throughout Dave's 30-plus years in the business.

Inside Rambooks

What has the internet done to porn?
The internet killed the porn industry. Nobody is printing any more. How old are you?

I'm 23.
So you don't know anything else. It's killed it in a bad way because there's no styles, no limitations. It's all instant gratification and hardcore porn. Bigger porn producers, ones from Russia and the Far East, they go that step further and there's no control. They just push the envelope.

And now porn is all over social media, too.
Normal people just stick pictures up all day long on their Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter accounts. You've seen Tumblr – it's mad. Everybody's getting in on the act.

So my generation is fucked?
No one's publishing and there's no sense of imagination. The closest things now are suggestive Instagram pics or naked selfies, which are bringing back some of the allure.

There's a precedent here though, right? Porn has always been at the forefront of technology. It's going 3D next.
Porn has always pushed the boundaries, all the way through. It kind of pushed VHS along, pushed DVD. Porn always grabbed the new technology and the internet as well.

Why is this place called Rambooks?
Rambooks used to be a sex shop in Soho back in the day. In the late 1970s I used to work in Super Mags, Rambooks and then back to Super Mags. It was all magazines – no VHS back then.

What's the most valuable porn you have here?
The stuff from the 50s can be, like, the most collectable things. If it's in mint condition it's worth more than something that's been thumbed with its corners turned. It's like having a stamp that's brand new. Some of the [glamour photographer] Harrison Marks can fetch £40 to £50. The American magazines are very rare – Issue 1, Volume 1. All mine are in fantastic condition; some have never been read.

Tell me more about the homemade stuff.
They come with photographs with different stories from early German or Dutch magazines. The pictures aren't done by the same people, but they're original photographs. Again, I've got about 1,000 of them, which I'll sell for about £50 each.

And do you have a personal favourite?
Men Only. It was one of the first magazines for men, not boys. It wasn't just porn either, there were interviews with people like George Best and Muhammad Ali.

Thanks very much, Dave.

@jackcummings92

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