In the late 1800s and early 1900s, real estate companies produced many thousands of posters featuring maps of the lots available at upcoming auctions. Many of these auction plans are very plain black-and-white posters, showing basic information about the upcoming auction and a simple map of the subdivision. Others are highly decorative, featuring colourful illustrations, decorative fonts, cartoons and even verse.
The Library has several thousand Victorian auction plans. This number includes five named collections that were donated by real estate agents: Vale; Batten and Percy; Dyer; Haughton; and Maddock, Lonie and Chisholm.
Typically auction plans feature a small suburban area, showing the location of the available blocks of land and highlighting their proximity to shops, train stations and public parks. They also occasionally make mention of the residences of notable personalities in the area.
They sometimes feature exaggerated claims, and the maps may distort distances to make the lots appear to be closer to valued amenities (look for any break in the lines – this means that a section of a street has been omitted). Sometimes they even refer to railway stations or tramlines that were never built.
However, these plans occasionally contain otherwise hard-to-find historical information, particularly if details such as the names of purchasers or the prices have been pencilled on to the map.