Wallace Heaton Ltd. was a very up-market photographic retailer, a sort of photographic Harrods, who were Royal Warrant holders and famously tested everything they sold, thereby adding an extra layer of quality control on top of the manufacturers' efforts.

They published The Photographic Blue Book, generally just known as The Blue Book, from 1949 to 1972, the year in which the company was bought out by Dixons, a sort of photographic Tesco.

The end of retail price maintenance in 1964 must have contributed to the reasons for the takeover. After that, instead of competing on service and quality (as companies had to when prices were fixed by law) they began to compete on price alone; and low prices were hardly compatible with the Wallace Heaton testing programme.

J. Wallace Heaton himself pretty well sums things up in the above introduction to the 1968/69 Blue Book, which is a treasure house of equipment and prices: I used it as a source for the price list for the Contaflex Super BC article. Equally intriguing, though, is the way that in includes lots of other things, less glamorous and more easily forgotten, which remind us what a full-service camera store used to be like: things like retouching equipment, copying stands and lights. Nowadays, the only hope for most of this, for most people, would be the Internet.

Note for foreigners and the young: prices are given in pounds, shillings and pence: twenty shillings (20/-) to the pound, and twelve pence (12d) to the shilling. There were thus 240 pence to the pound. At the time, Artful 'Arold Wilson had recently (1967) devalued the pound from $2.80 to $2.40, so a US penny and a UK penny were identical in value. For hasty conversions, 6d = 2.5p; 1/- = 5p; 2/- = 10p; 5/- = 25p; 10/- = 50p.

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