You never know what death is going to throw at you. For bereaved families, the task of sifting through, packing up or throwing away the possessions of the relative you’ve lost is often a poignant, sad affair. The clothes, the books with handwritten messages on the inside cover, the old sepia photographs left behind are all suffused with meaning and memories. Then you discover beloved great-uncle Jerry’s huge stash of old porn magazines.
A helping Ram
Help is at hand, however. On Holloway Road, erotic bookshop Ram Books lets families arrange “discreet removals” of magazines, videos, DVDs, books, film, photos and even home videos. They even pay you for them.
Operating online under the name webuyanyporn.com, the business boasts that it pays “the best prices for all types of erotica and associated material”. It seems that with time, virtually everything becomes a collector’s item, even old pornographic magazines. Ram Books’ collection now stands at 50,000 adult magazines going back to the 1950s.
Love for the trade
I have to ring a doorbell to be let into the shop, which is open only two afternoons a week. Inside is a large poster of fetish pin-up girl Bettie Page presiding over the colourful shelves of vintage porn mags with names such as ‘Affair’, ‘Topper’ and ‘Beautiful Britons’. I am greeted by the owner, Dave, an affable, middle-aged cockney with a genuine love of his trade.
“It’s a family business,” he tells me. “My uncle had shops in Soho back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. As soon as I was old enough, my mum kicked me out the door and said ‘go work for your uncle’.”
Demand is increasing
He says that the demand for the house clearance service is becoming more and more popular. “We get six calls and four or five emails a day. It’s not just local collections. Half the emails come from America, but the logistics of that make it impossible,” he says. “We also get quite a few people wanting to send us their phone sex videos, which, y’know, isn’t something we want.
“People are often embarrassed by the magazines they give us, but compared to the pornography these days it’s all pretty mild. We did have to collect magazines from a vicar once.”
Dave leads me through the shop, past stacks of boxes filled with magazines. “I’ve just bought some sex albums,” he says casually. “12-inch vinyl LPs, which are really amazing. They’re recordings of stag parties, interviews with porn stars, prostitutes and cops. Really interesting stuff.”
Is there a market for that? “Oh, I just bought them because they’re rare.”
He leads me down into the “bondage basement”, which now houses a collection of erotic books. Before the shop was Ram Books, it used to be a sex shop, with the basement housing bondage equipment.
“I’ve had this shop here for 30 years. We used to be called Zeitgeist, with a rubber shop next door.”
How come he made the switch? “Originally, when I was in Soho working with my uncle, it was all books and magazines. There were no VHS, no DVDs, so it was all books and magazines. What you see upstairs is representation of what the shop Supermags used to look like in the ‘70s. A bit of shelving from here and there, nothing too expensive because the police used to come in and bash it apart. It’s why if you go to any sex shop in Soho, they all look the same as they did forty years ago. That mentality has remained.”
Dave made the switch to magazines when he revisited his storage lock-ups filled with pornographic magazines. “When VHS came in the ‘80s no one wanted magazines anymore,” he says. “So we had these warehouse lock-ups full of them. I couldn’t bring myself to throw the magazines away.” Thus, Ram Books was born, selling magazines to Daves across London and the rest of the country.
Fill a gap in the collection
What’s the average customer like? “We mainly get collectors, people who are looking for a single magazine in good condition to fill a gap in their collection. We don’t really get people who walk in wanting to buy a bit of porn, because they can get that anywhere. We’re not about that. We’re basically for collectors, people looking for specific genres like art books, bondage, female wrestling, something a bit different that you can’t find easily.
“The most popular stuff is the ‘50s glamour, pin-up stuff. Female domination, that’s quite popular as well. A bit of spanking too. We sell some magazines for £1 each but it ranges to £70 for the ‘50s and ‘60s magazines. “I’ve got some super-8s in pristine condition that are worth a few thousand pounds.”
Dave laments the rise of modern porn. “It’s all so unimaginative. There’s no craft, no mystique in it. You go on Pornhub and it’s just pages and pages of the most in-your-face stuff. Where’s the fun, the allure?” It’s easy to see Dave’s point of view. The magazines that line his shelves feel like charming throwbacks to what feels like a more innocent time. His shop is a museum to nostalgia, which he does not deny. “We hunt down rare, unusual and vintage magazines that we have loved for years,” the website says. “Magazines we first discovered when much younger and which inspired us then and inspire us now.”
Ram Books is open 12:30-6pm on Tuesday and Friday on 66 Holloway Road London N7 8JL