Whistles #0118

anonymous avatarThe collector: Retired Police Officer (UK).

The collection: Whistles.

The story behind the collection...

I collect all types of whistle but with a leaning towards police and military whistles. I've been collecting for around 12 years and have around 700 or so whistles. I am a retired police officer and I carried one of these for many years, shortly before retirement I took it out of my tunic one day looked at it and, say no more, the hobby began.

Collector's first whistle (c.1977) - never blown on duty!

I prefer whistles made from brass, metal, silver or one of the alloys used rather than plastic, I have seen many plastic types but most are cheaper types aimed at the tourist market. I guess the limit for me is the price, it is not a case of must have it at any price but will buy it for a price I deem it to be worth.

Penny Toy Whistles

It is the social history that I find interesting. A single police whistle made c.1890s could have had a working life right up to the time whistles were superseded by the police radio, sometime in the 60s, but the whistle continued to be worn as part of an officers uniform for many years after. Nowadays whistles are usually only worn on a ceremonial occasion when an officer is wearing his uniform tunic, such as a Royal Wedding, or State funeral perhaps. If a whistle could talk though, just think what it may have seen during its service of 70 years or so.

Cardiff and Leith (1908-20) Police Whistles by J.Hudson

I don’t really have a childhood connection with the whistle but I do recall one childhood film, 'Officer On The Beat' with Norman Wisdom. I watched this as a youngster and again recently, there is a fantastic scene where he is running around the streets blowing his police whistle, eagerly being followed by several police officers.

Dog head whistles

I rarely use them but I do carry one on my key ring and have a couple in my holiday home. If ever I bought a boat I would certainly have a couple onboard. Whistles are still extremely useful for remote locations and for raising the alarm. I carry a fairly modern scouting whistle given to me years ago, on a key fob, no particular reason, it is probably not worth much more than a fiver but when it was given to me I put it on my key ring and it has been there ever since.

I looked for years for a whistle shaped like a WW1 tank. I eventually found one, it is pretty ugly but quite rare... expensive too. Another find was a mental asylum whistle, these are fairly rare, it took me 12 years to find, and a bargain price too.

World War 1 tank whistle

I have no real organisation of the collection; I usually pop them into plastic storage boxes. They are very easy to store due to their small size, this is probably one of the attractions. In all my years I have seen whistles of all shapes sizes, police whistles from many now obsolete police forces, but even now a new style of whistle or whistle from a different force will emerge. I cannot say there is any one whistle I would like to find or own.

9 x Tin Whistles

My collection reveals some form of mild illness. I say that with tongue in cheek because I feel collecting is a bit of an illness or OCD, but it is not forever, one day it will go. Besides whistles, I also have a passion for Vesta match safes too, I have around 50 mostly silver hallmarked, being able to date them gives you that added bonus of knowing when they were made. Whistles are my preference though.

Vesta Matchsafe Whistle

The whistling collecting circle is quite small compared to other collectibles such as pens, watches, cameras etc. I know of no clubs as of yet but there are three excellent reference books: Whistles by Martyn Gilchrist (a Shire publication), Collecting Police Whistles and Similar Types by Martyn Gilchrist & Simon Topman and More Whistles by Martyn Gilchrist. Three very good reference books with plenty of photographs. 

Visit the collector's Whistleshop website here

Link to Acme Whistles Design Archives here

Images ©

Reader Comments (2)

Hello there

I came across your page and thought I would post a comment as maybe you could help me. It is very interesting to read about these whistles and my mother actually has a silver one from the 1960's, was wondering as an estimate what is would be worth.


October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
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