It's worth a pound if it's a penny

When I was small it was quite exciting to visit Grimsby Market with my grandmother. It was then an open market in Freeman Street, having been going since 1873. It still is, but I believe it has since been covered. There were stalls selling everything, not just fruit and vegetables, but clothes, household supplies, and tools, among many other things. Traders would shout their wares to passers-by, and around some of the stalls small crowds would gather.

Most of the stallholders were accomplished salesmen (there were very few women), and knew how to entice an audience with a practised patter. They would start of by demanding a high price for whatever item they were selling, and then gradually lower it, keeping the audience in suspense until the final price was announced with a flourish.

"I'm not going to ask five pounds for this, not even four. It's worth four pounds if it's a penny, but I'm not going to ask four, not even three. I'll tell you what; I'll offer you two of them for three pounds. No, make that two pounds ten for the two." He would then clap his hands to indicate that this was his asking price.

As the final price was reached, customers would step forward eagerly with raised hands to buy before the supply sold out. They knew they were not really getting the items at a quarter of their real value, but the prices were still good, and in the privations of postwar Britain, people looked for value.

I still use the phrase "It's worth a pound if it's a penny," doing it humorously to indicate good value, and I sometimes I even use it for time, saying, "It must be four o'clock if it's a penny." Such is the legacy of my visits to Grimsby Market.