That four letter word is 'topo', short for 'topographical', and in collecting terms it describes items having close connections to specified towns and cities. 'Topo' isn't just an abbreviation, today it's a word in its own right, and you'll hear it used hundreds of times daily at flea markets and collectors' fairs.
In context it goes like this:
"Got any topo postcards of Hartlepool (or other location)?"
"Where do you keep the Belgian topo?"
"Are these topo prints of Easington in Yorkshire or Easington, County Durham?"
And so it goes for hundreds of different product types and millions of different locations.
You'll find named locations depicted on pottery and paintings, books and badges, daggers and dog collars. But it's named places on paper that tend to attract most collectors, and the highest profits too.
Paper collectibles have other major benefits for sellers over topographical items depicted on materials like china and metal, wood and brick.
Those other items are heavy, costly to post and they take up lots of space in your home or other business premises.
But paper is usually flat and easy to store, as well as consuming very little space. Paper is easy to pack, inexpensive to post, and can often be purchased in bulk at local auctions, flea markets and boot sales.
There's another major reason why immense profits can be made on paper items costing pennies to buy and fetching high mark ups on eBay. It has to do with the fact that our ancestors (Victorian being the most popular era for paper collectibles) accumulated and kept vast amounts of paper items and those items were usually kept together for many decades until someone finally decides to sell them, usually at auction.
So it's no great surprise to find auction salesrooms packed with huge boxes and tea chests filled with paper items and fetching just a few pounds each on the day. Inside those boxes and chests you might find hundreds, even thousands of items relating to local, national and even worldwide locations.
Such items can fetch amazing prices on eBay where it isn't uncommon for one item from an auction lot to fetch more than you pay for the entire boxful.
These are some of the items to look out for:
Advertisements, advertising novelties, almanacs, banknotes, beer mats, billheads, blotters, bonds and share certificates, bookmarks, bus tickets, business cards, calendars, cheques, documents, ephemera, film posters, film programs, football programmes, funeral items, guidebooks, letters, letterheads and invoices, maps, newspapers, photographs, postcards, posters, prints, public notices, railway tickets, scrapbooks, scraps, suicide notes, theatre programmes, trade catalogues ....
... and any or all of those items can be found in those huge box lots that generally attract low bidding at auction.
The reason they fail to fetch high prices locally?
It's because of another four letter word involved in the days between buying and selling those items. That word is 'work', which few people seem to like, and most local auction buyers prefer to make big profits on one or two select items.
However, anyone prepared to work at sifting and sorting, scanning and listing all this fabulous topo stuff separately on eBay can easily make £1,000 or more every week!