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WELCOME TO MAYFAIR PHILATELIC AUCTIONS
Mayfair is part of the Scholium Group Plc, an AIM listed company who specialise in Rare Books, Works on Paper and other Fine Arts.
SALE NUMBER 19
THURSDAY 27th MAY 2021
The Mayfair Postal Auction Features 6500 Lots and Carries a 0% Buyer's Premium
It is now just past the March equinox with snowdrops and crocuses things of the past, their place taken by primroses and daffodils. Mr and Mrs Duck, a pair of mallards that visit every spring are asleep on the goldfish pond; some years they have a little string of grey and yellow fluffballs following them around. That’s for later. The cows and their babies are back in the field next to our house. Loud they are, too, calling for their diminutive offspring, who, as with every newborn everywhere, aren’t quite sure where they are, nor what they should be doing. There are some young rooks (could be crows) on the grass at a respectful distance from the house. Our garden is regularly garnished with the off-cuts from our table and I’m sure the birds regard it as an avian smorgasbord. The young corvids are delightful to watch. When first they come they are long-legged, gangly and unstable, flapping their wings furiously, but otherwise with not the slightest idea of what to do next. They see mummy pecking at the grass and peck along with her. I guess one day one of those random pecks hits upon a worm and all is revealed. Moving on …
Preparing an auction is rather like being on a hamster’s wheel. There are many parts to bring together and they are never all completed – if that is the right word – at the same time. Preparing and describing the lots to go under the hammer accounts for most of the work, as you might imagine. Other things, such as writing this little piece - begun in December around the solstice, and revised from time to time in the intervening months - make up the rest. From start to finish the process takes 4-5 months. Given that we have six or seven sales a year, we are generally working on at least three different sales at any one time.
We’ve deliberately put more previously-unsold lots in this sale than normal (about 60:40 [old: new]). Many of the re-runs have had their estimates and reserves trimmed by 20% and a further 20% again and again, until sold. From your point of view, what’s not to like? (The question is rhetorical.)
Modern IT simplifies much of the work. Humans still do a better job of proofreading texts. Or if no humans are to hand, then it seems I’ll do as the first alternate. Done properly, it takes a while (roughly an hour per thousand lots). We’ve tried shortcutting the process using computer programs of various hues. The results were at best mixed; the frequent Americanisation of the spellings did nothing for my blood pressure (though it didn’t seem to trouble those under 25, a group I left more decades ago than I care to remember). We get a printout and both my good lady wife and I sit down with different coloured biros and do our worst. Typos have one thing in common with anything else you want to get rid of; no matter how closely you look, you never get them all! Corrections are keyed back into the database so that when the text is sent to the printers, electronically, we don’t have to check the proofs that come back from the printers. Not for typos, anyway. (Same goes for what appears on the website.)
Typos aside, part of the proofreader’s job is to make sure lots appear in the catalogue in the right place. The sections are of our own making. There is no law that decrees Great Britain should be on its own and not part of the ‘G’ countries. It simply makes more sense this way, given that GB stamps are those in the greatest demand in the United Kingdom. Our system corrects and homogenises country names (always Netherlands, never Holland for example) and different spellings of the same name (always Luxembourg, never Luxemburg: GB, Gr. BRITAIN Great Britian (sic), [and just about any other spelling you can imagine] become Great Britain). This way all the Romanian stamps are under Romania, rather than under two sections, one Romania, the other Rumania. There are over 1,000 such checks/conversions. I’m sure you get the drift without my rehearsing each and every one. (Unless you can’t sleep. When I can copy and past the procedures and send you the most tedious of e-mails.)
Numbering the lots comes next. That’s a click-of-a-button job. Sit back and wait till the “OK - finished” icon pops up on the screen. At the same time as numbering the lots any data, which has no further relevance, is deleted or zero’d (such as how many bids on the lot), cumulative data (such as how many times a lot has been offered) is updated and estimates and reserves reduced (by 20%) if a lot has been hanging around too long.
There are plenty of real bargains on offer. Good hunting!