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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 17
Greetings to one and all. Pick your jaw-bones up from the floor: it is the Grinch writing these words. Thank you, Tim. Whatever you are permitted to do under whatever Covid-related rules are in place over the Christmas period, do have fun, or whatever your 1st alternate to fun is. Our family gatherings, should they be allowed, will doubtless centre on our (almost) three-year-old granddaughter Mia, plus one as yet unknown grandson/-daughter on the way at end of May. Her grandfather, opines Mia, is “silly,” displaying perceptive wisdom and sagacity well beyond her years.
She spent the summer running round our garden and I spent the summer in a constant state of exhaustion just watching her, filling in the time with market research. The question was whether I preferred kir cassis based on New Zealand or Chilean sauvignon blanc or an industrial strength screwdriver. I have copious tasting notes, some legible others for some reason apparently written in Martian, which come to no particular conclusion. Clearly more research is needed.
On the 1st January 2021, Brexit will become final. What this means on a day-to-day level is still shrouded in fog. We’d love to comply with HMG’s directive to be prepared, but prepared for what? The probability for a firm such as ours is that the differences from one day to the next will be minor centred on arcane regulations mostly concerning Vat. Unless rules come into place which radically change things (anything), then we intend to run this sale exactly the same as we have in the past. You shouldn’t be adversely affected come what may and if you are (extremely unlikely) we’ll give you the option to pull out without penalty. That sound fair enough?
You may spot one or two “old friends” amongst the listings. One or two more than usual, that is. It is deliberate. In general we aim to have something like 2/3rds new material and 1/3rd re-runs. This sale is closer to 50:50. That said, many lots have reached the point in their Mayfair life where their estimates and reserves are on a downward patch – 20% for each time they are offered, till the estimate gets down to £1, the lowest figure the database can handle. The descriptions of such lots should make mention of the reduction. Same stamps as before – just cheaper.
You only quote catalogue values to make your own prices look cheap was the gist of a Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells missive that landed on my desk a while back. If you say so, sir. Obviously isn’t working, though, is it? The main factor/influence on our estimates is what similar material has sold for in the recent past. Catalogue values are shown purely as a cross-reference and you are at liberty both to ignore them and to bid less than our estimates as you see fit.
Are you satisfied with the speed of our service? Whilst the question is more rhetorical than a precursor to a market survey, I’m curious. Not that we can do much more to speed things up, in any case. We make the best use we can of modern technology; yet much, indeed most of the work of a stamp dealer remains manual and little different to 100 years ago. There’s not a database in the world, which can tear a block of four into four singles, nor a spreadsheet that can check a watermark. You can’t put a stamp into a stockbook, or take one out, by fax. Nor can the goods be delivered by e-mail. YouTube can show you how to wash stamps off paper, but it can’t actually do it for you. Scans give better definition than photocopies, but take much the same time to prepare. I think you get the point.
(Scans are a mixed blessing. At normal size they do the job properly. Blow the image up a squillion times and the wrinkles start to show. There is always (and I do mean always!) one perf that is shorter than the rest. Scans of the gummed side often highlight what isn’t actually there. Such as hinge marks, where in high magnification, the natural flecking of the gum is frequently mistaken for a micro hinge remainder, whilst the natural wrinkling of 150 year old Gum Arabic looks like the Mediterranean during a storm. (Read Gulliver’s Travels in his 2nd voyage to Brobdingnag, the land of the giants and take in Swift’s less-than-flattering descriptions of the human form.)
The [your choice of adjective] former Derby and Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough was once asked if he was the best football manager in the country. He replied along the lines that maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, but he was certainly in the top one. Modesty forbids me from asserting the same about Mayfair’s speed of delivery, though from post-Stampex conversations in the pub - in varying states of ‘in vino veritas’ – I’d put us on a par with most.
Following an auction’s close, there is still so much to be done. These days, there is always a last-minute (literally) e-mail rush. Those bids have to go into the belly of the beast – the computer, not me - before adjudications/allocations can begin. Going through thousands of bids from hundreds of customers on thousands of lots, is not the work of five minutes. Could we not simply push a button and let the computer get on with it? Yes, we could and then it would be work of 5 minutes. What that approach couldn’t deal with – at least not with our system - are the myriad idiosyncratic variations, from the simplistic either/or bid on two lots, through to the much more complicated … well, think of it and someone has probably asked for it at some time: try “I only want lot 25 if I also get lot 125.” Making sense of such instructions takes a human mind. Computers are totally unable to reason, they can only deal with yes/no and never maybe; either/or variations are similarly quite beyond their capabilities, save when those variations are themselves reduced to a string of yes/no possibilities.
Anyway, to quantify: sorting out who has got what – 8 to 10 hours. Printing invoices and unsold lists – 2 to 3 hours. Matching stock with invoices 10-15 hours. Packing and dispatch 20-30 hours (with some overlap). Hoping to be able to collect “winnings” an hour after the close – unrealistic, sorry. This also means that with regret, we will not be able to take calls before Wednesday 27th January.
The Mayfair offices will be closed over the Christmas period (from 24th to 4th January), though we’ll all be doing bits and pieces from home. We will try to pick up e-mails and get back to you, but please be patient. Thank you.
With all best wishes for the New Year 2021
Everyone at Mayfair.