I hope this finds you well.
I have been asked to abstain temporarily from self-isolation to see if I can do any better than an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters. Probably not, but here goes.
Due to Covid our business plans for the year, specifically our auction schedule have been changed, changed again and changed yet a third time. In the spring, those plans centred around the (cancelled) 2020 Exhibition and in the autumn on the (also cancelled) Autumn Stampex. That and the obvious difficulty in making a firm booking for a venue on a date at that point still some months ahead, meant a great deal of jigging and re-jigging. Administratively, computers now take care of much of the day-to-day stuff. Moving material from one sale to another isn’t quite as simple as a mouse click – but it almost is. Numbering the lots no longer necessitates finding everything, putting it in order and walking round the room with a pencil, writing 1, 2, 3 etc. on it all. You can’t imagine just how much easier that is, until you’ve tried it! Yet much still has to be done the old way, such as writing lot numbers on the lots, collating them and then checking all are physically there in the drawers. (They never are – not all and every last one of them; there tend to be half a dozen refuseniks, which sometimes turn up 6 months later, with an elastic band round them, hiding away at the back of someone’s drawer [singular]).
Having to work from home was nothing new; I’ve been doing just that since 1980. Having to stay at home was. That part was frustrating, as much as anything else. Not being able to pop out to get a newspaper, or a surreptitious lunchtime pint at the local. Or being able to meet with the family, particularly our 2-year-old granddaughter, a typical hyperactive, squealing and beaming bundle of mischief. She was about 15 months old when she discovered the joy of remote controls and since that day no button in the Warren household has remained stubbornly un-pushed. If lockdown caused any problems, they were primarily logistical. We can all log in remotely to the company mainframe, but we can’t work mob-handed on stuff, not when it is physically somewhere else and miles away. And, of course, sourcing fresh material has been at best tricky (frequently impossible) when travelling was so restricted and access to other premises all but forbidden. Couldn’t even meet up in a pub … As for Mayfair, so for others. In June, another dealer, who trades exclusively on the Internet and who said he had all but run out of things to sell, purchased all our unsold mixed lots in boxes; in consequence there are none in this sale.
We’ve been busy throughout. Anecdotally, demand for stamps has been strong right through the lockdown, which I guess is understandable. If you’re stuck at home, you can’t spend three months watching endless repeats of Colombo or Downton Abbey. (My wife will do that for you.) So the stamps come out. Our public sale in June, held at the George St., Mayfair offices, had precisely 2 bidders in the room, one being an auction agent (bidding on behalf of several clients) and the other in attendance partly to help out administratively (in case we were overwhelmed). Yet the “book” (ie postal and e-mail) bidding was strong - astonishingly strong - as was bidding via the live Internet link. For that reason, total sales for a 900 lot sale were just a few thou’ short of what we would expect for a 1250 lot sale, when we have typically 125 people in the room. In case you were wondering, an Internet link is not realistic for a postbid sale such as this one. It slows things down. At a typical 150 lots an hour, it would take more than a working week to complete the bidding. If there is anyone out there, even in the depths of the back of beyond, where drying paint counts as excitement, who would willingly sit through the tedium of 6 or 7 days’ continuous internet bidding, with a virtual His Timness facing you the whole time, then they have my sympathies. (A man in a white coat will call by shortly.)
I took the opportunity to go through a number of bone pits and work on the odds and ends put by to work on “later.” You will doubtless find this hard to believe, but the tendency is to create ever more bone pits, rather than actually to do anything with them. Whisper it not: more than one has ended its days up as a “mixed lot in box” in a public sale, where they fetch what they fetch and the problem is no more. Collections from areas with complicated listings often end up in a bone pit (quelle surprise); Australian States, Indian States, South African States, United States all spring to mind. Describing such animals, either as collections or single stamps means going through them in detail, which takes time. Therein lies the rub.
That job is like cracking titanium-coated walnuts; hard work yet the pile of fruit at the end is lamentably small. I can nonetheless, point you to several areas of interest where we have offerings, such as Albania, Estonia (first time ever), French Antarctic (ditto) and from the Cooks, early Aitutaki and Penrhyn. The latter two have but modest catalogue value, yet are (relatively) seldom encountered.
Most auction sales are a mix of new and previously unsold material. This one is no exception, so you may spot a few “old friends.” Our policy with the philatelic elderly is to offer for a second time with the same estimate, thereafter to reduce the estimate and reserve by 20% (rounded) on each successive offering, till they get down to £1. Less than 1% of lots make it past the fifth offering; by then they are already less than half price. As best we can, we base our estimates on what similar material has fetched in the past. Doing so is bound to mimic both catalogue values and dealers’ selling prices, usually at a discount. In the second case, from records I kept when working on priced dealers’ stocks we had bought, our estimates averaged-out at about 80% of those dealers’ retail prices. If you are of the “cheeky bid” mentality, have a go. Particularly with the old friends. Trust me, I’d much rather sell it than put it back on the shelves.
Finally, a reminder that purchases in this sale attract no buyers’ premium. According to the adverts of a competitor, no buyers’ premium means you pay less. Make your own mind up on that one!
With best wishes from myself and everyone at Team Mayfair.Rick Warren
Bids may be placed via telephone, email or post.
Please contact Sadie with any enquiries and scan requests. email@example.com
1902 DLR ½d dull blue-green in lower marginal pair u/m with spectacular paper fold, rarely seen to such an extreme extent!
S.G. 215 Var
1942 h/stamped $5 carmine/green upper marginal mint, a fine example of this scarce issue with 2019 BPA Cert (states 'part dried original gum', which is typically how they are found). Cat £1000
1963 Arms 3d yellow marginal u/m with 'Orange (Eagle)' omitted. A scarce item (one sheet only existed). Cat £1200
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