A Serendipitous Stamp Collection

September 16, 2023

This week we received an email asking us to purchase a stamp collection. A dozen or so images were attached which we opened.

The collection had been arranged on a carpeted floor and the owner had wandered around taking pictures. They were good clear images as he had made an effort to point his lens directly downwards so we were treated to a series of well-focused images of the stamps… and his bare feet… which were on top of the stamps.

Having laid the albums neatly around his room it appears he went for a walk across them, snapping away as he went. Before you burst into tears I can assure you that no valuable stamps were present in the collection, it simply goes to show what can happen when a non- collector is left a stamp collection! This episode led to a lively discussion in the stamp room around some of the more unusual circumstances which have led collections to our door and I recalled just last year finding myself in a large European city, in the rain and hopelessly lost…

I’d arrived the previous evening having taken a taxi from the airport to my hotel, the next morning I was to visit a private home to assess a collection, or rather an entire room of stamps which included the main specialized albums along with the entirety of a lifetimes stamp buying.

The late owner’s son and daughter wanted to sell all the stamps in one transaction. As you can image this is a strenuous exercise involving thousands of calculations and a lifetime misspent playing with stamps so it’s good to find a quiet hotel from where you can emerge refreshed the following day. I expected to be valuing from morning to night; I had a snack with me and hoped that I would at the least be offered a comfortable space to work and a few hot drinks. I am not a visiting tax official; it pays to keep me going and, if you ask in the stamp room, I will work for tea!

The day of the valuation began well enough and I decided to jump aboard the city’s tram system – and this is where it all went wrong as I contrived to get on the correct tram number but to head in completely the opposite direction to where I needed to go! It took a while before I realised my error and it was clear I was going to be late for my appointment. Jumping off at the next stop I headed into the city on foot to hail a taxi, which is what I should have done in the first place.

This turned out to be my second mistake as every taxi was full… and then it began to rain heavily. Cowering in a doorway I made my first intelligent decision of the day as just before leaving the UK I had downloaded the “Uber” application onto my mobile phone. I could have a driver come directly to me! I requested a car and for the next 15 minutes watched on my screen as a little car approached what I hoped was my location. My telephone rang “This is your driver, where are you, Sir?” “Well, I’ve not used Uber before but shouldn’t you know where I am?” I then proceeded with a feeble attempt to describe the buildings and businesses around me. I was not making myself understood and a sense of panic was creeping in. Would I ever get to see this collection?

A smartly- dressed businessman walked past and I accosted him, explaining my predicament and asking if he could tell my driver where, exactly I was? “Let me have that” he took my phone and spoke rapidly to my driver. Cancelling the call he tilted his head uphill “this way” and headed off at a brisk pace, I followed lugging my heavy briefcase wondering if I’d just had my telephone stolen. He looked back “Taxi’s and other hire vehicles are not allowed on this street, this is the problem. So, what are you doing in town?” I explained as best as I could. “So, Stamps?” I was running out of breath, my arm about to fall off “yes, for collectors” The car was waiting at the next junction. To my relief my new friend handed the phone back “my Grandfather left me his large stamp collection, do you have a business card?” I made it to my appointment only a few minutes late and two weeks later, thanks to my terrible map reading and lamentable language skills, that kind man sent us his superb collection which more than justified my trip!

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