Just Another Day (and late night?) in the Stamp Room

September 26, 2023

It’s freezing, the office is often open by 7.30 and nicely warm when most of us arrive but not today so everything has a chilly edge to it. My chair, the papers on my desk, that album I just picked up is cold… even my cup of tea is tepid after a few minutes.

That drink allows me to function somewhat normally and my first task is to check my emails, after removing the unwanted marketing I can see there are a couple of collectors looking for valuations on part of their collections, also several non-collectors seeking some advice on how to proceed with a stamp inheritance and someone with a stamp investment portfolio looking for advice. There is also a message from a stamp friend helping me with an item I have in my own collection and some boring technical stuff regarding our computers.

I have stamps all over my desk and all I want to do is work on them, but if I pick up my tweezers the day will disappear so I continue answering the emails. Other messages arrive at my desk, I need to call a gentleman at 10am to discuss a collection, a colleague’s car won’t start so he’s running late and I need to write an article today for our emails and website. There are lots of things which need my attention… but in the end it’s stamps I love and I can’t stop myself getting involved in the stamp discussions going on around me.

Mirek has a block of four 1969 Rhodesian stamps from the corner of the sheet which shows the accidental printing of two consecutive sheet numbers – one of them across a couple of stamps. This is the first such error I can remember seeing from any country and a friendly argument has broken out over its value… so I wade in. A few minutes later and there’s a discussion over the name given to the cancellation on an early Buenos Aires Steamship stamp, I think its “Ponchito” and suggest a trip to our library to confirm the spelling.

It’s great when it’s like this… too much to do and too many distractions!

I can’t make that call at 10am because someone has visited the office without an appointment; he’s inherited a collection of Romanian stamps and wants to know what they are worth. A part- time stamp dealer has told him it’s worth £5,000 but doesn’t want to buy it himself. The collection is only worth a fraction of that and I don’t understand why the dealer raised this man’s hopes. This takes 40 minutes and I feel for the owner who has taken a day off work just to be let down.

A little later in the morning my hand wanders once again towards my tweezers. I’m away for the weekend so I can’t play with stamps at home. My wife and I don’t buy each other anything for Christmas but instead we treat ourselves to a short city break somewhere interesting each February, last year it was Budapest, tomorrow Lisbon… much better than a pair of socks and hopefully warmer than where I am now!

I am trying to describe a huge collection of GB and British Empire stamps. A gentleman who collected both for pleasure & investment during the 1960s and 1970s recently passed away and we’ve received hundreds of stock cards packed with stamps and sets from his estate. The GB starts with over 100 very fine Penny Blacks including several mint examples (including a strip of five!) and I’m itching to handle them, such is the pleasure inherent in what we do here. The British Empire is also fabulous and includes a Falkland Islands 1933 Centenary set in never hinged mint condition (few exist) and a Mauritius 1848 “Post Paid” 2d blue early impression (one of my favourite classics!), not forgetting several sets of another ‘classic’ issue from 100 years later, the India 1948 “Gandhi” including a never hinged mint set with matching sheet margin inscriptions…

So you can see just a glimpse of the many wonderful distractions I work with from day to day. The joy of this business is you never know what you may handle tomorrow, what snippet of information you may learn, or what someone may wish to sell you. Do you think if I work late tonight my poor wife might pack my suitcase for me?

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