Tales from the Describing Room

September 2, 2023

We were expecting a large accumulation of mint stamps & sets from the whole world… but we didn’t expect this…

“What do we do with it?” we are looking at a wall of cardboard, twenty big boxes piled high in our hallway, nearly blocking our access to the kitchen and bathrooms.

“How do I get to the kettle?”

This is a serious problem, I don’t quite know how a room of stamp experts survive without tea or coffee, we must take action immediately.

The first box is opened and sure enough we see mint stamps but they are housed in thousands of small semi- transparent glassine envelopes, someone has written catalogue numbers and old values across them. It’s a mess; each little packet contains a set (sometimes duplicated) or a single stamp. It was clearly a well- ordered stock once but the packets and countries are now mixed together, the remains of the original small boxes they were stored in are there, but they’ve perished.

“Apparently the late owner had a dream of becoming a dealer in only mint stamps and he spent many years and a small fortune building this stock, it was supposed to be a mail- order business so he didn’t need to display it on nice cards, or indeed anything” I’m reading an email. I hadn’t expected it to fill the building though.

We have a large table in our library area, reserved for visiting clients and quiet research. This lovely area was liberated for the massive sorting job to come. Empty boxes for each letter of the alphabet soon began to fill with packets, after the first day I can reach into the box marked “C” and find stamps from Cambodia, Ceylon, China & Cuba. One of my colleagues, his shirt covered in bits of cardboard and glassine packets looks up “there’s terrific Canadian material, it was all still together so it has it’s own box” I take a look, it’s lovely.

The next day it continues, then the next. The weekend gives some respite then my two colleagues begin to sort the alphabet boxes into countries, one packet of Australian stamps gives up a large block of KGV heads, another has valuable Cyrenaica sets but they can’t stop and check anything properly as time is of the essence. It takes another week to divide the A to G mixes into countries, to guesstimate the quantity of stamps in each and to give our best shot at the date range and value of the material hidden within.

I tell them to do the same with the H to Z boxes, I almost see a grown man cry, the Haiti to Zululand job takes another two weeks which includes the shock discovery of the France and Colonies packets underneath the table. This time I really do see a grown man cry.

Finally it’s over. Like so many things the resulting 213 lots spread over our current “Sandafayre” sale and the following “Hunters” sale belie the challenge of presenting them in a seemingly simple way. We hope you are tempted by them, we’re sure they’re great value and the quality looks fabulous… but there was a near- mutiny in the Stamp Team! As one colleague put it whilst looking wistfully at the many thousands of packets stuffed with stamps “I’ve lost one calculator, one pair of tweezers… and my sanity!”

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