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Tuesday 4 November 2014

A Good Time to Buy - and Where

It's just like Back to School : La Rentrée Philatélique is now. There are Auctions all over Europe and America. Just go to for a sample! It's frustrating that they all do it at the same time - so many catalogues to study - but it also means it's a good time to buy. There is just too much Stuff in all these auctions and probably not enough buyers ...

But where to buy?

There is a big difference between auction houses who mainly sell material they own and auction houses which receive consignments. The former are not going to give away their stock. The latter have a strong interest in making sure they sell everything they put in the catalogue.

Consider. An auction house charges 10% or 12% commission to a seller - but the seller only pays on material which is actually sold. So if the auction house does not sell an item it has lost money because it has paid out for the material to be prepared for auction and entered in the catalogue. Most important, the unsold Lot has taken up time in the auction room - and auction room time is very precious.

This has become very clear to auction houses since they introduced Live Internet Bidding. This slows down the number of Lots you can sell in one hour - maybe from 250 to 150 or even 100. As much as that. So an unsold Lot is twice as big a waste of time as it was before.

The result is that the auction houses who are really selling other's people's stuff want Start prices on auction Lots which more or less guarantee they will sell. Sometimes I look at those Start prices and think, Yeah, at that price I don't even have to look at the Lot. I'll buy it! (And sometimes I do).

In the past, auction houses might be content if they sold 65% of Lots in an auction. Now I know of auction houses who really hope to sell 90%. Some of them make increasing use of After Auction Sales (Nachverkaufe) perhaps reducing the price or even reducing their Commission - the aim being to clear their offices of all this stuff so that it does not have to be returned to sender or recycled in the next auction. The aim is to cut in-house costs not to get rid of rubbish - very often, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the unsold material. There just wasn't enough money around on the day of the auction, that's all.

In contrast, auction houses selling their own stuff seem content to offer it again and again, sometimes reducing the price, sometimes not.

I won't tell you where I am going to Buy next, but since we went Back to School I have bought at Köhler Wiesbaden and Kaj Hellman Finland. I have my eyes now on three more auctions ...

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