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Friday, 19 August 2016

Auction Records - calling my Auction House Readers

Is this a record?

The Philatelic Services of Finland company (Suomen Filateliapalvelu Oy) held its 98th auction today, an Internet-only auction. I had 150 Lots for sale and so I was watching closely. I was also buying. When I looked at the Results, I noticed

Lot 212 Start price 10 €   Hammer Price  3068 €
Lot 244 Start price 5 €  Hammer price 1011 €

You can still have a look at if you want to see what these lots contained. You will smile :)

But does the Result on Lot 212 set a record? The Hammer price is 307 times the Start price
Do any of my auction house colleagues recall a Result which beats that?

Of course, there are lots of reasons why Start price and Hammer price sometimes differ x 10 or even x 20. For example, an auctioneer with a sense of humour may know that a particular lot will attract a lot of attention. So it's fun to start it at 10 when you know it will sell for 100. But time in the auction room is precious and an auctioneer can't really waste time just to have a bit of fun. On the Internet, it's different - there is no real-time auctioneer at work so you can start at 10 and can indeed sit back and enjoy the fun.

Some things have no known market value, often because they are obscure. So an auctioneer has to start with a cautious estimate.

Some things are simply not understood by an auction house describer. There is one successful auction house in the UK which basically prices everything in the 100 - 300 range and leaves the buyers to work out the real value. You don't need much expertise to put everything into a 100 - 300 range.It's not very efficient of time in the auction room, but it's the model they have adopted and it seems to work.

Some things are understood  but there may still be uncertainty. I remember once doing some work for Heinrich Koehler. I had ten single Lots taken from a collection on which I put start prices of 1000 to 2000 €, but I said to Koehler: Look, one or two of the ten will go up but I don't know which ones so I have put them all in this 1000 - 2000 category. Well, one lot went to 36 000 and one to 52 000. But the others stayed closed to my Estimates. In the case of the 52 000 item, some of the uncertainty was caused by the printed company name on an envelope.It definitely added a premium, but I didn't know how much of a premium it would add. In the end, I think it contributed a lot to that 52 000 figure.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

1917 Kerensky Postal Stationery Card

Click on Image to Magnify

This is my August Competition.

Here's an ordinary 5 kopeck Kerensky (Provisonal Government) Postal Stationery card correctly used from TAMBOV 25 11 17 to Moscow. So it is used a month after the October (Bolshevik) Revolution. On the back the sender has dated their message to 25/XI so we can rely on the postmark.

The Competition is simple: Send me a scan of a Kerensky card showing an earlier date of use. No prizes, except publication here with your name. Scans can be sent to

Your turn ...

August 10 2016 and Ivo Steijn in the USA sends these examples from the Robert Taylor collection, giving us 9 11 17 also from TAMBOV to Moscow and 15 11 17 from PETROGRAD to Koebenhavn, uprated to the foreign 8 kopeck rate. Thanks, Ivo! So now the challenge is to beat 9 November (Old Style).

Click on Images to Magnify

August 10 2016 and Alexander Epstein in Estonia shows us three examples, top to bottom 

MOSKVA 25 10 17 [ first day of Soviet power in Petrograd] to Yuriev [Tartu]
MOSKVA 4 11 17  to Reval and Registered
REVAL 25 10 17 to Petrograd and cut down at right

So..... just one day earlier than 25 October 1917 and we will have a Kerensky card used in the Kerensky [Provisional Government ] period.  Who has it in their collection? 

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Added 3 October 2016: Ahto Tanner sends me the card below used at REVAL 27 10 17. Alexander Epstein's card immediately above this was used at REVAL 25 10 17 - so it looks like there was a stock available in the post office there, sent out from Petrograd during the Kerensky period. So somewhere there must be a card used on Tuesday 24 October or Monday 23 October ....

Click on Images to Magnify

Added 27 August: Henri Taparel submits this interesting card used from IRKUTSK at the end of November, with a transit censor mark of Petrograd on the reverse. The use of the Kerensky card for foreign mail is unusual at this early period, partly because the foreign postcard tariff was 8 kopecks - this card is under-franked and has a Tax "T" marking and a "15 c" charge in violet crayon. The oval French censor mark shows that it arrived in France.

Click on Image to Magnify

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Kaj Hellman

Readers of this Blog may wish to know that Kaj Hellman died today. He was probably best known to collectors for his Auction, held twice a year in Helsinki. He was a very knowledgeable philatelist, especially in relation to the postal history of Imperial Russia. He handled the sale of a great deal of material from the Agathon and Oleg Faberge collections, and at the time of his death was working in collaboration with Dr Jeffrey Stone on a book on those collections. He was what in English would be called a Gentleman Dealer, always polite and helpful, even in the past few years when he was in poor health. But he valued most of all his family life.