love going on the road. I am always reading, yet amazed at the views of our
matchless land. Fortunately, our company has at hand good people who enjoy
driving as much as I do reading all day long!
My company advertises to purchase
and to obtain by consignment material for our public auctions and mail sales.
Lots of folks feel comfortable sending what they have to us by registered or
insured mail. FedEx is a good method as well, especially for larger collections.
Sometimes, a face to face meeting
is the best way to conduct business. Especially valuable or bulky collections
are two examples where a personal meeting is most appropriate. Another situation
arises when someone inherits a collection or the owner is not familiar with our
firm or our reputation.
One of our 2007 trips comes to
mind. I’m a board member of the China Stamp Society (CSS), so I had to be in Los
Angeles for the October SESCAL stamp show where the CSS had a board meeting and my
company had a table.
We accessed a dormant mailing
list of our customers who at one time had spent money but now had gone silent.
We contacted them to say that we’d be passing through and asked if their
collection would be for sale. This technique usually produces around 50
responses which get whittled down on the phone.
My friend Barry Williams and I
left Winter Park in late September, stopping off at a few places before
Louisiana. We looked at a collection in New Orleans which was as depressing as
the city. New Orleans still was shell shocked from Katrina. We’d seen a
collection on the Florida panhandle, not coming to a resolution, though we did
buy it on the way back.
In San Antonio we visited with a
retired university professor who had less than $500 worth of stamps and coins.
So for coming halfway across country, things were not good at all.
That night in the hotel we
called our next appointment, a Liberia collection in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
who cancelled on us as he was feeling poorly. Faced with a big hole in the
schedule, I rooted through my briefcase, coming up with a scrap of paper written
nine months ago: “Jim Keaney, China, and his phone #”. Nine months before, Jim
had mentioned that, if I was in San Jose, California, he was taking bids on his
I called Jim finding out he
hadn’t yet sold his China but that he’d had a couple of bids. He said “Have a
nice flight,” not considering we were driving! Then Barry and I drove off to
some small town west of San Antonio on I-10, stopping off for a meal, and
I’m lactose intolerant, meaning
my body cannot digest milk or anything containing the lactase enzyme unless I
proceed it with a Lactaid Supplement. Whatever I ate contained enough milk (I
suspect it was the dessert) so a while later I started getting the ever familiar
pain. On this part of Texas’ I-10 to El Paso, there are mighty few rest stops
and none had the medicine I needed.
I phoned my son Kyle from the
road, saying I was buying a 10 gallon cowboy hat, now that I’d gone in the
desert. I got the idea from Barry Savedow, another dealer who looked so good in
one. When I put one on in the store, it looked like the 15 gallon size,
eclipsing my head, so I returned it to the rack. Bought a postcard instead.
Barry deadheaded it to San Jose,
stopping for a four hour power nap, making it in 26 hours. I lost 12 pounds
along the way! I was exhausted.
Jim was adamant on selling his
beloved collection, seeking to make things simpler for his wife, Mary. Sitting
with Jim, I was taken aback on how frail he looked. Before taking me into his
stamp den, he noted that if it were possible, I looked worse than he felt. If
only he knew...:)
The stamp collection was
wonderful—120 albums altogether, very well organized, painstakingly annotated.
He taught himself Chinese characters in order to understand the material, most
difficult for a Caucasian. If one were to use PRC as a platform, he had rather
substantial collections of mint nh, mint hinged, postally used and cancelled to
order. Imperial stamps, cancellations, varieties. 1878-2007 comprehensive—very
I just didn’t have the mental
acuity to figure his collection. I wasn’t feeling well. It wouldn’t have been
honorable or moral to try to appraise his material because surely I’d miss
something. I imagined myself not recognizing an elusive variety, not writing it
down. Or tiring along the way.
So returning to the living room,
sitting with Jim and his lovely wife Mary, I spoke from my heart, saying that in
order to do a proper appraisal of such a complicated collection, it would take
two weeks. I wasn’t up to it at the moment. I suggested that I FedEx it to
Winter Park from which I’d call with an offer. Some explaining and paperwork,
then we packed it—2,000 pounds!
A month later, I called from home
and made my offer. Noting that because he was ill and unaccustomed to
negotiating, I was making my highest price up front. Turns out my offer was a
bit more than twice the second highest offer he’d received. He related the
others kept on looking at his oxygen tank, figuring he had no other option.
I’d met Jim working at the China dealer
Richard Clever’s booth some twenty years before. Richard is one of the nicest
and most trustworthy guys I’ve ever known. He had declined making an offer on
Jim’s collection, not wanting to benefit from his friend’s illness. Both fine
men. Jim passed away in 2010.