Reminiscences - Part XI

by Michael Rogers
The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine -July-August 2011 Issue



   I 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 China.

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 disaster.

 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 nice.

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.


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