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Another Weekly Masterpiece!

Vincent Green reflects on life in the stamp room at Sandafayre and how the weekly creation of our catalogue photo plates keeps the stamp experts talking!

As we pretty much only sell stamps, each of us ‘Sandafayrians’ has something philatelically interesting on our desks every single day. To have survived so long it goes without saying that the stamps we handle have been cherished and protected by a collector, or several collectors since the time they were printed, it is their intrinsic historical value which has protected them and made them collectible and it is in part up to us to ensure that this is passed on.

These stamps usually come to us as intact collections and we must decide which items should be offered individually but we also take instructions if collections are to be left intact. We have a team of 8 describers working on individual properties and typically the day rolls by as we beaver away at our tasks knowing little of what the guy at the next desk is working on. Usually we sit quietly at our desks in the same large open (apart from the piles of boxes and albums) office but from time to time one of us will ask a colleague for an opinion. Often when this happens everyone else’s ears ‘twitch’ and more of us get involved (just as I write, a valuable ‘Basel Dove’ Swiss classic is being handed around as we assess whether it’s genuine or not.)

Perhaps the best part of our work is learning something new and the great thing about working amongst so many fellow ‘Stamp Nerds’ is that at least one of us will have an idea as to how to proceed, perhaps remembering an obscure old book or auction catalogue hidden away in our library or perhaps recalling a similar item handled 15 years before…

So there is a great deal constantly going on but it is not until “Photo Day” that we see many of the most attractive or interesting items that our colleagues have been working on during the previous week. We put our favourite individual items into the “Photo Box”, a wooden box with card dividers arranged from A to Z where typically at the end of each working day we file the items which we hope will appear on the photo plates of our next catalogue. There is also a divider called “Front Cover” behind which we place items we’d like to see on the front of our next catalogue.

Typically every Thursday Karl or Paul will take this box of stamps and create photo plates for our next catalogue. Despite there being high- tech solutions available we have settled on cutting hingeless mounts and arranging the actual stamps themselves – so the front cover you see on our catalogues actually exists in real- life and it is only at this point that we see what we’ve all been working on, neatly gathered in one place! It would not be unusual for a group of us to gather, peering over Karl’s shoulder as he creates another Masterpiece!

It’s not always the most valuable items which create the most interest within the team. This week that prize went to a rather ‘dirty’ looking stamp from British Sudan, lot 7925 has been ‘heavily defaced’ as the postal authorities spotted that it had a double overprint. This stamp and another (lot 7926) had previous been sold at major auctions and have been featured in two respected reference books. It is also clear we are offering an important range of German Occupation overprinted stamps including some from the Leningrad area of operations. We always try to cover all bases and we are also showing a selection of Commonwealth from a lovely mint 1862 Cape Triangular (lot 7712) through to a 1982 Princess Diana inverted watermark stamp from Swaziland (lot 7945) and whilst it is not deliberate we do often show at least one Penny Black and this week there are two unused examples including one with a sheet margin inscription.

As usual there is much friendly banter as to the relative merits of the lots which have made the front page and complaints that others have been excluded on the grounds of colour balance, shape or size “you can’t keep everyone happy” reflects the beleaguered Karl as he packs away his stamp mounts for another week…

You can see the front covers of each of our printed catalogues and all the lots each catalogue contains in our current online listings. Happy hunting!


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