A Word From our Chairman
Dear Friends and Clients,
As you will all be too well aware, the few months since our last edition have been a roller coaster of challenge after challenge, but I am pleased to say that Spink has met these head on and emerged bruised, of course, but stronger than ever from the global crisis. I hope the ghastly Covid-19 night-mare has left you and your families relatively un-touched, and that your businesses will also bounce back when things return to some kind of normality, even if it is a “new normality”.
The Insider last appeared soon after the UK had locked down, when it was difficult to know how things would pan out – but right from the start our decision to continue with our internet auction programme behind closed doors set us in good stead for the weeks and months to come, and enabled us to stay close to you through digital interaction. We operated behind closed doors with a voluntary skeleton staff and we were all able to work from home and connect remotely. In all we held a staggering 27 auctions globally during the lockdown period, with many more since then. As I mentioned in the last issue, this demonstrates the value of having access to SpinkLive from wherever you are in the world, ensuring that all our customers were able to continue with their beloved hobby throughout the lengthy period of isolation in which many of us found ourselves. If you are not yet on Spinklive, please drop this magazine and download our Spinklive app from Apple or Android stores. Of course, we shall continue to produce our award winning catalogues for single vendor catalogues or any general sale, which will be a reference for years to come. We will spend actually even more time in producing these reference catalogues.
Highlights from the lockdown period included our very first sale behind closed doors – Spink’s online auction of British Coins and Commemorative Medals – which went ahead despite lockdown having just been imposed the night before. A heroic effort from all concerned, to adapt overnight to the new format, and one which set the tone for the sales to follow. A flurry of April sales included the Professor Yih-Tzong Hsu Collection of World Banknotes on 7th April, our April World Banknotes sale and our charity Bank of England auctions, plus a further British Banknotes sale at the beginning of May, all of which saw fierce bidding on SpinkLive.
Our Stamp department also saw their Philatelic Collectors’ Series auction take place under lockdown, running from 14th-15th April and marking the Stamp department’s gradual shift from the traditional, somewhat unwieldly sale to a svelte, more manageable and focused auction. British Borneo Stamps and our Orders, Decorations and Medals sale the following week smashed estimates and broke a number of records, followed by the first part of the Gary Diffen Collection of Australian colonies errors on 29th April – as Gary puts it, “the overall results were outstanding”.
Since then there have of course been many more sales, but I am truly indebted to the incredible Spink auction team who kept us going throughout, and to all our specialists who kept the show on the road with such a positive attitude under the most difficult of circumstances.
As always, we hope that this new issue of the Insider will provide plenty of entertainment for you as the summer days draw in, with articles and information on our autumn programme and a variety of special features to interest collectors in all areas.
Of special note is our interview with Tony Abramson, whose collection of Dark Age coinage we will begin selling this autumn – a very exciting prospect for all concerned, and a collection we are honoured to have been entrusted with. To celebrate the first part of the sale we are offering Tony’s books at specially discounted prices, so that bidders in the sale have every opportunity to learn more about this fascinating area of coinage – only available while stocks last! Please visit www.spinkbooks.com for further details.
It is part of our mission to try to encourage a new generation of collectors, and this edition includes an engrossing article by the BBC Sky at Night writer Katrin Raynor-Evans on exploring astronomy through philately. At the other end of the scale we talked to seasoned collector Judith Grant about what first interested her in historical documents, and how being a woman in a ‘man’s world’ has affected her career and hobby.
Again continuing our interest in Polar exploration, we are delighted to include the explorer Pen Hadow’s fascinating account of his solo North Pole journey, ahead of our November Orders, Decorations and Medals auction, in which highlights from Pen’s expeditionary collection will also be offered for sale.
Stamp highlights over the next few months include the Charles Freeland Collection of Three Islands: St Lucia, Nevis & St Vincent on 3rd September, kicking off our autumn season, with Part 2 of the Gary Diffen collection of Australian Colonies Errors on 1st October. Following hot on the heels of the first part sold in April behind closed doors and in the height of lockdown, we look forward to similar buzz and excitement surrounding the next three States: Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Later the same day we have the Lionheart Collection, Part XIII, another varied offering in the ever-popular series.
This is followed by the ‘Doyen’ Collection of Worldwide Rarities, a truly amazing assembly of rare stamps of the world, focused on British Empire, but with some rare stamps of GB and Europe too, with November seeing the next instalment of the ‘Hermione’ collection of France; some highlights will be exhibited at the Salon Philatelique in Paris from 6th November, followed by the auctions in London the week after. To complete our packed schedule we will be offering Part 1 of the ‘Dubois’ Collection of Jamaica Postal History and Stamps on 19th November.
For coin enthusiasts we not only have the first part of Tony Abramson’s collection going under the hammer, but also The Ennismore Collection of Anglo-Saxon and Viking Coins on 15th September at 6pm, which will offer a unique opportunity to acquire the finest examples of coins minted by monarchs featured in the excellent series Vikings on Netflix, plus our autumn sale of British Coins and Commemorative Medals. It will be preceded on the same day at 2pm by the Stratos Sale of Spectacular British Coins, featuring the Chalaza, Apollo, Hayleigh, Quinn and Gemini collections.
Banknote offerings will include The Mark T Ray Collection of English Banknotes plus, of course, our November World Banknotes sale. For further details on these and all of our sales please visit our website, www.spink.com, and see our Forthcoming Sales pages for a selection of highlights.
Spink will continue to be a driving force in taking our favourite hobbies into the new digital age. We have, for example, decided to be the main sponsor of the first virtual Stampex on 1st-3rd October in London, featuring virtual booths from dealers and auctioneers and many exciting online conferences. We are impressed by how fast the hobby has moved online, as demonstrated by the resounding success of the Zoom conferences of the Royal Philatelic Society of London (RPSL) and many other initiatives across collectables areas. Well done to all those who work hard to take our hobbies into the next phase!
Technology is undoubtedly the way forward for our traditional hobbies, not only to survive but to thrive. By migrating some of our auctions to online only, like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, we have seen an acquisition rate of new customers like never before. On some occasions we acquired well over 100 new bidders, something I had never expected for a long-established company like Spink. Top quality catalogues when warranted and internet auctions go hand in hand to promote the hobby to existing and new players.
To serve you better, we are now in the midst of a massive redevelopment of our London Headquarters, where the two guiding principles are the customer experience and the technological platform and induced workspace. When you do not bid on an online auction, we shall make sure that our physical auctions will be more fun and pleasant than ever, as we really want to turn them into real events to celebrate with you the strength and joy of our hobbies.
A Word on the Market
As you might remember in my last editorial I was not worried by the impact of Covid-19 on our hobbies. Actually, beyond the human tragedy, I saw it as an accelerator of all pre-existing trends. In four months we have simply been projected four years ahead. As I said, “today is postponed,” and we moved straight into the “day after tomorrow”.
It might not be as dramatically different as is sometimes proclaimed, as humankind tends to have a short-lived memory of its crises, but a few positive things for our hobby will stay for good. First, a lot of employees around the world will ask to work from home more, and so save 10 to 20 hours a week of commute. They will spend more time with their families and if they have the same collecting bug as us, more time with their collections. They will also enjoy a more seamless access to fellow collectors and items for sale through the internet.
Collecting provides also a meaning in life, and it seems that there will be a search going forward for meaningful activities providing some purpose to living.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, as the central banks around the world have responded with gigantic rescue packages and in the process have been printing money and issuing debt at a pace never seen before, any tangible asset which cannot be printed by a central bank is bound to appreciate. The renewed interest in gold is an excellent example of that trend.
But not all collectables will go up. Now is a great time to continue to sell non-core items and duplicates, ie the more common stuff, which has enjoyed an amazing revival. I am not sure this trend will last for long, unless the way we live is really different going forward. Continue to focus on the best you can afford. Rare, historically important and eye-appealing items remain the best bet for long term appreciation.
I cannot wait to see you again in the flesh at a show or around a good meal when life returns to normal, which I hope will be in the not too distant future.
Whenever this is, you can rest assured Spink will be there for you with the same passion as ever.
Stay safe, be happy and keep collecting!