A WORD FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
Dear Friends and Clients,
The show went on and must go on
Under continued difficult circumstances as the UK went into its third lockdown in January this year, I am proud to say that Spink held an incredible total of 23 auctions during the first month of the year, all of course safely conducted behind closed doors by our dedicated teams. I am truly proud to say that the show really does go on no matter how arduous the task may seem, and we will always find a way of bringing fresh material to sale for the enjoyment of our collecting family. Of course Spink was fortunate, as a technology-driven company, with all staff fully ready and equipped to work from home, and all our servers and data easily accessible remotely even before the first lockdown was announced. This was not the case of all players in our industry.
Quick review of the landmark month of January
2021 with no less than 23 auctions globally and
a bonanza of world records in the context of the
third lockdown in many countries
Several record prices were achieved at The NYINC Numismatic Collector’s Series Sale, including Lot 127, a new auction record price for an 1839 Proof Set in this grade (US$468,000); Lot 140, a world record price for a coin of Lydford (US$12,000); Lot 252, a new auction record for an Elizabeth II Crown (US$11,400); Lot 262, a new auction record for a 1703 ‘No Vigo’ Halfcrown (US$9,600); Lot 301, a world record for an English coin dated 1666 (Spink’s founding year) (US$42,000); and Lot 303, a world record for an English shilling sold at auction (US$74,400).
Not to be left out, Banknotes achieved three world records as well at our live World Banknotes NYINC sale: first of all Lot 123, a Banque de Syrie et du Liban, Lebanon, specimen 100 Livres, 1945, zero serial number note with estimate £9,500 – £12,000 sold for £15,000; Lot 169, a Government of Sarawak, $1, 1 July 1919, red serial number 2 note with estimate of £18,000 – £20,000 sold for £27,000; and Lot 311, a debenture bond issue, North Russia, 500 Rubles, 1918, red serial number CHS 026839 with estimate of £150 – £190 sold for a whopping £13,000.
As we go to press we have just held the phenomenal Tony Abramson Collection of ‘Dark Age’ Coinage Parts I and II, and published the third edition of his definitive Sceatta List. The auction was tremendous, with most coins selling well in excess of expectations; condition trumped scarcity every time. It has been an incredible task putting this complicated series together, and we very much look forward to bringing you Parts III and IV later on in the year. Do please enjoy reading about Part III in our Forthcoming Events section, and look out for press coverage elsewhere as interest in this fascinating area of coinage continues to increase, with the success of recent Netflix release The Dig showing that there is currently a huge appetite for finding and making connections with our past. We include the true story behind the film in this edition, by kind permission of the National Trust – please see page 76.
A cover which echoes our collective mood at
You will have deduced from our current cover that connecting with the past is very much a theme this edition, as we emerge from the third lockdown having built on our strong foundations, ready to branch out and grow into a new future. “Rooted in History, Blossoming into the future” really transcribes how we all feel at Spink.
We are equally proud of our past and our collective future, and actually in my 20 years’ tenure at Spink I have never seen so much confidence in its future, or our beloved hobbies. As human interactions have been reduced by technology, people do not share news and information any more around the fireplace, or in the pub after work, they post on Instagram or Facebook, or many other apps. The human element has been further reduced by the compulsory wearing of face masks in the last year. We do not even see any more when we are smiling at each other. In that dreadful context, most people are in search of meaning and friendly contacts. Spink, where
“History is valued”, has played a very important role in that aspect.
The upcoming “shows” in town
We hope that you will come to visit our freshly renovated premises as soon as you are able (but not before the expected government restrictions relaxation on 12th April), and have an exciting programme of sales lined up over the next few months to whet your collective appetites. As we go to press the second Virtual Stampex International is about to take place (25th-27th March), of which we are the main sponsor.
Do please visit our booth, listen to one of the fascinating talks hosted in the Spink Auditorium, visit the website to have a look at what’s on, or visit one of the virtual exhibits: https://www.stampexinternational.co.uk. We kick off our Spring season in April with our annual Orders, Medals and Decorations sale, in which the team will be offering nearly 1,500 Lots for almost every taste and budget.
The ‘Blanic’ Collection of Nyasaland and Rhodesia is next on the agenda on 13th April, inspired by Central and Southern Africa (where the Blanic family has its own roots), hotly followed by our ever-popular Philatelic Collectors’ Series Sale on 14th and 15th April. Banknotes offer the Drs Joanne and Edward Dauer Collection of English Banknotes for sale on 21st April, plus World Banknotes later that day and the next – there will be truly something for almost everyone.
Into May, and our Important Stamps of the World sale takes place on the 5th in London, with Spink China’s Numismatic Collectors’ Series sale taking place in Hong Kong on the 8th and 9th.
June sees Stamps and Covers of Great Britain on the 2nd at the RPSL, with Rhodesia Double Head Issue: The Cottonwood Collection the next day, also at the RPSL. We are so excited to have the unique and exclusive privilege of resuming our auctions after the April re-opening in such a
prestigious and forward-looking 150-year-old institution. It has revolutionised the philatelic
hobby with record attendance for its programme of Zoom presentations by prominent collectors.
The RPSL and Spink are both deeply rooted in History, and look forward without fear to the
digital future of our hobbies. Of course these sales are interspersed with our regular e-Auctions, and the list is being added to all the time as we begin to return to some sense of normality and are able to plan a bit further ahead once again – fingers crossed …
The state of the collectables markets
As we have said since issue number 36, published last March, the current pandemic is a tragedy, but this is no reason to panic. As expected the collectables market in all categories has proven once again extremely resilient. At the beginning of the crisis most other asset markets went down by 30% or more (they have now fully recovered, but what volatility we have seen). Collectables stayed flat and then steadily increased during the year when people, confined at home, went back to their collection, went online for entertainment, and demonstrated via bidding that they were still very much alive and kicking.
This trend was exacerbated by the fact that as people were staying home and spending much less,
their purchasing power had increased, at least for the most affluent 20% of households, who
tend to be the ones of collectors. We knew this would be good for collections.
We always said that good items will always be easy to sell. The difficulty is always with the more common, less desirable stuff, which is usually difficult to sell, but was easier to move during the lockdowns.
All this renewed enthusiasm for collecting will not disappear, even though it is likely to become more subdued as life returns to some normality. So long-term it is good for our hobbies. But as
we have benefited from lockdowns, it would be illogical not to think that we will suffer a
bit during the “liberation” period, which in addition might coincide (hopefully!) in the
northern hemisphere with summer months. Collectors are likely to close their stamp albums or coins cabinets for a few months, to see their children, hug their grandchildren (or vice
versa!), visits friends, go to dinner parties and restaurants, and travel again.
Catch the last train to sell common items
before the summer
So as I have urged you to sell non-core items and duplicates, I would say this is the last call for consignments to sell at very good prices the not-too-exciting parts of your collections. This is true across all categories as it will become tough again very soon. So act now. Send us the stuff, even in bulk, and we shall include it in our next sales, preferably before the summer.
“K”-shaped exit of crisis
We have talked about collectables and collectors. The other key component of the market is the dealers and auction houses. I believe this crisis will precipitate consolidation, as the crisis has had a very different impact on players fully “internet ready” and those who were not doing it seriously. Building great user-friendly auction platforms and social media presence for auction houses, or e-commerce sites for dealers, comes with a hefty price tag that some, understandably, were not prepared to pay. These past decisions will now affect the way various businesses come out of the crisis. Either following the direction of the top leg of the “K” for those who have made the switch, or regrettably the bottom leg for many others.
As an example, it was announced today that post-Brexit, exports of all British industries into the EU went down by a whopping 41% in January 2021 when compared to January 2020. In the same time period the shipments of Spink UK to the EU went up by more than 100%.
More Gigabytes and more friendly bites…
As mentioned above, more than ever before humankind is in search of meaning and human
contacts, which are not any more naturally provided by the environment we live in. As we continue to progress in the digital (r)evolution, it is our firm intention at Spink to keep the human
side of the business at the forefront of everything we do. Our specialists are very approachable and
will work with you through every step of the consignment process, our auctions will be more fun
than ever, and we intend (as soon as permissible by law) to organise more Covid-safe events than ever
before. We are aiming at making our auctions more fun and true entertainment. As I write, one of our young auctioneers has been working the digital crowds for the Tony Abramson sale, and providing great entertainment for all in attendance. This is one way forward.
Today was actually a turning point for me. I had a call scheduled with a consignor, and a Spinkbox
(our internal equivalent of Zoom or Teams for video calls) call scheduled. I must confess I have
developed recently some fatigue for all these video conference calls, so I called him ten minutes before the call, asking if he would not mind doing it the “old fashioned” way, through a normal voice call. He was delighted and we had probably the warmest and friendliest call of the year!
Finally, last week Christie’s sold the first purely digital NFT (Non Fungible Token – blockchain
technology)-based work of art for US$69mn. They reported that 91% of the bidders on that lot were
new to Christie’s, and the age of the bidders was 6% Gen Z (1997-2012), 58% (!) Millenials (1981-
1996), 33% Gen X (1965-1980) and 3% baby boomers (1946-1964). What happens in the space of digital art can also happen to a lesser extent in our collectables space. This is our collective challenge.
Olivier D. Stocker
Chairman and CEO