Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buying Collections at Auction

Before Christmas there was an interesting thread within a thread on the Virtual Stamp Club concerning collections and large lots at public auctions (as opposed to eBay). The thread began with VSC member jkoshel noting a trend of such items "going for rather high amounts as of late" and wondering if it was because "the market of breaking down such lots and then reselling on eBay is becoming more lucrative." (Message #*41975.174) There was no consensus on this issue, but Weiss111 posted that [some percentage] of auction houses purposely underestimate the value of large lots because they want to sell them to individuals who have examined them personally. He goes on to say that the primary purpose of underestimating lots is so that mail bidders will underbid persons actually in attendance who can physically examine the lots and come up with a more accurate (and higher) value. This helps prevent complaints from bidders who otherwise would buy unseen and makes the auction house look good to sellers when their holdings realize more than was estimated.

Another poster, gsquared2k, who is a regular buyer of lots, wrote that in his experience different auction houses have different practices (including some firms who try to accurately estimate their value) and that these practices can be divined with enough patience.

Another set of comments in the discussion had to do with whether valuable (i.e., $500+ retail) stamps were automatically removed by auction houses from large lots and sold separately. According to gsquared2, and I'm quoting here as my paraphrase would just be more wordy and less clear than the original: "There are some firms that will leave in better items that do not meet their individual lot criteria or are just instructed by a consignor to leave the collection intact and sell it as-consigned. Then there are other firms that have lower requirements for per-lot values and will remove the slightly higher priced items that are in better condition and lot them individually. Then you have other firms that will completely strip out all of the better material and leave collections as beginner lots." (Message *41975.191)

For what it is worth, it is my anecdotal experience that better Blue Volume 1 collections are bringing more on eBay than they did in 2008 when I started my album. A few weeks ago a collection of 16,000 stamps sold for $2300 and there have been a number of smaller Volume Ones that sold for over $1000 earlier in the year. Whether this is true for Volume 1 collections offered through public auctions I cannot say.

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