Behind the Scenes on Auction Day
September – Following my jest about chocolate coins in the Summer Insider the Roy- al Philatelic Society commission chocolate stamps for Stampex. Thinking nothing of it I happily agree to assist our new specialist Josh with two pallets for the show. “Careful.” He says. “Fragile?” I reply. “No. They’re melting.” Huh? As icebreakers go a taxi ride with two life-size chocolate Penny Blacks is hard to beat. Welcome to Spink, Josh! January - Having barely caught breath following the mammoth Hermione auction of French rarities and the final bumper Medals sale of the year, 2019 begins with a smorgasbord of collectable delights spread across the globe. New York sees the Ibrahim Salem Collection of South American banknotes whilst Hong Kong enjoys a plethora of philatelic gems from Chinese postal history. Meanwhile in London it is the small matter of the final part of the exceptional Williams Collection and the ‘Pegasus’ Collection of Classic New Zealand. All this and the launch of the brand new Spink Live – is it still only January?
February – As your humble narrator reaches the ripe old age of 30 it is only fitting he is preparing for a coin show. The back creaks but load the trolley he must – must tell Emma to start publishing lighter books. March – Another month, another show.This time Yorkshire calls – Betty is affronted that a tearoom has been established without her permission and begins work on the Prague branch. With the trolley not playing ball we pile into Emma’s car adorned with a sea of boxes. By the time we hit open road we are blanketed in fog, torrential rain lashing down with abandon. To make matters worse the car is beginning to lose power… slaloming blindly we make it to Warrington and realise we are hopelessly lost. After a limp cheeseburger and perusal of the map we find ourselves back on track and heading through Leeds. As fate would have it Friday is crisp and sunny, munching a slice of toast Emma suggests a walk through Harrogate but then we remember the show. Hard hats on we set to work, the Spink pull-up banner decides to behave itself and stands unlike its shaky performance at Coinex. Disagreements over layout are won by Emma and soon the queue stretches out into the lobby of The Swan Hotel. A great pleasure to see so many familiar faces – Tony Abramson is in particularly fine fettle as Sceatta List sells out by midday. Emma then scoots off to a garage to see if we will be able to depart this rather lovely part of Yorkshire leaving me to enquire about the availability of the Spink Jet. The afternoon’s most successful dealer is the hotel’s jewellery cabinet handily placed beside our table – sadly our attempts to exchange a jigsaw and a keyring for a necklace prove fruitless. A thoroughly enjoyable evening extends into the night with three of our good friends Pam and Pete West and the ever- entertaining Phil Mussell. Leaving the Swan I am half blown back to my hotel and the door rattles on its hinges as I cast an eye over Spink emails – full commitment to the cause.
Ah Saturday – a serene second day ahead. Alas nobody mentioned this to Dave the Moneyer and his hammer – something which Phil finds most amusing. With Emma jumping into the air every few minutes I mention the idea of levitating back to London, at which point we remember the car is still at the garage. Heaving boxes through driving hail we make it to the car and with a heavy (and apprehensive) heart we crawl back to London knowing we will laugh about this one day. Maybe. April – Olivier is fond of the proverb coined by Joseph Kennedy (or Billy Ocean depending on your disposition), ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Well if ever a month defined this adage it was April. World Banknotes held on the Thursday before Easter played out like a grand Kubrickian epic, twists, turns, adversity and concluding with the surviving protagonists in total darkness. And yet through it all there was light and laughter, cake and pizza being shared, with camaraderie of the highest order; I commend all our wonderful banknote clients and staff for their superhuman efforts to keep the show alive. Around midnight the party ends and with it comes the clean-up. Dora whizzes through an Excel sheet, eyes somehow still open, Betty checking instructions and scribbling notes as if it were still morning… I marvel at their spirit. “Anyone for cold pizza?” I grin. “Why not?” They chorus. It’s the little things in life. Rolling up our sleeping bags we force our way through the avalanche of paper money only to find a philatelic stampede in its wake. Daylight will have to wait another week, Dora sighs. As will my taste buds – beetroot salad again? As we crawl through the third day of the Collector’s Series I am reminded of the timeless 10 day 1939 Ashes test in South Africa which was abandoned as England had to catch the boat home. Despite bad light we battle on and draw stumps just before 9pm. Zombiefied I contemplate an eggplant salad. Dora shakes her head and holds up a brown paper bag wafting with the unmistakeable smell of Bacon Dogs and Fries. Food from the heavens. Recharged we plough on in the half-light. At least it’s not 2am, Betty smiles. Every cloud…
May – There were many marvellous moments in May but none quite as exhilarating as Liverpool’s logic-defying comeback against Barcelona. Barnaby maintains Spurs’ equally miraculous victory in Amsterdam was greater but we put our loyalties to one side to auction the exceptional Lou Manzi collection of British Banknotes. Suited and booted, Spink Books heads for Buckingham Palace in blazing sunshine. I think it’s a little soon to be on the honours list but Emma and Kate look suitably splendid for the occasion. A tremendous moment to see Her Majesty in such fine form and yet the undoubted highlight remains the Victoria Sponge. The paparazzi await as we depart the Palace – a police escort guiding us to the waiting Spink Chariot. Ride on!
June/July – The buzzword of 2019 is undoubtedly ‘e-Auction’ and the summer sees its breakout moment as our Coins, Medals and Stamp auctions cause a hubbub of activity with one client affectionately calling them ‘eBay for grown-ups’. As the bids flew in a thrilling finale at Lords was ensuing - England pipping New Zealand in a nail-biting Super Over. Now for the Ashes – what could possibly go wrong? A mini heatwave hits in late July and with it hairdryer wind – right on cue we receive a wooden crate from Turkey weighing 250kg. Readying myself for an Olympic Lift Mira waves the red flag from above– no injury claims accepted. Sigh. Sun blazing down, screwdrivers in tow, Emma and I are mere puddles by the time a local builder saves us with a screw gun. Admittedly it feels a little churlish to complain of the heat given it’s the 140th anniversary of Rorke’s Drift and to commemorate the remarkable battle Marcus, Jack and Ian put on a stirring drinks reception. A fine team effort is complete with a superb Medal auction totalling over £600k. Well, that’s all folks – aside from the two e-Auctions. “And Singapore,” Dora calls out, trunk in tow. I guess that holiday will have to wait. Before I bid adieu let us raise a glass and toast the sterling work of the entire Spink team. Despite the onslaught the ‘Triangle of Bermuda’ (a title bestowed by our wonderful intern Eleanore) stood firm and it has been a joy and privilege to be part of this fine triumvirate.
See you all in September!