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The Downs and Ups of Bidding Blind…

The Downs and Ups of Bidding Blind…

Sitting through a lengthy auction session or multiple days of auction sessions when being shut out completely on intended lots is a dangerous place to be for someone with impulse control issues. 😉

After a while I’ll start looking at lots through the lens of “that might be fun to look through” or “Ooh, I wonder what could be hiding in there?” based solely on lot descriptions, so I might sneak in a wayward bid if something is well below estimates and not expensive… sometimes just for the purpose of getting to play.

The only problem with this game is that sometimes you actually win. 🙁

Such was the case with the Schuyler Rumsey SESCAL auction. With one exception, all the lots I had interest in went well above estimates, and the opening bids on the few I might be interested in on the last day had already gone above what I was willing to pay even before the session… so the mind started wandering.

I ended up buying a collection of world cancels for well below estimates. When I’ve bought world “cancel collections” in the past, I’ve found that frequently the collector would include stamps based solely upon cancel, ignoring whether items were high catalog value or not. You might find a 25-cent minimum stamp right next to a stamp cataloguing hundreds of dollars, so finds are frequently possible. This is what I was hoping to find.

Sadly, not the case. It was pretty much run-of-the-mill world classic material (hence the reason the lot didn’t meet estimates). Was it a waste of money? No, as it worked out to 11 cents per stamp when all was said and done and there are probably several hundred stamps I will pull for my world cancel collection before flipping the rest.

But it wasn’t the gold mine one dreams about.

Another thing I will occasionally do is leave low bids on lots in various mail bid sales, or advance bids in sales I have no attention to sitting through live, knowing full well that advance bids have almost no chance of being successful. They rarely survive the live session, especially if below estimate.

Recently, one of the smaller auction houses had just such a lot. The lot was described as follows:

Collection of documents, bill heads, checks, etc, many with U.S. revenue stamps, incl two bank checks from Augusta, Maine with 2c #264 used as revenues, also a few foreign bank notes in rough shape, over 60 items. Est. $75

Ok, illegal usages are right up my alley and ones from that era are usually $10-30 items without anything being special, and with some of the other documents presumably being worth at least a buck or two each, I put in a below-estimate bid.

Somehow my bid survived the live session, and I received the lot in the mail. After buyer’s premium and Priority Mail shipping, it cost me $65.

The foreign bank notes were ratty garbage. The bill heads and other documents were pretty much what I expected, although a couple have cancel interest and some of the bill heads are attractive.

Has anyone noticed the potential anomaly with the lot yet? In retrospect, I should have noticed it from the listing, but it wasn’t until I received the lot that it was apparent. Had I been present at the auction and thus paying closer attention, it would have caused me to examine the lot. Apparently no one else noticed it either so the lot went unscrutinized.

Scott #264 is a 1-cent stamp, not a 2-cent stamp… so something was attributed incorrectly.

As it turns out, the illegal usages were both 2-cent Trans-Missippi, on 2 dividend checks from the same company, one subsequently caught and a revenue stamp affixed, the other one not caught… both canceled July 1, 1898, the first day of the tax. A very rare matched pair of documents, each one by itself worth several multiples of what I paid for the entire lot.

So this second lot was a very lovely win.

Thus are the vagaries of gambling and bidding blindly (or some might say foolhardily), many times you strike out in the hopes of the occasional home run.

Here is the document pair in question:


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