In Between Auctions

Brief mentions of last week’s auctions and a longer look ahead to the March auction.


Last week James and Sons had two auctions, a small postcard auction on Tuesday and a much larger Postal History and Ephemera Auction on Wednesday. We are now moving towards completing the catalogue for an auction on March 28th which will feature a wide variety of stuff. We have snow around at present, which is provoking the usual British display of wimpiness about rough weather – I was supposed to be attending a meeting in Swaffham this morning but it has been cancelled due to concerns about the weather. This was the view out of my door at 8:30 yesterday morning as I set off to catch the bus to work.


The view is similar today.


With only 134 lots going under the hammer this sale was over and done with quickly. Most of the lots found buyers.


The centrepiece of this auction was a collection of the Ecclesiastical and Political Correspondence of the Rev J Marriott. The people currently in charge of the property he bought had got wind of this collection, which meant some big money sales, because they were determined to secure as much of it as they could to reunite it with his old home. Lot 18 on its own went for over £2,000:

The stock for this auction as displayed in the shop.
The original image of lot 18. It must have taken a lot of brass neck to produce this petition.
Lot 18
Lot 18 in its folder
Big Screen
The big screen.


Our auction on March 28th will start with some sporting memorabilia, including a framed ticket for the 1923 FA Cup Final (the first to be played at Wembley, just three weeks after that stadium was completed). For the record Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United to win that year’s FA Cup. I do not yet have a lot number for this item, but it will be early in the auction.

A standard price for a ticket from this fixture in this condition is in the region of £800.

We have some old fishing reels and som billiards stuff as well…

Lot 23 (two images, a sample of the fishing reels)


The billiards memorabilia begin at lot 44 with the first of two scoreboards


From lot 46-58 inclusive are cues, first four lots of large numbers of loose cues, and then individual cues in cases or bags, starting with lot 50 pictured here.


Then from lot 59 to 71 we have sets of balls – note that in billiards there are two cue balls, one of which is distinguished from the other by the presence of a black spot, and the only other ball used is one red one.


We also have some bygones, of which I will feature a few that particularly caught my eye while I was imaging them:

Lot 124 – the fiugurines are made of some sort of balck ceramic, and as the second image, a close-up of two them shows, they are of very good quality.


Lot 147 – a brass fly…
…that can be used to store trinkets.
Lot 146, a brass grasshopper…
…which is also a mini stapler.

Other categories featured include toys, crockery, and though I have not yet had any to image, stamps. Here are some toys and crockery…

Toys in a box that has been disguised to look like a book (lot 262)


Lots 264 and 265 occupy the next four images.


The next 12 images encompass lots 301-4.


Lot 346 (two images)


Lot 350 (again two images).



We have a vast collection of railway photographs, taken with a Soviet-era camera which is also in our possession and will be going under the hammer. Obviously we need to identify our images of these pictures as just that – our images – in order to stop unscrupulous types from printing the pictures out for no more than the cost of ink and the appropriate paper. Hence, I have been looking into watermarking the online pictures. I am aiming at marking the pictures in a way that will not interfere with anyone viewing them, but will prevent anyone from cheating. Here is a sample of what I have arrived at us possibly the best solution:


The positioning of the watermark does not spoil the picture, but does prevent it from being removed, since cropping the image sufficiently to eliminate it most certainly does damage the picture.

January Auction A Huge Success

An account of Wednesday’s auction.


James and Sons had their first auction of 2018 on Wednesday, and this post tells the story of that auction. 


Most of the setup work for the auction was accomplished on Tuesday. First, some stock had to be cleared away from the tables that were to be used for the auction, and then the stock we brought down (lots 1-488, after which would be taking a break, and might bring down the second half lots if it seemed necessary) was laid out on one table, and the IT setup completed on the other. I did a preliminary test to make sure that all was working.


Everything went smoothly on the morning of the auction, and we started as intended at 10 o;clock. Lot 7, a small collection of Masonic medals, with a modest estimate of 30-50 ended up selling for £200.

Lot 7 (four images total)



This lot had had a lot of advance publicity, and what happend to it was crucial to the overall success or otherwise of the auction. Before Christmas I had put out various emails and press releases about this item, one result of which was an advertisement on the armourer website. It had also been the front cover item on the printed catalogue. In the run up to the auction I had received a query asking for close-ups of maker’s marks on the Russian Order of St Anne gold medal, which was the key part of the group in terms of its value. One of the two people I sent such pictures two did not respond and the other sent an exceedingly insulting response. I had been checking on andf noted that this item had 15 watchers. So, it came to time for it go under the hammer, and following standard rule of 60% of lower estimate, the opening price was £3,600. The bidding proceeded at such a pace on the internet that by the time the auctioneer had finished announcing the item £5,000 had come and gone. Eventually the hammer went down at £8,200. You can find visit the two articles I wrote about this yesterday:

  1. A specialised article focussing only on this item for military publications.
  2. A more general article for less specialist readers.

Here are some images of this lot:

Jutland 7
Lot 17

Jutland back reducednaming

russian medal - close up
The key element of the group
The maker’s mark shot


After that it was not going to matter much what happened for the rest of auction. As it happened there were a few more bright spots. Lot 718, a large collection of penny reds and the odd twopenny  blue, all with GWR perfins, went for £120:


Lot 852, one of three lots subsituted after the catalogue was printed (three Victorian era hunter watches that replaced three other less significant items) which went in to the online version of the catalogue with an estimate of £50-60 sold for £140. Here are images of all three items:

Lot 852, the lot that sold so well (this is a composite image showing both the face and the workings – one of four images for this lot)


Lot 851


Lot 853


Even then there was still one spectacular sale to come. Lot 864, four vintage gold-nibbed pens with some restoration required, had been expected to make £30-50, but had attracted plenty of interest before the auction, and ended up selling for £180. 

Lot 864
The nibs, imaged in response to an internet enquiry.
864-damaged lid1
Two of tghe pen ,lids were damaged (this pic and the next), again picked up on while responding to an internet enquiry.

864-damaged lid 2


James and Sons January Catalogue Now Available Online

Announcing that the catalogue for James and Sons’ January auction is now available for viewing online and showing some of the highlights.


The catalogue for James and Sons’ first auction of 2018, which takes place at James and Sons HQ in Fakenham on January 31st is now available for viewing online (and we expect printed copies to be ready by the end of this week). The rest of this post shows some of the highlights awaiting you, category by category.


Of course this section is dominated by lot 17, the Jutland medal group (see here for more details), but that is not the only item of interest by any means:

This Trench Mace will kick of thbe auction.
Jutland 7
Lot 17
Zulu Spear – lot 26
Lot 72




LOTS 249-380 COINS





There are no lots in the range 501-600. I have already covered the stamps in a previous post


A mixture to end the auction…

Lot 856
Lot 857
Lot 858
Lot 859
Lot 860 – a close look athe markings on these pens will tell you why there are four of them in the set.
The next three images (lots 881, 882 and 883) are motoring badges from yesteryear.


Lot 861 – there are 24 slides in total in the wooden box…
…of which my employer wanted close-up shots of four…
…and a very close up shot of this one to feature in the printed catalogue.
We end with lot 855 (four-image gallery) – a very interesting little commemorative clock.


Imaging For January Auction Under Way

An account of my work on the stamp section of James and Sons January auction.


Over the course of Thursday and yesterday I was finally able to start the work of imaging for James and Sons January Auction (30th and 31st January). I was dealing with stamps, and most of the rest of this post deals with the two days work in question.


One of the publications I contacted regarding a very rare Jutland medal group that will feature in our January auction was The Armourer, and although we were too late for their print deadline they agreed to put something on their website. Here is a screenshot of the top of their current homepage…



The stamp lots in this sale are numbers 601-850. Over the course of the two days I imaged all the lots, moved them to where they were being stored prior to auction, labelled said storage area and made sure that this section was as complete as I could make it. Some of the items had already been imaged, and in those cases I located the images and transferred them to the new file. Otherwise I photographed the large items and scanned the small ones. 


I dealt with the big stuff first, and when that was all done I went through the smaller items deciding which could be scanned and which needed photographing, and photographed the latter, leaving the scanning and final organisation for the Friday.




My employer was at a collector’s fair in Diss, leaving me in charge at the Fakenham end of things. I scanned the small stamp lots, checked the image sequence for gaps, noted the gaps, created labels for the shelves where the stamps were being stored, and also for the binders and boxes containing the smaller stamp lots (A4 size sheets in binders, smaller lots in boxes). Labelling the binders involved measuring the width of the spines so that I knew how wide each line of text could be and could set appropriate margins. At the very end I created a document to go in the front of a binder containing stamp lots that had not been given their numbers which detailed which numbers in the stamp range had not been used thus far. This done it remained only to finish my ersatz ice-coffee (a regular cup of coffee which because I had not had time to drink it had cooled to become an ice-coffee!) wash the cup, make sure all the images were in the auction file, close my computer down properly, gather my stuff, turn out the lights, activate the alarm and lock the place up. 


The secondary images for this lot and lot 749 were my only photographs of the day.


Photographs and Press Releases

An account of some work I have done with some very rare and valuable medals.


Although work has barely started as yet on the James and Sons January auction, there has been one huge development, in the form of some very high value medals. 


There are two groups of medals in this story, a very rare group awarded to Chief Gunner A E Seymour for the Battle of Jutland, which include a Russian Order of St Anne Gold Medal awarded to foreigners (exceedingly rare) and a group of World War Two medals awarded to his son. 


On the 12th of December I was asked to photograph the medals, making sure that we had top quality pictures available for use in advertising and promotional materials. These are the pictures that I took, starting with the Jutland group:

Jutland 1 - reduced
The first seven shots you will see are of the front side of the Jutland group

Jutland 2 - reducedJutland 3 - reducedJutland 4 -reducedJutland 5Jutland 6Jutland 7

Jutland back
The next three shots are of the back of the Jutland group

Jutland back 2Jutland back 3

russian medal - close up
The exceedingly rare Russian medal.
The naming on the back of the bronze medal.
The World War Two set
medals front
The front of the WWII medals
medals back
The back of the WWII medals

Until yesterday, barring a print out of some of the better pictures that I had produced for my employer’s use that was all that had been done…


As well as the document that I used as the email/ press release I had to create two mailing lists. One, a list of everyone who had bought medals from James and Sons in the past and had an email address was easily extracted from the client database (designed, created and maintained by me). The second, a combination of contact details for military publications and for everyone who advertises in the Medal Yearbook had to be assembled manually. In addition to these I had of course the regular press to contact, but those details are already available at a click in my work email account. 

The bulk email recipients merely got the document itself, plus the images actually used in it as attachments. Those who were being sent this as a press release got the full image gallery. At the end I also had send a jpeg of the press release to The Armourer, as we had missed the copy date for the printed magazine, but they were going to display it on their website.

The Press Release/ Email in jpeg form.


The Last Auction Of 2017

An account of James and Sons’ final auction of 2017.


James and Sons last auction of 2017 took place at our own premises in central Fakenham on Wednesday, and in this post I tell the story of that sale.


On Tuesday we moved the stock for auction downstairs, and with that laid out, and the smaller high-value lots in the vault until the morning I then brought down and set up such of the IT equipment as I could (we are a laptop down at present so I would be pressing my own machine into service once again) and carried out a brief test which suggested that all was in order and that there should be no issues. 


I arrived at work bright and early since not even Stagecoach can contrive to have the first bus of the day run seriously late. For those living in Norfolk and uncertain regarding buses in the holiday period services will stop early on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, there will be no services at all on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and a “Saturday service” will operate from the 27th to 29th of December inclusive (and since that day is actually a Saturday presumably also on the 30th). 

Coffee made, emails checked and a few things gathered up to go downstairs I went back downstairs at 7:45AM. The IT setup went smoothly, and I had the slide show running before any bidders arrived (there were a few room bidders on this occasion). Here are some pictures from this period:

Stock 1Stock 2IT setupBig Screen


The auction kicked off with some uncirculated banknotes which went for very high prices. Lot 43, a display book showing old and new format New Zealand banknotes, brought the curtain down on that segment, going for £440. 

Lots 44-50 were less valuable banknotes. Then lots 51-56 were very rare coins. Unfortunately the reserves had been set too high to attract bidders, with the exception of lot 51, a 1787 gold guinea which went for £600. 

The remaining lots of coins and banknotes went fairly quietly, although there were a one or two good prices achieved. 

Imaging these uncirculated banknotes was a fiddle. They had to be imaged through the plastic covers they were encased in to avoid damage, and the black bakcground was needed for use in the catalogue. Additionally, since both sides were required what you see are two images joined to become one.


Lot 51.


Lots 151-300 were postcards, mainly military themed, and while there were no headline grabbers in this section, most of them did find buyers. 


Not quite on a par with the extraordinary happenings of November 29 (see here for more details), but much better than our stamp sections have historically been. 


The last 100 lots (501-600) to go under the hammer at James and Sons in 2017 were all ephemera. I expected a fairly quiet end to the auction, and that is what eventuated. Lot 545, with a modest estimate of £20-30 went for £75.


Immediately before that an optimistic bid I placed on lot 544 met no opposition. At some stage I will probably do a whole post about this lot. This is the picture that everyone was able to see:


Here are some more pictures taken today…

Farnham and AltonHampton CourtEgham and ChertseyArrangements with other railway companiesReading, Guildford & ReigateLondon BridgeWhitchurch, Andover and SalisburyGuildford, Fareham, PortsmouthRichmond to WindsorStaines to Wokingham and WokingWimbledon to CroydonReading extensionHavant to GodalmingSalisbury to YeovilYeovil to ExeterBranch to Cambridge TownSussex and SurreyAmalgamationBasingstoke to NewburyDorsetNorth Cornwall

November Auctions

An account of a hectic and sometimes stressful work week.


This post covers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Monday and Wednesday were auction days.


This auction consisted of 455 lots, mainly stamps, with some first day covers at the end. The feature of the day was a selection of rare Chinese stamps, which it was hoped would fare well. Arriving at the shop bright and early I had a little time to myself before anyone else arrived. The IT setup and audio/video checks went smoothly, and exactly on schedule at 10:00 the first lot went under the hammer. Here are some pictures from before the auction…

Auction stock
The Chinese Stamps were still upstairs at this stage for safety.
IT setup - shop
The IT setup
The big screen.
A close up of the locomotive on the big screen (at one image per 3 seconds and almost two hours of running through 455 lots on a loop you can work out how many times each lot appeared on screen while the preauction slide show was running.


Most of the lots early in the auction were very large, and they did not attract much attention. There were hints of things to come when some of the first Chinese stamps sold well. Before we get to the main meat of the day, there is one essential stop…

LOT 169

Coming a little bit before the rare Chinese stamps were due to appear this was a Japanese railway stamp, and I got it unopposed. Here are the official images that were available online:

This was the image that appeaqred on screen during the auction – scanned at 300dpi.
For those who were on the internet this close-up of the locomotive was the second image if they wanted to investigate more closely.

Here are a couple of pictures of it taken at home…

169 - home
The complete item
169 locomotive close up
Locomotive close up
169 locomotive - using vignette
A second close-up


The Chinese stamps did better than any of us had dared to hope. A Chinese man living in Chelmsford had driven up tlo Fakenham (something in excess of two hours each way, though quicker than the public transport option of train to Norwich, bus/walk from Norwich station to the castle and then bus to Fakenham) to bid live, and he with some vigorous internet competition ensured that these stamps sold between them for over £10,000 (his own spend was over £9,000). Here are some the stamps at the heart of this story:



The remainder of the auction after the last Chinese stamp had gone was anticlimactic. Once I had disconnected the IT it was time for me to switch focus for a day and a bit to…


The link between these auctions and our final auction of the year, which will take place at our shop in Fakenham on December 13 is that there are some more Chinese stamps goign under the hammer. This auction will start with 50 lots of banknotes, including some very valuable uncirculated Australian and New Zealand, before proceeding to 100 lots of coins, 150 lots of military themed postcards, the stamps and some ephemera. I had already done the banknotes and one of the coins, and on the Monday afternoon I was scanning stamps. 

On the Tuesday I started on the postcards, and also did some coins. Here are some pictures of what you have to look forward to…

Imaging these uncirculated banknotes was a fiddle. They had to be imaged through the plastic covers they were encased in to avoid damage, and the black bakcground was needed for use in the catalogue. Additionally, since both sides were required what you see are two images joined to become one.


This 1787 gold guinea starts the coin section. This image came from 2 600dpi scans, bolted together.
As witness


I also photographed the coin, and this is the one that woulkd be my front-cover image for the printed catalogue.


Lots 52-6 got similar treatment.


Laying these postcards out to best advantage is a challenge as some are landscape oriented and some portrait.


Stamp scans…


While I was doing this the van was being loaded up to go Norwich, and as you will soon see the fact that I could not be spared from imaging to help with the process had consequences…


I managed to get my intended bus, and arrived at Norwich bus station at about 7:30 AM (to arrive early enough to help with the setup and then run the IT a Norwich auction I need to be on the First Eastern Counties X1 which departs Lynn at 5:30). I walked down to the venue, arriving there at about 7:45, got the room unlocked, fired up my computer and checked my emails, and waited for my colleagues to arrive. Finally, at about 8:20, they did, having got stuck in heavy traffic on the route between Fakenham and Norwich. Once the van was unloaded it was time to set up. Unfortunately no one involved in loading the van had thought to include a multi-point extension lead, the camera or the microphone. The Maids Head were able to lend us most of what we needed, and I was dispatched (with cash provided) to purchase a usb attached web camera. My first port of call was Rymans, in the pedestrianised shopping area of Norwich, where I had to wait a few minutes for the shop to open. Rymans did not have the necessary, but they did have an assistant who was able to point me in the direction of Maplin on Castle Meadow, close by albeit in the opposite direction to the Maids Head, and I found precisely what we needed there (though it took me a few minutes – the place was organised rather strangely, at least to me). I was back at the hotel by 9:20, and fortunately there were no technical hitches in the IT setup. Here are some pictures from this early part of the day…


The books fared much better than I for one dared to hope, with those that sold going for good money. On the Tuesday, along with the imaging for December I had corrected a problem with some of our online images, deleting two images and renumbering about 25 others so that images and descriptions matched. Unfortunately, when we came to these lots on the day my editing had been over-ridden by someone at the ATG Media end of things and the wrong images were back in place. Lots 901 to 1,000, which concluded the auction were military themed postcard lots, and they sold incredibly well, one single lot going for £200. The sales made at this auction were a welcome bonus after Monday’s extraordinary success. 

The auctiuon concluded it remained only to take down the IT and reload the van. 


My colleague Andrew had decided that he wanted to spend some more time in Norwich and go back by bus, so before heading off for my own extra time in Norwich I showed him where to pick up the bus from. I then headed for the library, which I always like to visit when I am in Norwich and did a few other things. Here are some photographs from Norwich, some taken that day and some on the previous Thursday evening, when I was also in Norwich…

St Peter Mancroft 2
This is St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich
Light Tunnel
Next to it at the moment is this magnificent light tunnel. As you will see, Norwich have excelled themselves in the matter of Christmas lights this year.

Light Tunnel 1Light Tunnel 3Light Tunnel 2Light Tunnel 4

St Peter Mancroft clock through light curtain
This is the last of the Wednesday pics…
Castle - lit up 2
But I had taken more pictures of the Norwich Christmas lights the previous Thursday.

Davey Place lightsLights forumLight Tunnel 1Light Tunnel 2

Lights - Norwich tree
Note – just a few clumps of lights in the tree, not completely smothering it – a nice show of “treespect”

Davy Place, full darkIn the light tunnel 1In the light tunnel 2Light tunnel in full gloryLight stringlight stringsLightLooking down the light tunnel