A Successful Work Week

An account of James and Sons’ October auctions.


This week was auction week at James and Sons. This post covers the events of the three days.


I arrived at our premises in Fakenham at about 7:15AM, and made a cup of coffee, checked my emails and attended to IT setup. I had time to take a few photographs before anyone else arrived.

Lots 1-500
Lots 1-500 laid out for auction
Day 1 setup
The layout of the ersatz auction room.
Big screen
The big screen running the slideshow.
Cig and trade cards
The last lots we would be seeing today.
The ephemera (lots 251-400)
Theatre poster
A theatre poster.
Lots 1-250 (military RP postcards)


These fared reasonably thanks to the internet. Three lots in particular went way above estimate. Lots 175 was estimated at £8-12, but courtesy of an internet battle soared to £28. Lot 213 with a modest estimate of £5-8 went for £25. Lot 227 had an estimate of £8-12 and sold for £30. Here are the items in question.


All these pictures incidentally are scans, at 200dpi. 


No high prices from this section, although lot 353 went for significantly over estimate. Lot 321 fell my way unopposed, and lot 399, which I had had an eye on also fell to me (I ventured a hopeful bid, not expecting for an instant to get the item, only because lot 353 which I had assessed as the more likely bet went elsewhere).

Lot 321 (two images)


Lot 353 – the railway outlined in this bill now forms part of a line that runs from London Waterloo to Reading.
Lot 399 (five images).




Nothing noteworthy happened in this section. The auction finished, it was still necessary to move the items from this sale upstairs and to bring the stock (save the very large stuff) for the next day’s sale downstairs. 


Again an early arrival gave me time to do a bit before anyone else was there. I also had time for a few pre-auction photographs.

Lots 601-1100601-1100StampsSmall stampsSmall stamps 2full setupBig Screen 1Penny Black close upBig Screen 291392410291000

The opening lot of the day as shown on the big screen.
The closing lot of the day as shown on the big screen (I had the slide show on a loop, so that after showing lot 1100 it started again at lot 601)




Although this was in absolute terms a quiet period, this items fared much better than usual. The headline grabber was lot 850, which had an estimate of £40-50 but sold in the end for £85.




Lot 947, which was an 1809 Demi-Franc, had an estimate of £30-50, but some vigorous internet bidding pushed the price up to £130. Lot 980, a brass token from Long Sutton had an esimate of £8-12, but attracted sufficient interest to sell for £20.

Lot 947 (3 images). I do small coin lots on the scanner, at 600dpi and with the scan area set to A5 landscape, which means I can only use half the scanner bed, but this saves time in the end, as they scan more than twice as quickly than if I had used the full plate). This main image is the two scans (of each face of the coin) joined together to make a single image.


Lot 980 – the usual three images for a single coin.


The auction concluded, it remained to render the premises something that looked more like a shop and of course to ensure that the IT stuff got the racecourse, where the stock bar a dolls house that was still in the shop had already been laid out.


My first action an arrival the venue inadvertently caused a problem. I had been equipped with a key to the venue, as it was highly likely that I would be the first James and Sons employee on the scene. Unfortunately I had not been told that an alarm had been set, much less what the alarm code was. I only realised this when I unlocked the door and heard the telltale bleep of an alarm that needed to be deactivated. Fortunately that was the only significant problem I was to have in the course of the day. The fact that I had to use my employer’s laptop as the master machine because my machine has nowhere to attach the cable that connects the big screen to a computer and the third laptop was needed by my colleague for the invoicing (which apparently could only be done on that specific machine). The trouble with using my employer’s laptop as the main machine is that goes to sleep every few minutes, which in turn means that the slide show will go blank. I had time for a bit of photography.

IT setup, racecourseBig screenRostrum1201-1600 displayedShotguns 112731252View towards rostrumToysToys 2headgear15901590 - rolling stock15471547 side onView from the rostrumShotgunsMilitariaMilitaria 2Bannerdisplay caseMedalsDolls HouseView from the rostrum 2


Some of these items were very interesting. Two achieved significantly more than expected. Lot 1245 was a set of four world cup 1966 placemats and four world cup 1966 coasters which had been given a modest estimate of £5-10. They actually sold for £25. Lot 1252, which was a set of two railway themed badges which I had been interested in, estimated at £8-10, caught the attention of the internet and ended up going for £20. 

Lot 1245 (three images).


Lot 1252 (five images, as the second badge is double sided, which had to be shown.


MILITARIA – LOTS 1301-1540

Most of the lots in this section found buyers, but not for very large amounts. There was one headline maker however. Lot 1520 was a Luftwaffe Paratrooper’s Private Purchase Dagger, estimated at £40-50, which ended up going for £85.

Lot 1520 (three images)


TOYS – LOTS 1541-1600

Again it was a case of steady rather than spectacular sales, but three items did particularly well. Lot 1547, a model train that had been valued at £5-10 ended up selling for £20 (it had been described as a Hornby, but was actually a Triang, a better name as far as collectors are concerned,). Lot 1590, which was a complete Hornby train set, and had been estimated at £20-30 went for £50. Finally, the last lot of the sale, a Star Wars Millennium Falcon estimated at £15-20 went for £30 (this was a case of patience being rewarded – the successful bidder was a chap who had travelled over from Norwich specifically to bid on that one item and waited out the entire day’s selling until it came up). 

1547 (two images)


1600 (two images)



After the last lot had sold, and the last payment from a room bidder had been taken it was time for the clear up, which was accomplished swiftly. Back at the shop, once everything had been unloaded from the van I produced a printed list of online bidders to bring my working week to a close. 











James and Sons March Auction

An account of James and Sons’ March auction with lots of photographs. Also a brief mention of the theme of my next blog post.


James and Sons’ March auction took place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, with the first two days taking place at our premises on Norwich Street, while the third took place at Fakenham Racecourse.

DAY 1: LOTS 1-500

I arrived at the shop at 8:30AM, the setup was accomplished with no serious hitches, and the sale got underway at 10AM as planned. The first lots to go under the hammer were coins, and a few of them sold well, with a large internet presence making up for the fact that we had very few people bidding live. After coins came banknotes and related epehmera, including the first Traveller’s Cheques to feature in a James and Sons auction. Here are some pictures of lots in this part of the sale…

This was lot 25
Lot 140.
Lot 254 (two images – the first Travellers Cheque lot)


Lot 255 (six images, the other Travellers Cheque lot)


The remaining lots to go under the hammer on day 1 were cigarette cards, Liebig cards and match attack cards. None of these fared especially well. I therefore end this section with a picture of one lot that did sell and will feature in much more detail in my next post…


Lot 369 went to me. My next post on this blog will be about what I shall be referring as Autism Acceptance Month in preference to the older, less expressive and misappropriated (I won’t name the culprits, but if you want a clue think blue jigsaw pieces) Autism Awareness Month, and I shall display these pictures in the context of talking about special interests. 

DAY 2: LOTS 501-950

This was in many ways the most stressful of the three days, because in addition to the middle part of the auction it featured the setup at the racecourse to enable people to preview the third day lots in advance. The auction part of the day was very quiet, although there was one brief moment of excitement around lot 696, a Chinese stamp for which I do not have an image (I rarely do stamps these days because they are easy to scan and my time is better spent doing the more difficult imaging). 

After the auction part of the day finished I helped with the unloading of items of the racecourse to be set up for the morrow, took some close up photographs of a couple of items that were needed to enable me to answer last minute queries and walked back to the shop (it takes about 15 minutes from the Prince of Wales Suite, the part of the racecourse where we hold our auctions) to edit the images and answer the queries. I also got a small amount of April imaging done before closing time (having arrived early to ensure that I had time to do the IT setup, and given the day that I knew to lie in store for me on the morrow I was not going to burning midnight oil, and when the last of my shop based colleagues finished his day at 3PM and I had seen him out I called it a day myself. Here are some pictures of the lots I was answering 11th hour queries about…

The first five of these images relate to lot 1142.


The remaining images relates to lot 1117 – a gun stock without the barrel which would have been stored inside it. Both these items sold for good money in the end.


DAY THREE: LOTS 951-1560

In view of the fact that the catalogue advertised viewing at the racecourse from 8AM I decided to get the first bus of the morning to Fakenham, which leaves King’s Lynn at 6:28AM. I was therefore outside the Prince of Wales Suite at about 7:30AM, and had to wait for someone else to arrive with a key to open it up. Still, while waiting I did get this picture:


With the setup accomplished, and knowing that all was working properly I could get some pictures from the venue (the first had actually been taken the day before):

After a fairly quiet start to the day the militaria sold well and the toys/ collectors models also fared well. As on the first two days it was the online bidders (who by the end of the auction numbered some 350) who were responsible for most of the action. The auction finished, it remained to dismantle the sale, load the goods up and transport them back to the shop. This was accomplished just quick enough for me to get the 3:35 bus home. The third day more than made up for the comparative quietness of the first two. James and Sons next auction is on April 24, 25 and 26, with all three days happening at our shop on Norwich Street. Here are a few final pictures to conclude.

This was the first lot under the hammer on day 3.


This lot was the subject of query that led to the taking of a number of extra images (the sale price justified the extra work many times over)


This was the first of toy/ collector’s model lots.
This little thing did not make big money (I will be collecting it and paying for both lots that I won when I go back to work on Tuesday).

A Very Successful Three Day Auction

An account of James and Sons auction, which took place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.


On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week James and Sons had its second ever three day auction. This one had the additional twist that two different venues were being used, our own premises in Fakenham on days 1 and 2 and the Maids Head Hotel, Norwich on day 3. 


I caught the 7:30 bus from Lynn to Fakenham, thus arriving at James and Sons at just before 8:30AM (this bus doubles as a school bus, so follows a more circuitous route from Lynn to Fakenham than the usual X29 route and therefore takes 15 minutes longer to make the journey than a regular bus). Thus I was able to get the setup done in plenty of time, and the auction got underway at the appointed hour of 10AM. On this day stamps, postal history and first day covers were being sold. There were a couple of room bidders, and thankfully large numbers of online bidders (over 250 by the end of day 3). Although there were not many things going for big amounts of money a lot of stuff did sell, and the auction had started well. I have no pictures from day 1 of this auction, but here are some images of items that will be going under the hammer in our March auction, which will be on the 27th, 28th and 29th of that month. 

These first two pictures of lot 1031 in the March auction, which has an interesting story. This item is a grass sledge, designed and built by a craftsman in Sussex for use on the Downs.


The remaining images here are cigarette cards photographed after day 1 of the auction finished and before I went home.



The routine was the same as on day 1, but the items under the hammer were different. This day featured photographs, postcards, a few books, records, ephemera, Liebig cards, cigarette cards, cheques and coin first day covers. For most of the day there was no one present at the venue who was not a James and Sons employee, but the internet was very lively for much of the time. I had two moments of good fortune. The first featured…

LOT 864

Here are the official images of this lot:


My opening bid of £10 was unopposed, and here are the photographs I took this morning showing the entire booklet in all its glory:


About 10 minutes later we got to…

LOT 891

Here is the image gallery for this lot:


My opening bid of £8 again went uncontested, and here is a much more comprehensive set of pictures of this lot…

We start with front and back images of the cards in sets of six (the complete set contains 30)


Then we have close ups of some of the more interesting cards – this one is Richard Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren (that y is pronounced roughly as a “uh” sound), the first commercially operated steam locomotive ever. Steam engine technology predates this by approximately 1800 years – Heron of Alexandria designed a steam operated device for opening temple doors.


The most famous of all the very early locos – Stephenson’s rocket.


This Metropolitan Railway locomotive was designed specifically for operating in tunnels.


Luxury travel on the Brighton Belle


I travelled on this stock when I visited Scotland in 1993.
The only other stock in this set of 30 that I have travelled on, the legendary Intercity 125.


Overall this was a better day than we had expected – there were only a few quiet spots.


The fact that we were in Norwich for the final day of this auction meant that the stuff had to be loaded up to be transported over there, which was done at the end of day 2. It also meant that since I was going to have be in Norwich earlier than I could get there using the X29 that I claimed £5.50 in excess travel expenses as the cost of travelling there on the First Eastern Counties X1 is £11 as opposed to £5.50 if I can use the Stagecoach X29 route.

As intended I left my flat at 5:15AM and was on the 5:30 bus from King’s Lynn to Norwich, arriving at the venue at 7:30. I had my laptop with me because James and Sons were one laptop short (two working machines when we needed three). The setup was just about completed before the first viewers started turning up, and there were no issues of any sort. 

Here are some photos from that early period:


This item sold for a fair amount of money.
The rostrum – the black machine belongs to my employer, and we ran the operator screen (my responsibility) from it, while the white machine is mine, and we ran the auctioneer screen from that.


Only a few of these big stamp lots sold, although both helmets found buyers.


A distant view of the main display area, and visible through the window, the wall of the Cathedral Close.


There were no headline making prices, but most of these lots sold, some doing very well. We had decided to have a 15 minute break after lot 1,300 (we started the day at lot 1,000). Just before the end of the session we came to some commemorative medallions from the Gigantic Wheel, which was a feature of Earls Court between 1897 and 1906. The first was lot 1,286, which I ignored as being beyond my means. Lot 1287 however, which was only a little inferior in quality was cheaper, and my bid of £10 duly secured it. Here for comparative purposes are first the official images, scanned at 600 dpi and brightened up a bit, and then the two photographs I took today:

For auction purposes I scan each face and then produce a combined image as well as c,lose ups of each face


The photographs from earlier today.


For the record, these medallions are approximately the same size as a Queen Victoria penny.


The Militaria sold well. A chess set with German markings achieved barely credible £170. Here is the official image gallery:


Plenty of other things did well as well. The stamps predictably enough did not fare very well, but everything else had done enough that the auction was an unequivocal success.


I had considered staying on in Norwich to attend a Green Party public meeting at which Richard Murphy would be speaking, but in the end after three demanding days I was too tired to even contemplate not being home until 11PM which is what that would have meant, and so after a visit to Norwich Millennium Library I took the bus home, arriving back in my flat just after 6PM.

James and Sons First Ever Three Day Auction

An illustrated account of James and Sons’ first three day auction.


On Monday, Tuesday and Yesterday my employers staged their first ever three-day auction, all three days of the sale taking place at our shop in Fakenham. This post describes the event.


There were a few technical issues early on, and we had to dispense with the live video because it just would not work. However, with close to 200 online bidders (this tally rose past 300 before the end of the auction on Wednesday) signed up before the sale started and a few people there in person it was not long before good things started happening. The first and  biggest headline maker was…

LOT 22

This 1863 penny caused an internet dominated bidding battle which finally stopped at £1,200 (the estimate had been £250-300, and the bidding had started around that level). The successful bidder then telephoned in to clarify whether he could return the item if it turned out not to be as expected. This led to a tricky photographic assignment for yours truly. Looking at the pictures below can you see what is unusual about the dating on thkis coin?

I took a photo of the whole coin (for this I needed a larger image than I could get by scanning), and produced from that two full face pictures and two pictures focussing only the date.



Although nothing else approached lot 22 the coins did continue to sell fairly well. I will feature one more lot, which although it did not reach great heights was contested…

LOT 141

This was a Lima Tramways Inauguration token. Two people were interested, myself and an internet bidder. When the online bidder went to £20 over my £18 I conceded defeat (I had decided that I was not going beyond £20 and adhered to that decision). In addition to the obvious public transport connection, there is also a more obscure and tenuous cricket related connection: Lima was also the birthplace of Freddie Brown, who went on Jardine’s 1932-33 ashes tour without being picked for a test match and captained the touring party for the 1950-51 ashes. Here is the image gallery for this lot to commemorate my near miss:

The main image for this lot consists of two 600dpi scans (one of each face) joined together.
I also keep the individual images so that interested parties can look at each individual face if they so desire.



The banknotes fared well, while the experiment with banking ephemera (mainly but not entirely cheques) cannot yet be judged – more of the stuff will be going under the hammer at our next auction. 


The militaria was again largely successful. In a pattern of consistent successes there was one stand out, early in the section. The star of this second half of day one was…

LOT 309

This lot, a Free Polish Airforce pilots badge and RAF Dingley escape whistle with an estimate of £80-95 eventually sold for £320.



After the end of the first day at lot 550 the stuff for that part of the sale had to be moved upstairs and the stuff for day two brought down into the shop. My involvement in this process and the fact the we had finished later than expected meant that I did not get any imaging done before going home.


This post has featured scanning and photography, so here is a brief guide to myt appraoch to imaging at work:

I scan the following items:

Coins – 600dpi, scan each face, brighten the images (this both improves the clarity of the image, and since I have also adopted the policy of using a white background, effectively eliminates the background) and join the two images together to create the master image). I can image up 20 single coin lots at a time in this way, and the scanner I use works fast even at high resolution.

Stamps – 300-400dpi according to the level of intricacy of the pattern. Small stamps usually have an automatic black background because of the holders that are used. Usually I image these lots four at a time, but occasionally if the stamps are particularly suitably placed in the holders I can do more.

Postcards – 200-300 dpi according to time considerations. When there has been a real hurry on I have got away with scanning postcards at 150dpi, but I do not recommend going this low. The bed of my scanner is big enough for four standard size postcards, and in general if I have more cards than that in a lot I photograph rather than scanning.

Banknotes and related items – 200dpi is usually right for these.

Small ephemera: Any printed item that is A4 or less in size can be scanned. These items can be done at 150dpi.

All items not in the above list are photographed, and for items in the above list the decision to scan is dependent on small size – I do not for example lay out the contents of a huge box of coins on the scanner bed and scan.


A slightly fractious start to the day, as it was still not possible to run the video. Also, due to the confusion caused by frantic attempts to find a way to run the video the first couple of lots went under the hammer without audio either. 


There was no danger of any of these not selling because one of our regulars had left a block of bids on all of them, and some ended up going to other people. 


These as might be expected were fairly quiet, although even they did not completely bomb – some decorated menus sold reasonably well. 


The big news from these lots was that the majority actually sold. Near the end there was a very minor controversy concerning…

LOT 789

This was the second and last lot ion the catalogue that was of personal interest to me. I opened the bidding at £16, and as I as recording this information an internet bit for the same amount registered. James and Sons policy on the matter is clear – a room bid has privilege over an internet bid. I thus pressed the ‘room’ button on the console to disallow the internet bid. The item was then knocked down at £16. Just in case the unlucky internet bidder is reading this, they would have had to go to £22 to get the item, since I was adhering to the same policy that I had adopted with regard to lot 141 – I was prepared to go to but not beyond £20. As a further point please note that had I secured lot 141 I would not have bid on this item. When I have been through it in detail I will produce a full post about this item, but for the moment here are the official images:

The whole item.
Close focus on some of the cards.


The moving of items so that the setup was ready for day 3 was swiftly accomplished, and having done fewer lots and the auction having run more smoothly there was plenty of time for me to finish the day with some…


The February auction will be another three day affair, but with an extra twist – days 1 and 2 will be at the shop again, but day 3 (A Wednesday again) will be at The Maids Head Hotel in Norwich. Here are some of the images I produced on Tuesday afternoon…


Please do not draw any conclusions from the fact that I have included images of third Reich coins in this post!



The day started with a wait outside the shop as the colleague who was opening up was delayed, continued with a quick trip to get a replacement strip bulb because one was shining a very ugly shade of pink but the setupo went smoothly, and the auction proceeded with no problems. These lots were not expected to generate bidding fireworks, but a reasonable number of them did actually sell.

There was no immediate need to transfer the stuff, so I was able to do other work, starting with…


These needed to be done first as some would be featuring in the print catalogue…

This is about the biggest coin lot that could be sensibly scanned.



I departed from usual policy with banknotes and scanned this one at 600 dpi because it is a very rare item.

After lunch and a quick trip to the stationer for a box of paper I did some more ordinary imaging…

A repeat of my earlier disclaimer re images of stuff from the third Reich.


This whole set of 25 lots of Liebig cards had to be imaged – I have selected a range rather than sharing all 25.



James and Sons’ first three day auction was definitely a success. The use of the shop as a venue massively reduces overhead costs, and the fact that we can only seat a few people there is no great disadvantage. February’s auction, on the 20th and 21st at the shop and then the 22nd at the Maids Head Hotel, Norwich will provide an interesting comparison. I end this post with some pictures of the layout on the first two days of the January auction (day 3 did not warrant a picture):


Most of the lots were laid on or under this table
The small, high valued stuff such as coins was in this display cabinet.
Day 2, followed by a couple of close ups (day three was not worth photographing).






A Mixed Bag

This post is going to be in three parts. First of all some links to other blog posts and online bits that have particularly impressed me today, then a bit about today at work and finally some other bits.


These links are to the pick of the things I have encountered online today…


https://www.change.org/p/suffolk-county-councillor-brian-riley-let-the-people-of-hadleigh-decide-whether-they-want-an-elected-representative-who-lives-3900-miles-away-resign-and-let-us-have-a-by-election These first two both deal with the same story, but as someone who went through the Incinerator battle in King’s Lynn and who therefore has very low tolerance for arrogant and out of touch Tory councillors I felt it worth giving both links!

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/19/do-you-know-the-horrifying-facts-about-your-own-mp/ This and the next but one link are related – the latter is a specific example of following up the former.

http://deeclarknz.com/2015/03/14/walls-do-not-have-to-separate-us/ A very moving blog post.







http://blog.autism-mom.com/2015/03/the-secret-life-of-the-bully-1000speak/ One of the bets pieces of writing about bullying I have thus far encountered.

https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/ukip-candidate-for-westmoreland-resigns-citing-racism-bullying-and-sectarianism/ This is today’s regulation UKIP disaster story!


Although much of today was taken up with heavy lifting I did get to create a couple of pieces of PR material which I hope to be able to use on Tuesday, the second of which involved some imaging (I used an already created image in the first – it must be pretty good since it already has a confirmed bid of £500 on it)

The first piece was a press release about James and Sons being at an antiques and collectables fair at Newmarket Racecourse…

?????????? Map

A JPG of the completed document.
A JPG of the completed document.

Newmarket SatelliteThe second piece was rather more intriguing. It centred on a couple of African cultural artifacts, a Kuba mask and a witchdoctor’s stick. The latter has some serious history – it was once the personal property of no less an individual than Sir Henry Rider Haggard (of King Solomon’s Mines fame). A full gallery follows…

The full poster (as I intend it) - top and bottom the whole stick, around the sides details from various parts of the stick and in the centre the mask.
The full poster (as I intend it) – top and bottom the whole stick, around the sides details from various parts of the stick and in the centre the mask.
Stick and mask in one shot
Stick and mask in one shot
The mask.
The mask.

?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????I have a few non-work related pics to share as well, including an opportunistic pair of eclipse shots. It was vey overcast in Norfolk today, but between getting off the bus at Oak Street and arriving at James and Sons I did get one half decent shot which I turned into two pictures…


The original holder that these Liebig cards came in split, so I mounted them on card instead (it being the pics I am interested in)
The original holder that these Liebig cards came in split, so I mounted them on card instead (it being the pics I am interested in)


This is a close up of the eclipse
This is a close up of the eclipse
This is the edited but not cropped version that now serves as the desktop background on my work computer!
This is the edited but not cropped version that now serves as the desktop background on my work computer!