– Hello Mr. Green, and thank you very much for accepting the idea of answering a few questions for the readers of ’Blog de timbrofil’! I choose you to include in this series of philatelic articles because your motto, ‘serious about stamps’. Could you tell me what’s the most interesting story of your stamp company’s life?
– Over Sandafayre’s 30 years there have been many interesting stories. However, one of my favourites is that of a telephone call we received from the daughter of a gentleman who had passed away. He had been an avid stamp collector his entire life and had bought stamps from auctions and stamp dealers from all over the world.
I agreed to visit her at his house which was almost falling down and a total wreck. The front room, kitchen, under the stairs, up the stairs, the 3 bedrooms, the attic, everywhere was full of albums, packets, and auction folders full of stamps. There were even some balanced in piles in the bathroom. I agreed to take on the sale and it took 3 large vans to clear the house.
It was extremely exciting and the daughter had no idea what a wonderful legacy her father had actually left her as in the end the collection realised over £100,000.
– They say that stamp collecting is gathering knowledge, and a philatelist sees that every time when it’s together with his collection. Can we talk today about a cultural importance of collecting stamps?
– The cultural importance of stamps and stamp collecting is a very interesting and complex subject because, in essence stamp collecting is a hobby. For this reason many stamp collectors do not attach much cultural importance to the activities of their hobby.
However, as collectors, we spend many, many hours identifying, categorising and preserving our stamps so I believe that in an age of fast-moving information and short attention spans the value of stamp collecting is that it focuses our attention, develops mental concentration and inspires investigative research and analysis.
These are valuable life skills for a young person and allows them to learn about the world through a tactile hobby rather than something virtual behind a plastic screen. So if stamp collecting has cultural significance maybe it is in providing people with the time and capacity for deeper thought, analysis and contemplation.
As for stamp collectors themselves, we are often initially attracted to stamps because of their design. Then as we spend more time with our stamps, and learning about them, we begin to realise that nearly every stamp design has some cultural and historical significance.
If we then go on to follow our hobby still further into an interest of the postal mail itself, and how people used it to communicate with each other both within their own country and overseas, we begin to realise that the items we own have a significance far beyond that of their monetary value. That in reality we are, in fact, the temporary custodians of these important pieces of history.
This enthusiasm, as well as the items themselves, are often passed on to our children who may not have the same level of interest in stamps as ourselves but often find that in their later lives they do indeed have an interest and knowledge in history and culture that can all be traced from one person’s passion for collecting stamps.
– The philatelic expertise isn’t an area that most stamp collectors are familiar. I’m sure that it’s a hard work there, but what are the satisfactions in this job?
– That is a fascinating question because I work in a room with 5 fellow philatelists and from time to time we have other philatelists and visiting experts joining us. At least once a day we find ourselves gathering around somebody’s desk studying and arguing about a stamp or cover.
A good example happened only a couple of days ago when we found a rather tatty broken envelope from New Zealand dated 1862. Scribbled across the stamp, very neatly so that it was all on the stamp, were the words ‘Sugar Creek’ and the date.
It took us some time to research the meaning of this and in reality, although the outcome was interesting, the great pleasure was the research and the debate between stamp experts as to whether this ‘manuscript cancellation’ had been just a security feature, written across a stamp by a worker to stop the stamp being used for anything else; or whether there was a temporary post office there at Sugar Creek that did not have its own postmark.
We came to the conclusion that it was the former rather than the latter and it was a security device. So for me it is the rediscovering of the truth about a complex historic item, which gives us the most pleasure here and I believe I talk for everyone at Sandafayre.
– As a chairman of a big company as Sandafayre, you probably are subjected to many challenges, all the time. How was the moment you realized that the internet and online auctions become a really ‘must have’?
– I cannot be sure but I believe that we were probably the first stamp auction to be on the internet. I had heard about a strange little business that was auctioning gumball machines on the internet called ‘eBay’ and fairly soon after we began to put our own auctions online.
Having a postal auction system, unlike the public auctions that have only recently had the technology to put a live room across the internet, we were ideally suited to put ourselves online.
– I noticed that your website, sandafayre.com, is a little different than others of its kind, because readers can find a lot of useful information there. How important is the quality of services in your business?
– Everyone employed on the philatelic side of the business (as well as two members of our administrative team) started out as collectors and not as professionals, so we relate very strongly with our customers.
I myself found a great resource in the owners of various stamp shops who I visited as a youngster, I was also lucky enough to have a number of regular stamp and collectors fairs in my area which proved to be another great source of help and knowledge.
Such resources are scarcer now, so we are keen to help other stamp collectors have assess to this type of knowledge and experience as we did – but this time we must do it through the internet.
Of course it is a work in progress but we will be adding more and more videos and information via our website, Twitter and Facebook, to help collectors properly care and safeguard their stamps, as well as more information about rare and interesting stamps and collections.
In this way we are hoping we can share our years of experience with collectors around the world so that they will be able to look and assess stamps in a more informed and professional way.
– I like the most the ‘Stamp-Cam!’ section, a great new feature which allows you to watch videos of lots currently in auctions. In your opinion, the future of philatelic blogging is based on video content?
– Like myself I believe that stamp collectors derive a great deal of pleasure from quiet research, reading and discussion about their subject. For this reason, even though I enjoy our ‘Stamp-Cam!’ presentations on our website and now on YouTube, I do not think the future of research and communication of philately will be 100% video based.
I am sure video will be one of a range of different resources available to the collector but perhaps I am also a little old-fashioned and I also enjoy the more traditional forms of research such as viewing the exhibited collections at stamps shows, or reading books and on-line information, as well as the videos.
– How can stamp collectors watching your activity online?
– The Sandafayre office is an office like any other and to be honest, the stamp room is much untidier than most offices! So it would be very boring to watch us at work, imagine a group of people hunched over desks and drinking too much coffee – you get the picture.
However, the internet is giving us more and more ways for stamp collectors to benefit from what we do. We now have over 700 videos on our YouTube channel, Sandafayre Stamps, and have received over 600,000 views; both I and Sandafayre have Twitter accounts (@VinceGreenStamp & @Sandafayre) that we use to share many of the wonderful items we encounter during the day.
These are really the best ways we can share the very best and most interesting items and collections we are lucky enough to be able to work with and offer through our auctions.
Now we also have a website for those who are ready to sell a collection; (www.stamp-appraisals.co.uk) providing the best expert advice and support to realise the best value for what is often a very treasured possession during a difficult time.
– By the way, have you noticed some new trends in stamp collecting in our days? Yes, I’m referring primarily to young!
– The designs and techniques of stamps may change but the activity and fascination of our wonderful hobby is as appealing now as it has always been to those young people lucky enough to experience it.
I was recently asked by some grandparents if I could help them as they had to entertain their 5 grandchildren the day after Christmas. Naturally they always found that the 5 children together quite difficult to handle and they did not know how they were going to cope. In desperation they approached me and asked if I had a big box of loose stamps that they could buy.
I gave this some thought and found them some stamps as well as some stamp albums and plastic philatelic tweezers. Early in the new year I was contacted again by the grandparents to let me know that they had tipped the box of stamps in to the middle of the dining room table and had not heard a sound from the 5 children for 5 hours! Not only that, their grandchildren are now asking to have more stamps each time they visit grandma and grandpa.
So really I would recommend promoting these simple straightforward aspects of our time-honoured pastime as a new trend for young people. Perhaps in this way the next generation can discover for themselves how wonderful and rewarding a pastime stamp collecting truly is in the same simply way we discovered it.
‘Hi-tech’ is great but simple also works.
– It was a great honor to me to continue this series of interviews with you, and thank you for your time! Please address a few words to the readers of ’Blog de timbrofil’.
– Thank you for asking me to take part in this interview and I hope that your readers have found it interesting. I would like to say that I hope my story of the grandparents, and their many grandchildren, has illustrated that each one of us as stamp collectors has a role to play in helping the next generation discover the joys of stamp collecting; because as we all know, it is the best hobby in the world.
Like ourselves, if they start young they will have an interest that will be rewarding and bring them pleasure and knowledge for their entire lifetime.
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