Bidding in Our Auctions
Dear Friends and Associates,
I am delighted to welcome you to our 6th auction, this being our largest so far, with 1362 lots on offer. The display features items in every one of our areas of speciality, and is probably the largest selection of Judaic and Israeli collectibles for sale anywhere at this time: highlighted by the largest offering of Jewish tokens and medals in the market, one of the largest offerings of Jewish and Israeli specialized militaria, and a superb selection of philately from the Holyland through to the Mandate, 1948 interim period and State, the JNF and key Egyptian loose stamps - plus Israeliana, Arabiana, Judaica, coins and banknotes and other areas of interest. Nearly every item is a highlight unto itself; words are redundant: the indicies and table of contents reveal the scale and breadth of the sale, while the pictures displayed complete the story.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank certain people whose advice and suggestions helped us to reach this moment, chiefly Bob Caplan of Modiin (seller ‘manxcat22’ on eBay who runs this superb store: https://www.ebay.com/str/israelstampland), whose timely advice late last year helped us reorient ourselves to better service the overwhelmingly internet-led character of this market. This sale is dedicated to Bob. He and Daryl Kibble, another invaluable associate, clued us into the fact that today’s collectors’ market is heavily focused on single-stop browsing at market-place websites and reliant on global searches. In practical terms we now sell both from our branded website as well as on marketplace sites like eBay, adopting different sales approaches for each venue. We’ve strived now to make our sale much easier to browse using detailed indexes, better labelled and ‘tagged’ lots and a better-featured search-and-filter engine.
We’ve also moved over to a “live” auction oriented sale in light of the numerous requests we’ve received: the pre-sale period functions similarly to the standard “mail auction” bidding environment, and the tail-end of the sale offers bidders transparency and the live auction experience. At the moment the live sale is only ‘timed’ and will be run without an auctioneer: if upon further research it seems that there’s some room for a little creativity and candor in that position I may undertake it myself (with a coffee and cheesecake at my side – and ditto to participants in the ‘hall’, that being an undertaking presently… being undertaken).
All items in this are being sold in a live auction: the philately will be sold through StampAuctionNetwork and all the other lots will be sold through Bidspirit. We’re working on developing in-house capability to run live auctions (with and without an auctioneer [via webcam]) in order to keep the auction run in a smooth, seamless process. I hope to have that rolled out by the next auction later this year.
In contrast to our earlier auctions, the opening bid prices in this sale have been reduced to a bare minimum and now represent the minimal bid level. We hope this approach with low starts will encourage more bidding, and in order to discourage fence-sitting during the sale, although unsold items will be available for direct sale after the auction, those prices will be higher than the opening bid levels in the sale – so take advantage of the low starts, and place bids during the sale. Here I should emphasize that the opening bid prices are not a reflection of our evaluation of a lot’s worth: where possible I have added an estimated value at the end of a product description, but a low starting price should not be construed as a lack of understanding of a lot’s worth.
Catalogues: the cataloguing work continued up until the last minute, such that for this sale there wasn’t enough lead-time to mass-produce a hardcopy. Penning this introduction a week and a half before the launch, pdf and virtual (e-book) versions of the catalogue will be available, and I hope to have these ready by auction-launch (or at worst very shortly thereafter). I’ll make sure to have a few ‘ersatz’ hardcopies made for those who indicate a need to have them. One benefit of there not being a hardcopy catalogue this time is that I didn’t scrimp on the lot descriptions: rather than writing in extreme shorthand and pidgin English, the lot descriptions in this sale are “full” and should be much easier to read and understand. Space-saving was not a goal.
And on that note, copious notations and sources of information are kept on all lot descriptions. Readers, particularly of the philatelic lots, may scratch their heads and wonder “where did he pull that from??” – 3rd flight here, shipment of the 28th there, new postage period somewhere else – how does he know that?? Participants are encouraged to contact us to receive additional information on all lots – it’s all available. This is a good opportunity to mention that I’ll shortly publish, as a pdf, a working tool I use and hope to develop into “The Handbook of Holyland-Mandate-Israel Postal History”, a sourcebook of key dates and postage rates/routes. Version 0.001 (yes, I’m being somewhat conservative) will contain some key basic dates mostly for 1947-1949, but many many dates and facts are still missing. I have about 100 specialty titles to cull, and then the whole of the Palestine Gazette to scour in order to assemble a history of the postage rates and services from the Mandate. Nevertheless this tool was critical in writing many of the lot descriptions in this sale. This is also an opportunity to mention that Daryl Kibble (Australia), who wrote the extraordinary and monumental postal history “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: No Service, Returned and Captured Mail”, has kindly given us permission to revise and republish it, which we hope to do by mid-2019. The book is “must have” and a stunning example of multi-disciplinary postal history. I’m mulling the possibility (pending Daryl’s approval) of adding a ‘price/valuation guide’ to the book as many of the covers featured in and related to his subject area have been sold by us.
On that note, I should also mention that barring any unpleasant reactions to a finding I submitted to the “Israel Philatelist”, it appears that the proper perforation measures for Doar Ivri stamps are 10¼ and 11¼, and not the standard 10: and 11: that the literature publishes. Even so, until the findings receive acceptance, for this present sale, the lot descriptions for Doar Ivri materials will continue to reference the standard accepted - but erroneous - perforation measures of 10: and 11:.
We’re in the process of moving premises and expanding, a move that’s taken a little more time than planned. Against a backdrop of reorganizing strategically as a business and executing this sale with its various improvements, the sheer effort cannot be understated, and our availability over the last few months as well as the planned schedule for this sale were impacted by these factors – something I hope we’ve now overcome with the launch of the sale. A supreme effort was made to launch the sale prior to the quiet months of the summer (August-September) - a roaring success. Here I’m recalling Dirk Bogarde’s delicious character-assassinating portrayal of Gen. Frederick Browning (“A Bridge too Far”):
Figure 1: Best Laid Plans
“…Actually the plan’s really very simple: we’re going to fly 35,000 men 300 miles and drop them behind enemy lines…” [cue snigger of discomfort]
Credits: our “co-pilot” on this journey is Patrick Kohl of st42.fr (the “French connection” – mazal tov on winning the World Cup… now get back to work), the tech-guy who translates foggy visions into reality, solves nutty problems and not once gets us out of tight situations.
Figure 2: a tight situation
Moving along with the air-crew metaphor, other members of the team are Rimma Kehr (German), Isaac Pradel (French), Samah Moddather (Arabic); my wife is the ‘ground control’. We’ve been blessed with good ‘shlichim’ (emissaries) whose insights, advice and assistance have been invaluable: Ira Rezak, Herbert Kreindler, Ed Kroft, Jon Aitcheson (RPSL), Sid Morgenstin, Josef Wallach, Graham Mark (Civil Censorship Study Group), Joseph (Dubi) Stier, Don Chafetz (SIP), Mel Wacks (AINA), Bill Rosenblum, Jean-Paul Danon (cfpi-asso.net), Batya Eisen – among others. Any success we have in philately is due entirely to sound guidance and advice I received from Yaacov Tsachor at the start of the journey.
For this sale a great emphasis was placed on ‘ease of use’ and ‘ease of locating’: I tried as much as possible to cross-reference lots and create index pages to help visitors find exactly what they want. The purpose here was to create a secondary classification system to help group together objects which would otherwise not be associated together using the standard broader-subjected auction-lot category menu. Much of this pertains to philately (which can be classified in any number of ways) - but not just. As an example, many people collect “censored mail”, however this is not one of the standard menu categories in most sales: here, this new indexing – lot subject-tagging – approach will help bidders find what they are looking by making them less depending on just the conventional menu categories, and such philately for example has been marked as “censored mail”.
The indexing initiative covers: historical periods, countries, locales, special characteristics and personalities associated with the lots; there is also an index of the objects’ intrinsic nature – what ‘type’ of object they are.
The “special characteristics” are pre-set’ classifications to help identify special qualities of the lots displayed (eg. “non-Israeli articles with Hebrew writing” or “objects with Biblical references”, or in the area of philately, some 30+ segmentations such as “censored mail” or “Railway post”, etc.). Here for instance, although the philately has special “postmarks” categories in its overall presentation, some items were too important to assign to these categories: one way to locate any special postmarks or postal markings is to select the “Philately - significant cachets & postal markings” characteristic and this will zero-in on any lots which share this attribute.
The online user-interface allows visitors to select segmentations and refine the results using the displayed additional segmentations relevant to the displayed results.
That said, as this very logic-intensive and exhausting work covers over 1350 lots, it’s inevitable that there will be some oversights and mistakes. Even with 5 weeks of work invested in this experimental approach, it’s assured ahead of time that visitors will spot mistakes and for this I apologize. If the basis for this approach now serves as a foundation for the future, the display and cross-references for the next sales will be smoother and more precise.
One of the hallmarks of the presentation-style of this sale is its emphasis on displaying materials based on their “relevance” rather than on a dry ‘ordered’ structure, like alphabetical order of country-of-origin or year-of-manufacture: in some subject areas the lot order is presented regardless of either of the latter characteristics, and solely because of the relevance of one lot to another. This approach was adopted by thinking intuitively as the cataloguer-in-the-shoes-of-the-bidder, that a visitor may be looking through the auction display based on the ‘type’ and ‘subject’ of certain articles and not by any other measure – and that if not displayed to him in this manner he may overlook articles he would otherwise have been interested in. This is a test, please bear with us...
Additionally we are now technically able to display a lot in up to 2 different categories – a primary category on whose basis the lot’s number has been assigned (i.e. in sequential order), and an additional ‘secondary’ category where relevant for that lot. I point this out because a) visitors may notice the same lot appearing more than once in the online display (if they view the sale by selecting to view specific categories, as opposed to browsing the sequentially-numbered default display), and b) there may be some questions about whether one category is more relevant than the other: this is especially true for the subject areas of “Israeliana” and “Judaica” where the boundaries of each are blurry as regards certain characteristics of the articles, or certain forms of ephemeral ‘Judaica’ and ‘Philately’ - where a postcard of a Synagogue may be considered by some to belong to the former, but because of special postmarks or frankings on the back considered by others to belong to the latter category. The default online display and the pdf catalogue will display everything in sequential order, according to each lot’s primary category and their lot numbers.
On our website, the menu of subject categories will display a sub-heading of the lot numbers assigned to it – those lot numbers indicate that those lots belong to that ‘primary’ category; another category may display even one or no lot numbers in the sub-heading, but will contain several lots – this indicates that this subject is their secondary category.
I wish everyone a pleasant and eye-opening browse, and good luck with their bids.
Alex Ben-Arieh, administrator
Contact us if you are considering to sell or consign materials.