While parts of Melbourne were being trashed by the terrible storm yesterday, we attended a stamp auction at the Brighton Philatelic Society.
So what were we doing there, I ask myself in the manner of our soliloquising Prime Minister? Well, we had put my husband’s philately collection up for sale, seeing that our children were not the least bit interested in it. And no, we did not need to hire a Chubb armoured van to bring home the loot, but that’s another story.
What I want to write about is that stamp collectors are an amazingly impressive group of collectors. They are very considerate, dignified and an ethical bunch of men who could teach society a thing or two about civilised behaviour. By the way, I have been to two such auctions and most of the stamp collectors are men. I wonder why but have no explanation as yet.
There is a viewing of the stamps first and this lasts exactly half an hour. This is followed by the auction itself which is run by the most wonderful nonagenarian. He proceeds in a quiet yet authoritative manner to go through almost 800 lots of stamps. He does it with humour (“seems as if Germany is not the flavour of the day”, he says, whence, sadly many of our stamps came. Did I really just use the term “whence”?) Bidders just raise their hands and the auction proceeds fluidly.
I look around at the bidders and they come from all walks of life. Some are quite smartly dressed, others are in shorts and crazy T-shirts. They sit patiently and wait for their selection. I am impressed by the calm in the room. With the exception of dealers, most of the collectors are senior citizens and I wonder if stamp collecting will die out when stamps are no longer in use. Will it die out after this generation?
And then a young girl comes into the hall with her mother. She can only be about ten or eleven. She buys some stamps and the other bidders direct her to the annex where payments are made. Can this be a glimpse of the future for stamp collecting? I hope so.
I know nothing about stamps except that you lick them and that you never have one in your purse when you need it. But they are truly fascinating archives of historical events. We had some that were sent in 1895 from Germany to Melbourne. Who would have thought that anybody in our family would be doing business with a fledgling colony?
I particularly enjoyed reading the postcards which were sent from Germany at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. They were written in sepia ink, the colour I like to use in my fountain pen.
The auction was sprinting along at a great pace and then the storm struck. You could hardly hear the auctioneer because of the sound of hailstones hitting the slate roof, but somehow he persevered to a glorious finish. Nothing seemed to faze him. He’s seen it all before.
We had to hang around the former church which was the home of the Brighton Philatelic Society until the storm passed. Somehow it was very fitting that the society owned a church. I can’t think of a better use for it than to be the meeting place for such impressive and courteous gentlemen .
There is something other worldly about the place. Everything works on trust. You hand over your collection to be appraised. The club gets 10% for all the hard work it has put in and that is a reasonable price.
Did we do well out of the auction? It was okay except for Germany not being the flavour of the day. From a philosophical point of view, however, I did very well indeed. I, the biggest cynic in the world, have discovered a place where people behave like noble souls. They are kind to one another. Is it stamp collecting that makes you so dignified? Or is it the case that stamp collecting attracts dignified people?
Better not plumb the depths of that one. Just appreciate the knowledge that there are still places in the world where people don’t behave as if they are in the jungle. These are refuges from the real world and we certainly need them now.