I thought I'd give a brief rundown of my recent experience with Sterling Kingbrook Auctions. I'd seen and spoken with them at CHICAGOPEX every year for the last several years, but had never bid in their auctions before, as they typically don't have a lot of U.S. revenue material.
In their October 12 auction, however, they had several revenue lots that were of interest. Their auction was listed on Stamp Auction Network, however there was no live bidding through that platform. Internet bids were accepted up until an hour before the auction, but in my experience any time there is live floor bidding, book bids rarely win... they only really serve up to drive up the bid for the eventual winner.
Normally I only ever bid in auctions when I can bid live online, either through SAN or through the auction house's platform, but Sterling Kingbrook didn't offer live vbidding through their website either, so for the first time ever, I decided to participate in phone bidding.
I emailed them a list of lots I was interested in bidding on, along with my phone number, and they would call me a couple lots before the first lot. Leading up to the auction, a couple of the lots on my list went above what I was willing to pay. One of the downsides of bidding remotely is that you can only really go by the pictures online as opposed to actually examining the lots, so some of the bulk document lots likely were worth pursuing, but based upon the images it would have been a huge leap of faith. With CHICAGOPEX next month, I couldn't go too crazy.
Like clockwork, they called me before my first lot... only a few lots before, so it didn't leave much time to figure out the sound level, the mechanics, expected words to signify bid vs. pass, etc. The voices in the background (auctioneer, other phone bidder conversations, etc.) made figuring out what was going on a bit tricky. Honestly, based upon this experience, I think prefer bidding live online vs. phone if it's an option, but this will do in a pinch. I don't think it's any fault of this particular auction house; it's just a different dynamic and experience.
Of the 5 lots I bid on via phone, I ended up winning all 5. I only had to stretch for one of the 5 over what I had anticipated, but since I got several other previous lots for less than expected, it evened out.
Approximately 5 days after the auction there still was not an invoice populated in my account on their website, nor had I received any email with an invoice, so I called them. I'm glad I did, as they had emailed invoices several days prior, but for some reason I didn't receive mine. I had to give them an alternate email address and they resent the invoice, and it came through right away. Not sure what was going on, as my primary email is one I use for numerous auction houses. So I think their invoicing system may need some debugging and tweaking.
I went ahead and paid my invoice on a Friday and my lots shipped out the following Monday via Priority Mail. Received them Thursday, very well packaged.
So for a smaller auction house, I have no complaints. 15% buyer premium. No surcharge for paying via credit card or PayPal. Charged actual USPS shipping with no handling fee.
Many of the documents I won were in pieces, but that was disclosed in the lot descriptions, so no complaints. Some meticulous work with archival mending tissue (greatest stuff EVER) and you can reconstruct and stabilize most documents. The 16-document lot I won is going to take quite a bit of time to go through and clean up the documents, so this will be an ongoing project.
The lots I won, and their descriptions and lot pics, along with some brief commentary:Lot 122.
A bisect of the 10c Power of Attorney Revenue stamp, Scott R37e affixed along with 25c Insurance, Scott R46, on a promissory note date 1870 promising to pay Westphal & Hinds $600 within a month. Westphal & Hinds was a large wholesale hardware business originating in 1855 in Dubuque, Iowa. Note has seen better days, severely wrinkled, with some tears around perimeter. Still a great item. (SCV $300)
This was one of the two lots I really wanted out of the five. Even though the document is pretty darned beat up, it is only the second example of R37e I have found record of, and is unquestionably genuine. 30 cents tax is the correct rate on the the transaction, and the initials and hand match that of the signature. It hammered at $65, a relative bargain in my opinion.Lot 125.
Large (11" x 16" unfolded), two-leaf, entirely manuscript deed for the sale of real estate in the city of Cincinnatti, county of Hamilton, Ohio, sold for $92,500 to Edward Sargent, by Henry F. Handy. Document is stamped, December 11, 1868, with R84c $2.50 Inland Exchange, R98c $20 Conveyance x2, R101 $50 Documentary for a total tax of $92.50(paying the proper tax of .50 per $500). Document with major splits along folds. One leaf split in two. (Est $100-150)
A nice combination of high-values. Luckily the corner fold at top just misses the R101c. The R101c actually has very nice large margins. Hammered at $120.Lot 128.
Large (21" x 16" unfolded) deed for the sale of real estate in the city of New York, sold for $15,000 to William Wippenhoursh, by Sarah E. McGraw, August 22, 1863. Document is stamped with fresh R98a $20 Conveyance, paying the proper tax of $20 (over $10,000 to $20,000 sale). Document with major splits along folds, small tears along edges. (Est $100-200)
A bit of an impulse buy. No one else was bidding, and I got it for the opening bid. Hammered at $50, which is pretty cheap for a high-denomination imperf on document. I already stabilized this document, and it turned out quite nicely. Stamp has vey nice bright color.Lot 133.
16 large folded documents with interesting, better usages including a few part perf, imperf pairs, and nice combinations. Mortgages, deeds, lease documents and more. Mixed condition and faults. Please examine. (Est $100-150)
This was the other lot that I really wanted, primarily for the three R87c documents. The $3.50 denomination is pretty scarce on document, and one of the documents has two of them. This lot actually had some spirited bidding, and hammered at $230. After juice and shipping it worked out to ~$16.50 per document, which isn't bad at all, especially considering some of the other documents in the group. There are two documents with R25b pairs (catalog $100 per pair), as well as a document with a pair of R44a with an interesting engraving anomaly, an R98c on document, and several with $5 and $10 denominations.
And lastly...Lot 275.
Seven late 1800s to early 1900s covers illegally posted with Revenue stamps. All stamps are tied. Usages include Scott R36c (plus Scott 65) on cover to England, R153 (with I.R. overprint) x2 and R164 (Battleships) x4. Very mixed condition with faults and damage. Interesting group. (Est $40-70)
This lot went a bit higher than the estimate, hammering at $110, but still a comparative bargain, in my opinion. Three of the battleship covers are out of period, so aren't as in demand as they otherwise would be, but this lot still has a few nice covers, the most valuable of which is the Civil War advertising cover to England. It's a bit beat up, but based upon close examination of the stamp positioning and markings, appears to be completely legit. The other cover that is appealing (to me at least) is the first-day-of-tax July 1, 1898 dated cover. The very last cover is fairly decent as well.