By Stephen T Taylor
When I started dealing in USA material full-time in January 2000, there was a philatelic auction in London which had a couple of USA “box lots” with short descriptions and low estimates (£200/£300 each) One was full of “duck stamps” which I wasn’t very interested in and didn’t place a very high bid on but the other box was full of covers and folded letters, exactly what I needed for stock – very disorganized with a few auction catalogues at the bottom of the box including Harmers New York 12 Jun 1990 “The Hessel Autograph collection of Presidents, Statesmen & Signers”.
I always carefully view large lots as there’s no telling what’s lurking inside and might have been missed by their describers. This particular lot had numerous common covers worth £10 to £50 each but two caught my eye: one was franked “Free G. Washington” and the other “Free B Franklin”! Both were ex-Hessel and listed in the auction catalogue that came with the lot. Fortunately, no one else spotted these and I bought the box at their opening bid, a fraction of my top bid.
As I didn’t yet have any clients who collected Free Franks, I consigned them to a US auction house where the pair sold for USD19,000 in May 2000.
As David Phillips taught me when I lived in Miami in the 1990s, always read every letter and look carefully at every marking.
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