Selling Your Collection

Selling Your Collection

Sidney is at the north end of the Saanich peninsula about thirty kilometres north of downtown Victoria. I first attended a Sidney Stamp Club meeting in January and was asked to give a presentation on selling your collection and will do so at the April meeting.


Cuba 1958 Nicolas Esperado “lyre” progressive proof

My quick acceptance of the request reflected what had been my usual approach: jot down a few points to be made, organize them in a logical sequence, estimate the timing so I don’t talk too long, then when the presentation starts get up and retell anecdotes which illustrate the points, answer a few questions, and try to have an overall theme emerge on the subject. Preparation time about ten minutes.

This time, I will take a different approach. My audience will include collectors with decades of high level experience and others unfamiliar with the jargon of our hobby. As I jot down the areas to highlight, a serious challenge will be to keep the introductory remarks to about ten minutes.

I have a lot of experience buying collections. In my Ottawa store over the last few years we averaged just over two purchases a day. The store was open more than 9000 days (30.4 years times about 305 days) and including my active participation in auctions, that adds up to a total of more than 10,000 collections purchased. This experience gives me a perspective very useful in buying.

But selling is a different matter. I have obviously sold a lot of inventory, but only three of my collections. My Newfoundland pre-Confederation postal history was sold to a customer in the late 1980s. I needed the money and both of us were happy with the transaction. My two collections of the postal history of P.E.I. and Nova Scotia were fairly recently sold in separate transactions several years apart to the same respected postal history dealer. I set a price and the dealer paid. Both were very pleasant stress-free transactions. I believe that most collectors contemplating selling their collection do not expect “pleasant” and “stress-free” to be part of the equation. I will try in subtle ways to address that.


Cuba 1958 Felipe Poet butterfly trial colour die proofs

One approach I will try is a handout for the audience to fill in for their own personal use. In “bullet-point” form it will outline options and the ways in which a collection is desirable (or not) to a prospective purchaser. If this works, collectors should have a better idea where their own material best fits into the options available.

Putting together my thoughts on all of this is taking much more time than I would have ever allowed back in the East. This is one of the advantages of semi-retirement!

Trips in the past weeks have brought most of a cold winter week in Ottawa for the successful Sparks Auctions and a trip to the interior of British Columbia where I viewed six collections in a day and a half. Activity at local stamp clubs continues to be interesting. In January at the Greater Victoria I gave a mini-presentation of the development of thermo-graphic printing of stamps by the Fernandez printing firm in Havana and show some scans from that presentation, and in February a very brief talk on diverse Denmark items. Coming up is Egypt, British Forces in Egypt, and the Suez Canal. April with letter “F” has many possibilities. Also coming up are Victoria’s biggest show and bourse on March 14th and 15th, Vancouver’s biggest on the 20th and 21st, and the Edmonton Show the following weekend.

I hope to meet many friendly collectors in each location.

Afraid to Walk


Lot 1 Canada #1 1851 3d red Beaver on Laid Paper, used, with an ideal target cancel. Well centered among four large margins, showing part of adjoining stamp at right. Crisp, clear impression and extremely fine. Accompanied by a 2006 Greene Foundation certificate. Unitrade CV$ 1,600.

Sparks Auction 16 — Lot 1
Canada #1 1851 3d red Beaver on Laid Paper, used, with an ideal target cancel
. Well centered among four large margins, showing part of adjoining stamp at right. Crisp, clear impression and extremely fine. Accompanied by a 2006 Greene Foundation certificate. Unitrade CV$1,600.
(See also lots 2-5 and 9-16 for more three penny Beavers.)

Being afraid to walk is life-changing. The fear might be physical harm from a mugger or traffic, but in my case it was ice. A sudden crash landing is seldom fatal but as one ages the consequences can be very serious. The increasingly common thaws, then flash freezes of an Ottawa winter meant physical danger.

Lot 829

Lot 829

Moving to Victoria was the right decision for ice-free winters. And after three decades of too many hours each day at the stamp store, a definitive closing of the door was right for me personally. The move was more complicated with respect to Sparks Auctions.

Sparks Auctions is a limited company created in 2007 and presently owned by 10 (soon to be 12) shareholders. About 98% of the shares are held by employees or members of the Board of Directors, so any decision about the future of Sparks was not mine alone. But because of its history, and shared premises with the retail store, there may have been a belief in the philatelic community that without my presence, Sparks likely could not survive.

I was confident that we were developing strong, competent describers which is traditionally the most difficult position to fill. From the beginning our technical requirements, artful catalogue layout and distribution, the efficient organization of viewing, the smooth running of the auction, and timely shipping were all in very capable hands.

A move from 62 Sparks to 1550 Carling Avenue was also a concern, partly because of much higher rent. But there were clear benefits in separating the identity of Sparks Auctions from Ian Kimmerly Stamps.

Lot 1109

Lot 1109

The hours which I devoted to Sparks especially in later years were primarily spent talking with potential consignors, often appraising and accepting consignments. This is a role I will continue in from my base in Victoria for the foreseeable future. But for Sparks’ survival there would need to be a successful transference of confidence in myself to confidence in Sparks.

All these concerns are as nothing when you view Sparks’ upcoming January 27-29th auction. The single lots of exceptional quality throughout Canada and British Commonwealth will obviously impress. A more in-depth reading will reveal the strength and interest of the postal history as well as in the country lots and collections. For those of you who have viewed either the printed or online catalogue of the sale the verdict must be this: SPARKS SPARKLES!

Sparks conducts a traditional public floor auction with simultaneous live internet bidding. Information can be found at We offer stamps from about a hundred consignors each auction and future consignments are always welcome. In order to properly describe your collection in time for the upcoming May auction we should receive it before February 20th.

And, personally, I will brave the ice to be in Ottawa from Monday through Sunday, so I can participate in the sale and help out at the auctioneer’s microphone. I can be contacted by email or through Sparks.

-Ian Kimmerly

Lot 625 Canada #387a  1959 5c Inverted St. Lawrence Seaway, mint never hinged, fresh and extremely fine. Free of fingerprints which are often seen on these rare stamps but has a minor gum bend, mentioned for the record. Accompanied by a 2013 Richard Gratton AIEP certificate.  Unitrade CV$ 12,500.

Sparks Auction 16 — Lot 625
Canada #387a 1959 5c Inverted St. Lawrence Seaway, mint never hinged
, fresh and extremely fine. Free of fingerprints which are often seen on these rare stamps but has a minor gum bend, mentioned for the record. Accompanied by a 2013 Richard Gratton AIEP certificate. Unitrade CV$12,500.
(See also lot 626 for a rarely-offered used example.)

What is B?

What is B?

There cannot be too many places in the world where a stamp collector can attend four club meetings within six days.  In Victoria two clubs meet weekly and two meet monthly and six days apart.  We didn’t plan it especially, but we are centrally located with the furthest club meeting less than three kilometers from home.

Thursday night at the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society, in addition to an auction, there was an interesting slide show on the RAF Ferry Command. Starting in 1940 Canadian bush pilots and other civilians were recruited to fly (or ‘ferry’) warplanes from North America to Britain, and later to many other parts of the globe.  The postal history generated from Ferry Command is challenging and fascinating.

Of more general interest was the vignette account of crossing the border with warplanes between neutral USA and Canada at war.  The crossing between Maine and New Brunswick was effected by temporarily blocking the highway, having the warplane land on the highway, towing it across the border, then taking off on the highway.  The only other crossing was at Pembina south of Winnipeg. Here, after the plane landed, the soft soil foiled the trucks, then the farm tractors.  Finally it was up to the horses to pull the warplanes across the border.

Norway 3skThe Muffin Break is a pleasant social event every Tuesday morning.  Attendance usually exceeds the turnout at the monthly Club meetings.  Part of the success might be explained by never having had a Chairman, President, membership, program, Agenda, dues, bank account or any of the other detrita of our modern, organized lives.

Before the November Friday night at the Greater Victoria Philatelic Society, the website announced Remembrance Day and The Letter A.  I went with visions of Sesame Street but was very pleasantly impressed with the concept of The Letter A. Approximately ten of the members brought in Exhibits ranging from one to eight pages dealing with either the theme or the letter A. Some, like the Australia pages, dealt with both in a topical showing.  More interesting in some ways is that each Exhibitor came forward to explain and add details to his or her Exhibit.  Some were inventive, such as a postal history page well written up which showed an Airmail envelope, carried by the US Army postal service, mailed from Anchorage, Alaska — so A to the power of four.  A few days later at the Muffin Break someone commented on how boring Bulgarian stamps were.  The light flashed and I have just the items to disprove the comment next month.

At home, the mountain (well, small hill) of cartons of stamps is slowly becoming organized.  One conversation led to a want list of early Norway.  In the next few days I need to organize my early issues, paying particular attention to trying to identify the four types of the 1863 Arms type.  Eventually the results will be on the internet.



I will always cherish my philatelic experiences in Ottawa, yet the welcome and camaraderie extended by stamp collectors in Victoria has been overwhelming. Talking with collectors is always pleasant.

And I am not ignoring the buying part of the equation:Eastern Auctions Lot 472, Oct. 2014

  • only two items at the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society Club Auction;
  • viewing and bidding on the Weeda Bidboard Auction (less successfully then I had expected as there were many strong prices realized);
  • our first Express Post delivery in Victoria contained a box with hundreds of items needing attention including a block from the Jack Wallace collection of British Columbia.

The last few weeks have also meant visits with my cousin, three of my brothers, and especially my mother who, during her final decline, is cheerful and rallies especially with a visitor.

Our trusted car remains in Bow Island. The last needed part arrived today, 31 days after it was ordered. Inevitable snow and icy conditions while driving two days through the mountains is a daunting and frightening task ahead. Our furniture, expected on a Friday, arrived the following Wednesday and we are mostly settled. Pictures are not hung because we will be painting a number of rooms and many dozens of cartons await the arrival of bookcases we have ordered.

Setting up my Office, well, my Stamp Den (actually a room with rows and stacks of boxes crowding out most of the useable space!) has played second fiddle to answering emails and quiet reading. In terms of re-establishing a thriving stamp business, progress has been slight, and my attention has been drifting elsewhere….

Then learning there was a table available at the bi-monthly Victoria Stamp and Postcard Fair this Sunday became the needed catalyst. There are a few days left to prepare quality stamps to offer those attending the bourse. Many collectors are unaware of the amount of time needed to grade then properly describe and price stamps or covers. It means that I’m back to work at last!


Crossing Canada until…

The ferry across Ontario’s Georgian Bay, from the tip of the Bruce Peninsula to Manitoulin Island, in a high wind with enormous swells. The mackerel pattern of clouds dominating the deep blue of a big prairie sky. Dozens of similar images and experiences will be memories of our drive across Canada.

We undertook the drive to experience Canada—the distance, scenery, and people—one kilometre at a time, and we were not disappointed. The delicious home-baked fruit pie in Northern Ontario, which can also be found in a hamlet in Saskatchewan, and in a small town nestled in the mountains. These temples to fresh whole fresh food are identifiable by the herd of pick-up trucks surrounding them.

On Canadian Thanksgiving we were on Alberta Route 3 heading west from Medicine Hat, when an eastbound sugar beet truck left us an unwelcome memento. In a micro-second we saw a large rock headed for the windshield. To our relief, it dropped just enough to smash through the grill.

The Rock

An unwelcome memento

Our car was going at quite high speed sandwiched between two other vehicles, and there was no shoulder to pull over. In any event the Honda Fit absorbed the rock without a shudder or any apparent discomfort. I wondered if it was not a rock but a clump of earth which had broken up on contact. As a result we continued on, passed the car ahead of us and proceeded with no apparent ill effect until a red light indicated an overheated engine.

So we pulled over and in the middle of many hectares of farmland with no cell phone signal and on a statutory holiday, we were stranded.

If I wanted to be negative I could tell you about subsequent dealings with the insurance company. Instead we were lucky to be only about four kilometers from the town of Bow Island and a succession of wonderful good Samaritans: John a farmer (immigrant from Holland) who towed us and refused any payment, Michael the lodge keeper (immigrant from Korea) who advised which unit was unlocked in his closed lodge.

Early the next morning the help and advice continued. Lynn of Bow Island Auto Service was highly recommended and, based only on a conversation and a handshake, we left our car with him. Upon inspection, he discovered that the rock had taken out the A/C condenser and lodged deep into the radiator, causing collateral damage behind. By early afternoon we were on our way in a rented vehicle, with the offending rock for a souvenir. There are some who would turn that 24 hour period into a very long chapter!

Visiting a sister, our daughter, mother, and a brother slowed down our pace and we are now in Victoria for a few days to arrange closing and other details of our new house before the expected arrival of our furniture on Friday.

The unpacking and organizing of the new stamp business awaits us.

-Ian Kimmerly,
October 21, 2014

Load more