Auction Agents

Lou Robbins also was inducted into the APS Hall of Fame roughly a decade ago and was an old time philatelist with whom I had a life long relationship. Lou was 98 when he died and had been living in assisted living for many years. Lou was primarily a stamp auction agent. A stamp auction agent in the modern on-line auction world is a bit like a buggy whip was in the early automotive era-decorative but for most people not very useful. An auction agent would attend all the philatelic auctions (and in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were 20 or more sales a month in New York alone) and would execute bids from clients. Dealers and collectors gave their bids to agents, rather than directly to the auction house, for one of four reasons-either they didn’t trust that the auction house would execute their bids fairly, perhaps disclosing their high bid to other bidders, or the bidders didn’t want the auction house to know their top bid in the event they were the winner, or the collector or dealer wanted an impartial eye to view the lots before the sale, or the bidder wished to limit or reduce his bids as the sale progressed depending on how much he had already bought. A good agent had a good eye and a quick mind. And Lou was the best of his time. When he came to our auctions in the 1960’s he would typically be bidding for thirty or more clients and they would usually be the heaviest hitters. Once, during a particularly heavy snow, Lou’s train from New York was late. There were no cell phones to alert us but we knew he was held up by forces beyond his control or he would be there. So we held up starting the session. In he finally ran, and he bid on lot one with his hat and coat still on.

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