Sixty Cartons

Recently I went to see a collection of a life long customer of my father and my grandfather. Harry had died in 2005 but before that there was rarely an auction of ours that he hadn’t attended buying many different countries, but concentrating mainly on United States, Canada and Israel. Our records, which go back over twenty years, show that in the ten years before he died he had spent over $30,000 in our auctions and he had been at least as big a buyer since the 1940’s as he had been in recent years. It was with great expectations that I arrived at his wife’s house when she called. The beginning was not auspicious. “I didn’t wait long after Harry died”, said Mrs Harry “to move his stamps. Boxed them up in cartons and moved them down the basement. Nice to have the room. Didn’t want his mess around.”

 Down the basement we went and lined on the floor, stacked four high were 60 large book cartons. The basement was damp. I was scared. The first carton I opened was from the top of the stack and was pretty bad, mildew on the albums, ruining them, and all of the mint stamps either stuck together or to the albums that they were in. The cartons lower on the stack, closer to the floor, were worse. People worry about fire and flood when it comes to their personal property, but with philatelic material the enemy that damages most stamps is damp. Its insidious, works slowly over time, sticking mint stamps together and usually staining them as bacteria feeds on the paper in damp environments producing “foxing” which is nearly impossible to remove. Mrs Harry hadn’t completely ruined all of her philatelic inheritance. But she had diminished it to where what should have been worth several hundred thousand dollars was now worth less than twenty.

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