Early Exhibitions

By Tony Buckingham


I thought I might share my early memories of learning the game. I was as many of you know a teacher by profession and like most stamp dealers started as a “kitchen table dealer” though in my case it was a box room described in typical estate agent jargon 3rd bedroom or baby’s room.

The year 1969, I started dealing in 1966 and had gradually built up a gift division. It was in fact a wholesale FDC new issue service but at the prices I charged and bad debts it was a loss leader. Now loss leaders are meant to draw new business not just lose money as I probably did in the early days.  I was of course building my name and was buying stocks collections etc in order to get the GB FDC I wanted for my retail and trade customers.

I was contacted by the Aldridge stamp society who told me that the Argyll stamp company had been forced to drop out and I had been highly recommended. Why Angus Parker should even consider travelling to Aldridge wasn’t really the question as I had no idea who the Argyll stamp company was.

For some mad reason we agreed and set about making our stock easier to sell.  My main business was simply selling decent FDC and a small stamp business to back it. We did though have thousands of various covers that we had no means of selling so we made up various trays 6d (2.5p) 1/- (5p)

2/6d (12.5p). Cath and I drove up to Kings Norton after School Friday evening staying with Cath’s parents we did this a lot as Roy Collier and I shared the problem of buying 5000 stamps for each new issue.

Early Saturday morning we drove to the hall and set of our table we were about 12 feet from the wall. We were made very welcome and waited with great trepidation to see if we would sell anything.

It was chaos we couldn’t take the money fast enough and by the end of the day we were driven back into the wall.

Once back in Kings Norton we counted up and to our amazement we had the equivalent of 3 weeks teaching. Of course we had driven 8 hours worked for 7 hours and had free accommodation but hey we had a fortune.

Our next venture was Cambridge an easy drive for us, we had the same basic idea selling the covers we didn’t want.

Again it worked well even though it upset my neighbour Henry Murray who was selling cover minimum price 5/- . He did mention underselling but I was too busy getting rid of unwanted covers to really understand. He then started to find covers in our trays but as he had had no customers he swapped a stock of his rail covers, I reckoned I could wholesale them along with our Scotsman covers so was happy. Henry was very ill but didn’t know it at the time so was unusually grumpy. He told me he was a rail specialist and there was a big Rail show in Brussels. He missed out on a stand but met stamps got one even though they didn’t really does rail. Not knowing what to do with his rail covers I put them in my 5/- tray. Timing is everything and a few minutes later Met stamps came and promptly bought them all poor old Henry I thought he would explode. What wiped the smile of my face was when Michael Goodman told me the 1911 Westminster Abbey CDS FDC I had sold recently was worth 10 times what I sold it for, then screwed me on a superb  1841 Blue on cover with a great number in cross. There again I often got a bargain from him over the years so as they say swings and roundabouts.


Our third and final trip from Bedford was to Oxford ,a Mark Jarmain show at the Randolph Hotel. This was more of a wake our stand was in the middle of a run and the West Region staffs were bored and thirsty seemingly passing on with trays full of pints of beer. They got more and drunk as the days crawled buy. On the stand next to us a young couple were basically making love fully clothed on their table. By today’s standards very tame but unusual in 1970. I always tried to pay for the trips with buying and wandered round the room looking for hidden treasure. On the stand behind me I found a great bargain if memory serves me it was 1/- and I reckoned £20 so as Clint would say it made my day. As they hadn’t sold anything at all they had trouble giving me change. While waiting they told me they had stayed overnight in the hotel (ouch) and paid 10/- for overnight parking. I felt guilty about my bargain but not for long as the drunken West Region lot was again getting boisterous and the sex show was continuing on the next table. I think we both could have won a giggling contest.

In the summer of 1971 we moved to Kent where I took up my post as deputy headmaster so exhibitions went in limbo for a year but we started again in 1972 as well as opening a shop and will tell you more in a future article.

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