Old China Town KL The Malaya Study Group Selangor SG 87

The Malaya Study Group exists for collectors of the stamps, postal stationery and postal history of the states of Peninsular Malaysia which until 1963 formed the Federation of Malaya, including the Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore, the Federated Malay States, Negri Sembilan and Sungei Ujong, Pahang, Perak and Selangor and the Unfederated States, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Trengganu. Many MSG members also collect & study all of modern Malaysia, Singapore, and the island of Borneo, comprising additionally  Sabah, Sarawak, Borneo, Labuan, and the states of Brunei & the peninsular state of Singapore. Study of the whole area so often adds to understanding and appreciation of the philately of Malaya. The Society has a JOURNAL, "The Malayan Philatelist" and a NEWSLETTER supplied free to members, EXCHANGE PACKETS, AUCTIONS and has produced a number of significant PUBLICATIONS on the stamps and postal history of the area.

The MSG OctoberAuction

October 3rd 2009

A report from Rob Holley & pictures from Nick Hackney

How times are a-changing..... Let me start this report with a story. Back in 1973 Robson Lowe Ltd sold old-time MSG member, James Dewey's collection. It included boxes and boxes of pre-war covers each estimated at around £30-40. Mouth-watering. After viewing, one of the staff suggested I also bid on one or two of the stamp lots “to avoid disappointment” (he must have known something), which I did, not even bothering to go back and view them. As expected, I failed to gain any of the p/h lots (another good story here too but not for today – are you smiling Malcolm?) but I was successful with several of the stamp lots including one of Trengganu. This contained all the pre-1941 stamps up to $5 apart from the MBEs but included many blocks and varieties of the Red Cross. Tucked at the back were the unissueds. The lot cost me £55, no add-ons then.

I recount this not to rub it in but to help explain how difficult it is for old-timers like me to adjust to what is happening now. Lots 180-183 & 190 of the October auction were the unissued Trengganu stamps offered singly. The first four went modestly enough at below one third of Gibbons' current valuations but each one was way above what I paid for my Trengganu lot in 1973. However, these realisations paled into insignificance compared to what lot 190 (the 3c unissued) fetched, which was a cool £720, although, I am told, this is still a little under what it is valued at now. It is no good me saying “is it worth it?” because, quite obviously, it is to the two gentlemen who bid the stamp up to that figure, but one cannot help wondering about this apparently remorseless inflation and whether it is going to end. What will the next one in our auction fetch? Maybe not so much in this case but it seems prices are destined to go forever higher and higher for the scarce/rare items. Presumably an auction reviewer 30 years from now will look back to 2009 and wonder at the cheapness of everything then. Moral: Buy now.

Most members I spoke to thought this was a good sale with a nice spread of stamps, postmarks, stationery and postal history, as well as a section of unusual items at the end to tickle the palate of those “who have everything”. Apart from the B overprints on Straits (of which 3 out of 4 didn't sell but they were a bit iffy), all the stamps went pretty well with few unsolds. Lot 7, the BMA 2c sheet fetched £210 against a reserve of £20, but as the sheet had a collective value of £2,300, it may well have been the bargain of the day! But I have to say that the reserve, a little more than 1% of cat value, was somewhat on the modest side. The pricey lots (lot 53, the Kedah inverted o/p, & lot 79 the Pahang bisects) just about met their reserves of £400 & £250 respectively but were certainly put into the shade by the Trengganu 3c! But then, there is nothing rare about either, particularly the bisects, and that tells the story.

Amongst the Straits, lot 123, was a QV 8c cancelled in Kuala Kangsar (not a rare mark by any means). It fetched £49 against a reserve of £10. Astonishing. Sorry to harp on about it, but back in 1973 one could pick such things out of any dealer's stockbook for a penny or two and the only reason one didn't was that you felt no need to because they would always be there. As I said, times are a-changing... To my amazement, the three postmark lots, 192-194, didn't sell, at least in the main auction, the auction secretary may have twisted an arm or two afterwards. Sometimes postmark lots go OTT in my estimation but these seemed worth their reserves. Amongst the postal stationery, I noticed lot 238, the Straits 2c orange card used 'On Postal Service' fetched £82 (res. £35), well-maintaining the standard set for such things in the previous auction.

The Mobile Post Office lot (245) reserved at £60 surprised the room by opening (and closing) at £160. Better value than the other postmark lots? The buyer obviously thought so. The postal history sprang few surprises but, although interesting, there was little to really excite and the covers in lots 286-291 failed to sell at all, which doesn't often happen in our auctions. One lot that did amaze me, however, was lot 301, the Johore cover bearing the 1938 10c PD. The reserve was at the extraordinarily low figure of £18 and this must have made potential buyers suspicious as the bidding ended at £62. Apart from being rather roughly opened at one side it was in good nick too, it being local, not one of the oven-brown types from India. I seem to remember when these PDs on cover started appearing some years ago they used to go for £300-400 so not everything is going up!

The two revenue stamps, the Kelantan $25 in lot 396, and the GVI Straits $25 in lot 397 comfortably exceeded their modest reserves of £100 & £50 at £325 & £290 respectively. The Kelantan stamp, particularly, was nice & fresh as it sometimes looks 'tired'. Finally, to the Miscellaneous section where there were some unusual items. The stars were probably the AR cards which sold well, particularly lot 422 the one bearing a Kangar 1946 cancel which went, predictably, to Malaya at £430 (res. £20). Perlis again. It seems to exude its own special kind of magic. Lot 423, the 1946 card bearing the rare straight line Yen reached £86 (res. £10). It must be at least as rare, or rarer than, Kangar. The 1910 one from Penang also well exceeded its reserve of £15 at £62. Don't hold your breathe waiting for another of this vintage!

Another year's auctions completed and our thanks to Roger for a hard year's work. Over 1200 lots have passed through his hands and although he has had help, it has been a mammoth task. He retires in 2010, I just hope there is someone else waiting in the wings to assume his responsibilities.

Rob Holley

Some pictures of the event are:

Peter Cockburn, Chairman & Auctioneer, taking about the proofs of Len Stanway's books


Roger Barry, Auction Manager


Brian Austin, assisting during the auction


Part of the room audience











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