The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

By Tony Buckingham
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Background Info
With over 30 years experience, Tony Buckingham is recognised worldwide as a leading authority on first day and commemorative covers. He was the first winner of the prestigious Rowland Hill Award for his contribution to philately.

Together with wife Cath, Tony founded and ran Benham Covers (the UK’s largest cover publisher) until he sold the company in 1997.

He edited Collect FDC for nearly 20 years and has served on the Philatelic Trade Society Council. He is a regular contributor to Stamp Magazine, Gibbons Stamp Monthly and other leading collectables publications.

He has also recently published his autobiography 'Gravediggers Apprentice.' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gravediggers-Apprentice-Tony-Bucking ... apprentice

Buckingham Covers is based in Folkestone, Kent (South East England). It was founded in 2000, by 2 of the world's leading names in covers, Tony and Cath Buckingham.

Buckingham Covers, are designed and made in Folkestone and have grown and grown in popularity since then - and in most cases, doubled or tripled in price.

More people work here now but we are still a small company with a passion for covers, quality, customer service, charity fund raising and treating people decently.

Image


Story of a Stamp Dealer Chapter 1

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I have been asked before I go to that stamp collection in the sky to write about my stamp history. So I thought I would do a few mini chapters for you to peruse.

Group Captain Randle used to say he had been done by the best - I added I have been done by the rest. It was only when I started thinking about my start that I remembered my first time.

KIWI RELATION

I was eight years old and like many of my generation a keen stamp collector (also a train spotting sad case) I of course collected the World. We were visited by a distant relation from Upside Down land that must have come over for the Coronation.

I proudly showed him my collection and he told me to stop collecting everything and to concentrate on GB and the Empire. I asked him what to do with the stamps I didn’t want and he said swap them, sell them, barter them for those that I did want.

So I became a mini dealer, fairly working catalogue value for catalogue value. Most of my friends were delighted to get 20-40 stamps in exchange for one but I was gradually building my mainly GB collection.

I also bought from a local collector dealer, Woolworth, and a stamp shop in St Albans when my parents went shopping. I distinctly remember being caught in class with my album and the teacher threw it in the waste paper basket together with the milk bottle tops, I was distraught but luckily a friend rescued it.

A month or so later my collection was stolen, an investigation was started and to my horror when it as found, the thief turned out to be the very same ‘friend’ who rescued it from the bin!

**End of Chapter 1**


Chapter 2

ABCD Stamps

By the time I went to Grammar School I was making up books of stamps to sell. I teamed up with a friend, Christopher Davies, he was known as the genius because he topped the Maths paper in the whole area (I was a miserable second.) We formed a business called the ‘ABCD Stamp Company.’

I used to go to the stamp club auctions and buy the collections no one wanted. They had probably been bought three or more time before, each time the good stamps being removed.

We counted at random 100 and put them in brown envelopes and sold them for 6d. One smug six former bought a packet and found a stamp catalogued £10, he came back to boast and to make us feel small. It was a great selling opportunity, we told everyone and sold loads more packets very quickly.

That first business lasted until I was 15 when I discovered not all women were called mummy and embarked on another hobby. (Safe to say train spotting also went at the same time!)

However, the seeds of my future in the stamp world had already been sown…

**End of Chapter 2**

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(Fingers Crossed this meets the Message Board rules)

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by Madstars »

Awesome,
Keep it up Tony.

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by Global Administrator »

Buckingham Covers has been advised that new threads here *MUST* have a photo. Rule 11, which is also pure common sense of course.

http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2556

95% of these reading this have zero idea of who Tony Buckingham is and was, or what he looks like, so there is a perfect start. :mrgreen:

A potted Biog in post #1 may also be wise.

All members can edit for an hour.
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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by mcgooley »

This could be fun :D

Just remember to disguise the identities of the guilty... stamp collecting is the land of the long knives (and longer memories!)

As an addendum to Glen's post, by placing your 'stamp' on this thread you can save yourself some grief in the way of copyright.

Trust me :roll:
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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

I'm trying to add photos but failing! Uploaded on Imgur, have I timed out now :(

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by JKA »

Yes keep posting more. Always nice to read such artitcles. :D

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by Belti »

I look forward to more posts as it was interesting reading your article.
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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1 & 2)

Post by dukeprince »

Please don't stop, continue the jorney, takes me back to when life was far more pleasurable, a packet of stamps was a joy.

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 1)

Post by Global Administrator »

BuckinghamCovers wrote:
I'm trying to add photos but failing! Uploaded on Imgur, have I timed out now :(
OK, have merged the other topic into this one to keep it all in one place!

Glen
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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by MargoZ »

Many thanks for persevering with the initial steps, Jake.
Looking forward to the next instalment!

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 3) Tony Buckingham - UK

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

TEACHING

When I filled in my application for a teaching post I put in stamp collecting as a hobby. I arrived at my new school, Brickhill in Bedford, and was immediately told I was running the stamp club (also the Country Dancing Club but that’s another story.) When I asked who ran it before I was told, “No one, you’re starting it.”

Trouble with running the stamp club was that there was nowhere for members to buy stamps so I had to organise it all. Many wanted first day covers so I bought blanks from Barrington Smith and organised it from there. At first in 1966 it was just Bedford FDI (First Day of Issue) but gradually we gather special postmarks. The seeds sown at school were certainly sprouting!

OPPORTUNITY

Cath and I were buying lots of paint and extra things for our new house from an ironmongers on the Bedford High Street called Goldings (its still there today!) The owner at the time, Mr Laine had a small window that was not being used and suggested I sold stamps in the shop.

In August 1967 we went on holiday and left him virtually my whole stock, no sooner had we returned that he was chasing me for more after selling almost all of what I had left him! For 4 years I organised selling through him, going in after school and then gradually adding other shops in the area to my portfolio.

I was now buying from auctions, STAMPEX and BPE and at various stamp shows across the country. Meanwhile more and more people wanted my First Day Cover service and I was extending it by selling them to other collectors and dealers.

By 1969 I was supplying a good number of dealers and had a small retail business advertising in Stamp Weekly, things were beginning to take shape…
*End of Chapter 3*
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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 4)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Stamp Fairs

I was starting to attend stamp shows on a more regular basis now, my first was in Aldridge, we had loads of cheap covers and had trays of 6d, 1/- and 2/6d each.

We started the day 12 feet from the wall and ended up pinned to it, I think we took nearly £200 and for poor teachers it seemed an absolute fortune! After the success at Aldridge we moved onto to Oxford and then Cambridge.

The dealer on the next stand was Henry Murray who was very upset at the time as another dealer, ‘Met Stamps,’ had somehow got a stand at a big rail exhibition in Belgium and Henry, a rail specialist, hadn’t.

What made things worse for him that day was trying to compete with our trays of 6d, 1/-, 2/6d and 5/-, it’s safe to say he had a bad day all round. He even came over to us mid-way through the day and found loads of cheap covers, he hadn’t taken any money, so swapped about 100 of his 5/- rail covers in exchange. Knowing I had sold Scotsman covers to the trade previously I took his rail covers, assured I could sell them again.

Henry’s day went from bad to worse though when his nemesis, ‘Met Stamps’ turned up, found lots of rail covers in my trays and bought the 100 covers Henry had just swapped with me. Poor old Henry, not a good day for him, he even ended up in hospital shortly afterwards.

The Seventies

In 1971 I learned a valuable lesson, DO NOT throw away order forms, and make sure to KEEP your records. ‘Stamp Collecting’ (Editor Richard West) went bankrupt due to the postal strike, and with his bankruptcy went my small retail business. Luckily, because I was supplying most of the other dealers I swapped to wholesale only. Phew!

In 1972, a new chapter in my dealing started, I got a Deputy Head teaching post and moved to Hythe, Kent. What followed from that? Stay tuned for chapter 5 tomorrow.

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by jimwentzell »

GREAT thread, looking forward for more.

I especially like the references to prices.

Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
--Jim in Georgia always interested in postal history, covers & cards (no FDC)
B u y - s e l l - t r a d e .................................... e - m a i l .. m e !

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 3) Tony Buckingham

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Buckingham Covers' First Issue of 2016
Ernest Shackleton Endurance Expedition 100 Years
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Shackleton was born in Cill Dara.......not many people know that. :mrgreen:

Tony Buckingham is a legend........everyone knows that. :)

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 5)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 5)
Employing Staff

It always amuses me that on Sunday you are responsible for yourself but if on Monday you take on an employee, suddenly you apparently should know all 20,000 regulation regarding law and safeguarding!

It wasn't so bad nearly 50 years ago when I first started but there were still many pitfalls.

My lists were typed on skins by Cath to start with, she used to run them off of the school Roneo. I felt guilty making Cath do it so i employed a "proper secretary" in the evenings. I have to admit the results were not as good. Salvation turned into 'Salutions', p/mks became 'Pimms' and more outrageous prangs I care to remember!

Also I didn't realise the skins were not meant to be pink, they should have been blue, the "proper secretary" was very fast but a wholly inaccurate typist and the pink was correction fluid.

Hythe

As I mentioned in chapter 4, we moved to Hythe in 1972 and I advertised for help early on. The only applicant told me she was a typical Nordic blond etc, my vision wasn't that of an Opera star... in short, she was a disaster.

It finally came to a head when I couldn't find my standing order book (which basically WAS my business.) She apparently wanted to make it nicer, took it home and lost it! You can imagine my panic.

I didn't drive at the time so Cath took me to her house, it wasn't a great meeting and we eventually found the book in her dustbin! Thankfully the collection wasn't until the next day. She told me I was a horrid man and didn't want to work for me anymore, as if I would have wanted her!

**Chapter 6 to follow on Tuesday 22nd December**

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By Tony Buckingham

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Madstars »

Keep it coming Tony, this is wonderful Christmas Reading.

I am loving it, thank you for sharing.

Geoff

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 6)

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 6)

BACK TO RETAIL

In 1973 I started again with my retail business when I acquired 'Trend Supply Service,' this was followed by a string of purchases that ended up with having 1000's of standing order customers. These were dealt with by a husband and wife from their home.

By this time I had also opened my first shop in the Malthouse in Hythe, eventually employing a great pair of oldies to run it.

A YEAR OF FEAR/EXCITEMENT

I finally left teaching in July 1975, I was sad, not only did I thoroughly enjoy my job but I had aspirations to become a Head Teacher before I left and felt that Deputy was a small failure. Cath had left teaching a year earlier and so we had no regular income to rely on.

As you can imagine, we were both extremely apprehensive and instead of enjoying the beautiful beaches that summer, we worked hard going to small stamp exhibitions and continuing to do more lists.

We had been trying to sell our house for years; finally we had a firm sale and went on holiday to Majorca for a week to chase the Winter sun (we never caught it,) on our return we had two letters. GULP!

The first saying the purchasers had to be in by Christmas, the other, from our Surveyor saying the old lady wouldn't let him in. We found out later we were the 6th unlucky would be buyers.

We took the decision we would sell and set about trying to find somewhere quickly as it was well into November. As luck would have it we found a brand new house where the developer needed to sell before the end of the year for tax reasons and we were perfect as we were cash buyers. The bad news was we really couldn't afford it, so we borrowed extra and moved in just before Christmas.

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By Tony Buckingham
**Chapter 7 tomorrow**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by chaddy »

Loving the thread. Keep it coming please
STAMPS ARE NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 7)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 6)


A GOOD BANKER!

We rented a shop, well stand, in the Hythe Malthouse I mentioned in Chapter 6, but it was rapidly going downhill by the time we arrived, so we bought a shop at 53a High Street.

The Bank Manager backed us, apparently against the advice of head office and we backed ourselves to succeed in the new premises. It was only shortly after that we were offered the chance to buy out a big rival, 'Pilgrim Philatelics.'

We eventually agreed to pay about three times more than originally expected, mainly because the stock was so big. We were so frightened that night that myself and Cath both ended up walking the streets of Folkestone separately in an attempt to clear our minds. Ironically we both came to the conclusion that we could sell our house and move into a cottage in Sandgate (the same one.)

We conclude that if that was the worst that could happen then it wasn't that bad, so we just ploughed on and were working in the office by 4am!

I saw the Bank Manager to update him and he told me he didn't want to to know, "just make it work." He had had enough trouble getting the mortgage for the shop to be signed off and didn't want to hear of anything that might come back at him from head office.

SUMMER STRESS

We did have another BIG problem in 196, the heat! We couldn't work most of the day so we got up and worked from 6am till 10am, then we manned the phone lying in the sun till 4pm, then went back to working inside till late.

Friends thought we had a dream job sun bathing all day, not realising the hours we put in out of sight.

By buying our 'Pilgrim Philatelics' it gave us a stand at STAMPEX, another frightening experience but I'll focus on that in a later chapter.

Later in 1976 we rented offices in Hythe and officially completed our journey from amateur to professional, buying Pilgrim might have been a real scare but it is without doubt one of the best things we ever did.

The buy made us the biggest cover dealers in Great Britain and started us out in the business of producing official covers.

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By Tony Buckingham

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Madstars »

Awesome story Tony, please keep it coming.

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 8)

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Story of a Stamp Dealer Chapter 8


PROBLEMS OF THEFT

I mentioned earlier of Group Captain Randle who said he had done by the best and I added I'd been done by the rest. Well here's why!

I have had some horrendous experiences with dishonesty including the bookkeeper known locally as 'Mr Cash.' When he left us, we think driven out by an even worse thief I found some amazing things. For example; we had one customer who paid with £50 notes but no cash was received by us. He got a credit note on his account but the cash mainly went towards fruit machines!

Mr Cash stopped being Mr Cash after he stopped working for us.

Brian Uden (former colleague) was depressed as his shop takings had dropped by some £400 a week over a long period. Immediately I thought he had a theft problem, it turned out a member of staff was removing cash and replacing it with cheques he had purloined earlier, so when Brian went to lunch there was say £300 in the till, £200 of which was cash. Afterwards £300 in the till but only £75 in cash. They were also apparently running a private detective agency, removing good stamps from approval booklets and replacing them with damaged ones.

Early on I sent all my best stock to a shop on the Yorkshire coast, the parcel 'never' arrived and that set me back a year.

My first BIG one was a theft of a complete Tarifold display system from our Hythe shop. It was worth about £10,000, which believe me 40 years ago was a lot of money. I won't go into too much detail as some years later I stupidly called out to a thief coming into York Stamp Show, ''I see they let tea leaves in here.''

One of the elder statesmen, a friend, took me to one side telling me 'in our country we don't mind murder, rape, blackmail etc but take libel very seriously.'

I solved the problem in a dream (nightmare,) obviously I had worked it out but couldn't believe my findings. The thief left, we hadn't enough proof for a court case but not before he had had £1,000 plus, back claiming he had that in the Tarifold. The loss adjuster finished it off by reducing the claim to £6,500 then saying we were under-insured, so we got £4,500.

Ironically Rowland Hill made amends (1979 stamp issue) providing us with missing colours on the sheet giving us basically all the money we lost.

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By Tony Buckingham

**End of Chapter 8**

Have a great Christmas break! I will continue the story in the New Year.
If you can't wait I have schedule in Chapters 9 & 10 on our blog which will go out before the New Year. https://www.stampsandcollectables.co.uk

F.A.O Moderators: Sorry if links are not allowed, please remove. Thanks

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by 60022Mallard »

Relating to another topic, can you slip in reference to how you "handle" the odd thousand or ten stamps that you have passed through your hands.

http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=67617

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 9)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Happy New Year everyone! You may have seen the next two chapters on our blog over the festive period but I will post them on here over the next two days for everyone anyway.

Story of a Stamp Dealer Chapter 9
THEFT CONTINUED…

The next one was really frightening and nearly ruined us. It involved what was called the ‘Benham Back Door.’ I’m convinced if we hadn’t caught the main operator that ‘Benham‘ would not have made the 90’s. As it is, they are now our rivals and are situated less than 20 yards away from us in the same Folkestone Business Park!

There were so many fiddles going on that Nero would have been proud! We lost at least £500,000 over a number of years, one person went to jail but the police totally muffed it, I remember the DC kept saying he was a professional and I did not know what I was doing, that is until the court case, then he turned into a headless chicken. Ironically I ended up with a libel case. Turned out my friend at York was right about the UK and our fixation on libel!

It had a big effect on my family life, my Mother died just after we had stopped the theft, but I always think I could have done more for her.

On top of the big ones, we were regularly plucked at shows, my favourite story was when in the ‘Royale Stamp Shop,’ one of my best customers walked in. Immediately all of the staff appeared and watched him closely, very closely.

I realised of course they thought him a thief and of course good customers get privileges which makes it easy to steal. We found out later the man had used various names.

The next show at the Cafe Royal, all of us watched him like a hawk, but he stole there! Picking up rare covers and passing them on before security picked him up.

On him he had thousands in various currencies and a number of 1948 Silver Wedding FDC in his car, these were not stolen from us, so I tried to trace the owner for the police but with no luck. It was only later I realised they were all forgeries and the £1 had been added, I was looking at them in completely the wrong way.

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By Tony Buckingham

**End of Chapter 9**

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 10)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of a Stamp Dealer Chapter 10
MAKING AN EXHIBITION OF OURSELVES

I’ve mentioned our first exhibitions at Aldridge and Cambridge, while we were at Bedford in Chapter 1. Once we moved to Hythe we gradually extended our range. Often we would pack up after school on the Friday evening and do two shows over a weekend, Saturday & Sunday. As you can imagine it was hard work bearing in mind school first thing Monday morning!

One weekend stands out, we started at Deal, Kent which was OK. As usual a local vicar looked longingly at some rare GB FDC, but as usual, saying he would think about them, which was par for the course, he never actually bought any!

We then went to Alexandra Palace on the Sunday. I mentioned Henry Murray as well in previous Chapters; he was in a feud with his ex-partner, both trading under the name Arlington. He apparently decided to embarrass the Arlington’s by doing what I had done at Cambridge, without meaning to, by selling cheap.

He arrived (well, an old man carried an enormous trunk in) and once on his stand Henry threw open the lid with the sign saying everything 25p each. The locusts descended (me first, of course! King locust) and had a field day. Ironically as we had bought 40% of the covers before the show opened his idea backfired, but believe me I was very pleased with my purchases!

Meanwhile, Cath was approached by a new dealer in GB FDC who was apparently going to put us in our place. he bought about 10 rare covers for a few thousand pounds writing the cheque with a flourish. It wasn’t long before he couldn’t write cheques by himself, as they say, ‘buying is the easy part.’

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By Tony Buckingham

**End of Chapter 10**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by mcgooley »

Keep it up, Tony :D

Your experiences are an eye-opener... to say the least :shock:

All the very best for 2016
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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by sp00nybi11 »

Thanks Tony for sharing your story! It is a great read so far

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 11)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

The Story of a Stamp Dealer Chapter 11


EXHIBITIONS CONTINUED..

It wasn't long before we went up in the world doing two day shows, starting in York at the racecourse, boy did we feel important, as well as scared. Our first York show was in January and it was the coldest I had ever known, the air seemed to remove your skin as you got out of the car!

Mark Jarmain, who ran the show had not organised heating, and despite coat, gloves and scarves we were freezing. There was, as you can imagine, mutiny in the air, Mark organised some industrial heaters that looked like rockets and terrified everyone.

It was not a great show for us, unlike the next one in the Autumn, when we had three main customers in the first hour, after that though it was an anti-climax. I can still remember one RAF collector going through 100 or so rare covers. He handed me about 10, which I was delighted to sell, but no they were the ones he did not want, he bought the 90 plus that were remaining!

We were then invited to join the UK Travelling Circus, a group of top dealers who organised 2 day shows but that's another story...


HITTING THE BIG TIME

Our first UK Travelling Circus exhibition was in Plymouth and we went in style. I booked us a car train overnight sleeper and arrived about 6am so we thought we would be the first, but no, Martin and Pearl Townsend were already there. You obviously had to get up very early in the morning to get there before them.

Covers were of course our main business but we did have a stamp shop and a good stamp side. The vultures descended on us early, getting their bargains and laughing at us behind our backs or boasting to our faces. I could never understand this stupidity, firstly its very rude and also bad business. I never once bought a single bargain cover, I preferred to buy a few extra covers so the dealer didn't realise what I really wanted, after all he might have another one another day.

At the end of the two days we drove back, as all were going back the long way, M5 then M4, living in Folkestone we thought the coast road made more sense. I didn't drive at the time so Cath drove for 8 hours, it was totally stupid and we were lucky to get back full stop!

We did a number of these shows, including one at Bath where we had a superb show, apparently taking more than the rest combined. However, we shocked all of the other dealers by dropping out of them after the Bath success, it was interfering with our business, taking 4 days out of the office plus preparation time.

By Tony Buckingham
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**END OF CHAPTER 11**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by dukeprince »

Keep it comming Tony , its of huge interest how the Stamp market works, most of us think its money for jam, your stories suggest hanging on by fingertips is more like it.

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 12)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

The Story of a Stamp Dealer
I mentioned in the last chapter of our decision to drop out of the Travelling Circus despite our success in Bath. However, we did have one amusing story from Bath that I must recall.

I had bought a large collection of stamps at a local furniture auction, it was a gift at £400, and I was selling album pages at great prices from the collection.

One page of penny blacks and blues was priced at £350, a leading dealer placed £350 in cash on the table, removed one stamp, told me it was a **** (in truth I've no idea what he said), told me I was stupid and then gave me back the page.

I repriced the remainder of the page at £300 and sold it within the hour. Ever since he has denied it happened! Nevertheless, £650 for one page, out of three albums that cost me £400 to buy was more than a little pleasing. To this day I've never understood why such a collection was in a furniture auction, it's always made me check obscure auctions since though.

Radio Gaga

At Leeds, a local radio station wanted someone to talk to regarding stamps, it was amazing how quickly all the dealers disappeared. In the end I was the only volunteer/sucker/victim. Apparently I was brilliant, I suppose being an experienced teacher helped (Cath would say it was because I had a big mouth!)

On a separate note, one thing I can tell you is, its hard work driving to Newcastle, unloading, then loading back up and driving all the way back down to the coast in Folkestone. Cath was amazing, she was doing all of the driving as I didn't get a full license until 1978 after Ellie was born 'necessity being the mother of invention', as they say, I lost my chauffeur.

Eventually we stopped doing even the one day shows which was sad, we had met so many collectors who had become customers and friends for some 30-40 years!

By Tony Buckingham
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**END OF CHAPTER 12**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by dukeprince »

Maybe he mumbled VR in corners, still dont understand why he would not just grab the lot, keep it comming great stories.

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Madstars »

Thanks Tony. A Great Read.

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 13)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

The Story of a Stamp Dealer


THE ROAD TO STAMPEX

It all really began in September 1970, Cath and I visited Philympia and met our namesakes Kath and Keith Buckingham (actually De Vere Buckingham). They ran a firm called Gainsborough Stamps in Newbury, again, a coincidence as my aunt and Grandmother lived there, as had my mother at some time. They were new and hadn't got a lot of stock, I suggested I lent them mine and a relationship grew.

Every STAMPEX and BPE I provided a great cover stock and on the Saturday or half-term I worked on their stand. Thinking about it, it was a great deal for them. I paid my own expenses, worked free and gave them a decent percentage of my take. I was young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, very tall and full of charm (well some thought so!)

This lasted until we bought Pilgrim and we had our own stand in 1977. I will never forget that first one, we were both terrified, this was the first division. We woke very early and walked round St James Park before braving the show. I am always grateful to a stamp dealer who spent about £800 early on the first day, which helped us calm our nerves (we were also stamp dealers via our shop).

In those days we were not great with magazines, which meant shows were much busier, and at times we have 30 customers round our small corner stand. Gradually we dropped stamps and made our stand covers only, then booking a second one for our stamp shops.

Luck isn't always in at the stamp shows though, I remember on one grim dark November night I was going from the cover stand to the stamp stand in the other hall. I trod on a nail and limped in, Brian Uden and co on the stamp stand thought it very funny, until he drew it out and realised how deep it had gone in. I was then rushed off to hospital for checking and tetanus injections!

I mentioned the 1970 International (Philympia) earlier and while going round buying I had two funny experiences. At one enormous stand, ran by Pat O'Connell, there were some very cheap covers. I asked a distinguished older man if I could buy 50 of each (I was happy to pay full price). He went over to Pat obviously to enquire if I could have 50 and could he give me a discount. The reply 'what cut me bleeding throat', but he did let me pay the full price.

The second one was at a prestige stand, where to the side there were about 80 penny blacks on cover, at what seemed to me to be a gift price each. I asked why they were so cheap, the answer? They were 'not the sort of thing we sell OUR customers'! Suffice to say I bought the lot and sol them all trade within a week or so, the shopkeepers were constantly wanting more! Just shows horses for courses.

I really enjoyed the stamp exhibition, meeting our collectors and hearing the latest stamp gossip. Something I'll always miss.

By Tony Buckingham
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**END OF CHAPTER 13**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Raz »

Great stuff! Thanks for the fine stories and anecdotes about stamps.
Surfing stamps and covers, KED VIII, and Newfoundland.
Europa and Canada and any comic related stamps.

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 14)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of a Stamp Dealer


HITTING THE BIG TIME

As with everything we did, we did not believe we were ready for STAMPEX. We worked round the clock getting the stock ready, and booked ourselves into the St Ermines, which was the unofficial Stampex HQ. We hired the firemen (still use them, though not necessarily the same ones) to take everything to the Horticultural Halls.

We were up at the crack of dawn walking in the park, 'what were we doing? We must be mad!'

The show opened at 11am on Tuesday and a dealer called David Mortimer came and spent over £500 on stamps, I have always had a soft spot for him as he steadied our nerves. We scraped on during the day and for us had a reasonable total, but compared with the others, ours was peanuts.

We went out for dinner that evening with a GB dealing couple, they suggested the Cavendish Hotel, which in those days had an excellent restaurant. I can remember swallowing at the wine price, particularly as they ordered two bottles! They had had a fantastic day and what we didn't realise was that the first day was critical for the elite dealers.

We were very different, we slogged it out everyday and by Saturday evening our overall figure was not bad, we realised we catered for 1000's of ordinary collectors, rather than a few rich ones.

At times we had 40-50 customers round the stand, it was hectic, but very exciting. We learned how to survive Stampex quickly.

In the lead-up to future Stampex, I shocked the stamp world by placing full page buying advertisements for FDC. I also dropped the stamps to focus on covers and was told again by the 'knowledgeableold hands' how stupid I was.

I realised that by placing the ads in magazines just ahead of Stampex that I was guaranteed to have new stock throughout the week. It worked perfectly and I was buying and then selling the same covers within minutes at the stand.

Next Chapter we go Dutch...

By Tony Buckingham
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**End of Chapter 14**

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 15)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of Stamp Dealer


Going Dutch

The obvious next step was the International Exhibitions; we visited Hafnia in Copenhagen in 1976. I remember tipping the taxi driver and then realising from his grin as he drove off that I had got the currency wrong.

I had given him the equivalent of a £250 tip, which with currency restrictions left us extremely poor! We had a hamburger from a stall and Cath got food poisoning, we have never been back, I hate Danish taxi drivers.

Anyway, back to The Netherlands; we booked ourselves into the 1977 Amphilex show in Amsterdam. We were worried about the journey so we did a dummy run from Sheerness first. I was almost arrested for carrying too much cash. Much to the policeman's disappointment Cath had no cash so I split it making us legal again.

A few months later, after Stampex, we drove our stock to Amphilex and found we had a dreadful stand, it took two days before anyone found us. We also discovered our beautifully organised trays were useless, so we changed everything to 2 guilders, 5 guilders etc, this worked and gradually we did better.

In contrast, the social events were fantastic, the World's Post Offices showing off. I think it was the beginning of the end for ostentation, but for two ex-teachers it was amazing.

We stayed in an old world, supposedly luxury hotel, we shared it with the mice that seemed to be everywhere.

It was an exciting show and despite the lousy stand, we booked for Capex in Toronto for 1978, little did we know Cath would be busy having Ellie at the same time.

By Tony Buckingham
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**End of Chapter 15**

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by dukeprince »

A short note to say I used to be a Taxi driver in Hafnia , one day I got enough money to immigrate to Aussie, just jesting Tony , keep it going its great .

A few years ago I bought a big lot of Mint China stamps at a fair , they were listed in small lots on ebay and most sold to China , great I thought this is easy money.

Then Paypal decided to refund more than half the deals due to buyer excuses that ruled in their favour in spite of facts, so I stopped selling them.

Last year as I sometimes do, I go to a car boot sale and have a stall with bits and pieces and Stamps as well, I sold a few stamps and up comes this Chinese Guy with broken English and asked if I had China stamps , we arrange to meet at home for a viewing later .

He bought a friend and told me they were Welders on a local project and between them cleaned me out of China and others for aprox A$1000 , cash so lady luck solved that problem .

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Madstars »

Keep it coming Tony.... I am loving it.

CHeers

Geoff

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The Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 16)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Sorry it's been a while since the last chapter, I expect that this week will be the final week of Chapters so I hope you enjoy! Thank-You for reading so far...

Story of a Stamp Dealer


International Stamp Shows

These were the last big shows at which Post Offices threw money to show how important they were. The receptions and food were amazing and it would have been better had our stand not been 20 miles from the entrance. Actually I'm exaggerating, it was probably only 19 miles, well it seemed like it.

We also had to change quickly the way we offered our covers, but by day three we were doing OK, mainly because everyone else had sold out!

The 10 days in Amsterdam at Amphilex were simply amazing, but getting there and back, not so good. We were worried about customs, so we went to see them before leaving and a really nice senior officer kindly filled in our forms for us. When we arrived the next day we were asked; 'what idiot filled them in?' Just what we wanted to hear!

On our return to Dover we were welcomed and were told they knew about us as we were Government sponsored, but no one would sign our papers. After 3 hours they said leave the stock and come back the next day, I asked for someone to guarantee its safety and sign a receipt, they signed our papers instead. This was the start of our customs experiences.

The next big one was Capex in Toronto, but Cath couldn't come as Ellie was due to be born. Group Captain Randle (who you're all familiar with by now) kindly offered to get our stock out for us and even leant us an officer to help promote the RAF covers on the stand. So Bill King and I flew out, but alas the stock didn't.

Cath, 8 months pregnant at this stage, battled hard for us and eventually the stock was found in Trenton. Upon hearing I had no idea how far it was from Toronto. It took three days to drive there and back!

By Tony Buckingham
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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 17)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of a Stamp Dealer


Pain in the Customs

In Amsterdam the sales of the Isle of Man Europa Sheets saved us, in Toronto it was the 1978 building sheet. These had been rationed and I complained that we had been short changed, and once finished we were owed a lot more.

Well we scraped through with the FDC, then just as I was leaving 1000 sheets turned up. I took them with me as they were selling out, believe it or not at over £8 each.

I offered them at £5 each and even less to dealers, Bill King who flew out with me was furious, he said they would be £20 each soon. I replied simply that I've bills to pay and 60p to £5 looked good to me, I sold the 1000 and it made the show.

When we got got back someone was offering 50p each for the plastic sleeves they were sold in, as they were going to be in the year set, I sold 5000 and again Bill thought I was mad. I always thought back to 1978 when a few years later I saw the sheets being used for postage, £20 to 40p.

I did a lot of German shows, Essen, Cologne, Hamburg... Although I am glad not to be in the Euro, I can see the advantages. To leave Germany you were stopped at border customs, you started with Deutchmarks and paid a deposit as you leave Germany, you got it back Guilders, Belgian or French Francs. Every bank takes its cut, then you are told the French will send it on, we were pre-warned this could be 6 months, we still didn't have the money after 6 months, so cue yet another fight!

You get the paperwork, are passed through ten offices and once you have reached the tenth you understand it's a game you can't win. A lorry driver on the border once told me he had been stuck there for 3 days.

Believe me I could write a book on our customs experiences; the thing that always got me was no one ever looked at the stock, the god was paperwork.

By Tony Buckingham

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 18)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of a Stamp Dealer


War & Peace - My Relationship with the Post Office

I always joke I am either blue eyed boy or scum bag of the week. Certainly over the years I have had my ups and downs with the GPO, Post Office, Royal Mail, Consignia and Post Office Counters.

We offered recently a coin cover produced by Royal Mail which had a £10 stamp and a £5 coin. It was originally offered at £15 inclusing VAT and the cost of the envelope. It was a classic example of unfair trading. I am not sure what the £5 coin would have cost me, but to give you an idea we were trying to buy the 50p Battle of Britain coin and Royal Mint will not sell us them as they only deal with 'preferred partners'. We could get them at £8 each, in a pack, but collectors would assume we paid 50p!

We were constantly up against unfair trading and finally I snapped and went to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). They looked at my case and asked one serious question "Why had I not complained before?"

The investigation lasted nearly two years and we eventually won. I had great help from most cover dealers, with the notable exception of one, who didn't want to upset them. Without this victory I do not think Benham would have done so well, it may not have even survived.

My first fight was over VAT on FDC, the GPO (enough abbreviations for you?) didn't charge, but we had to. I complained and it went to a tribunal, I hoped they would win, I would not have to charge VAT. However they lost and it didn't make me popular.

In the late seventies we had problems with corruption in some London Post Offices, if a particular FDC was popular, extras were being done. I regularly brought this to the attention of senior figures, but nothing was done. Eventually I cornered the big boss in Toronto at Capex, he said give me evidence or shut up.

We got evidence and gave it to him and the City of London Fraud Squad were brought in and I had to go to London. The Chief Inspector was rude to me saying I had not brought it to him soon enough. I have a quick temper and him very clearly how hard it had been to get anything done. His colleague was killing himself laughing at his boss being dressed down. After that bad start we became good friends.

The court case at the Old Bailey was a farce, there were seven defendants, each with their own council and just one council for the prosecution. The judge was old and deaf, I asked the Chief Inspector why he was there, his reply, 'what would you prefer £85,000 a year or sitting on a park bench?'

My defendant was ill, so I was attacked by seven vultures for two days as an expert witness. Apparently I was asked more leading questions than the Inspector had ever heard in court. But he also said he had never seen anyone behave like me in court. I even gave all the jury some examples of covers to correct something, a bit like Perry Mason.

It was not all war, I had regular meetings with the top directors, as one said to me later 'I don't know if you got anything from these, but I certainly did'. He also said he was amazed how many changes I brought in over the years. Since I restarted we have had war, when the boss wouldn't even speak to me, luckily he has long since gone and we have an excellent relationship at the moment (fingers crossed).

By Tony Buckingham

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Re: Story of a Stamp Dealer (Chapter 18)

Post by dukeprince »

You are one tough stampie, well done and the stories are a great eye opener, my hiccups with Ebay pale into insignificance.

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Story of a Stamp Dealer (Final Chapter)

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Story of a Stamp Dealer



Thank-You all for reading, I hope you've enjoyed my tales. I do also have a book out on Amazon (£8.17) and for Kindle (£2.61) if you're interested in more fuller length tales. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gravediggers-Apprentice-Tony-Bucking ... apprentice

The Final Chapter - Flight of Fancy

One thing I learned early on is that we could not afford big advertising, so we needed to get free publicity for our covers. This meant making them exciting. My idea for a numbered first day cover series had to be backed up with excitement.

Working with BP for the 1978 issue saw a massive amount of publicity, obviously BP's publicity department, and their cash, made it possible. Having covers flown out to an oil rig in the North Sea made the National TV news and lots of new collectors were recruited. They originally made a cardboard Post Box to go on the rig, but as soon as they put it on the rig it blew away!

Afterwards, they flew a real one out by helicopter, the postman, I believe still holds the record for the longest delivery. I know I have mentioned it many times before but it is worth repeating, BP thought they wanted something better for their VIP's, so produced a cover, helped by the Post Office, and postmarked them at the Bureau!! Shell were even better, they sent out a mail shot using the BP postmark.

My next adventure was for the 1978 Buildings issue, sailing from Tower Bridge to Hampton Court in a catamaran, luckily the weather was good. Next we flew the Coronation anniversary covers in the Fly Pass organised by Group Captain Bill Randle. I left boxes at Wattisham, but the sergeant forgot to tell anyone what they were, which cause a red alert and were nearly blown up as precaution!

Our Shire Horse Museum covers also caused a stir, a major traffic jam on the A4 no less. Plus the VIP's got soaked as the heavens opened, but we did discover an amazing thing, just how many covers we sold via the Courage pubs.

I always chuckle at the Spillers project for the 1979 Dogs issue. We were running a dog cart from their HQ at Old Chain House to the Post Office. However, the Police informed Spillers that it was illegal and they would prosecute, gulp. Earlier Nigel Walmsley, the Post Office boss, had found out the dog carts delivered mail faster in the past than today's service, so he pulled out of the project.

Worth a mention is the story of him arriving in Brighton one day, he saw an advertisement on a Post Office van stating "Post your parcel here and it could end up in Timbuktu". He was furious "that's what people are worried about!" he exclaimed, and quickly had them all removed from the vans. Anyway Spillers got a Dog Cart (well a pony and trap) and saved the day.

By Tony Buckingham

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by jaywalker »

Unfortunately, the Stampboards community was advised that Tony Buckingham passed away 12 May 2016 (see https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=70602).

There have been a number of favourable comments made about this thread (which currently has 2595 "views").

Stampboards moderators has a "poster of the month". The prize includes
an EXCLUSIVE user handle designator that no other member has... replacing their current red, blue or gold star etc.
So that this thread can be considered, would someone like to reply to this post? The rules for "poster of the month are at http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8100#p359030
3. ANY thread can be nominated that has had at least 2 posts on it, in the month of nomination - even if the thread is a year old.

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by jrg »

It's my pleasure to generate a nomination.
John

Looking for used pre-decimal OS/NSW and G/NSW state perfins, and NWPI KGV overprints.

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Madstars »

I will second that nomination.

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by jaywalker »

Thank you jrg and madstars - nomination lodged.

http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8100&start=1850#p4533754

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by BuckinghamCovers »

Thank-You very much.

I will share this on the intra-company blog so that all staff and Tony's family are aware.

Regards
Jake (Buckingham Covers)

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by fromdownunder »

Jake, this thread has been named as post of the Month for May 2016, and has won, with Tony getting the accolade. Please contact Glen (Board Owner) to get the prize delivered. I am certain that you and his other staff will find something appropriate to do with the Australia Post 2015 Year Album.

See this thread for more information.

http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8100

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Re: The Story of a Stamp Dealer - Tony Buckingham, UK

Post by Brummie »

I loved this topic and it's sad that it won't continue. Know that you were acknowledge by your peers Tony Buckingham.

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