Reminiscences of a Siegel lot describer
By: Robert Rose

Apr 13 , 2010

Bob Rose, our speaker for April 13 on the topic “Reminiscences of a Siegel lot describer”, gave a very enjoyable talk about his experiences working for Robert A. Siegel in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  While attending graduate school at Columbia University in the fall of 1965, Bob noticed an advertisement in Stamps magazine for an auction lot describer for the firm of Robert A. Siegel.  Bob noted one of the tests that Siegel used to qualify a potential auction lot describer: Siegel handed him a stock card with five different 1¢ 1851 blues and asked him to identify each.  Bob readily passed the test and he got the job.

When Bob joined the firm, Siegel was running about 20 sales per year for a total annual take of around two million dollars.  The firm was gaining notoriety and prominence having sold the Newbury collection in a series of sales in the early 1960s, and was well into the series of Lilly sales when Bob joined the firm.  He had the opportunity to work with great material, especially that from the Josiah R. Lilly collection and Philip H. Ward’s Ambassador Collection (1966).

Bob described the Siegel firm as a philatelic salon of “Who’s Who” visitors and customers including the likes of Ryohei Ishikawa, Mort Neinken, Marc Haas and dealers of the day, Bert Taub (of Stampazine), Jack Molesworth and Sy Colby.  Highlights that Bob recalled from his time at the firm included the 1969 introduction of color catalogs (when US regulations permitted) and the 1970 Rarities of the World sale which offered the one cent British Guiana that included an unusual three page introduction; lot #279 was hammered at $280,000.  Bob left for law school in September of 1971; though he never returned to the firm, he never lost his love for stamps and postal history.