Frequently Asked Questions.

We save you money by executing your bids on your behalf on the floor of the auction. To learn the details of how this generates savings for you, please read on.

Note: Feel free to print this out. It is lengthy but you will find a great deal of useful information about our services and public auctions in general.

Q: Before I read on, what qualifies you to give advice about auctions?

A: We’ve been actively and directly involved in auctions for decades. Jonathan has been THE auction agent for the Boston area sales for almost 15 years and Andy earned his living in the trenches as a professional philatelic auctioneer for four auction houses over 12 years.  No other auction agent has this valuable personal experience.

Q: Why should I pay you to bid for me when auctioneers execute my bids for free?

A: First, you must understand that most auction firms either own or have a significant financial interest in much of the material they sell. There's no way to identify which lots are consigned, which are owned and which are part of a consignment the auctioneer paid a cash advance to get. 

Second, auctioneers work on a commission basis. This means that the more the lots realize, the more commission they earn.

Third, due to the competitive nature of the philatelic auction business, auctioneers must boast about the prices they get for lots either in advertisements or in proposals they make to prospective consignors.  Only the very strong can resist such temptation, especially when they see others doing it.

Common sense should tell you that turning your maximum bids over to someone with such a significant investment in the prices realized at the very least has the potential of costing you more than if your bids were executed by someone without this clear conflict of interest.

Q: But I'm protected by the Terms of
Sale that say "all bids are reduced to one increment over the second highest bid." Are you saying that's not true?

A: The terms of sale exist to protect the auctioneer, not the bidder.  Let’s just say that anybody can be an underbidder. Only the auctioneer sees the bids and no one can examine the bids to verify a legitimate underbid.

Q: I talk to auctioneers all the time and I trust them. Many of them help me with my bidding. Am I being conned?

A: First, review your own experiences when giving your bids to an auction house. What percentage of lots do you buy at your full bid and how often are your bids reduced by large amounts?

Second, we’re not talking about your hobby, we’re talking about your money. If you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, it is logical to protect yourself.

Yes, you can trust auctioneers. Most bring fresh philatelic material to the market with accurate descriptions and fair estimates. They want to see nice material ending up with adoring and appreciative collectors (whom they hope will consign to them at a future time). But at the end of the day, they are agents for the owner and are obligated to get the best possible prices. Their job is to bring together as many buyers as they can attract to actively compete with each other for the material in order to obtain the best prices for their consignors, for which they earn more commission.

Often, auctioneers create a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, lets say that a wealthy but novice client calls about a lot and the auctioneer says it is a great lot and that he estimates the lot to realize $X. Then, after hearing the sales pitch, the client bids a couple increments more than the auctioneer suggests. Then, when the auction transpires, the lot realizes $X + a couple increments more. The buyer is happy to have it, unaware that he could have purchased the lot for less if he had asked kept his interest in the lot from the auctioneer and had asked an independent agent about its value, quality and realistic market availability.

Consider all the factors involved in operating an auction firm. There is very high overhead – labor, rent, travel, printing, postage, and advertising, plus the cost of your auction computer program and internet presence. In some cases, firms have invested money in the material either by purchasing outright or making significant cash advances, often at 0% interest that they are absorbing. In addition, in some cases, they have extended interest free payment plans for buyers to allow them to bid more, requiring them to pay their consignors before they have been paid and have to absorb the carrying costs. Also, in other cases, in order to obtain certain consignments, they had to reduce their seller's commissions.

On lots they own, reducing bids costs even more -- every $100.00 reduction costs $110.00-$115.00. Multiply that times hundreds or thousands of lots per sale, then multiply that times 5-10 sales per year. It adds up to real money.

Q: How do you save me money?

A: It is simple. When working for you as your agent, our goal is not to maximize the price of a lot, but to purchase the lot for you at the lowest possible price. By keeping your bids confidential and executing them on the auction floor, your purchases will be at lower percentages of your maximum bids.

Q: Are there other ways you save me money?

A: Yes.

First, most bidders tend to get caught up in the excitement of an auction and their emotions overpower their intellect. As a result, they ignore their predetermined limit and end up overpaying. We use unemotional logical discretion in executing your bids.

Second, auctioneers know if they try to “run” us (bid against us when they have no legitimate bid for the sole purpose of raising the price realized), we're more than prepared to deal with it. First, we handle bids for numerous clients at the sale, and they need both our successful bids and our underbids. If we sense this is happening, then we will inform our clients and steer business away from them. Some clients give us total discretion to cancel their bid and stop bidding if we suspect we're being "run”. 

Third, when we bid, only we know which client we're bidding for. Others may think they know, but they can't be sure. Every bid could be our last. We vary our bidding techniques. We don't play games with our clients' money. Our decades of experience in auction rooms are working for you from day one.

Q: What kind of savings can I expect?

A: That's up to you. In most cases, the higher you bid, the more you save. It also depends on what you bid on, as well as other factors that we would be pleased to discuss on an individual basis.

Q: Do auctioneers use an agent?

A: Some auctioneers round out their sales by purchasing material in other auctions. They buy large lots and collections in another auction for the sole purpose of dividing them into smaller lots to offer in their own sales. Occasionally they are buying for a client with a specific want list.  When they bid they use an agent. Since 1981, more of them have used Purser Associates than any other agent. Who knows more about auctions and how they really operate than auctioneers? It means a great deal to us that so many auctioneers use us when they have important bids they need executed. Ask them about us.

Q: OK, I see there are some advantages to using an agent, but I'm concerned about one thing. I've been bidding with one auctioneer for years. If I use you at his sales, he'll think I don't trust him.

A: Using us will show the auctioneer that you're a more knowledgeable, sophisticated bidder. If you care more about what the auctioneer "thinks" than about how your bids are handled or how much things cost you, by all means don't use us.

Q: How can I be certain that I can trust you?

We will earn your trust by providing references you can check and offer the following MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Let us handle all your bids for the next 90 days. If you are not convinced our service is of value to you, we'll refund every penny of the fees you've paid.

Q: Are you saying I should use you at every auction, even those conducted by auctioneers I know and trust?

A: Yes. If you're only using us for some sales and not for others, how can we dazzle you with great results? If you understand what we are saying, then you should put it to a fair test where you have literally nothing to lose.

Q: What happens if you get more than one bid on the same lot?

A: It's simple. We do the same thing auction houses say they do. We enter all bids in our bidbook. We bid on behalf of our highest bidder, and buy the lot for the lowest possible price. This must be one advance over our underbid. If bids are the same, we use any 'tie-breaker' authority given us by the bidders. If they are still equal, it goes to the bidder who viewed the lot. If both (or neither) viewed, the tie goes to the earliest bidder.

Q: I've seen you raising the price of lots after the bidding has stopped and the lot's been hammered down at a lower price. Why do you do that? It looks as though you're running up the price to make more money. Doesn't it cost your buyer more?

A: When we have both the highest and the second highest bid for a lot, we have to raise a price to clear that bid. Yes, it costs our high bidder more than if the second highest bid didn't exist - but it does. We cannot just cancel them. For example, one client bids $500 on a lot and another client bids $1,000 on the same lot. If all of the other bidding stopped at $300, we tell the auctioneer the price has to be $525. (One advance over the second highest bid of $500.) After the sale you get a report indicating the lot sold for more than your bid.

If we just pretended the second highest bid did not exist, our other client could get the lot for $300. After the sale, when the bidder with the $500 bid learns it sold for only $300, but didn't get it, he or she will be angry. 


Q: Will you tell me if my bid is your top bid on a lot?

A: Under no circumstances will we penalize the bidders who were kind enough to get their bids to us early. In addition, we will not even say whether or not we have bids on a lot. The other bids we have are none of your business, and your bids are nobody else's! Anyone who'll reveal information to you about other people's bids, will reveal information about your bids to other people.

Q: OK, but you must make exceptions in special circumstances. What if there's one lot that's really, really important to me? If I want to make sure I get the lot, I must know where I stand because if I need to, I'll raise my bid. Most auction houses will tell me if my bid is high or not. Why won't you?

A: As we said earlier, when working for you as your agent, our goal is not to maximize the price of a lot, but to purchase the lot for you at the lowest possible price. Because we do not have the investment in obtaining the highest possible price for a lot, we play fair. Go back one question. Read the answer. We make no exceptions. None. We can't. Our answer is, "Sorry, but we can't reveal any information about our bids." Not everyone understands.

If a lot is that important and you're understandably concerned about the competition, we are pleased to discuss things that can be done to maximize your chances of success. Topping our high bid will guarantee nothing because there is no way to know what other bids will be or where they will come from.

Imagine that you call after the sale and receive bad news -- the lot sold for one or two advances over your bid. If your reaction is, "Damn! If I'd known it was going to go that high, I'd have given you more!" then you didn't give us your maximum bid. If, on the other hand, you say, "Damn! I really wanted it, but not at that price. At least I made the winner pay." then your bid was truly the highest you were willing to go. You really need to consider this before the sale. Once it's over it's too late to do anything about it.

Q: Under normal circumstances that process makes sense, but I don't always have the time. Since you folks have such a good reputation, I figured I'd just give you lot numbers and tell you to buy them for me? Do you accept "BUY" bids?

A: No, we won't accept unlimited, unconditional "BUY" bids because we will have a real conflict if we get two “BUY” bids on a lot. But, we do accept what we call "Modified BUY" bids. A "Modified BUY" bid must be in writing. In addition, we ask you to give us some idea of what you think the lot should sell for. We then require you give us a dollar amount to bid plus any discretion you authorize. (50%-100%- 500%, etc.) Finally we ask you to "rate" your desire to have the lot on a scale of 1 to 5.

1 = You want it, but don't have to have it. (Stay within reason)

2 = You have to have it. (Go for it, but don't go crazy.)

3 = You want it. You need it. If you could only buy
ONE lot this YEAR, this is IT. (If I don't get it, the buyer will PAY!)
4 = This is the lot of the DECADE! (I won't die if I lose the lot, but it will make me sick.)

5 = This is the lot of a LIFETIME! (Price is no object. I will DIE if you don’t come home without it!)

Q: I usually call the auction to get opening bids before I give them my bids. Should I still do that if I'm using you?

A: You may if you want to, but there are several reasons it's a bad idea. First, it's lousy strategy to call the house and give a list of the lots you're most interested in. Second, openings are of little value except in two situations: 1) to eliminate lots that are already higher than you're willing to pay, and 2) if the expected cost of all of the lots you wish to purchase exceeds your budget. Third, some auction firms give you phony numbers when you call (remember, if there are no bids, the lot must start at some level other than $1). Finally, unless you call immediately before the sale, openings will change many times as bids come in, and many do at the last moment.

Q: Will you examine lots for me?

A: Yes, usually we can look at lots for you. Viewing must be specifically requested. But it's not always possible to view lots at every sale. We'll look at the lots from a buyers' point of view and if, in our opinion, an item is inaccurately described or simply doesn't meet your standards, we'll cancel your bid.

Q: If you folks view lots for me I can save even more money by not having to get lots expertized, right?

A: Wrong! While both of us serve as consultants to the expert committees, our opinions are not substitutes for certificates, and even if they were, our verbal opinions would be worthless to you when you sell your material. If you are concerned about any item we urge you to get it expertized; in fact, we will often recommend it to clients.

Q: I'm a specialist. How can you help me?

A: Not only are we specialists in our own areas of interest and professional experience, we are also specialists in buying and selling at public auction. If you work with us as our other clients do, we'll use our auction expertise to help you build your collection. We have been involved in well over $100,000,000 of auction sales as an auctioneer and agent. We have broad, general philatelic knowledge and know condition standards very well. We may find material in sales you might otherwise miss. You may count on us to handle your bids reliably and professionally, and with an unprecedented money back guarantee. So, why not give us a try!