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What is Momentum?

This is the sixth of a series articles to be presented

for the collector who would like to learn more about

the tools for building a more complete collection.

The dictionary describes momentum as "impetus gained by movement". Impetus means " a driving force".

Momentum in a stamp auction can be a very strong force. It is not affected so much by the mail bidders as by the bidders on the floor. Thus it doesn't usually apply to a mail auction, only a public auction. It requires a group of people interacting with each other

Where there is no momentum at an auction, prices suffer. Each lot has its own dynamics. Prices are established only by reference to those interested in that particular lot. The participants at the auction do not feel involved, they are waiting for the lots they are interested in and ignore the others. In such circumstances, people are rational, they are disciplined and they stick to their budgets. Such auctions can be lifeless and boring. People only bid on what they originally planned to bid on. There is no impulse buying. Auctioneers fret and worry.

But, where there is momentum, bidders sit on the edge of their chairs. They watch the prices being set for lots that are near theirs. They get pumped up. Their hands tremble. They look at the proposed bids they have marked down and worry that their bids may not be high enough. They plot new strategies. They find justification for revising their estimates. They notice the competition on the floor. It's a whole different world.

In the above circumstances, all reason can sometimes go out the window as the dynamics of the auction affect the floor. The auctioneer senses the electricity in the air. He smiles as he thinks about his commissions and his happy clients to say nothing of his reputation on the street.

We have seen momentum at work on a few occasions when we have attended an auction and have found it most exciting. You really feel that you have "been there". You can even sense it as you review the results of some auctions, even though you didn't attend. Evidence of momentum can be seen at some of the auctions during the past year and most recently at the Eastern Auctions May 25, 2001 public auction in Halifax which produced 16 new record prices and the R. Maresch & Son auction on December 11, 2001 when 11 records were broken. Many of those record prices arose in lots that were quite close to each other. We wish we'd been at both events!

Here's a good example from the Maresch December 11th sale. Three remarkably beautifully Large Queens which were relatively close in lot numbers ( lots 215, 224 & 226 ) each sold for record prices. Don't think the bidders weren't nervous as they watched the action, wondering how high they'd be forced to go and keeping in mind that the $1150 successful price for the first stamp represented 250% of catalogue and was well above the $950 record previously set.


Lot 215
Scott No. 22
Catalogue $475

Realised $1150

Lot 224
Scott No. 26
Catalogue $1000
Realised $3500

Lot 226
Scott No. 27f
Catalogue $1600

Realised $3750

It is difficult to know ahead of time if an auction will have momentum. The auctioneer can certainly advise sellers what areas of strength he expects to be represented in his sale. If you have stamps to sell and can put them in with other seller's stamps of high quality, there is a good chance that your realisation will be helped by any momentum that develops. If you're really lucky, some of the attention paid to the other person's stamps will carry over to yours, all to your benefit

Momentum is a friend of the vendor and of the auctioneer, but it is no friend of the buyer. It forces him into a higher price range. His only hope is that it will be there when it's his turn to sell.

We at Canadian Stamp Auctions hope

you have found these comments helpful.

More articles will be added on a regular basis.


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