Tag Archives: Ebay

The Smuggler’s Box

A few weeks ago The Owner was sorting boxes of old copper coins. This included a lot of worn out coins of George III, and he noticed that one of them seemed very light when he picked it up. It also didn’t sound right when he examined it (“examine” in tis context means “hit it with another coin then dropped it on the counter” – these are truly clapped out coins and their value is unlikely to be reduced by his treatment).

1797 Penny – George III and Britannia. It’s worn and the date has gone, but we know it’s 1797 because of the size – all the “cartwheel” coins were dated 1797.

It turned out to be a box made from a 1797 Penny. I’m not clear how they do this, but suspect it involves hollowing out two coins, rather than just splitting one. I had a look on YouTube but drifted off into how to make a knife using cheap Amazon tools. It looks fun but I think my days of dexterity may be behind me.

I just thought it was a box made from a penny, but when we checked up on eBay we found a couple of others, described as smuggler’s boxes. They clearly aren’t, for a number of reasons. One is that the penny is very worn and smuggling was probably out of date by the time this penny was worked. The other is that it’s not really a practical size for smuggling. What are you going to get in something that size? It might be a pill box (if you like your pills to taste of copper) or a patch box. I know very little about patches. Deep down I think it was probably made by an apprentice, or even an engineer with time of his hands and a lathe at his disposal. However, it’s an interesting novelty and I doubt that you could make one for £30.

Modern penny for size comparison

I’m not one to let reality get between me and a sale, so Georgian Smuggler’s Box, it became. Or possibly spy box, I said “It is tempting to think it may even have been used to transport secret messages by a spy in the Napoleonic Wars.” Note how I didn’t say it had been, or even that it was likely. And having put the idea out there, I waited . . .

It sold in auction for a reasonable sum – just over £30. The only other one on eBay at the moment is in much better condition, but at £180 it’s a lot more money. If I had the good one I’d feel I had to keep it in a cabinet. With the one we sold, you can shove it in your pocket and show people – a much better use of an object.

Can you see the join?

1797 Penny – a conundrum, and possible even a smuggler’s box.

Resolution and 8 Years on WP

Well, we managed to work out how the little toerag in London pulled off his scam. Or nearly pulled off his scam. It was the buyer, not the local postman who was at the bottom of it. I won’t say more as it might become a police matter. Let’s just say that despite the work we did in the shop, and the Post Office did, eBay came close to undoing it all. At mid-day it all seemed to be over, with the evidence we needed, and eBay promising to put a stop to the fraudulent claim and ban the buyer. An hour later they emailed to say that after more requests from the buyer they had found in his favour and refunded the £500, leaving us out of pocket to the tune of £500 and a £500 coin. After another hour on the phone they agreed we were in the right and it looks like we will be OK. However, the disorganised way they have carried on gives me little confidence.

The other big news of the day is that I have had a haibun accepted by CHO, or Contemporary Haibun Online. It’s the first one they have taken in about three years and represents a lot of persistence. I don’t just talk about persistence, I do actually practice it. I’ve not been producing a lot and I nearly didn’t send anything this time, but I did, and less than 24 hours later I had an acceptance. This is editing at a high level of excellence. It might be three years before I get another one in, so I’ll enjoy the moment.

Finally, I had a message from WP a few days ago – seems I’ve been here 8 years now. It seems like a long time but, to put it in context, I’m currently wearing boxer shorts which are older than that. It tool me several weeks after registering to find the nerve to write something. Now look at me, it’s hard to stop me wittering on about something every day. Even if that something is about another dull day in the shop. At least today was a bit more exciting.

The header picture is guinea fowl sheltering under a picnic table during a rainstorm, the first picture I posted on WP.

Kings and Queens and the Winds of Chance

It is an ill wind that blows no good.

This expression was first seen in print in John Heywood’s book of  proverbs in 1546, as “An yll wynde that blowth no man to good, men say”.  It mostly has the same words, but I’m not quite sure it has the same meaning as the modern expression. The website I read considers that Shakespeare was the first to use it in the modern sense of a bad thing bringing unexpected benefits.

“Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.” Henry VI (1591)

It would be Shakespeare wouldn’t it? It always is. To be honest, I didn’t even know he wrote a play called Henry VI, so I’ve learnt more than just the origin of an expression. I really should know more about Shakespeare but apart from the plays we read at school I have only read two or three others, plus a few sonnets. I’ve also read Bryson’s biography, a book about his “lost years” and a detective novel that revolves round one of his lost plays.

Anyway, back to the ill wind. In the aftermath of the Queen’s death we have sold a number of things that we have had on eBay for years. This includes medallions and banknotes with her image on it and our entire stock of Prince of Wales investiture medallions. We had 35 parcels to send out today and had to make two trips to the post office.

It’s always a time of mixed emotions when someone famous dies and business increases, and I do feel a little guilty about it at times, but anything I do is nothing compared to what will soon become a flood of tacky commemorative items. Just look at what the Royal Mint has done. We will sell you these coins (1977 Silver Jubilee crowns) for a couple of pounds. You can buy them on eBay for as little as 99p. You can also buy them for up to £300. We will sell you these (the 1953 Coronation crown) for a little more. They are available on eBay for £4 or in auction starting at 99p. Or, if you look for the most expensive price – £4,999.99.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about my opinion of some of these prices.


Sales, Surprises and Staff

If you read yesterday’s post you may have noticed that I missed the title off. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but it is the first time since last year – one of the advantages of my “no title” series of posts. It has a title now, though it didn’t exactly stretch my creativity.

It was a good day in the shop. We had five orders on eBay, one for 32 items I had only loaded yesterday. They were only cheap, but any sale is a good sale. It was one of those double-edged events – glad to make the sale, but slightly regretful that two hours of listing and (complicated) loading of photographs brought such a quick result. Even though it was clearly a masterful bit of listing, it seems like wasted effort when it finishes so quickly.

We then had several customers by appointment, answered phone calls and listed more items for sale. One of the customers was very knowledgeable, and told us so, at length. It’s very tempting to be sarcastic, but I’m better than that.

Then, when I finished loading the new coins, I checked for new sales and found we’d had six sales, one of which was for more than all the sales we’d had overnight. There’s always plenty of room for surprises when you have eBay.

Another surprise was a comment in our feedback, which I liked – “you should be very proud of your staff”. I’m thinking of having it made into a T Shirt.

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Dove of Peace on a 1995 £2 coin – this one is gold, the ordinary ones were brass. For those of you from UK, yes they were meant for circulation but they never caught on.

Day 197

I switched on the computer after watching the World Athletics Championships. It brought back a lot of old coaching tips and I was brimming with good intentions and sports-based motivation. This survived until I went to look at my emails and found I had one from eBay. It was a reminder that I was watching something. I clicked on it and spent the next eight minutes glued to the screen, eventually adding another unusual brooch to my collection of sweethearts. Or another piece of junk that Julia will have to sort out when I die (according to her jaundiced view). Though the way she moans about my collections I might not be the first one to die. Just saying . . .

So, Computer 1 Good Intentions 0.

Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart

Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart

This was a pattern that continued as I stuck a couple more bids into my sniper programme and then browsed 300 more brooches. Most of them were common, over-priced, damaged, or a combination of those three. One is described by the vendor as “good condition” when it clearly isn’t, even from the (deliberately?) blurred photographs he has used. I’ve been caught that way once already in the last few weeks – it seems to be becoming a common sales technique. Not quite a lie but far from accurate.

Some are beautiful but outside my price range – these, when you read contemporary newspaper accounts were often wedding gifts of well-off grooms to their wives, and not necessarily hasty purchases before being sent overseas.

Scots Guards Sweetheart 1914-18

If I won the Lottery (which we all know I won’t, it’s just a convenient figure of speech) I would collect them. However, despite the cost and precious metals I wouldn’t necessarily value them more than the shilling and half-crown brooches that Private Smith bought for his girlfriend or his Mum before going overseas.

Apart from every story being unique, it’s a reminder that although rich people leave better stuff behind, and more written sources, theirs isn’t the real story of history.

Sweetheart Brooch – 10th Royal Hussars

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Day 137

Arrived home at 4.30, crammed with good intentions. It is 8.44 now and the intentions, though still there, are starting to leak out slowly as I subside, like one of those faulty Christmas Santa decorations people have on their lawns at Christmas. All I’ve done is eat leftovers and buy something on eBay.  Eating leftovers is good, buying stuff on eBay is not quite so good. I am not short of stuff.

I was going to get some submissions sorted tonight and look up some recipes. So far I have watched several actors reciting poetry on You Tube. And this. OK, I’ve looked at a couple of on-line auction catalogues too. As I work in antiques and collectables this counts as Continuing Professional Development rather than wasting my life and filling the house with junk.

We had an interesting customer on eBay. He emailed us this morning. The gold medallion he ordered a couple of days ago ahs arrived and he is unhappy that it is so small. Our details included the information that it weighed half a gram, was 11mm in diameter and, as if that wasn’t enough, included a picture of it next to a ruler. There is a market for these tiny gold coins and medallions, though I’m puzzled why anyone would want one.

We don’t want him to be disappointed, so told him he was welcome to return it, though we did point out that we had been accurate in our listing.

So he decided to start an argument.

Time is money and we don’t get paid for spending time winning arguments, so we just ignored him. That seemed to annoy him even more so he launched another rant.

I really don’t know what makes some people tick.

Day 95

Blood test at 10.20. Think of me sitting there with my sleeve rolled up. I’m hoping then blood flows well, but after the last time I had a sample taken at the doctors I am not optimistic. I really should think about getting my own machine to do finger prick tests, but it goes against the grain to buy medical equipment on eBay.

I took delivery of some medallions from eBay this morning.  I spent £22 on four medallions and they all looked quite good when they arrived. So far I’ve only checked one of them out. A similar one is for sale on a dealer’s list (not eBay, which is not a good guide) for £38, so it looks like it was a successful buy. There are more important things than making money, but it’s always nice when you buy a bargain.

I’m sure I will never make a profit on my collection of 1919 Peace Medallions, because I often get locked in a bidding war when buying them, but with the others I try to be more sensible.

When I was younger I used to think that if I paid too much inflation would take care of the problem. Generally this is true as prices do tend to rise with most things. The only problem is that when you are thirty there is a lot of inflation in your future. These days it won’t be many years before downsizing or mortality makes a sale necessary so I have to be a bit more thoughtful. On the other hand, as with the Peace Medals, I tend to think that if I haven’t got it after thirty years of collecting, I shouldn’t let it go for the sake of a few pounds.

The header picture is the obverse of the 1919 Birmingham Peace Medal, one of the commoner town medals given out to school children. The initials MBL next to Victory’s feet, stands for Matthew Boulton Ltd, a factory, set up in 1775 by Matthew Boulton and James Watt to produce steam engines. They later specialised in minting, and ,made the famous cartwheel pennies.

Birmingham Peace Medal – reverse

Day 81

Today I sorted a collection of tickets. Some of them are bus tickets and some relate to things like toll bridges and ferries, but many of them are considerably less interesting than that. Fortunately I have the day off tomorrow and will do some exercises to raise my enthusiasm levels.

Some of them have adverts on the back, and at least one of the adverts refers to rationing, so I’m guessing they go back to the 1940s in some cases.

After looking at all the pictures from previous years, I am starting to feel restless and would like to get out more. All I need to do is find a place that is crammed with interest, devoid of people, and accessible to a man with bad knees and a stick. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I’m hoping to get an early start tomorrow and get a parking space close to phlebotomy for my overdue blood tests. After that I have a couple of errands to do and plan on spending the rest of the day getting to grips with some writing.

It’s all about practice. The more you write, the better you get. When I decided to start writing poetry again, about the time I started writing this blog, it must have taken a good two years before I started writing to an acceptable level.

This time, six months after being ill, I am struggling again. The quality is OK now, but the quantity isn’t there yet and I’m looking at four deadlines at the end of the week and only enough material for one submission.

That’s why I need a major effort tomorrow – lots of editing to do.

Day 71

Another post which is decidedly late.

I started it while I was waiting for tea to cook. That makes it sound grander than it really was. All I did was measure out two portions of vegetable stew into a pan and heat it through. As the smell of thyme filled the air, I started to type. Ten minutes later I walked from my office/dining room and ladled the stew, complete with gorgeous golden gravy, into bowls. I don’t make dumplings when I do it, because I am not good at dumplings. Julia’s dumplings are much better.

Un fortunately, instead of starting a blog post I spent the ten minutes surfing eBay. If you like reading the ramblings of idiots, or buying junk, or simply wasting time, surfing eBay is probably the best way to do it. But if you want to write a blog post, eBay is a disaster. Hours pass, cliffs crumble and dynasties fall, and I don’t notice because I am searching for medallions and brooches and something for nothing.

The day, in contrast, was busy. We had three serious customers plus a couple of more casual customers, and several people selling. We also had a constant, though shallow, stream of customers on eBay and put plenty of stuff up for sale online too. I suppose I should be grateful to eBay for providing me with a job, even though I do waste so much time on it.

The journey home was remarkably quick, with only one set of traffic lights failing to turn green as I approached. This is so rare that I feel it is worth mentioning


Day 56

I miss out so much with these short excerpts of my day. It’s not usually deliberate, it’s just that when I sit down I find it hard to locate more than one or two ideas. This, I suppose, is lack of the lack of concentration I keep complaining about.

We have had two problems with Germany this week.  Two customers bought off eBay. They paid the tax to eBay. We did all the documentation and sent the stuff off. Both customers complained that they had to pay additional tax. We don’t know why, we can’t find any reason for it and we have no control over it. It’s just another racket designed to make life difficult for us all. As someone wrote on a website I used when searching for answers – thanks to everyone who voted for Brexit and welcome to the Brave New World.

It’s cost us several hours of admin time so far and will cost us actual money in a while as the second customer decided to send the goods back rather than accept them. He is currently spinning us a story about having covid and being unable to leave the house to collect the package.

I’m giving him a day to stew and then I’m going to write expressing my sympathy about his illness. I will then explain that although he may be friendless he can always email to ask for delivery, and even if he can’t do that, letters are not returned immediately so he will have plenty of time to be ill and still be allowed out in time to pick up his package.

Let’s see what he says then.

In the end, with all the hassle we are now getting from the post or customs services of various countries, it’s going to be cheaper and easier to stop sending stuff abroad.  So, increased costs and lower turnover – tell me again about how we will benefit from leaving Europe.