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Specialist valuer Andy Bowden introduces the Eric Hammond Collection, British Africas.

“One of the joys of working at 1818 Auctioneers is that you never know what will come through the doors next. The thrill of looking at that stamp album or collection and the stories behind them.

One such collection is the feature of our 5th stamp auction this year – the Eric Hammond collection. Eric was born in Preston in the 1930s. He grew up there among its terraced houses but later bought a lovely, peaceful cottage a few miles away with a large garden and fields all around. Here he lived for many decades with his wife Anne, until he passed away on the 19th December 2020.

As a boy he had a paper round which included delivering to Tom Finney, one of England’s greatest footballers. He remembered Tom fondly, Tom worked as a plumber even while he was playing for England! This was in the days before top footballers were millionaires! Later Eric was a rent collector, which was a perfect job for him as he was a friendly, outgoing person who loved stopping for a chat with anyone whose path crossed his when he was out and about.

Eric was also an accomplished jazz drummer. He used to recall how as a young boy he would walk through the streets of Preston with a stick in his hand and tap out rhythms on the walls of the terraced houses. As his playing developed he found that he could play with ease complex rhythms which the vast majority of drummers could only master through long practice.

He was a drummer in an army band when he did his national service in Munster, Germany. After national service, Eric played in the local clubs and later got work on a White Star ship which sailed regularly between Southampton and Cape Town. Subsequently he spent some years working as a drummer in South Africa, which of course led to his fascination with the stamps of that country. He often went back there with his wife Anne. They loved to visit old friends there and went many times right up until Anne’s death a few years ago.

So how did the collection find its way to 1818 Auctioneers?

The material in the auction was brought in by a good friend of Eric’s who inherited it from him. For many years, this friend would ask Eric from time to time if he could please look at his collection. Eric remained silent on each occasion and the conversation moved on to other matters. This seemed strange and it was difficult to see why Eric did not want to get out his collection, even though he liked to talk about it from time to time when he had made a good buy, tracked down a rarity, got a bargain or (in one case) bought a huge job lot at a “house clearing” auction at Salmesbury Hall.

A couple of years before he died, Eric asked his friend if he would like to inherit the collection. The reply was yes, very much so. A year later Eric asked if he still wanted it, to which the answer was, “Yes, but why do you ask?” Eric said to his friend that he (the friend) had been talking lately about decluttering his home. The friend did not see the connection. He had ample room for a stamp collection. Plenty of space to put a few albums, some stock-books and some catalogues!

It was only after Eric’s death that all became clear. The collection turned out to be six banana boxes and two even bigger cardboard boxes, all completely full. So now the greater part of this vast array of material is being offered up for auction with us. There is much specialist material from Central and Southern Africa, from the former Empire, both stamps and covers. The like you do not see come to market often. The rest of Eric’s collection will feature in stamp auction 6, of which much is vintage European.”