I started full-time work in the stamp trade in around 1973, working for a couple of Auctioneers for 2 years before setting up Mercia International Auctions with 2 other directors in 1976. Prior to that, after completing a degree at Liverpool University, I worked in a bank for 2½ years, but it was not for me.
Mercia Auctions first public sale was on 1st May 1976 at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham – 535 lots with estimates totalling around £12,000 as I recall. In 1980 the company split up, the other 2 directors leaving the stamp trade, and I continued the business as Tony Lester Auctions, holding sales at the same venue until January 1990 when we moved to Coventry, where we have been holding Auctions ever since, currently at the Holiday Inn (South) on the A45. My first secretary in 1980, Karen, is still working for us with a few breaks along the way. Other personnel have changed over the years, but we currently have another valuer /describer, Ghislaine, who has been with us for 3 years.
Content and prices in the auctions have increased considerably, and hopefully our loyal clientele is a testament to the way that we have conducted our business. We have been members of the Philatelic Traders Society for around 35 years. I have no intention of retiring, and will happily continue for ten or more years, health permitting!
I am fortunate indeed to have turned a hobby into a profession, and whilst most stamps we handle we have seen many times before, there is always the chance of finding something unusual round the corner which keeps life interesting. There is always more to learn, and of course there is no substitute for experience.
I look forward to many more years of serving, and interacting with, the philatelic community.