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GrahamN 17th Oct 2017 1:44 pm

Radiophile Auction - The future
I have copied below Chas's statement from the last auction catalogue:

Some Serious Words About Auctions

Do please devote a few minutes to reading this frank statement of facts by Chas. E. Miller which affects both the Radiophile Magazine and its readers
First, the good news. The two auctions at Cowbit this year were models of how readers of the Radiophile can organise events on our behalf and thereby relieve Jo and myself a great deal of work, worry and physical strain which otherwise inevitably takes its toll in various ways, the most notable effect of which as far as the readers are concerned is the ever-lengthening intervals between the publishing of magazine issues. One small touch at the end of the September 10th event pleased us immensely - one of the organisers offered to return the key and take the payment for the hire of the hall to the agent on our behalf, which may not sound much to some but means a lot to two people who need to relax after a long day. We thank again you good folk who made our 250 mile round trip to Cowbit worthwhile.

Unfortunately, the July 23rd Auction at Gnosall demonstrated all too clearly a repetition of what has gone wrong in the past and raised the same fears that caused me to pull the plug on auctions two years ago. Once upon a time as many as a dozen volunteer helpers would turn up early on the Saturday before the sale, when the setting-up work is done, but sadly those days are long in the past and on the 22nd July I waited alone at the hall for two hours until, thank heavens, a few "old faithfulls" - Alan and Mike, Brian and Susan, and Philip turned up. Shortly afterwards my son brought our biggest trailer, loaded with a huge number of sale items; but this was in fact only half the total to be offered and once they had been off-loaded it was then necessary for him to go to our storage site to fetch the remainder. He could not manage this unaided, but neither could anyone be spared from the hall to help him, so he was forced to search out and bribe a local teenager who, to give him credit, did work well. Once again, our new system of separate-vendor lot numbering showed its superiority over the old style strictly consecutive numbering by making it possible to arrange the sale items in a fraction of the time that used to be taken by this task, and I was home not long after six p.m. after a mere ten-hour working day.

The first warning of further problems ahead came when Nick Allsop asked for volunteers to assist with the portering, because it was obviously impossible for Brian to manage on his own. The response was a deafening silence and when somebody who had helped in the past was approached the answer was a blunt refusal. Then Neil stepped forward and saved the day for us. Thank goodness, Dawn had already volunteered to do the accounts, which she handled with her customary expertise and celerity. By five o'clock all the lots had been sold and paid for and the hall was emptying fast - so fast that before we knew it Philip and I were appalled to find that we had been left on our own with all the tables and chairs to be cleared away and the leftover lots, the video equipment and the public address gear to be loaded into the big trailer. It is difficult to put into words the utter despair that gripped us. With half a dozen volunteer helpers all that was necessary could have been achieved in less than half an hour, but for us it was an impossibility. Philip did his best; he shifted the tables and chairs sufficiently to be able to sweep the floor effectively, while I assembled the lighter parts of the audio and camera kit as near to the doors as I could manage. Neither of us had a mobile telephone so we could not ask for assistance, and it wasn't until seven o'clock that Jo began to wonder why I hadn't returned home and came looking for me. She had no mobile telephone either so she had to go back to our house to get in touch with my son. He, as usual, was engaged in milking a large herd of cows and couldn't help until that job was finished. In the end it was a quarter past nine when I locked the front door of the hall, after a near fourteen hour working day. Can you blame me if the thought uppermost in my mind was "never again", closely followed by it would have been nice had anyone bothered to ask if Philip and I needed help.

At this point readers will probably be wishing to ask a couple of questions. First, what went wrong with the arrangement whereby Rob Rusbridge acted as auction manager? I blame myself to a large extent for the failure of this venture because presumably I could not have made it sufficiently clear to him that I was seeking someone to take over and to continue employing the same methodology that Jo and I had developed successfully over the last twenty five years or so. Rob, with the best intentions in the world, tried to fix something that wasn't broken and sadly the results were unsatisfactory for all concerned. This, exacerbated by the trauma he must have suffered from some lunatic behaviour on the part of one of our vendors (see p60, issue 138/9) caused him to pull out just before the April event at Gnosall. He has since told Graham Newman that he has switched directions and is now engaged on electronic research work; we wish him well. The second question must be, if the auctions cause us so much grief, why persist with them? Well, apart from the fact that we feel it our duty to assist those unfortunate readers or dependants of readers who suddenly find themselves having to dispose of a houseful of vintage radio equipment, the magazine needs and relies upon the extra income generated by the auctions. Although we have increased its size and introduced high quality colour throughout, the subscription has not been increased for many years. This is also despite the fact that since the Royal Mail was privatised postage rates have risen year by year, and the situation has been exacerbated by this Government's imposition of V.A.T. on sending out magazines.

So why not raise the subscription rate? Unfortunately it takes a very long time for an increase to add substantially to a magazines income and there is always the threat of the Law of Diminishing Returns coming into effect. It is also pertinent to mention that our takeover of Radio Bygones came at a price, i.e. the honouring of the previously paid subscriptions, which to date has cost us a rather large four-figure sum.

So this is the situation: although we sorely need the extra income that the auctions provide, the workload which those at Gnosall impose upon us is so heavy as to be unsustainable unless extra and substantial voluntary assistance can be assured: those good people already mentioned cannot be expected to work longer and more exhausting hours than they already do (at this point I must tell you that Brian and Susan do an enormous amount of work behind the scenes in meeting vendors and appraising lots) and I dread any repetition of what happened in July. The fact that I already know that one of our key helpers will not be available for setting up on 7th October does nothing to relieve any forebodings. What's to be done? One suggestion I have received is to recruit auction stewards who would receive various concessions in return, in sufficient numbers to ensure that half a dozen at least would be available at any one time. This, I am afraid, is much more easily said than done. Many readers will remember the Sambrook Summer Specials which for years were extremely popular but eventually faltered and, despite many appeals, had to be abandoned because of a lack of volunteers to help set them up. My personal preference would be a revival of The Friends of The Radiophile, a group of dedicated readers which, by handling all the many small details of setting up events and auctions enabled me to concentrate on producing the magazine. Surely it's not impossible that there are amongst our readers sufficient public-spirited people willing to take on the job? I live in hope.

At this point I must apologise for the delay in publishing the next issue of The Radiophile (incorporating Radio Bygones). Graham Harold\'s sudden retirement nearly three years ago was a body blow. Apart from handling telephone calls and answering all the correspondence, Graham Harold also edited the Readers\' Letters pages, handled Bake-O-Bryte orders, researched service sheet queries, took card payments, printed and sent out the auction catalogues and did many other chores. I wrote shortly after he had left that it simply wasn't going to be possible for one person - me - to do all the jobs just mentioned and produce the magazine on time, and this has proved to be all too true. Graham Newman has done wonders for us - we may not have been able to survive without him - but even he cannot do everything and unless or until more assistance is forthcoming it is inevitable that it will take longer and longer to attend to everything. For instance, Jo and I have already spent a working week on preparing this catalogue and report, a week in which we would have been far more appropriately occupied in producing a magazine; and since our work load must be reduced - holidays are what other people have - something will have to go. I don't want to do it, but unless some sort of voluntary support group can be organised, I'm afraid that the Radiophile auctions will have to be abandoned after the end of this year. What happens at this next auction on 8th October and the forthcoming one on 10th December ought to provide a pointer as to what their future will be. I sincerely hope it may prove to be positive.

Boater Sam 17th Oct 2017 7:26 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
I was not aware of the difficulties Chas was having with lack helpers at the auctions.
Being out of the country for 4 months over the UK winter and cruising during the summer limits which auctions I can attend.
However I wanted to attend the October auction and offered to help out on the Saturday setting the lots up and on the Sunday portering and packing up at the close. Nothing too arduous or difficult.
It involved a night out in a local B&B and a bit of petrol getting there and back, not too expensive, a bit of physical effort, and having a real good time with others over the weekend.
Inevitably money was spent buying yet more "essential" items I just could not refuse, that's the way of auctions.
So if you have the time to spare and want a good weekend with like minded souls, offer to help, your efforts will be appreciated.

YoungManGW 29th Nov 2017 7:32 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Does anyone know whether the Gnosall auction scheduled for 10 December is proceeding? If it is, as before, is it possible for someone in receipt of the auction catalogue to post it on here please? Very many thanks.

GrahamN 29th Nov 2017 7:49 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Auction catalogues for Gnosall 10th December should be in the post this week, and pdf copies emailed out as soon as I get copy.

They are not public domain documents and available to subscribers only before the day of the auction - as such they should not be posted here.

Chas was willing to turn a blind eye to the last occasion a catalogue was posted in view of the problems getting it out on time, but this was not a precedent and copies should not be posted online.

Cobaltblue 29th Nov 2017 7:51 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Crossed with Graham

My understanding is that the auction catalogue is by subscription it was posted here last time as it was sent out so late.

Cheers Mike T

YoungManGW 29th Nov 2017 7:51 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Thanks Graham. Hope to make it along this time.

M6SPW1974 1st Dec 2017 9:27 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future

Originally Posted by Boater Sam (Post 983570)
I was not aware of the difficulties Chas was having with lack helpers at the auctions.

Been like that for at least the last 8 yrs i have been attending the auctions. I myself have helped clean up at the end of the auctions for Chas because the rest of them just scarper as quick as they can.

YoungManGW 2nd Dec 2017 10:04 am

2 Attachment(s)
I thought forum readers might enjoy these two drawings from a Radiophile auction this year. Anyone recognise the sitters?

Phil G4SPZ 4th Dec 2017 2:56 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
How many other auctions operating on a commercial basis (i.e. charging a commission) expect bidders to stay behind afterwards and help the auction organiser clear up? If people are willing to help, that's fine, but there should be no implied criticism of those who wish to leave after paying for their goods, surely?

Cobaltblue 4th Dec 2017 3:26 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Although I agree with Phil in principle I feel this is a little more than just a commercial venture.

Vintage radio is a poor man when it comes to resource and depends heavily upon volunteers.

It's the same in the BVWS no one is picking up a salary and most radio events whoever is running them would disappear without the band of volunteers.

Radiophile is slightly different as its a commercial venture as Phil stated, but I don't think anyone is of the opinion that this is a nice little earner it's more of a service and I don't suspect there will be too many takers to continue the Radiophile auctions once Chas has finally had enough.

It's our hobby we all have to do at least a little bit. :thumbsup:


Mike T

Ian - G4JQT 4th Dec 2017 3:27 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
How is it the BVWS auctions don't seem to have these problems? Maybe Chas could get in touch and ask for some top tips?


Cobaltblue 4th Dec 2017 3:35 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
I don't think Chas is too chummy with the BVWS, I am pretty certain that there has been a lack of co-operation in the past concerning meet dates etc (Note I am not saying who failed to co-operate with who because I simply don't know)

I think the BVWS are the Burpers of his Monty escapades.

I think it goes way back to the very begining of the BVWS certainly ISTR call Chas attending all the Meets in the 1980's that I attended, but at some point there seems to have been a parting of the waves.

Even the BVWS relies on a pretty small group of helpers you don't often see new faces.


Mike T

GrahamN 4th Dec 2017 3:52 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
I've actually had quite a few chats with Chas regarding auctions etc., and the problem is simply one of profitability. By the time each auction is finished, there is so little left after expenses that to employ anyone to help would mean a serious loss. Most commercial auctions charge a buyer's premium as well as seller's charges, and auctions for antiques etc. do tend to get better prices in general, so making more profit for the auction house.

What little profit is made (mainly from auction catalogue subscriptions) helps support the magazine publishing as costs there are rising dramatically. With the added burden of Radio Bygones (which Chas took over rather than let it die), every last penny helps!

I don't think there are any issues with the BVWS - certainly Chas has never said anything to me, and I know that he does try to avoid any BVWS events dates that he is aware of. But as far as I know BVWS members help pack up their events anyway.

Viewmaster 4th Dec 2017 3:55 pm

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
If you tot up the takings at Chas's auctions each time you will see that he is never going to make big bucks only biggish headaches at times.

Boater Sam 5th Dec 2017 2:14 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Of course its not just Chas, Joe and their son are heavily involved with the auctions.

I can sympathise with all concerned regarding the lack of input from enthusiasts, nobody volunteers for committees anymore, folk don't want to spend the time getting involved.

Profitability in dying trades has been a problem for years as we all know, and we are a rather select audience with no obvious profit streams.
I admire Chas taking on another magazine rather than let it fall but the costs of servicing existing paid subscriptions is onerous and without profit. It is hard enough getting the copy for the Radiophile without too much padding, now he has to do it twice over. If that magazine is wanted by its subscribers then it should be run as a profit centre that they fund, they must be made to realise that and not be a millstone on the Radiophile funds.
I agree with Phil, unpaid help is the hardest to find hence they need to feel wanted. It is notable that a number of buyers attend these auctions on a purely commercial basis, others attend for the atmosphere. Some even attend as enthusiastic collectors. But no one attends for free simply to run the auction.
I enjoyed helping at one of the recent auctions and will do it again when I can, but it would of been nice if Chas had made a point of thanking the few that stayed and packed up rather than letting us drift away.

GrahamN 5th Dec 2017 7:39 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
There are some very valid points made, but I suspect most people don't understand the strain the auctions and publishing business actually put on Chas (and Jo for that matter). Chas has been under a huge amount of pressure for some years now, and has (in my humble opinion) done well to keep the auctions going. He did get some help a while ago from someone who more or less took over the running of the auctions, but there were issues when major changes were made without consultation causing quite a few complaints and the eventual parting of the ways - since then he has had to do the preparation work himself (quite a considerable task on it's own, never mind that he is working on the magazine at the same time) as well as struggling with a few health issues.

I know that Chas is very grateful for any help offered - even if he doesn't always seem to show it (!), but it isn't always available and the strain is certainly telling on him.

Unfortunately living so far away, and with health issues of my own, I can't help out at all with the auctions, and I suspect that they will cease in the not too distant future unless something dramatic happens. It's a shame, but realistically the magazine comes first - though the loss of income from the auctions (small though it is) will almost certainly mean a price increase on magazine subscriptions as even without the Radio Bygones takeover the profit was ridiculously small.

I have tried to help with the setting up of the website, and organising PDF copies of the magazine (which obviously saves some printing and postage costs), but these are all small things which make very little overall difference. Also, Chas lost his only helper on the magazine side a few years ago, so the work there has increased considerably, adding to the pressure. When you add in the number of telephone calls he gets as soon as the magazine is delayed (although he doesn't quote dates, a lot of people seem to 'know' when it's due and call to check why it hasn't arrived), the nett result tends to be more delays and ergo more telephone calls!

I wish I knew the answer....

Boater Sam 5th Dec 2017 7:51 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
I do fear that a price increase combined with the continued non delivery of the current overdue issue may push the magazine over the edge, losing both the auction and the magazine.

GrahamN 5th Dec 2017 8:30 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
And that pretty much makes my point. Calling it an "overdue issue" implies a fixed publishing date. Rightly or wrongly the subscriptions are per number of issues, and publication dates will vary. Although Chas has always tried to get 3 or 4 issues out per year, he has never charged subscriptions based on publishing on fixed dates. While the intention has always been to get issue 141 out this Autumn, no date has ever been given.

What happens, though, is that point does't really seem to get across well enough to subscribers (probably Chas's fault for not emphasising it enough), and people complain of overdue issues as if they they are dealing with a large company issuing magazines on fixed dates.

That would all be very well if such comments were limited to forums, emails etc., but too many telephone and thus exacerbate the problem as they divert Chas from the actual editing and production work necessary to publish the magazine.

As far as price increases go - that isn't on the cards at present (as far as I am aware - I'm only a casual helper), but I can see it happening if things don't change.

If people then think the magazine is too expensive for them, then so be it - personally I think a smaller print run sold at a profit is preferable to a larger one sold at a nett loss, but ultimately it will be up to Chas to decide.

Boater Sam 5th Dec 2017 10:16 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
But I haven't telephoned.
Point taken, hope that my cataracts let me read the next issue, if I should live that long.

Sorry to be blunt, but it's no way to run a business, if indeed it is.

GrahamN 5th Dec 2017 10:37 am

Re: Radiophile Auction - The future
Sorry if I implied you had - that wasn't my intention. Just a point that telephone calls do add to the delay.

And as for running a business - I agree. The problem is that Chas looks at it much more like a club, or perhaps as a service to like-minded people. If it was a business, then frankly I don't think it's viable, at least unless Chas gets enough help with the day-to-day running of it to concentrate on increasing profitability. (Though in fairness, I'm not sure Chas really wants a conventional business).

Whilst figure are obviously confidential, I do know the printing and postage costs are very close to the income received - far closer than any conventional business would accept.

Frankly, Chas could certainly earn a lot more if he closed the magazine down and did something else. He won't do that, of course, but I do think he needs a bit of encouragement from time to time, rather than the (possibly justified) criticisms that he seems to be getting of late. (And that isn't a dig at any particular person!)

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