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Friday, January 20, 2012

Selling Stamps on the Web: Where do you go?

In these "modern" times of the Internet, it's not unusual for stamp collectors to turn into "part time stamp dealers."

I've been one, myself, for over 15 years. I didn't start selling because I "wanted to be a stamp dealer," nor because I was trying to make a living. Like many collectors, I simply wanted to pass on some of my duplicate material... and hopefully get enough money in the process that I could buy more stamps... and keep the cycle of building my collection going, without having to spend too many of my hard-earned dollars from my "day job." My primary objective was always to try to make the expansion of my collections "self-funding."

Of course, as collectors we have lots of options.

Different web sites make different "claims," as to why we should use them-- why precisely their site will be the best thing for us. Sometimes, the options can leave us more confused than enlightened. I have tried-- and, in many cases, continue to use-- a number of online venues, with varying degrees of success.

Like many things in life, I have found that the most appropriate answer to "where should I sell my stamps?" typically tends to be "it depends."

Some sites are "fixed price," like the American Philatelic Society's online "StampStore," or independent site Stamps2Go.

Other sites are "auction format," most notably e-commerce giant eBay, whose humble beginnings were akin to an online garage sale. Since then, dozens of "alternative" sites have cropped up and attempted to present themselves as viable marketplaces.

These days, many sales venues are "hybrids," that is, sellers can choose a combination of fixed price (or "buy it now") and auction formats. On some sites, you can even have your own "online storefront."

But there are additional choices we have to make: Do we choose a "general" sales venue (like eBay or eBid) with a strong presence in the "stamps" category? Or do we choose a "collectibles" sales venue (like Delcampe or BidStart), where the audience is more focused? Or do we choose a "stamps only" venue (like Stamps2Go or StampoRama)?

Another factor that plays into our decision is the fees we have to pay to the selling site. Often, what site we choose, and what fees we're willing to pay, will be dependent on the average price per stamp (or lot of stamps) we're planning to offer for sale. If you have a bunch of 50-cent items you want to sell, it obviously doesn't make much sense to list on a site that charges a minimum fee-per-lot of 25 cents. But that same site might work really well if your average item is worth $10.00.

There are also a lot of web sites to offer "reviews" of places people can sell their items-- stamps, or otherwise. Sadly, the majority do not offer very objective opinions, as they tend to "fund themselves" through a network of "referral links." And who's going to honestly write "this site sucks" if part of their income comes from referring people to that site?

Anyway, this post is a bit of a pre-amble to my intentions to-- during 2012-- write about each of the seller  venues I use to sell stamps. The good, the bad and the ugly... from someone who (a) actually sells (or has sold) on those sites, (b) isn't being paid for his opinions, and (c) specializes in stamps, not all sorts of other merchandise. Not going to set any "schedule" for this-- I'll just get to it, as I can.

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