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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Selling on Stamp Wants

I have recently signed up on the Stamp Wants web site, with the hope of having found an "eBay alternative" that allows me to sell lower priced items without getting skinned alive with fees.

It seems like a neat enough site, and looks like it was created by people who actually know both stamps, and the technology that's needed to drive an auction web site.

I have decided to try having one of their "Stores," and have gone back to the trade name I have used in the past, Scandinavian Stamps, Etc. So far, having a store there is free, but I feel pretty sure they will start charging for them, after some time. Perhaps once there is enough traffic to justify it.

So far, I have just listed a few stamps from Sweden, and plan to continue getting some of the medium and lower priced material over there. Here, have a look at the Scandinavian Stamps, Etc. store!

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Location

It seems like it was 20 years in the making, but I am glad to be able to report that I am now writing this from Port Townsend, in western Washington. I have always loved the Pacific Northwest, and I am glad to be able to call it "home," and I'll also say-- after the ordeal of moving here-- that I do not plan to have any more major moves in my life.

Maybe those are the "famous last words."

So far, I have unpacked relatively little of my stamp collection, although I am looking forward to living in a place with seasons-- including the "winter season" I always associated with stamp collecting, when I was a kid.

One of the things I really like about this part of the country is that there's a strong Scandinavian influence here. This also has an impact on stamp collecting, as more people tend to collect stamps from an area that relates to their original heritage. I expect I'll find far more Scandinavian material at the shows and with dealers here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Too busy for stamps

It is summer, and I have been too busy to be much of a stamp collector.

Truth be known, most of this past month has been used to undertake a rather unusual project: I have been helping April convert a school bus into an RV.

Apart from that, I would have to say that I have been busy with online auctions, I just haven't been selling stamps. Rather, I have been using my account to sell a vast number of "other items" from around the house, all as part of the impending move.

I still have no idea if and when the house will ever sell, but at least it feels like steps forward have been made.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stamp Collectors' Alternatives to eBay

There always seems to be a lot of uproar among stamp collectors and dealers over eBay. People seem to eternally be moaning and groaning about how "the big auction site" is gouging sellers with their fees, and buyers are being taken advantage of by being offered low quality and misrepresented material.

I opened my account on eBay in May of 1998, and I grant you that things were a little "different" back then. However...

... back then things moved a lot slower, and even though it was not hard to become "known" as a seller, there simply weren't that many people out there looking. Unsold lots were common. Whether I agree with eBay's fee structure or not, truth remains that I sell more than 95% of the lots I list on eBay, first time around.

I have been looking at "alternative" auction sites for stamp collectors-- places where there is an active buying and selling atmosphere. Frankly, the alternatives are few and far between. Sure, there are a few "free" sites out there, like StampHead but the offerings there are seldom much to be impressed with. The more general alternatives like Yahoo and Bidville rarely have enough stamps listed to make it worth anyone's while.

For me, the only seriously viable eBay "alternative" is Belgian collector supersite Delcampe, which regularly has more stamps listed than eBay-- and generally seems to have created a philatelic online auction niche marketplace for itself.

On the whole, though, it strikes me that the majority of those stamp sellers who complain are mostly bellyaching over not being able to sell common stamps at near full retail... and they get all annoyed with eBay because it costs them money to list every item that just sits there for a couple of years before some sucker comes along and pays the inflated price.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Packing things away to move

I have started packing quite a few of my stamps away, in preparation for moving. Even though we are still nowhere near actually putting the house on the market, we continue to go through the seemingly endless process of packing things away, and getting rid of the excess.

I feel a bit hesitant about putting stamp stock books and philatelic literature away, with the idea that I "won't need them" for a while. I suppose it makes me take a long hard look at exactly which stamp catalogues are meaningful in my collecting. I am also about to pack away some of my collections, and that worries me a bit, too. It could be months and months before I can get to them again... what if I felt like organizing some stamps, in the interim?

I suppose that's part of the "price" we pay for doing the move as a "self-move."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cancellations-- no not Postmarks

I am sad to say that I have not been able to find any updated information about the Austin Stamp Show. As best I can tell, the event has been cancelled, for 2006. Normally, it takes place sometime in the Spring, but I have found no evidence that there will be a 2006 event.

It made me think about the "regionality" of stamp collecting. As long as I have lived in Texas (20+ years), I have been very aware of how few people collect stamps around these parts. I live in a city of 1 million+ people, and there's not even support for one single stamp show per year. As long as I have been selling on eBay (since May 1998), I have noticed that the stamps I sell-- predominantly Scandinavia-- either get sent back to their country of origin, or they end up being sent to some place on the west coast, typically California, or the area between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Expert Issue

To expertize or not to expertize?

I seldom have too many doubts about expertizing items in my own collection. The issue of yes/no arises far more often when it comes to something I plan to sell... when is it worthwhile, when is it not?

Over the years, one of the things I have noticed is that getting an expert opinion from a recognized expert costs a lot more in the US than it does in Europe. I know several (well-known, I might add) European experts from whom I can get five color photo certificates for about $100. The same certificates in the US would cost twice that, or something more. This difference is important enough to me that the only certificates I buy from US authorities (typically the Philatelic Foundation or APS) are for US stamps... otherwise, it is simply not worth my while.

Besides, in many cases the US expertizing bodies lack the specialized knowledge needed to (as was recently the case) warrant the authenticity of a very rare Swedish postmark, for example.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Auction Chatter for the week ending 01/29/2006

I spent some time looking through the Denmark listings on eBay, but found very little of note. There's just not a lot of good material being offered at the moment, but collectors are lurking. When an occasional interesting item does come up for sale, prices pretty quickly reach "stout" levels.

On the sales end of things, this weekend saw the end of my current series of auctions on Although 44 of 45 lots sold, I'd have to characterize the results as a bit disappointing. Many lots sold at their opening bids, and "pleasant upside surprises" were limited to at 5kr Post Office in no more than "fair" condition, which sold for 310,- DKK, rather more than I would have expected.

The total realization for the week was 1,554,- DKK.

I spent much of this weekend preparing and listing lots for sale on the Tradera auction site. I had a bunch of "remnant" Swedish material that had failed to sell on eBay, or that came from various shows. I now have 65 lots listed, scheduled to close in a couple of weeks. The market in Sweden seems quite solid, and busy, with good items commanding premium prices. Whereas I didn't really have any "spectacular" items to offer, I am hoping these lots will bring in a fair chunk of change. As of this writing, 44 of the 65 lots already have bids, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a strong showing.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Danish Luxury Cancels

Collecting stamps with superb "socked-on-the-nose" town cancels has been an integral part of the stamp collecting scene in Sweden, for as long as I can remember. Stamps with superior strikes-- especially from small or "dead" towns-- can command premiums that border on the absurd. Although Swedish collectors sometimes center their town cancels collections around a specific issue, the cancels themselves are often more important than the stamps they appear on. I started my own collection of Swedish town cancels in the early 1980's, and chose to specialize in the "Ring" type stamps (Scott 17-51/Facit 17-51).

In neighboring Denmark-- which is where I was born, and where I know stamp collecting to be extremely popular-- the collecting of cancels has bordered on "esoterica" until quite recently. A few people did specialize in early numeral cancels, but they were few and far between. The thought of collecting great cancels on anything but classic issues was pretty much unheard of.

The Danish AFA catalogues (the de-facto "bible" used by Danish collectors) did not consider cancels as part of their "premium quality" definition until the 2003 edition of the catalogues. For comparison's sake, the main Swedish philatelic organization (SFF) adopted standards in 1968.

Collectors in Denmark are only just beginning to pay attention to cancels as a separate collecting area. Building a collection with superior town cancels is still a bit of a novelty, although the number of lots offered for sale with the descriptor "superb cancel" increases every day-- regardless of whether you're perusing one of Thomas Høiland's fine auction catalogues, or wandering through the listings on Denmark's QXL online auction site.

Because I already had the interest in Swedish cancels, I have been saving Danish stamps with nice cancels for some 20 years. As a bit of an experiement, I recently put some duplicates up for sale on the QXL auction site. I'll be curious to see how that goes. Are the Danes ready to pay similar premiums to what the Swedes have been for over three decades?

More here, as it unfolds....

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Shipping and Handling"

I've been using eBay for about 8 years; both as a buyer and a seller. I've also used several other online auction sites to buy and sell stamps. In general, I think pretty highly of online auctions as places that are useful both in building a collection, and in selling duplicate material.

I am sad to say, however, that a lot of stamp collectors are on the border of being cheapskates. I certainly don't begrudge anyone a bargain-- and I certainly enjoy them, myself-- but when someone gets down to the nitty gritty of "arguing" with me about postage it gets under my skin.

When I sell on eBay, I don't charge a "handling" fee. In fact, I charge only $0.60 for domestic postage, which (until very recently) covered the cost of postage for a slightly-over-1oz letter. What's more, I start my lots at $0.99 and don't have a reserve.

Not long ago, someone won a mint LH German East Africa #18 from me-- for the minimum bid of 99 cents. That's a heck of deal, since it catalogues $12.00 in Scott-- and GEA is definitely not an "unpopular" area. "Market value" is probably about $7.00. So this fellow who wins the lot takes it upon himself to "adjust" the postage fee from 60 cents to 37 cents before paying. I guess he thought I was "overcharging."

Let me do the math:

I offer a $12.00 stamp and you get it for 99 cents? I don't begrudge you getting a bargain, but now you want a break on postage?

I got $0.99. But wait, I really didn't. First I had to pay eBay $0.25 to list it. I also paid a $0.05 closing fee. Oh, and you paid with PayPal. That cost another $0.35, plus a percentage. Envelopes and glassines are NOT free-- let's just say they add another $0.10. So by now I have $0.20 left on my $12.00 stamp. Twenty. Cents. And this person thinks I'm "overcharging" on postage?

Of course, there are lots of nice auction buyers out there-- like the friendly fellow from Germany who voluntarily (and unprompted) added 50 cents to his $3.00 payment to help out with the PayPal fees.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Some sort of Beginning

Although I have been keeping personal blogs since 1998, it never occurred to me to keep a "stamp blog." After all, what would I write about? What stamps I soaked, today? New additions to my album?

Then I ran across a post entitled "Do you keep a blog?" on one of the stamp collectors' newsgroups I frequent. In reading some of the replies, it occurred to me that blogs don't strictly speaking need to be a "journal." Many people use them as more "dynamic" or changing pages attached to their fixed web sites.

I was also reminded that just because someone keeps a blog in a "public" venue-- such as this-- doesn't necessarily mean you have "write for the public." Hence, a stamp blog may also serve as running thoughts from buying and selling through online auctions, adding to my collections, and various other things of that ilk.

In fact, after I thought it over for a bit, I realized that there would be no shortage of material to include. And whereas much of it would probably only be relevant to myself, there might still be some occasional information of use to other people.

And so beginneth my attempt to keep a stamp collecting blog.