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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.