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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fewer Stamps on the Market?

This past weekend marked Thanksgiving, in the USA.

As a result, I had a little spare time on my hands, which I used to peruse some of my favorite stamp selling venues around the www.

It seems to me that there's less "worthwhile" material for sale, these days. Initially, I thought more people might be selling stamps because the economy is less than brilliant, and selling stamps would be a way to make more money. However, it actually seems there are fewer stamps listed on eBay and in other places, and the items I found were not very good quality, either.

I noticed that several online auction sites have fewer stamp listings than they did at this time, last year.

A fellow collector pointed out to me that perhaps people are LESS likely to let go of their "good stuff" to pay for groceries, when things are economically difficult. Rare stamps have previously been seen as a "safe haven" during uncertain economic times. That said, I was under the (mistaken?) impression that people mostly "invested" in stamps during times of high inflation.

I think it may also be true that more of the "good" material is being consigned to traditional "brick and mortar" professional auctioneers, than to "self sale" locations. Recent sales at Thomas Høiland in Denmark and Postiljonen and Philea in Sweden had some very high quality items on offer, and prices have been quite good.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The strangeness of "Condition"

"Sound stamp?" That's a matter of opinion...
This morning, I have been spending some time on the Internet, looking at stamps for sale in the APS "Stampstore" online.

I find people's interpretation of a stamp's condition rather astonishing, sometimes.

How can a stamp be "fault free," when the scan clearly shows a corner is missing?

How can an 1872 stamp from Sweden have a "natural straight edge," when it is a global fact that all Swedish stamps issues prior to 1920 were perforated on all four sides-- without fail?

This confuses me, a bit. It also offends me a little, because there seems to be a hidden implication that I am "too ignorant to know any different."

Maybe what also bothers me about it is that it seems like a "hit and hope" approach-- sellers do not necessarily lie about something, but "describe" it, and then hope that the next sucker won't notice that something is wrong. I grant you, not everyone can be an expert on the stamps of every country... but if I were to offer material for sale from a country I am not all that familiar with, you can be sure I'm going to spend so time getting to know that country's stamps in the catalogue, before I put anything up for sale. And if I'm a buyer, I'm going to educate myself about what I am buying, as well.

The other thing that makes me scratch my head is sellers who think someone is going to pay 75% of catalogue value for a stamp that's little more than a space filler. What? WHAT?

I'm really not curmudgeonly, by nature!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Backs of Stamps

Some years ago, I remember being at the annual Austin, Texas Stamp and Postcard show, put on by the local stamp club. In between sifting through dealer stocks for interesting finds, I spent a little time looking at the exhibits.

One of the exhibits was entitled "Mint Never Hinged."

It cracked me up, because it was offered by a very "serious" collector from the community... and all it was two frames showing... THE BACKS OF STAMPS.

I knew the collector behind the exhibit, so I also realized that he was poking fun at the near-obsession people often have with gum, and its condition.

I have always collected used stamps. My father (who was a "casual" collector, at best) tried to get me "into" mint, but it just never appealed. Whereas I can appreciate the fact that a mint stamp allows you to see the whole image, I just find used more interesting. As that collector with the "MNH" exhibit reminded me, I collect the fronts of stamps. Which isn't to say that I don't look for thins and markings on the back of my stamps; the back is simply not my focal point.

As I think about my preference, I realize something: A mint stamp feels "static," to me-- that is, it's just "a point in time." A piece of paper, printed on (or around) the date of issue. A used stamp "tells a story." As I collect them (with readable cancels), my used stamps tell me of a place and a time, when someone mailed a letter, or something else. If I have the entire cover, I know more about the "story" of the stamp's journey.

I realize part of this is perhaps born out of a sense of "romantic adventure." Take the stamp at right-- from Norway, with a crowned posthorn cancel "SVALBARDRUTEN." It doesn't even have a date, but I can imagine it being on a letter, loaded on the periodic freight ship that sails between mainland Norway and the remote Svalbard Island group, in the far Arctic North Atlantic. And that simply makes the stamp more interesting to me.

I'm not saying there are "right" or "wrong" ways to collect. We should collect in ways that make us happy, and give us the most enjoyment of the collection. For me, that means collecting used stamps.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stamps 2 Go

Stamps2Go is an online marketplace for stamp collectors, where buyers and sellers come together.

Unlike most sites, this is NOT an "auction" format site-- rather, it is an "online shop" format where sellers can list their items in the site database, and buyers can fill their collections by choosing from the offerings of more than (currently) 230 sellers.

What's nice about the Stamps2Go site is that it's very easy to use-- simple layout, doesn't require a powerful computer to use. All purchasing takes place through PayPal, so the site is available to anyone who lives in the approximately 190 countries serviced by PayPal. Another nice feature is the "fixed shipping" system, which means a collector will never be surprised by uncommonly high shipping charges. As a buyer, you'll pay the same amount of shipping, no matter how few or many stamps you decide to buy. The only (very minor!) niggle I have with the site is that a lot of sellers choose to list 1000's of stamps without photos.

As a seller, it's nice and easy to use, as well. There's a simple template to fill out, and a place to upload a picture for the stamp you're selling. The only thing a potential seller might find annoying is that you only get one photo per stamp, and there's no "headline" or "title" like you'd find on an auction sale site. However, the selling commission is quite low, and it doesn't cost anything to list stamps there, until you actually sell something.

At the moment, I am slowly uploading a selection of stamps from SWEDEN, with more to come over the next few months. As with all stamps I offer online, all items do have photos! Just click on the button, below, to see my stamps for sale!