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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Passage: MyPhilately

It is with some sadness that I recently noticed that Australia-based MyPhilately-- a major social networking site for stamp collectors-- appears to have ceased operation.

According to a message now posted on the site's front page, the site is now for sale.

MyPhilately managed to grow to more than 6000 members, which is a considerable number for a stamp collecting web site. Although the site sometimes seemed a little cumbersome to use, it was generally a friendly and welcoming community where collectors got to know each other through a variety of "sub groups" which allowed people to find each other by collecting interest.

I hope site founder Dan Brown and his team do manage to find a buyer-- it would be a great shame if the "library" of 100,000s of images, posts, blogs and more were to be lost to the collector community for good.

The (apparent) demise of MyPhilately is just another reminder of how impermanent the world wide web can be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Your Stamp Collection Documented?

Recently, we moved to a new house. Then, last week, we took a trip to California to visit family.

These are normal acts people engage in on a regular basis. Moving, and being away made me stop and think about how well (or not) my stamp collections are "documented." What would other people, processing my things, know if something were to happen to me?

If you read philatelic publications-- such as the APS' monthly "American Philatelist"-- it's commonly written that it's important that we collectors remember to insure our stamp collections. There are even companies that specialize in insuring stamp collections. If you have even a moderately "serious" stamp collection, I highly recommend this. Most likely, your homeowner's insurance (unless you have a special rider) will NOT cover the full value of your collection.

But that's not my reason for writing, today.

Both my parents died, a couple of years ago. But even though their "papers" were in immaculate order, they left almost no documentation to actually identify the things of value they left behind. Finding myself "wondering" about some of their artwork made me realize that THIS is exactly how people find "a Picasso painting at a garage sale."

Odds are that unless they happen to be stamp collectors, themselves, you children (or spouse) have no real idea of what your collection is about. They may have the most general idea that your collection is "valuable" to some extent, but what will they do when you die? Will they have the information to sell your stamps for fair market value? In the event you have assembled a specialized collection... would a "general" stamp dealer-- assuming your heirs had the knowledge to contact one-- understand what they were looking at? Will the collection-- which could have paid for a grandchild's college education-- end up with some unknowing dealer who'll offer $5,000 for it? Would anyone (for example) realize that this non-descript Swedish stamp pictured at right carries the only known example of the postmark on it... and would sell for a considerable sum, if properly auctioned, in Sweden?

And so, I have started the process of "documenting" my collections, creating a file of descriptions and information that can serve as an "addendum" to my will.

It doesn't have to be complicated.

A couple of paragraphs to describe your collection, or each of your collections (if you have several). A brief listing of any "highlights" a potential auctioneer or other buyer should be aware of, along with the location of any expert certificates for better items, should you have some. A short list of dealers or stamp auctioneers YOU would entrust your collection to... were you to sell it today... along with their contact information.

Doing this will not only offer you some peace of mind, it will also offer peace of mind to those who-- at some point in the future-- will have to "deal with dad's stamp collection."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

New AFA Catalogues from Denmark

I received an early Christmas "present" today.

As a specialist collector, I depend on fairly specialized literature to help me better understand and identify the stamps in my collections. Today, I received the new 2012 AFA Denmark catalogue. Along with it, I also got a copy of the 2008 AFA specialized catalogue-- the last time this catalogue (typically released every 6-7 years) was published.

As I perused the new books, it struck me as interesting how there is much talk about how the stamp collecting hobby is "shrinking," and yet... these two catalogues are both about twice the size they were in my early days of collecting, when I was a kid.

The AFA catalogues are a must, if you're a serious collector of Denmark. The Swedish Facit catalogue will get you a long way-- AFA gets into more detail. Although they are published in Danish, and the pricing is listed in Danish kroner, they are well illustrated and easy to use. The specialized catalogue-- now in color and over 900 pages thick-- offers one of the most thorough listings of constant varieties on Danish stamps. The Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Danish West Indies are also covered.

Of course, at a little over US$200.00 (including postage from Denmark) for the two books, these are not for the faint of heart. Which is also why I only invest in new editions every 4-5 years.

Since the catalogues are Danish, I feel that they also offer a more accurate reflection of the current pricing of Danish stamps. Of course-- like all catalogues-- "full catalogue price" is a rarity for any stamp, however, the AFA catalogues offer a fairly accurate picture of the "relative" rarity of different stamps, and is especially useful when it comes to newer stamps. For example, the 2012 Denmark catalogue now includes pricing for stamps on cover up until 1995, and some of the prices accurately reflect that finding certain higher values genuinely used on cover can be extremely difficult. For example, some of the high value painting stamps-- postally used on cover-- might set you back $25-30, even though the stamps are barely 20 years old. Don't believe me? Try finding a NON-first day cover!

Anyway, I was happy to see these new additions to my philatelic library.