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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classic Stamps from Denmark: Ending September 16th

The weather seems to have "broken," here in the US Pacific Northwest. About 10 days ago, we could feel the "warm stillness" of summer give way to the "cool breeziness" of autumn. We are also at the point where the days are getting notably shorter.

XF 7ø provisional with plate flaw in base stamp
For me, these changes also indicate that "stamp season" is about to begin!

As an outdoor enthusiast, I have always been a somewhat "seasonal" collector. This is probably a habit I formed in childhood, where we considered stamp collecting to be a "wintertime thing." Anyway, as the weather gets less pleasant and the days shorten, I usually move towards indoor activities... like working on my stamp collections.

Last week, I finally finished sorting a nice collection of Denmark, bought at auction in Sweden, this past winter (interesting reminder of how truly international our hobby is!). Whereas I found some interesting stamps for my own collection, there were also many really nice items left over-- and so, I decided it was a good time to put them into my first set of eBay stamp auctions of the new "season!"

Here's the direct link ▼:

Classic Denmark at auction: September 9th-16th, 2012

The current auctions include 64 lots very nice older Denmark, with catalogue values to US $300.00+.

A small selection of the current Danish stamps at auction
The large photo at left (click on the image for a larger version!) shows just a few of the items included in this sale. A few more are shown throughout this post.

Individual items include 24 different skilling period stamps, highlighted by an 1864 16sk Arms Type with a major variety and beautiful cancel; also including four different version of the 4 RBS brown, Denmark's first stamp. Then there are some nice "Bicolours," and better stamps like the 5kr Post Office and 1kr brown "Old" Airmail. There are also some nice plate flaws and varieties sprinkled in, along with some lower value stamps chosen simply because they are in super nice quality.

My "philosophy" for running eBay auctions is quite simple, and has been the same since I started on eBay in 1998:

All my auctions begin at US $0.99 and no reserve, regardless of value. If I was looking to"auction" stamps at "retail" prices, I'd just have a retail store. In the current auction series, many stamps have values at-- or above-- US $100.00.

20 øre Arms type with small corner numerals
All lots have large clear scans, allowing collectors-- and especially specialists-- to see exactly what they are bidding on.

All lots have full descriptions. In my world, "see scan" has never constituted a "description." So I actually examine every stamp and write what I see. And I am not afraid to write about faults. I want bidders to actually GET what they think they are bidding on.

Auctions all end at a "sensible" time, both for bidders in Europe, as well as in the US. In addition, I list items to end one minute apart, so those who still enjoy "live last-minute bidding" can participate in many individual auctions. I actively reject eBay's efforts to turn their site into a "shop" venue, rather than an "auction" venue... auction bidding is FUN, if you ask me!

Combined shipping at a reduced rate is always available. Because I prefer to list a substantial number of stamps from the same area, at the same time, combined shipping actually makes sense. I find it so ironic when sellers offer "combined shipping" and then list 100 stamps from 63 different countries... of which I only collect two. Honestly... what's the point?

If it turns out you don't like the stamp or I missed a fault in the description, you can always send it back for a refund. I'm basically in the "happy collectors" business.

So, please take a few moments to go have a look! You never know, I may have something that exactly fits an empty spot in your album... and you may be able to pick up something at a bargain price, as well. I have a number of dealers who always check out my auctions because the possibility exists that you could get a $100 stamp for $3. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen!

Keep in mind: Auctions end Sunday, September 16th at 22:00 Central European (Denmark) time; at 4:00pm US Eastern; 1:00pm US Pacific time.

Thank you for your interest, and good luck with your bids!

As always, I appreciate you helping spread the word about these, using the twitter, Facebook and Google+ buttons, below!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Denmark 40 øre Stamp: Sometimes a Little Means a Lot!

I add stamps to my collections from many different venues-- ranging from exchanges to stamp shows to large international philatelic auctions.

Recently, I purchased some stamps from the APS StampStore... and got a nice little (unexpected) "bonus," in the process. It reminded me how-- as a specialist collector-- it's often something quite small that makes a big difference.

Denmark AFA 105 & 105a; Scott 116 & 117
In 1918, Denmark issued a number of definitive stamps in the long-running series featuring King Christian X facing to the right. The 40 øre value was actually issued in two distinct versions: The lilac and black (at left) is generally regarded as the "main" stamp, while the distinctly different blue-lilac and black is regarded by most as a "color variety." The US-based Scott catalogue assigns separate numbers, while most others list the first stamp with its own number and the blue-lilac with an "a" designation. The blue-lilac is somewhat harder to find.

I am always looking for "really nice" copies of Danish stamps-- my collections are centered around having "excellent quality" stamps in all my album spaces. That's not everyone's strategy, of course, but it happens to be my personal preference.

So when I found a lot with 4 different Christian X stamps, I was quite happy to purchase the lot of four, in order to get the really nice example of the 40 øre blue-lilac, pictured at right. Very well centered, with a fairly "crisp" cancel and good perfs, it is the kind of quality I look for. Although there are a couple of tiny cancel smudges, it will do nicely till I find a better example.

In Denmark-- and beyond-- the "bi-coloured" King Christian X definitives have become a very popular specialist area. For the most part, the stamps are reasonably valued (the exception being the 27 øre and 10kr stamps) and fairly readily available.

The issue also offers the specialist a great many plate flaws to look for. Part of what makes this series interesting is the two-color printing process: The outer frame was printed during one pass through the presses; the center on a second pass. Since the same center (portrait) plates were used for different values (different frames), it's possible to find the same portrait plate flaws on different stamps. Naturally, the different value frame plates all developed distinct plate flaws of their own. And because it's a two-step printing process, you can also find some notable colour-shifts.

I was about to put the stamp into my album when I noticed something slightly "odd."

Take a look at the bottom right corner. It is slightly rounded, and there seems to be a small "line" across it. Listed as AFA number 105av, this is one of the recognized "major" plate flaws on this stamp.

Although it's no great rarity-- the error occurs on four stamps in each sheet of 100-- it still meant that my $5.00 stamp was now a listed AFA variety with a catalogue value of 400,- Danish kroner-- about US $70.00!

For me, a large part of the appeal of being a "specialist" lies in the fun of the "treasure hunt" and finding the unexpected. I also like the fact that it allows me to "continue collecting" now that I have reached a point where I am only missing a very few and very expensive stamps in terms of "main catalogue numbers." Increasing the size of my collection simply through my (limited!) ability to spend thousands of dollars on the next stamp doesn't hold much appeal.

Hence, I started to specialize.

All you really need is a keen eye and the knowledge (which I get from a number of different articles and specialist literature) to know what to look for. And sometimes you may even find "something new" from simply looking carefully at what seems like a very "normal" stamp!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

And now for something completely different... FREE stamps!

When you're a long-time stamp collector, it's almost inevitable that there occasionally are stamps "left over." Some are valuable and can be sold on places like eBay; some have little worth or are defective... personally, I prefer to give those to artists who create interesting scrapbook art or stationery people can enjoy; that way awareness of "old stamps" is spread beyond the existing stamp collector community.

One of my current free listings: US Scott 185
Catalogue value $17.50 (click on image)
Finally, there are some some stamps that are just "somewhere in the middle." Maybe they are in sound condition and list for a couple of dollars in catalogue value, or perhaps they have a catalogue value of $7 but a minor defect or uninteresting cancel. What to do, with these stamps?

For over ten years, I've just been putting them aside in glassines marked "better," saving them for some day where I might have a suitable answer.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to a then new website called "Listia" and said "this is pretty cool." Now, I'm not the kind of person who finds something "new" and immediately starts to tell everyone who's willing to listen that it's "the greatest thing EVER," until I've actually determined that it really IS something worthwhile that other people will enjoy. Hence, I learned about this web site two years ago, but I have chosen not to write about it till now... I just have an "issue" about not recommending things that are ill-conceived and turn out to be a waste of time.

So what exactly IS this "Listia?" Well, it's an auction site somewhat in the style of eBay, except it's about giving away things for FREE. Yes, I said "free," and that includes free stamps.

Now, most of us have been taught that there is "no such thing as a free lunch," and when something is supposedly free, there's usually "a catch."

In this case-- and this is based on having actually used the site for a while, not just "promises in a site description"-- the "catches" are fairly minor. For one (which is pretty unavoidable if you're using the Internet!) you have to register and create an account. Second, where as this genuinely IS a site about "free stuff," it basically operates as an "Exchange and Barter" venue, in the sense that you participate in auctions using the site's "currency," or "credits."

Another free stamp: Scott US E6 used, CV $10.00 (click on image)
Aside from the initial credits you earn simply for signing up, you get more credits by offering things in auctions and having others bid on your free item with their credits.

Here's how it might work: You register on the site. Maybe you list 10 different stamps you wouldn't mind parting with-- exchanging, basically. There are NO fees to do so. Site users can then "bid" on your stamps with "credits."  After a week, your auctions end, and perhaps you have earned 5000 credits (just an example). Then you can turn around and use your credits to bid on stamps you want.

To my way of thinking, this is much better than exchanging stamps 1-on-1 where you are dependent on the other person actually having the material you want... instead, you can just save up your credits and use them to bid for any number of other people's stamps that might interest you.

For those who don't have the patience to list items, you can buy credits to use to place your bids-- but it's totally not necessary, in order to use the site. It can be honestly said that the site can be used completely FREE-- no cash or money needed to be an active participant.

Some might ask why the bother with a "credit" system. The credit system is necessary in order to maintain an active community and a ongoing stream of these listings for free items. After all, if everything was just free-- with NO requirements or strings attached-- a bunch of people would descend on the site like vultures and make a full-time habit of just grabbing everything and returning nothing to the site. Which would also mean that the site would have long since gone away, as the supply of free stuff would dry up thanks to greedy "freebie seekers."

Another free stamp: US Scott 399 used, CV $10.00 (click on image)
Now, I should add that this is not specifically a "stamp" site, nor even a "collectibles" site. Like an eBay, it's pretty much an "everything" site. For example, I have listed old stamps, coins and bank notes which has earned me "credits" I am planning to use to "buy" DVD movies. You can also find clothing, home furnishings, electronics and more.

The reason I am writing about this today is that I am hoping to be part of a move to make the "stamps" category a larger and more vibrant part of the Listia community... Why? Because it really does offer the potential to develop into a viable online "stamp exchange" forum. I have been watching Listia for a couple of years, and feel confident that it is not a "flash in the pan" that's going to go away as quickly as it came. In other words, it's "established" enough to be something I feel comfortable talking about.

There are a number of reasons I am recommending this site to the stamp collector community.

For one, it's free. And we all like free. In these days of rising seller fees on many sites, there are fewer and fewer options for collectors to trade their low-to-medium value stamps without having to hand over the majority of the value to someone else in fees.

Second, a free site takes us "back to basics." Many people got involved in "swapping stamps" because it was a FUN way to add to a collection. This site offers a nice platform for an online stamp "swap meet."

Third, it's free, part 2. As collectors, we seem to have increasingly moved towards a "money based" system for building our collections. More and more collectors just BUY stamps, rather than belonging to a shrinking number of stamp clubs and trading. What if we had a place to trade, that was based on popularity, demand and supply... rather than "dollars and cents?"

A free US Stamp: Scott no. 234, CV $9.50 (click on image)
Fourth... it's FUN! It's still possible to experience the thrill of the hunt and finding something you really need for your collection... and it's still possible to experience the thrill (as the person having something up for auction) of a bunch of people getting into "heated competition" to get a stamp they really want... and yet no money changes hands!

Fifth, it's a good venue for those who don't have a lot of money-- because you can still trade online, but it doesn't have to involve money.

With that said, I'd like to invite readers of this blog to go to the Listia site and become members. It doesn't cost anything. List a few stamps you wouldn't mind parting with and see what happens. That also doesn't cost anything-- and stamps are very popular with existing members. Become part of the community, and help build the stamps area as a trading community for stamp collectors around the world! You can visit my profile page and check out that I really have been a member for several years. Have a look at my current listings for stamps, which really and truly are free... just sign up and bid. A number of current items are pictured throughout this blog post.

Bottom line: I'm just suggesting this as part of an effort to put the fun back in stamp collecting. The only thing I stand to "gain" getting more people involved in something that could become a potentially neat stamp trading site. Give it a go!

Last word: I know there are a few skeptics out there who are thinking: "How can the site even exist if it doesn't make money?" Good question. As I said, they DO sell "credits," the internal "currency" of the web community. They also bank on the difference between the "open market rate" of credits as items trade between "buyers" and "sellers" vs. the somewhat higher cash rate for credits charged for items offered the Listia "Rewards Store."