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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Do Stamp Collectors EVER "Get Organized?"

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I am ever going to get my stamps "organized."

I haven't been keeping up with this blog recently, in part a reflection of the fact that I have been making a serious attempt to actually organize my stamps, rather than just write about them.

Well... that's not entirely true.

On the whole, my stamp collections are actually fairly well organized. The main source of chaos in my stamp "holdings" is all the stuff that is "not in a collection." I expect that's an issue that faces many collectors-- at least those who build specialized collections the way I always have: By buying accumulations, remaindered collections and box lots and "cherry picking" the stuff I want to keep.

Of course, that leaves "leftovers." For me, the pile of leftovers has grown quite large. I am not the most ambitious person to ever set foot on this planet, so I have had a tendency to set aside the "overs" with the thought of dealing with them later, rather than right away.

These "leftovers" became the reason I ended up selling stamps online, as well as buying them.

The other day, I was considering the way the Internet has changed stamp collecting-- making stamps and other collectors far more "accessible" than they used to be. I suppose that is both good and bad. It's easier to build a collection, but it's also easier to become a "hoarder" or "accumulator."

I sometimes wonder if my pile of "leftovers" would be much smaller, if there were no Internet? Then again, because there is the Internet, I have been able to already pass along many of my leftovers to other collectors through online sales. It's the whole "One man's trash is another man's treasure" principle.

Part of my effort to "get organized" has revolved around making not-needed stamps available for sale to others. The thing is, these stamps are just sitting in boxes, in my closet-- nobody gets to enjoy them there. And that's a shame.

Anyway, it's a HUGE amount of work to sort, identify, scan and list stamps for sale on web marketplaces. I have come to deeply admire those who eek out an actual living by doing so... I can't even imagine the amount of time and effort needed to build an online "inventory" of 50,000 items. For me, even 500 or 1000 items feels like a mountain of work.

For the last couple of months, I have mostly been working with stamps from Denmark. As a 40-year collector, those are the easiest for me to deal with-- especially as far as identification goes.

Sometimes I am amazed by what sellers consider to be a "description." I have seen listings on eBay that read simply "Denmark, very old. Rare!"

OK. So it's up to ME to identify the stamp from a scan? One question, though-- if you don't know the catalogue number of the stamp, how do you know it's "rare?"

A lot of times, the word "rare" is just used as what Internet "gurus" refer to as "click bait." I find it rather annoying-- don't call something "rare" unless it actually has some measure of rarity. And "being 100 years old" does not-- by itself-- make any stamp "rare."

Then again, I tend to be a stickler for describing stamps "properly" and that slows me down considerably, compared to someone who just uploads scans and lets potential buyers pretty much "guess" as to the ID and condition of the stamp. Maybe that works for people-- as a buyer, it has never worked for me. I know a lot of sellers say things like "If you need a better scan, let me know." Personally, I'm too lazy to deal with that... besides, why not just upload the "better scan," in the first place?

Maybe I'm silly, but I tend to favor sellers who actually identify a stamp correctly, and mention things like "has a thin" or "hinge remnant" on their listings.

So anyway, the upshoot of the "organization project" is that I have been listing 100's of my old duplicates for sale since November. Part of the process was not only organizing the stamps, but choosing where to list... something that seems to be on many casual traders' minds.

Which sites "work?" Which sites do not? What is the relationship between fees and sales success?

Since I am not really in it "to make a profit," my criteria are probably a little different from a regular stamp dealer's. For one, since I sell much material at 20-50% of catalogue value (sometimes less), what's most important to me is that the stamps are seen... because I know that as long as there are people looking at the stamps, the prices will drive sales. But if nobody is looking, it doesn't matter if you are giving away free hot bread, so to speak. And that's an issue with many online marketplaces that bill themselves as "alternatives to eBay." It may be cheap-- or even free-- to sell things there, but if there are no buyers, "free" doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

I currently use SIX different venues... and have "rejected" about 15 others as "not worthwhile." Later in the spring, I hope to write about each one I DO use-- and these are only sites where I have actually sold stuff-- and what it's like, and how it works for me. "Site reviews," if you will. I figured it might be useful to other collectors.

In the meantime, I'd like to invite you to visit my eBay Stamp Shop! I have lots of better material from Denmark, as well as some useful Iceland and Sweden. Although I normally deal just with Scandinavian material, I am also offering some better stamps from Switzerland.

I think you'll like what you see there.

Thanks for reading, and "till the next!"