Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Kid in a Candy Store"

How many times have you heard that expression? Not only have I heard (and said) it, but right now, I'm living it. It's not all it's cracked up to be.

I have a pretty good collection of Great Britain, including a nice #1 with four margins and a black Maltese Cross cancel. I created almost 20 lots yesterday for Shayne, just of early Great Britain. It included quite a few early stamps - the kind that included the plate number in the stamp design. Yesterday's lots included quite an assortment of the better plate numbers, as well as the nicest #60 I've ever seen. The thing that makes it hilarious is that most of the stamps I put together for Shayne's email auction were mis-identified by their previous owner, including mint hinged copies of 311 and 312 that were previously identified as 373 and 374. That mis-identification means a difference of over $170 catalog value for those two stamps. The difference was between being watermarked 308 or unwatermarked, and the watermarks were easy to see.

I have the opportunity to buy stamps from Shayne at a discount. The reason I'm working, though, is because we NEED the extra money I'm bringing in. It's not much, but it means the difference between meeting the bills and buying food and gas for the car, and not being able to do those things. Stamps are kind of at the bottom of my priorities right now. Having them around me every day is a temptation, and one I'm not always able to resist.

On another note, working at a stamp store HAS proven to be educational. I've always been one to do a lot of reading about stamps, so I have a good background. Many times, however, it's difficult to apply what you learn without being able to actually SEE what you're studying. The illustrations in most stamp catalogues and magazines leave something to be desired. I now know what a genuine Buenos Aires #2 looks like - we had one for sale. I know that of all the stamps of Buenos Aires I have, all but two of them are "reprints" - an euphenism for "Official counterfeit" that's widely used in the stamp world. I've also seen some other very unusual items - the "Victoria Land" overprints on New Zealand stamps of 1909-12, some of the higher values from many of Australia's early States, Mexican officials, and literally hundreds of other similar items.

These stamps don't make it into my collection. I may never get them. I do know what they look like now, and will be able to recognize them if I see them again. I also know what the fakes, of whatever type, look like, and can avoid them.

It's not like I NEED to buy some more stamps. I have gracious plenty to do with what I've already acquired over the last 45 years. I'm trying to sort down an accumulation of about four pounds of Bulgaria, off paper, that I've had for several (would you believe, 17) years. Bulgaria was never very high on my priority list, except for the earlier issues, and I haven't ever done much with them. Now I'm trying to play catch-up. It's not easy, but I'll get it done - someday! Bulgaria isn't the only country I have in such quantity. I've sorted down several thousand Hungarian stamps in the last few years, and yet I still have a box with at least six pounds of stamps off paper to go through. As my friend Mike said when he came over to visit from Kansas, "If I ever saw you with a clean desk, I'd put my suit in the cleaners so I'd be ready for the funeral." Hah! Never happen. Old hoarders never die, they just implode.

Today was the end of the month, and the end of the first half of 2005. Tomorrow starts a new month, a new quarter, and a new half-year. I wonder what mischief I'll get into...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Wide-Tongue" Syndrome

I bought a collection last week that had, among other things, a rather complete set of George VI Gold Coast issues. I was severely disappointed when I got it home and found that about a dozen of the stamps were "stuck down". After soaking them off (they were mint copies, and nothing else worked, not even a sweat-box), I found that most of them were also extremely faulty. One came apart in several pieces. I managed to salvage about 3/4 of the collection, but the loss of the high values was extremely disappointing.

There were two culprits at work here. The first was that the stamps were hinged to an old self-stick photo album. I've seen collections like this before, and expected to lose a few stamps in trying to get them loose. I do know a few 'tricks', so the loss was minimal. There was also sufficient duplication for most of the stamps to make the loss of a couple of stamps unimportant. The second problem, however, was much worse - it's what I call "Wide Tongue" Syndrome.

I've learned from sad experience that an over-wet hinge will stick on both sides when put onto a gummed stamp. This includes CTO copies as well as mint, and even a few used copies that retain some of their gum. I've also learned that to properly moisten a hinge, I slide my thumbnail beneath the hinge, lifting it from the stamp. Failing to lift the hinge before moistening it leads to the kind of damage inherent with "wide-tongue" syndrome. Some people lick more than the hinge, especially at the top, and essentially glue the stamp to the album page. It's difficult to remove stamps stuck down in this manner without causing a thin, or without losing at least some of the gum.

I 'lost' four stamps. I managed to remove and mount the 1928 Christiansborg Castle set to the 2-shilling, the complete Silver Jubilee issue, the higher values of the first George VI definitive set, the Silver Wedding anniversary set, and a few others. I lost the 5-shilling Christiansborg stamp (that's the one that came apart), one of the 1937 Coronation issues, one of the UPU lower values, and the mint 10-shilling from the second George VI issue. The latter is the only one there wasn't duplication of.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Time and Tide..."

There's an old addage that says time and tide wait for no man. I can certainly attest to the fact that time has a habit of getting away from all of us. It's happened to me repeatedly over this past week. One of the many results is that I haven't posted to this site in eight days!

There are extenuating circumstances: Monday and Thursday mornings were tied up with medical appointments and X-rays. Wednesday afternoon was taken up by an appointment with my attorney, and Friday morning was taken up with meeting the Social Security Administrative Law judge. I worked for Shayne on Monday through Thursday, from one to four hours a day in the afternoon. Thursday evening, an old friend of mine dropped in for a short visit on his way back to Kansas from the West Coast. He left Saturday morning, and I worked Saturday afternoon.

The real reason I haven't posted, however, is that I acquired some NEW GOODIES!

Of course, all those other things are true, too. Some of them frustrated me - I wanted to work on my collection, but some things had to be done. I enjoyed the visit of my best friend. I got him started on stamp-collecting in 1974, and we've been trading back and forth ever since. He could have stayed a week and we wouldn't have run out of things to talk about. Heck, we could talk that long about stamps, and not run out of things to say! I NEEDED the x-rays - my doctor thinks I may have suffered a compression fracture of my spine, or a ruptured disk. The Social Security appointment was CRITICAL - and successful! But all those essential tasks were harder to endure because I had not one, but TWO new boxes of stamps to sort through.

I have gone through them, so I know what's inside. I've even worked several small groups of stamps up. What I mean by "working stamps up" is sorting the stamps out individually, mounting and inventorying the stamps I add to my collection, and putting the rest either into my recycle box or into my trade stock. One of the groups I've worked up entirely is Tonga.

It's not often you find a Tonga lot, especially one that contains about a hundred of the die-cut, self-adhesive freeform stamps. There were 138 in this lot, including 101 different. I've discovered through experience that you can't soak off these Tonga stamps - it's better to cut the paper away from around the stamp, and mount it like that. I also added a number of the perforated and imperforate varieties issued between 1938 and 1960 both to my collection and to my trade stock. I found several complete sets, including the 1951 50th Anniversary of British Friendship, the 1961 75th Anniversary of the postal system, and the 1953 pictorial definitives to the 5/- (shilling).

The second photo is Tonga, C7-10, foil stamps in the shape of the island of Tongatapu. I've wondered several times about how difficult it would be to use these stamps, as well as some of the gold foil stamps and the three-dimensional stamps of Bhutan, to name one country that issues them. Hand-cancelling would be essential!

I hope to write soon about the Swiss part of this purchase. It was memorable to me, and to my good friend, Mike!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Full Disclosure

I ran into an old friend of mine that I've exchanged stamps with several times in the local grocery store yesterday. We talked about several things, including trading and this blog. He's not much into the Internet, so I doubt he'll ever appear here. He did ask a couple of questions I feel compelled to answer here.

I talk a lot about two dealers, Shayne Clinard of, and Beverly Fox of Weeda Stamps, Ltd.. Shayne is the dealer I work for, and Beverly is both a personal friend and one place where I dispose of my excess material, as well as buy.

While I work for Shayne, he doesn't have any say on what goes into this blog. Yes, I talk a lot about what's available on his eBay listings, because I put many of them together to go there. He doesn't pay me to advertise here. He doesn't contribute to my payment to maintain my Internet connection, other than to pay me for the work I do. I just think it's interesting to discuss what goes on "behind the door" so to speak at a heavily-web-based stamp company. And yes, I do get a small discount on stamps I buy, solely because I do work for Shayne's company.

Beverly could advertise here if she wished, but so far I don't have a large enough readership to make that worthwhile, or cost-effective. Once I've reached a hundred readers a day (which may take YEARS at the rate we're growing), advertising might be practical. In the meantime, I'll continue to mention her and her weekly bidboard now and then, just because I find them both interesting and informative.

There aren't a lot of readers of this blog right now, and I hope there will be more. I'd appreciate any comments that anyone might have about content, scope, or any other matter that could make this blog more interesting to those who read it. Please don't hesitate to leave a note, or to send me a private email. I'll be glad to answer any questions anyone might have, as well as posting some more images of stamps from time to time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sweden scans

As promised, here are the scanned images of the two pages of Sweden stamps.

As you can see, there were several Danish commemoratives included, along with the two 9d British commemoratives. I don't know how the one US stamp got into the lot...

Today's work probably won't be posted to Shayne's website until next week, but it's something to look forward to. There are about a dozen lots each of Cyprus and Gold Coast, ranging from single stamps to more than a dozen pages of material. I also made several lots of early Luxembourg (#5, #6, #11, and a handful of glassines ranging from#29 to some back of the book material) and Liechtenstein, including a mint hinged lot containing #1-3, complete.

I've been trying to get Shayne interested in creating a blog, but he says he just doesn't have the time. He may be right...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sweden, British Commonwealth, and other goodies.

I finally got all the Sweden arranged on two Hagner sheets - 139 different, plus about a dozen non-Swedish items. It was quite an eye-opener! The stamps cover a wider period than I first thought, but the majority of them are indeed between 1965 and 1970. There are a large number of booklet stamps in pairs - something European collectors prize. There's even a separate valuation for pairs in the Swedish catalog, "FACIT".

Unfortunately, I'm having problems with my ISP. I haven't been able to FTP anything in weeks, which means I can't upload scanned images. I've called twice, and sent an email, but so far I haven't gotten an answer, other than they're "working on it". When I do, I'll post images of the two pages - they're already scanned in.

The biggest problem being a collector working for a stamp dealer is that you want to buy everything yourself. Unfortunately, I don't have that kind of money, so the temptation is curbed by reality. Every once in a while, however, you just can't resist - like the Swedish on-paper lot, and the lot I bought today.

The lot I got was 187 different mint never hinged British Commonwealth. The stamps came from 28 mostly smaller colonies - Swaziland, Solomon Islands, Bermuda, St. Vincent, Gambia, etc. The total catalogue value for the lot was $91.60 - about a sixth of the $15 I paid for it. There will be five identical lots posted on eBay in the next few days, plus three other lots with fewer stamps, plus some duplication that are also worth looking at. The Sweden will be boxed up beginning this weekend, and should start appearing on eBay within the next ten days.

I've been trying to follow the lots I've created on eBay, but between normal household chores, working 15 hours a week, working on my own collection, and continuing to work on the two novels I have in progress, there just isn't any time to do more than a cursory check. Some of them are doing quite well, others aren't.

If you collect mint Sweden, there are some real goodies at Web-Collector on eBay. There are about five or six different lots of six to ten sets, plus a host of booklet panes. The average lot catalogues for about $100, and each set of lots is mostly different.

One thing we did recently was to go through three boxes of Switzerland and dump all the stamps (an advanced collector's duplicates, sorted down into #10 window envelopes) into a 30-gallon trash container, and mixed them up well. There were stamps from about 1905 through 1980, including about 60% of the semi-postals for that era. We ended up with about 40,000 stamps. These were divided into five one-pound boxes, about 75% off paper, and they'll be offered beginning some time this week. A pound of stamps off paper is quite a number - somewhere around 3000. There were many $1 or more items.

Right now, I'm working on sorting down almost two pounds of off-paper stamps, plus what I'm managing to soak off paper. I've got about a half-pound of Ireland I'm working on, soaking about 30 stamps a day. I don't have room to dry more than that and still keep them safe from the kittens who have taken over my office. Expect quite a number of my want/have pages to show major changes in the next few weeks, as I get this material catalogued and mounted in my collection!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dispose of Duplicates by Trading

I'm taking a day off from work because my back hurts worse than usual today. I'm spending the day working (s.l.o.w.l.y) on my personal collection. There's lots to do. I still have about 80,000 stamps off paper to go through. Most of them are duplicates of what I already have, but there are probably 5-6000 that will end up in my collection eventually. The rest will end up in my trade stock. I trade between 2000 and 4000 stamps a year, with about 15 people.

Is trading a good way to increase the size of a collection? That depends on what you collect. It also requires a lot of work. Building a trading relationship is almost as hard as building a partnership in a business. The first thing any trade relationship needs is a mutual interest. It doesn't do any good to try to establish a trade relationship with a Brazilian collector when all you collect is US first-day covers, and all he collects is Brazil, mint never hinged. Finding the right collecting partner isn't easy, and takes quite a bit of work. Like any relationship, you have to work at it for it to succeed. It's worth it in the long run, though. I've been trading with one collector since 1974. We've probably traded 10,000 stamps between us, to our mutual benefit.

The next most important thing with finding a trading partner is to find someone who not only collects much the same thing you do, but also someone who will accept - and even help make - the rules the two of you will use in your exchange program. Here are generic rules I've found work exceptionally well:

  • Establish a common reference point for the exchange. The most practical reference point is value for value, but that may not be practical if you're dealing with someone whose currency is other than US dollars, or easily convertable. Concurrent with that is an agreement on what catalogue you will use to describe what you have. That helps simplify your valuation problem. Again, most overseas collectors don't use the US Scott Catalogue, and not every American has European or Asian catalogues to refer to.

    One way to bypass the catalogue problem is to exchange stamp for stamp. That works as long as both partners exchange stamps of approximately equal value. It doesn't work if one partner always sends better value stamps, and the other partner sends common, cheap varieties.

  • Establish what constitutes a reasonable exchange. Sending four cheap stamps to someone hardly justifies the expense of the stamp and envelope. Sending high cash value also can become a problem, as the exchange balance may tip heavily against one of you, and cause problems balancing out the exchange. An exchange of between $20 and $50 in value, or 50 or more stamps, is reasonable and can be profitable for both of you.

    Many collectors exchange packets of stamps, with the recipients taking what they want and returning the rest. This works when there are enough holes in both collections to make such an exchange practical and worthwhile. Many collectors, however, reach a point where "100 for 100" or even "500 for 500" don't provide sufficient additions to their collection to justify the expense of the mailing. Again, it's what works for the particular exchange partnership.

  • Work out how you're going to handle damaged or marginal stamps before you start trading! Different collectors have different requirements for what is added to their collection. Some will accept anything, some will only accept the very best quality. Save yourself some grief by working out the question before you start trading.

  • Be scrupulously honest. If your trading partner sends you a stamp that he believes is number 734, and you determine it's really 587, which is worth three times as much, let your partner know, and be willing to send it back to him. Such integrity will pay dividends throughout your trading partnership. Follow the "golden rule": treat your trading partner the same way you would wish to be treated. It goes a long way toward enhancing a trading relationship.

  • Be timely. Don't make your trading partner wait months for word from you. If you can't get to his lot quickly, let him know, and tell him why. Many partners will be willing to wait if they understand why the exchange is taking longer than usual. Many others expect better, more timely service, and failing to provide it will ruin the relationship.

The Phil Guptil/Hans Mortensen Stamp Trader List is a great place to get started. The list contains the names of over 1000 people who actively search for trading partners. Read the entries carefully, pick four or five that look interesting, and email them. Some collectors on the list are overwhelmed with current trading partners, and may not wish to add another. Some will fail to answer, for a host of different reasons. You should be able to find at least one or two good collector links to people who meet your trade requirements. Once you've completed a couple of exchanges, you'll be hooked!