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!


Post a Comment

<< Home