Friday, December 23, 2005

End-of-Year Evaluation

Each year, sometime between Christmas and Valentine's Day, I do a year-end evaluation of how well I've met my collecting goals for the previous year. I'm starting early this year, because this year marks an exceptionally robust one for me and my stamp collection.

I collect the stamps issued by every recognized (and a few unrecognized) stamp-issuing authority in the world through 1990, and about 75 specific authorities up through the present. These 75 authorities represent nations where I've lived or visited, or where there are significant ties from my military experiences, or where I have friends.

Six nations (US, Panama, Canal Zone, Vietnam [S], Germany, and Great Britain) have first priority because I've lived in those countries for at least a year. I collect all of North and South America (except for a few island-states in the Caribbean) without stipulations because I've either visited them, or they were part of my responsibility during my military service. I collect Western Europe for most of the same reason, and the seven former Warsaw Pact nations because keeping track of them was my primary responsibility during more than 70% of my military career. I collect both North and South Vietnam, and to a lesser degree the combined Vietnam after 1975, because I spent a year working the area during the Vietnam War. During that time, I also visited or spent considerable time keeping track of things in Australia, Hong Kong, Okinawa (Ryukyu Is.), Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Japan and S. Korea. I collect Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Senegal, South Africa, Lesotho, Liberia, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran, and the Falkland Islands for similar reasons. These make up my "second-tier" priorities.

Everything else issued prior to January 1, 1991 is third-tier, but there are also priorities even among these. I'm very interested in completing the British Commonwealth "Omnibus" sets (all through 1990), the "Europa" series, the French "Victory" and "Chad to Rhein" issues, the Portuguese "Vasco da Gama", "Explorers", and "Holy Year" sets, and a few others.

Those were my priorities for last year, and will be my priorities for this year and many more to come. There is one more priority: to add at least 5000 stamps to my collection every year.

This past year saw a number of significant achievements toward satisfying these goals. I've added approximately 11,900 stamps to my collection. I added stamps to five of my six priority nations. The only one I didn't add stamps to was S. Vietnam, but I only need 27 stamps to have the nation complete. I added stamps to approximately 690 stamp-issuing entities, from Aden to Zimbabwe. I added stamps from several British "Omnibus" series, including the Silver Jubilee (KGV), Silver Wedding (KGVI), Peace, UPU 75th Anniversary, Red Cross, Int'l Cooperation Year, ITU, and UNESCO. I now have all but a handful of the French "Victory" issues, and my first issue from the "Chad to Rhein" issue. I've whittled away at my Germany want list by adding several better issues from 1945-55, including semi-postals. I added about 20 Berlin issues to my collection, and reduced the size of that want list to less than 100 stamps.

I"ve been slow on building want/have lists for the many thousands of new duplicates I have, partly because of existing physical problems and partly because of a required server change. I have managed to get most want/offer lists through "F" in the alphabet updated and moved to the new server. I hope to get the rest of them done early next year.

Economically, our family situation took a giant leap forward around the end of July. Since then, I've been able to spend several times what I used to spend (on average). As a result, not only has my collection grown, but so has my stock of duplicate material available for trade. It's grown so large, in fact, that I've run out of storage material. I store my duplicates in P102 cards, manila stock pages, bound stockbooks, and a few on P104 cards and dealer sales sheets. I've got about 58,000 duplicates sorted down in P102 cards, about 4,000 in P104 cards, another 16,000 or so in stockbooks and on manila stock sheets, and about 5000 in 5"x8" dealer sales sheets. I have plenty of the 8.5"x11" manila stock sheets, and a fairly adequate number of dealer sales sheets, but I'm ALWAYS in chronic need of P102 and P104 cards.

P102 and P104 cards are heavy paper cards with a transparent mylar pocket. P102 cards measure approximately 4.25 inches wide by 2.75" high. P104 cards are approximately 5" wide by 3.25" high. I prefer to use the white, or white with a black background (P102B), but I'll also take the green, yellow, or blue cards as well. I'm so desperate for them that I'm willing to trade postage stamps for them at the rate of $0.10 per usable card (mylar intact, not heavily written upon, not stained, etc.). I need about 15,000 of them now, and I have more stamps coming.

My final collecting goal for the year was to exchange at least 2500 stamps with other collectors. I'm not exactly sure how well I've done that this year. Several of my trades are still in process. Several people have received stamps, but haven't been able to acknowledge how many they took, how much they're worth, and what they offer in exchange. One of my trade partners moved during the past year, and his stamp collection hasn't been unpacked yet. My want/offer lists haven't all been upgraded and uploaded to my new ISP address. Even with that, I've done well. Overall, I'd say that I reached between 65% and 85% of my goal this past year.

I set reasonable goals last year, and met or exceeded most of them. I've also added a dealer trade list to my trading page, and built want/offer lists for at least five new nations. I need to get back to working on my stamp inventory, but I do have about 100 countries that have been inventoried, and that are fairly accurate. I've added a huge number of stamps to my collection, and to my trade stock. I've added one new trading partner, and kept up my trading with eleven others. I've also started this stamp-related weblog. It's been a VERY good year!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Overcome by Events

I haven't been posting very regularly, either here or at my other blog, Old Patriot's Pen. There have just been too many things to do, and not enough time available to do them.

I've been buying stamps pretty regularly over the last six months, and now I'm up to my eyeballs in them. I picked up a dozen or so lots just last week, and haven't even begun to get them all cleaned up and cared for. Some of them are single items (Croatia B40, for instance), while others are stock pages, stock cards, album pages, and small accumulations, up to two pound-plus boxes of stamps on paper I have barely looked at. Several lots from this selection and a few previous ones I purchased have forced me to add a "bulk trades" page to my list gateway trading document. These are stamps I have in excess of the 10 of each I keep for trading. Some of these catalogue up to $10 each, but most are in the 20c to $1 range. I may have anywhere from five (the minimum I require to list) to over 200 copies of each stamp. I've only got about 100 stamps listed so far, out of several thousand I need to list.

I also need to get back to working on building my inventory. I use Quattro Pro, a Corel spreadsheet, because that's what I had first, and what I found worked the best for what I was trying to do. I've created listings for about 120 of over 885 separate stamp-issuing entities so far, including several large nations. Each nation takes over two hours to build, and includes everything listed in Scott, Michel, Stanley Gibbons, Minkus, or any other catalog I have. My final product is a complete inventory of what I have, what I don't have, the catalog value of that particular portion of my collection, and what I have for trade. It also takes considerable time to keep updated - something I've been lax in doing.

Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations have also kept me pretty busy. Things will become more peaceful and less hectic after the first of the new year - I hope!