Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Dealers, Credibility is Everything

I've recently bought a half-dozen lots that obviously came from a dealer other than the one I purchased them from. Some of these lots were obviously retired stock, but much of the rest was of recent vintage. Most of the lots also had something else in common - they contained quite a number of mis-identified stamps.

Some stamps are hard to identify, for a number of different reasons. Some watermarks look similar. Many early British stamps are hard to identify because they look so much alike. Several others can only be positively identified by carefully checking perforations. Some overprints change the country of origin, yet the overprints themselves appear similar in many, and are difficult to judge. Some of what I found were these types of errors, which can usually be forgiven. Blatant mis-identification is a bit harder.

I learned the hard way how repeated mis-identfying stamps can harm a dealer's reputation, and his business. I was a dealer for five or six years before I gave it up for health reasons. Before I quit, I made many errors. I have a chronic pain problem, and the more I hurt the more mistakes I made. My business deteriorated because of those mistakes. I had something to fall back on, but many dealers don't. They go bankrupt, and their stock gets sold off to pay outstanding debts. Conversely, dealers who are very conscientious, and "get it right" most of the time usually find their customers will be more forgiving of an occasional error.

The same situation applies to trading, too. If you're a stamp collector, and you trade with other collectors, you expect to get what you asked for in a trade. So does your trading partner. The more accurate you are, the better your standing with other traders. One thing that can save you in a trading environment that is harder in a business environment is the willingness to correct any errors.


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