Saturday, January 26, 2008

An Annual Accounting

It's that time of year again - time to assess what I've done during the last year on my stamp collection, and what I plan to do for this year.

This past year has been unusual in many ways. I expanded my collection in virtually every category, my ability to purchase material has been greatly expanded, I've had more money to spend on my collection, and I've expanded my trading contacts. The effect on my collection has been equally fortuitious. Major changes in our home, however, have limited the amount of time I can spend on my collection.

I divide the world into 746 different stamp-issuing "countries". This also includes some issues many collectors would include within a parent country. If the numbering starts over with "1", or there's a major name-change, I may include it as a separate country. Former states that unite into one country (Germany, Canada, South Africa, Italy, etc.) are counted as individual countries, but I also begin a separate entry for foreign post offices, separate postal systems, some local issues, and many other types of choices.

I've added stamps to about 650 of those 746 entries over the last year. Many of the additions were of a single stamp, while a few have seen increases in the 100-300 range. My total increase for the year is currently unknown, and I may never be able to adequately account for every new addition. My best estimate, however, is that I've added about 12,000 stamps to my collection in the last 12 months.

Many of the additions I've made to my collection have been in response to last year's collection plan, while a few have been spur of the moment purchases or just very fortunate inclusions in purchases I made for other reasons. Here are last year's items from my collection plan, with what I've actually accomplished:

  • I want to reach the point where I can answer a trade letter in a week, instead of taking a month.

  • Didn't happen, and probably won't this year. Between my pain problems and our becoming foster-parents of a 2-year-old, the time it takes me to answer has actually gone UP, not down. I'm still working on it, but I don't expect great results.

  • I want to be able to sort down my purchases and get everything catalogued before I get inundated with the next group.

  • I've managed with most of my purchases, but some of them were so large, and so complex - or just too much at once - for me to do it with everything. There was one period last year when I won at least 15 1-pound packages of stamps off paper within a five-day period. I'm still trying to get THAT group taken care of.

  • I want to get back to work on my country-by-country inventory of my collection, having taken most of the year to re-create and rebuild what I had but lost.

  • I've added about 35 additional countries over the last year, which is about a third of what I'd hoped I'd accomplish. Again, outside events interfered and made reaching this goal all but unobtainable.

  • I want to be able to add at least 9000 stamps to my collection this year, with at least 2500 of those being through collector-to-collector trades.

  • This is one objective I reached and exceeded. I traded about 3000 stamps last year with eleven trading partners, and added a total of at least 12,000 stamps to my collection.

  • I want to add to my collection of British "Omnibus" stamps, especially the high values of the Silver Wedding issue, and the UPU 75th Anniversary issue. I want to build a single want list for the Omnibus stamps through Queen Elizabeth's 1953 corronation issue.

  • This is another objective that I've had some success with, but where I didn't accomplish everything that I'd hoped to. I added much more to my collection than I had expected in the way of stamps, including at least five of the Silver Wedding high values, about a third of the UPU 75th anniversary issues, many of the Freedom from Hunger, Red Cross, ITU, ICY, Churchill, World Cup Soccer, WHO Hq, and UNESCO issues, more than half of the Princess Margaret royal wedding issues, and about half of the Prince Charles/Lady Diana royal wedding issues. I've gotten an Excel spreadsheet created that allows me to track what I have up through the Charles/Diana wedding issue, but I haven't yet created a special want list for these issues. I now know I have all the 1937 George VI coronation issue and the 1947 Peace issue complete, and that I need two stamps to have the QEII Coronation complete. I've added about 35 stamps from the George V Silver Jubilee issue, almost doubling what I had in that area.

  • I want to add to my collection of Portuguese "Vasco da Gama" common-design issues, and the "Pombal" issues. I want to add more of the high values from the 1938 common design issue.

  • I have made some improvements in this area, but not as much as I'd hoped. I've begun a spreadsheet for Portuguese common design stamps similar to the one I've done for British stamps, but I haven't gotten it to a point where it's useful yet. I have added several stamps to each of the more important common design issues for Portuguese colonies, including the Vasco da Gama series, the Pombal issues, the Portuguese History series (CD34-39), the Holy Year type, Sao Paulo, Sports, and Navy Club issues. I still have less than half the available material, and very few complete sets among the larger ones.

  • I want to find and add the last three "Victory" airmail common design type issues from the French Community, finish up the "Marianne" issue, and begin working on the various "Exposition" issues from 1931 through 1939.

  • This goal has been rather hit or miss. I don't have a spreadsheet yet that will tell me how much of each Common Design group I have or need, so I can't be certain exactly which of them I still don't have. I have added stamps from the "Colonial Exposition", "Colonial Arts Exposition", Calille, New York World's Fair (1939), "Colonial Education Fund" Vichy Issue, and two or three of the "Defense of the Empire" series, but no complete sets. I increased the number of Marianne (CD90), Eboue (CD91), and Victory (CD92) stamps my collection, but I still have a few holes in each. I added TWO of the French UPU issue (CD99), and NONE of the "Chad to Rhine" (CD93-98) issues.

  • I want to add as many of the US stamps valued at $10 or less each that I'm currently missing that were issued between 1891 and 1991 (there aren't that many).

  • Actually, I've done pretty well in this area - not as well as I'd hoped, but pretty well. Most of the stamps I still need are the hard-to-identify phosphor tagged examples beginning in 1960 or so, the non-tagged bureau precancel issues of some later definitive issues, and stamps cataloguing $50 or more. I managed to add more than half the Washington/Franklin issues I was missing, including some very expensive stamps. I also added some early issues (26a, 113, 187, and a few more), the last Parcel Post issue I needed, and some early postage dues and officials.

  • I want to get at least all the stamps I currently own sorted down, catalogued, mounted, prepared for trade, or otherwise disposed of.

  • Didn't happen, and I've added more - LOTS more. I have the feeling this may be an impossible task for me.

  • I want to get all my inventory information and comments transferred from my 2003 Scott catalogues to my new 2006 catalogues.

  • I've gotten about a third of this done, and I'm still working on it. Right now, I'm being forced to use both sets of catalogues to really know what's going on with my collection. I hope to finish the transfer in the coming year.

  • I want to write at least twice a month on my stamp blog.

  • That hasn't happened, either, but I'm getting better - I hope!

This year, I'm going to be a bit more practical with my plans in some ways, but just as radical in others. Here are my goals for the coming year:

  • Continue to work on last year's goals that are still applicable, or should be repeated. Add between 10,000 and 15,000 stamps to my collection. I want at least 3000 of those stamps to be from stamp trades with other collectors. I also want at least 200 of those stamps to be from areas of special interest, such as the British, Portuguese, and French Common Design issues. I'll concentrate on several groups where I'm almost complete. These include the QEII Coronation, the Princess Margaret Wedding issue, the West Indies University issue, the West Indies Federation issue, and the 1966 Royal Visit issue for the British; the Marianne and Victory issue for the French; and the Pombal, Medical Congress, Sao Paulo, Airline Anniversary, Admiral Coutinho, Olympic Games (1972) and Lisbon-Rio de Janeiro Flight issue for the Portuguese. I'll also be concentrating on completing as many of the definitive issues from Western Europe and their major colonies as I can. Continue working on controlling the disaster area that's my office.

  • Fill in some of the major holes I have in the collections of countries where I've lived: US, Panama, Canal Zone, Vietnam, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

  • Continue working on completing my collections of Canada, Ryukyu Islands, Switzerland and Denmark.

  • Continue to build my collections of the 70+ countries on my "special list".

  • Continue to improve my trading operations, both in defining what I have or need and in responding to trade requests.

  • Work harder on recycling material I get that I don't need either for my collection or for trade.

  • Try harder to work on my blog at least a couple of times a month.

This should keep me busy for the rest of the year!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is eBay destroying local dealers?

I know of at least five local dealers - one in Colorado Springs, two in Denver, on in Albuquerque,NM, and one in Omaha, Nebraska, that no longer operate a storefront. All have switched to pure eBay operations, and most now work from home. While that's great for eBay, and obviously works for these dealers, is it making it harder for collectors?

Stamp collecting isn't just buying, selling, and trading stamps. Collectors require albums, mounts, catalogues, and the tools of the trade - stamp tongs, magnifying glasses, perforation detectors, UV lamps, watermark detection kits, stock pages, stock books, and dozens of other types of parapenalia. These were the stock in trade of the average dealer. Where is there a reasonable source of those items available today?

Some eBay dealers sell supplies from time to time. It's get 'em when they're available, or do without. If there's a local dealer that still supplies these items for retail sale, there are a lot of local customers that are looking for you!