Building Your Collection?
I want to discuss using the Internet to help build your collection. First, we have to consider your collecting interests, are you interested in topical or general issues?
As a topical collector you’re looking for different ways to fill your topical interests. You can search by topic or catalog number. You can begin by looking at the philatelic agencies of the various countries. The best source is the Universal Postal Union (www.upu.int). Established in 1874, with its headquarters in the Swiss capital Berne, it is the second oldest international organization worldwide. Currently there are 192 member countries with links to those with philatelic web sites. Here you can find information regarding upcoming or recently announced issues - even before the dealers have them. Another source for information is the American Topical Association (www.americantopicalassn.org). This is a tremendous resource for new and seasoned collectors alike. When it comes to buying stamps you can buy direct from the agencies and save a few dollars but I have found that the time you spend searching through each agency is not worth the money you save. Although this can be a resource for items that topical dealers may not carry.
Your best bet is to find a dealer who carries a large variety of topical issues from different countries. Not all dealers carry the same countries so it is nice to find more than one dealer. I can recommend dealers such as Herrick Stamp Company (www.herrickstamp.com) and Champion Stamp Company (www.championstamp.com). Or you can search for available dealers on the ASDA web site (http://www.americanstampdealer.com).
What about searching for classic stamps or by catalog number? The least expensive sources usually are auction houses. Many stamps are sold with minimum, or reserve, prices. This is a minimum price the auctioneer will accept. Many times the reserves are low and there are good deals to be found. The descriptions are accurate, and if not, there are return policies in place. ALso, you can find live auctions at all the major stamp shows. Virtually all the auction houses have an online presence and you can usually download their current catalog prior to the auction. You can find really great deals if you look.
I was at the International Stamp Show in San Francisco back in 2000 at a live auction. While waiting for my lots to come up, I was following along in the catalog and a lot came up listing a Newfoundland #3 with a rare cork cancel. It had a certificate indicating it was thinned with a catalog value of $6500 (no thin) with an opening bid of $250. I am a brave soul so sight unseen I placed the opening bid and got the stamp for $250. Now I am thinking OK, no one else bid so I guess I’ll probably eat this one. I could not find a thin to save my life so I took the stamp to a dealer friend who was familiar with the area and learned that many of these issues were actually printed on thin paper. I sold my $250 stamp a year ago for almost $7000. Moral of the story, check the auctions.
As I mentioned in the last article, there are different types of auctions. Some sites hold auctions 2-3 times a year as they gather consignments. Two that are of interest are Colonial Stamp Company (www.colonialstampcompany.com) and Victoria Stamp Company (www.victoriastampco.com). Others run auctions on a regular or continuous basis such as Kelleher Auctions (db.kelleherauctions.com).
Don’t forget the stamp clubs! You can usually trade/buy/sell after the meetings. Many clubs have actual stamp bourses on a regular basis. My local club, the Hollywood Stamp Club (www.hollywoodstampclub.com) has small, but enthusiastic auctions weekly, as well as larger auctions several times a year.
No, I did not mention Ebay (www.ebay.com). Yes, there are a huge number of actions going on at any one time, but this is truly “Buyer Beware”. Check the dealer and their return policy. There are many legit dealers there, but remember, anyone can sell on Ebay. Some of the sellers (through inexperience or otherwise) do not accurately represent their items. I’ve seen instances where sellers have even used images lifted of other sites. Proceed with caution.
For those of you collecting specific stamps or countries, you can look to dealers who handle the material you are looking for. Some dealers are country or area specific. Bardo Stamps (www.bardostamps.com) deals only in US stamps while Eric Jackson (www.ericjackson.com) handles revenue issues. Nalbandian Stamp (www.nalbandstamps.com) deals primarily in US with some Canada. I could spend hours listing sites and their area of specialty, but the editor would make me shorten it. However, the ASDA has a great resource where you can search by specialty. Best of all – it’s FREE.
Next time I want to write for the dealers. I want to talk about online resources and how to create your best online presence. Comments are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.