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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Importance of Cash Flow Forecasting to Developing a Business Plan

What is a Cash Flow Forecast?

A cash flow forecast is simply a statement showing the cash inflows that a business is expected to receive in a given period of time and the cash outlays expected during the same period. The difference is either a shortfall or a surplus. When combined with the opening bank balances, the forecast can be used to predict the ending cash position of the business at the end of the period. This is crucial as it lets you know whether or not your business will require financing at some point.

Why Is it Important?

One of the most common mistakes that a business makes is that it relies too heavily on a statement of profit or loss and the owners assume that as long as the business is making a profit that all is well. The problem with that assumption is that a business can be making a large profit and have all of its cash tied up in inventory or accounts receivable. The concept of timing does not really factor into the determination of profit, so that it does not, by itself give a good indication as to whether a business will  have enough money to pay its bills and pay its workers and owners. To know that for sure, you need to have an accurate cash flow forecast.

This is particularly important when making plans to expand. The reason is that many owners get so caught up in the excitement of growth when they are on a roll, that they don't consider how their cost structure and cash flow demands will change as their businesses grow.

What Are the Key Components?

There are essentially two major sections to a good cash flow forecast:

1. The assumptions and hypotheses underlying the calculations.
2. The calculations themselves, presented in columnar format for each period represented.

The assumptions are crucial because while some of the relevant expense numbers can be forecast with certainty, a large number of the line items in your forecast will require you to make one or more assumptions concerning:

1. General business conditions, such as inflation rates, exchange rates, interest rates, input prices, fees etc.
2. The impact of additional growth on expenses, i.e. whether the expense increases directly as the business expands, or whether the increase is based on different rates for different levels of expansion.
3. The rate of sales growth that can be achieved by various marketing initiatives.
4. The productivity rates that can be achieved by employees for particular job descriptions.
5. The approximate salaries that will have to be paid to employees that the business will need to hire over time.
6. How much space will be required for the business operations as the business expands.
7. What the changes in taxation rates will be as the business expands and so on.
8. Shrinkage rates, returns, and other losses in the normal course of business.

There are others, but hopefully you get the general idea.

The calculations themselves will consist of three basic sections:

1. A cash inflows section, which will develop the figures for the revenue generated for the period that is actually received during the period. In addition, the proceeds received from disposals of company property or from raising capital in the form of debt or equity is included in this section.

2. A cash outflows section that details all the expenses during the period that are actually paid during the period. So pre-payments for items like insurance, memberships, large purchases of supplies are reflected in full as they are made and are NOT spread over the periods to which they relate. Also included in this section are outlays made to retire debts, replace capital equipment or purchase new capital equipment.

3. An ending cash section that starts with the net excess or shortfall, adds the opening cash balances, and ends with the ending cash balance.

If you set your projections up this way in Excel, you will be able to see at a glance, where your business will run into periods of tight cash flow and will need financing.

Next week's post will explore the mechanics of actually developing a cash flow forecast: how to develop projections of sales and expenditures.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Listing Queen Elizabeth II Begins in Ernest and Roast Chicken with Herb Butter

Yesterday, I started listing the Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamps, starting with the 1953 Karsh Issue, which is shown below:

I used to hate these stamps when I was younger. I thought they were so plain and boring. But as the years have gone by and they have come of age, I have started to appreciate them much more. They illustrate a much simpler time when Canada was prosperous and the Canadian Dollar was worth much more than the U.S dollar. Louis St. Laurent was the Prime Minister while this set was current. The Cold War was well underway. Trouble was just starting in Viet Nam and in the Middle East. So a considerable amount of significant modern historical events can be traced using the postal history of this issue. 

I expect that it will take me until the end of next week to list all the material from this issue. 

Now for a fantastically simple and delicious recipe for roast chicken. You will need:

1. whole roasting chicken
2. 1 bunch each of fresh parsley, dill, and rosemary
3. 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened
1 large onion sliced but not separated into rings. 
2 large cloves of garlic 
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 F. 

The first step is to combine the garlic, soft butter, and herbs in the food processor. You may want to mince the herbs first because once you add the butter, it will be too thick for the blade to chop them properly. I learned that the hard way when I made this on Monday this week. 

When you have the butter-herb mixture, carefully, with your hands, loosen the skin covering the breast and drumsticks of the chicken. Sprinkle salt and pepper in the cavity to season from the inside and then using a spoon, spread the butter-herb mixture under the skin. Then sprinkle salt and pepper on the outside of the chicken all over. 

Place the sliced onions at the bottom of a square baking dish that is large enough to take the chicken. The onion slices will act as a rack. Place the chicken breast side up on the sliced onions. You can also add some sliced carrots and potatoes to the dish, as there will be a lot of drippings that can roast the vegetables. 

Place the dish in the oven for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350F. Bake for 1 hour and then take out and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. The onion will be beautifully cooked and makes a nice tasty accompaniment. Any leftover drippings can be made into gravy by adding them to a roux made with melted butter and flour. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Self Employment - A Different Kind of Stress and a Delicious Recipe for French Onion Soup

Now that my fourth month of self employment is coming to a close and I am getting ready to embark on the next major group of listings for Queen Elizabeth II, I have had a chance to reflect on my state of mind and to note some of the major differences between how I feel four months in compared to my former life as a very highly paid employee.

For starters, it is true that I have far less money to spend than I had then. I cannot spend money on things without thinking about whether or not the expense fits within my budget. Steph and I are having to plan our wedding on a modest budget, which we would not have to do if I was back to making six figures as I was. I will think twice about taking the car versus transit, due to the cost of parking. We only go out once a week at the most now, instead of 2-3 times as before.

However, despite this, I can honestly say that I am no less comfortable than I was before. Steph and I still have all the things that are important:

1. A nice, clean house to live in, located in a convenient area.
2. Three fantastic meals a day that are much healthier than what we ate before.
3. Basic comforts such as coffee or tea, snacks and entertainment when we want them.
4. A running vehicle that we can use when we need it.
5. Adequate clothing.
6. Room in our budget to plan a modest wedding and vacations.
7. The freedom to pursue a line of work of my own making, on my own terms.

I think the main reason why not much has changed for me in terms of comfort is that I have looked after the most important of all human desires first: the desire to set and determine our own destiny. As employees, we never really get to do this because there are always other stakeholders who have the power to change the direction of the organization away from what we value. So even though we may buy into the overall vision of a company when we start working for it, over time the fit can come undone, as it frequently does.  When that happens, it takes increasing amount of comforts to compensate for the loss of basic freedom. The big house, fancy car, suits, vacations, club memberships, dinners out etc. act almost like drugs, numbing the pain that comes from knowing deep down that someone else owns most all of your time.  While these comforts are needed at the time to keep you from being miserable, you may find that you don't really derive much long-term satisfaction from any of them. Have you ever gone away on an expensive vacation where you had to work like a dog to get ready to go away and then had to work like a dog to catch up on your return? A week after you return it feels like you never went away. So the bottom line right now seems to be that while we have to watch our money carefully now, it hasn't really affected us for the worse.

The second major difference is that I don't live for the weekend anymore. I enjoy the weekend when it comes because I don't clamour to spend it working on my passion, which is my stamps. Instead I use it to visit with Steph's family, and friends, as well as relaxing and spending time with Steph. I don't think about it ending because what follows it is a week of stimulating fun, work and I now look forward to each coming week, wondering how much I will sell, what the response to my blog posts will be, wondering what philatelic discoveries I will make and how many stamps I will successfully list. As an employee I always found myself yearning for the weekend so that I could spend some time working on what I actually love.

One major similarity is that I do experience stress. But the major compensating difference is that it is a completely different kind of stress: all of it comes from within, instead of being a reaction to external things. My stress is borne out of a drive to meet and then exceed my goals. These goals relate to maintaining a certain posting schedule for my blogs, ensuring that I ship orders out on the same day, making sure that I communicate with all my customers on a regular basis and listing all my inventory before 2017. None of these goals have been dictated to me by other people. I no longer have to think about whether I am meeting my targets because I might be demoted or lose my job. I do have to worry about whether or not I will succeed. But I have a theory on this: I think that if you have a product or service that people want and you approach your business from the perspective of wanting to help people AT A PROFIT, you will succeed - as long as you have enough capital to grow the business to the point where it can sustain itself and pay salaries without compromising growth. The key is consistency of effort, constant evaluation and adjustment, listening to and engaging your customers and being prepared to return to work temporarily if your capital runs out. One of the great advantages to an internet based business is that once it is built, it can be run part time in the evenings. So even if I get to the point where my savings cannot sustain me, I can always get a 6 month or a 1 year contract as a controller. I can save enough money in that time to last me another year. The key is not to force the business into a loss position by drawing salary when sales are insufficient to support it.

This last point, I believe is very, very critical to long term satisfaction and happiness. I have not had to think about my performance from any other perspective than how I feel about it for four months now and I have to say that the feeling of freedom is amazing. I'm probably one of the worst bosses I've ever had, because I tend not to take breaks and I tend to push myself really hard. But I feel at the end of the week that I have earned my rest. A friend asked me the other day what my hours are and after some thinking, I replied that my typical week is 60-65 hours! I couldn't believe it myself. I screamed bloody murder at having to work 55 hours a week during tax time, but now I'm working even harder. Only it doesn't feel nearly as stressful as tax season did. Part of the reason may be that I am working largely alone - undisturbed by others and free of all office politics.

I bolded the part about profit because I think that one reason why many businesses fail is that they engage in unprofitable transactions thinking "oh I'll make it up with my other profitable ones". Now there can be good reasons to engage in transactions that are either profit neutral or low profit - namely when you are trying to acquire a new customer. But there is no good reason to engage in loss transactions. Even you are trying to acquire new customers, your willingness to work for free will send entirely the wrong message. I accept most offers that customers make on my stamps, but I also regularly turn them down when they are too low to make me a profit. Customers are creatures of habit, so if a customer isn't willing to pay you enough for your product to make a living, there is no point wasting your time with them because they generally won't get better. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if you give them a super good deal initially that they will spend more later because they generally won't. So make sure that you charge a fair and reasonable price from the start and look to deliver value to the customer in non-monetary ways by providing fast and efficient service, maintaining an informational blog that they can read, of something else of value to them.

That about sums up my observations on my state of mind after four months. Now onto an absolutely delicious recipe that I tried for French Onion Soup. You will need:

3 pounds of onions - I used yellow, but any kind will do.
1 tablespoon of flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup of grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup toasted French bread cubes
1 litre of beef stock or if vegetarian substitute 2-3 tablespoons of Vegemite dissolved in 1 litre boiling water.
2 cups of dry red wine.

My quantities of cheese and bread are based on 2 servings in stoneware soup bowls. You will have 2-4 portions of leftover soup. If you want to make more portions then increase the bread cubes and cheese proportionately - 1/2 cup bread cubes and 1/4 cup cheese per serving.

The first step is to slice the onion into rings and separate them. Put the butter and oil into a large stockpot and melt over medium-low heat. Add the onions, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally until the onions are softened. Then take the lid off and add the salt and sugar, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook the onion for another 15 minutes until they are soft and brown, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. After the onions have reached this point, sprinkle them with the flour and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then gradually add 2 cups of the stock, whisking it in to prevent the flour from becoming lumpy. Then add the rest of the stock and the wine. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer, covered for 30 minutes to let the flavours combine.

Preheat the oven to 425F. place the toasted French bread cubes into the bottom of each serving bowl. There should still be about 3/4 of the room left for soup. When the soup is done, ladle it into the ovenproof bowls until almost completely full. Then add the cheese on top. Put the bowls in the oven for 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with the rest of the French bread loaf and plenty of butter.

I find that this soup is very tasty without being overly salty the way French onion soup often is. I changed the original recipe to reduce the amount of stock by 1/2, as I like the heartiness of a thick soup. But you can use up to 2 litres of stock in this soup, and can always add more salt at the end if it is not salty enough for your taste.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Last Queen Victoria Material Gets Listed and Really Tasty Mac and Cheese

Today I hope to complete the very last listings of Queen Victoria material for Canada. Steph and I have a wedding to attend on the weekend and tomorrow, I was hoping to spend the day getting various administrative matters addressed before I start the next major section of my listings, the Queen Elizabeth II definitives. In the past few days, my internet was slow so I couldn't do much listing. The issue I am finishing the era with are the tobacco stamps. These issues are not listed in the standard revenue catalogues, so I had to do quite a bit of research to find out anything about them. But my research did pay off:I found a manuscript for a 2013 catalogue compiled by a Christopher Ryan. So now, I am able to list them with precise descriptions.

Here are a few of the larger, more beautiful and interesting ones:

I tried a recipe for macaroni and cheese that may just have me swearing off Kraft Dinner for life! This mac and cheese is made in a large skillet, instead of being prepared in a pot and drained. The cooking liquid also becomes the sauce. You will need, for 2 large servings:

3 cups of elbow macaroni
2 cups of chicken stock
2.5 cups water
1 cup diced ham
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped. 
2.5 cups of grated extra old cheddar - one full 400g package.
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine the chicken stock and the water into the large skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Add in the macaroni and cook for 3 minutes less than directed on the package. Add in the ham and cheese and stir until dissolved. The resulting sauce will be thin and will look a lot like what you see when you make those packaged pasta meals where you add water to a sauce paste. To thicken it, add the cornstarch to a small bowl and wisk with a small amount of cold water to make a slurry. Add this to the sauce and stir. It should thicken to the point where it is halfway between soup and gloopy. Taste for salt level and add pepper and additional salt (only if needed). You should find the salt level to be adequate - it will all depend on the salt content of the broth, ham and cheese you are using. I found that with the ingredients, it was a pleasant, tasty saltiness. Then stir in the spinach. Cook for an additional 3 minutes until the pasta is Al-dente and the sauce is thick. Serve and enjoy. 

Today's meal will be French onion soup from scratch. Stay tuned for the recipe tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Power of Social Media in Building an Online Business and Salmon Burgers with Hoisin Ketchup and Ginger Garlic Coleslaw

I wanted to talk a little bit about how Social Media can be used to build an online business. Most people in my age group, who didn't grow up with it (I'm 44)  have a general inkling that it is effective, but a lot of people, myself included, do not fully understand how it works and what its full power to promote your business actually is. I wanted to share with you a bit of what I have learned through my brief three months of experience and observations over my lifetime.

Advertising in the print, TV and radio media has historically always been a very expensive numbers game. I don't know what the exact historical conversion rates (i.e. the number of people that hear or see an ad and act on it to buy the product or service) are for an advertising campaign in the past would have been. But I would be very surprised if it was more than 0.01% for a general untargeted campaign. Before Facebook, targeting was only possible through the findings of market research conducted by market research firms. This was very time consuming and costly. Most ads are not effective because people don't generally like to be solicited. However, airtime and column inches were historically far too expensive for companies to engage in informational marketing where they would educate the potential buyer and not directly ask them to buy the product.

The internet, and companies like Youtube, Blogger and Facebook have removed the cost barrier of on-line publishing as you can write a blog for free. Your Facebook profile is free and you can post videos to Youtube for free. So the ability to develop and publish value added content at no cost now exists for everyone. Facebook has every member's personal information in the form of their interests and it it is estimated that 1/5th of the world's population uses Facebook. Then there is Alibaba, which I understand is just as large. Effectively, this is the largest ever gathering of consumers in human history. You can now pay Facebook to send advertising directly to users who fir a certain profile. The cost of these ads is infinitesimal compared to what advertising used to cost.

But there is a huge caveat: human nature hasn't changed, even though technology has. So what you will see online are a lot of people and companies making the mistake of hard selling their product by trying to advertise directly to people on Facebook or other social media sites. While the success rates with this type of advertising is a bit higher than historical media, I don't get the sense that it is significantly more effective. One of the problems is that a typical Facebook user gets a lot of items posted to their newsfeed every day, and they may simply not see your ad.

Where I think social media is invaluable is in conducting indirect, informational marketing. This is where you demonstrate your value proposition by giving something of ongoing value to your target customer base. You develop content that your potential customers would be interested to read, as most online like to learn or be entertained. Your target audience reads your articles, views your Pinterest boards and watches your videos. and if they like them, they start to return to your blog, your boards or your channel, looking for more content. If you are consistent, and you make a commitment to stick to posting items on a regular basis, eventually, you will gain credibility as someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Eventually, once your target customers know you and are comfortable with you, then, they may decide to go to your website and actually check out your product.

This is where I see most most people getting it wrong. Because everything is so instant now people expect instant results and it social media simply doesn't work that way, or the results don't come in the form that you think they will, so you ignore them. For example, I have now made $475 of sales to 2 customers that I know for a fact came from social media. For all I know, that total could be higher because I don't know how many of my E-bay came from people who visited my store because of what they read in one of my stamp blogs or saw on one of my Pinterest boards. I can analyze this data if I want to and I may eventually, but I'm far too busy for that. In both instances though, the sales came about indirectly. The first customer commented on a post I shared with a stamp group on Facebook. I engaged him in a conversation that led eventually to him ordering all the Canadian year sets between 1947 and 1985. The second customer also contacted me on Facebook asking me how to get into a group he had tried to join that I was a member of. He happened to ask me to let him know if I came across any King George VI commemoratives from Great Britain. It turns out that I have some commemoratives from Morocco Agencies which were simply the GB stamps with Morocco Agencies overprints across them. So rather than tell him, "Yeah, sorry, I don't sell GB", I asked him if he collected the Morocco Agencies issues. He said he had been considering starting and could I please send him scans of what I had to sell. I did right away and the next day I sold half the items I showed him.

The moral of all this is, and this is what all the social media gurus say, is that for social media to work for you, you have to genuinely want to help people. You can't really fake that. It is your consistency that demonstrates your level of commitment to people in this regard. So how do you stay consistent?

Well, I think one way is to not be too concerned with the metrics, at least not for a while. Numbers of followers, and number of pageviews are not by themselves necessarily indicative of how well received your content is. This is especially true if your audience is specialized, as mine is. What I look at is the number of likes, shares and comments I get on Facebook with content I have shared there. As long as I get at least 1 like, then I know that at least 1 person has read my content and has liked what I had to say. Not only that, but when someone likes my post, all of their friends will see it on their newsfeeds. What I do is each day after I write a blog post, I share it to my timeline, which is seen by all my friends and then I will share it with each Facebook group that I have joined that is potentially interested in what I have written. Most of these groups detest spam and will eject members who post spam. But because my posts are almost exclusively information only, most members don't see it as spam. This usually results in several likes, shares and comments a day. Eventually, I started to notice that the same people are engaging. Some of those people could become customers, but most won't and that is perfectly OK. What is happening is that I am creating on online reputation over time - another facet of the Long Game that I wrote about in an earlier post.

My feeling is that once I have the reputation established, then I can start spending some money on the targeted advertising and experience some success. But I think that the free organic stuff is going to prove to be quite sufficient for the growth of the business.

Now to switch gears, I wanted to share a recipe that I tried and varied for salmon burgers with hoisin ketchup with ginger garlic coleslaw. This was a fairly quick meal that took no more than 30 minutes to make, is very healthy and delicious.

For 4 burgers you will need:

2 salmon fillets large enough to cut into 2 burger size portions.
hamburger buns
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely grated
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

For the coleslaw you will need

1/8 cup of pickled sushi ginger
2 garlic cloves finely grated
1/2 head of green cabbage finely shredded
1/4 head of purple cabbage finely shredded
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil

The first step is to make the hoisin ketchup. To do this fry the onions and garlic over high heat in 2 tablespoons of oil until soft, which should be about 2 min. Then add all the remaining liquid ingredients. I like to combine them in a cup first and whisk together as it just makes adding them easier when the time comes. Then boil the sauce for 10 minutes of so, reducing the heat to medium. When it has heated through and thickened, pour it into 2 small bowls to cool. Reserve one bowl for the dinner table and one for brushing on the salmon as it cooks on the BBQ.

Then to make the burgers, I just cut the salmon into burger sized pieces. The recipe I was looking at had you actually mince the salmon, but I can't see how the patties would stay together unless you used an egg to bind them. Plus the natural layering of the salmon meat gives you an easy way to tell if the salmon is cooked: the flesh should separate easily with a fork and the juices should run clear. Remove the skin and cook the salmon pieces on high heat, brushing generously with the hoisin ketchup as they cook.

To make the coleslaw, fry the ginger and garlic in about 3 tablespoons of oil for 2-3 min and then add the cabbage and fry until just wilted, which should be 2-3 min. Then turn off the heat and add, the sugar, the vinegar and the sesame oil and toss to combine and then serve!

I found that the burger did not need any condiments other than the hoisin ketchup. So all in all a very healthy, quick and tasty meal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Fantastic Group of Recipes for Roast Potatoes, Pork Tenderloin and Carrots and Sales Approach $3,500 this Month!!

I made a really interesting meal yesterday consisting of Pork Terderloin with Orange Confit and Brown Sugar Glaze, Roast Potatoes with Horseradish and Watercress and Burnt Carrots with Arugula and Goat Cheese. Steph thought there were too many competing flavours for the dishes, but I quite liked them. The meal looked like this:

It took me an hour to make, through I think that has mostly to do with the fact that I used small new potatoes and peeled them and that took forever! It was worth it because they were really crispy and they absorbed the horseradish dressing so well. But I think you could easily do this recipe with regular potatoes, peeled and cut up into large chunks. Peeling the potatoes is critical though as this is what allows them to crisp up and at the same time bake so tender. 

For the pork you will need to make the orange confit first, which is simply cooked orange zest. What I did is take an orange and cut it in half. Squeeze out the juice and then put it into a large saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup white cooking wine, 3 bay leaves and about 12 black whole peppercorns. Then add enough water to cover the orange. It will probably have to boil with the cut side facing up in order to minimize the amount of water. Put it on the stove, bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer, covered for 20-25 min. Turn off and let cool. Once it is cool, take out the orange and place it face down on a cutting board. Then using a sharp paring knife, carefully shave off the orange zest, being careful not to cut down to the white pith. It should come away in large shavings. 

The ingredients list for each meal (2 servings) is as follows:


1 pork tenderloin
1 orange confit prepared as above, cut into shavings
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves 
1 teaspoon or so salt. 


1.5lb potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoons white cooking wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon horseradish
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream


4-6 medium sized carrots, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
6 oz goat cheese cut into 1 cm rounds
a couple of handfuls of arugula
a handful of fresh parsley leaves

The potatoes should be prepared first because they need to bake for 40 minutes or so at 425F. Peel them and cut into chunks the size of small potatoes, or peel small potatoes if you want to use those. Place them in a large bowl with the olive oil, thyme, wine and salt. Toss to coat and then transfer to a baking sheet and bake in a single layer until very tender, which will be about 40 min. 

Then prepare the pork. Take the tenderloin and season lightly all over with salt. Then arrange the orange confit slices on the top surface of the tenderloin and sprinkle the thyme leaves and brown sugar on top and press down with your hand. Then drizzle some olive oil over the top. Now heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on it. Using a large spatula, invert the tenderloin onto the skillet and leave it there for 5 minutes. If the sugar gets an acrid burnt smell, reduce the heat. Then after 5 minutes, turn it over, cover the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes. Keep turning and cooking for 5 minute intervals until you have cooked it for 15 min. Then take it off the heat and loosely tent it with foil and let it rest while you prepare the carrots. 

Peel the carrots. Slice them in half lengthwise and then again crosswise to form small semi-circular sticks. Heat the skillet with back up on high. Toss the carrot sticks in the olive oil and salt and then when the skillet is very hot, place the carrots in a single layer on the bottom. If you are making this for more than two people, work in batches. But do not multi-layer the carrots in the skillet as you will need to turn them individually with tongs. Let them cookfor 3-5 minutes until they are charred on the bottom and then turn them and cook them for another 3 minutes. Line a plate with the arugula and parsley and when the carrots are done place them on top. Lastly, take the slices of goat cheese and drop them in the skillet to sear them for about 1 minute. Use a spatula to take them out and drop them on top of the carrots. 

The potatoes should be done now, so in a large bowl whisk the horseradish, sour cream and red wine vinegar together to make the dressing. Add the potatoes and watercress, and toss to coat.

Then serve and enjoy!

With 11 days still to go in the month, my sales just passed the $7,500 mark, which means that I sold $3,500 this month - almost double the previous 2 months. So things are definitely progressing. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Wedding Planning Without the Wedding Industry and the Home Stretch for Queen Victoria Listings

Now that I finally proposed to Steph, and she agreed to become my wife, it is time to actually plan the wedding. Even though I have been married before, in both instances, my weddings were very small affairs. The last one was very small largely because I was estranged from my entire family and most of my friends couldn't come. 

But this time is different: I am on good terms with both my adoptive family and my birth-family, which means a lot more guests from my family, and I have more friends now that can actually make it this time. Steph also has a fairly large family, and when we sat down to make our guest list, it grew to approximately 100 names in very short order: much larger than anything I'd experienced before. Now mind you, it is not a large wedding by Italian, Chinese or Indian cultural standards. However in those cultures it is customary for guests to give money, and this often pays for the wedding. But for us Anglo-Saxon Canadians, it is not really customary to expect anyone to foot the bill anymore. So planning an event like this requires us to be sensible about the size of the gathering and make sure that we include everyone in our lives who genuinely want to celebrate this day with us. 

So with that, Steph and I started the long process of looking at venues and this is where we encountered the Wedding Industry. My oh my, what an absolutely exploitative industry it is! Steph and I spent four hours last week one night looking at venues and we had one simple question: 

"How much does it cost to rent the venue for the night?"

Seems pretty simple right? You rent the venue, you bring in your DJ and your caterer and away you go. Right? 


We quickly discovered that most places refuse to give you a price upfront until you meet with them in person. It is at this meeting that you will be asked all kinds of questions intended to sus out your ability to pay, or at least your willingness to be governed by your emotions. The wedding planner will upsell you on everything they can: matching linens, table runners, centrepieces, flowers ad infinitum - all stuff that in the end makes not the slightest bit of difference to the thing that Steph and I think is fundamental, which is:

"Are the guests going to be well fed and are they going to have a good time?"

Making your guests wear certain clothes is not conducive to them having a good time. Obsessing over the tiniest details to us is just a sure fire way to wind everyone up. So we decided that we can trust our guests to dress appropriately. I don't expect to see too many gym shorts or yoga pants on our day, and if I do, I'll laugh it off. 

Not only do many venues try to upsell you, but they place restrictions on what you can do with the space that you have to pay extra to get out of. For example, I was looking at one old schoolhouse that was operated by a provincial trust and you have use their catering company (from whom they receive a kickback I'm sure). You check the price of the catering, and it is $100 a plate! For food that you probably would't pay more than $25 for if you were at a restaurant. 300% more! In this instance you can get out of that requirement by giving the venue a 20% kickback on the bill from your caterer, which kind of defeats the purpose of bringing in your own catering company. 

Most restaurants were no better, at least those that regularly do weddings. You would think that a restaurant would be happy to be full for a night with essentially one client, instead of having to serve hundreds of different clients. But no, they get greedy, and all of the sudden they want $10,000 for 100 people when they would normally make half that. 

So within a very short amount of time, Steph and I have made a vow to avoid the Wedding Industry as much as possible. This means if we can't have a straightforward conversation with the owner of a venue about what we want and what it is going to cost, then it's off our list. Pure and simple. 

We think we may have found our venue actually, but we are not yet 100% sure. We made a list of all the restaurants in the city that we have eaten at, that we like, and that have decent prices for their food. Then we thought the actual premises themselves and asked ourselves whether the premises could accommodate 100 people in a nice atmosphere. That enabled us to narrow down to a few places. Then we thought about the personalities of the owners from our past experiences. We asked ourselves: "Do the owners seem like they would charge a reasonable price to fill their restaurant, or are they going to be greedy once they know it is a wedding?". That pretty much narrowed it down to one place that we know will serve good food in a fun way for a good price. We checked with them this past week and it looks like we may have our place, though I don't want to jinx it yet by revealing where it is. 

Why I am I telling all of you this? I think because I can see so many people that I know who have literally gone into debt for this one day and it just doesn't make sense to me. I wanted to share my thoughts on how you can make your day special without breaking the bank. The only thing it requires you to do is think outside the box and be willing to forgo tradition. Think about what your guests would like because if they have a good time, so will you. If you think about it, what do your guests really want?

Do they want to sit through an hour or more of speeches?
Do they want to travel long distances to attend and then not be able to even interact with you?
Do they want to have to spend hundreds of dollars on an outfit they will never wear again or until the next wedding they attend?
Do they want to eat food that they can make at home, probably better than what they are getting?
Do they want to be forced to spend four or five hours doing nothing but dance and make small talk with drinks to people they barely know?

Lets face it, unless you are part of the wedding party, or you like to dance a lot and drink a lot, most weddings are huge bore, especially if you are not really close to the both people getting married. You'll show up to the very formal ceremony in the afternoon and won't know most of the people there and sit through a long drawn out ceremony. Then you usually have to kill 2-4 hours before you can go to the reception. You show up at the reception an immediately feel inadequate at the gift you got, but you go put it in the designated spot with all the others, then you mingle with a cocktail, glancing around at to find someone you know that you can talk to. Problem is, they are usually busy talking to other people and don't have time to talk for more than a few minutes of small talk. Then you sit down to a 2-3 hour formal sit-down dinner where you have to sit through a hour or more of stories about the bride and groom that as nice as they are, don't really mean anything to anyone except the person telling the story. Then after all that, its dancing and drinking until 2 am. But you have no rhythm and don't like to dance. So what do you do?

I realize that I probably sound very selfish from the tone of everything I just wrote. After all, don't we go to weddings to support the bride and groom? Can't we just suck it up and be happy for them? Of course we can, and of course we do. That is what most of us do. But if as the bride and groom, you are going to spend a lot of money on what amounts to a large party, why not make it fun for all the guests? Undoubtedly, most everyone who reads this blog will have attended at least one party in their lives that was so much fun that people who were there still reminisce about.  But how many weddings have you been to that get talked about after the fact, except to embarrass those who got really drunk? Not many. 

What is fun is usually something more intimate and casual. Do away with the formal dress code. Let people dress comfortably. Serve them food that they will enjoy that they can't make at home -maybe some very good ethnic food. It's often much less expensive than standard western fare. Organize activities that are fun that bring your guests together and let them have fun like games and have some dancing for people who like to dance. 

Most importantly, don't be bullied by the venues into paying ridiculous prices and accepting ridiculous restrictions. Be prepared to accept a venue that might not have been your first choice, because at the end of the day, you can always create the atmosphere you want with the activities and the people. 90% of the atmosphere will come from your guests with only 10% being the actual venue. That is why I think it is so important to make your guests comfortable. There will always be somebody with a space large enough for you that will only be too happy to make $1,000 or so for one night. That's a LOT of money for using a space, especially when you consider that monthly commercial rent for that same space would be in the $5,000-$6,000 range, unless it's right downtown. 

Anyways that is my two cents on the whole wedding thing. 

This week, I am finally listing the last of my Queen Victorian material consisting of revenue stamps. As I said in an earlier post these are not postage stamps, but are stamps used to evidence payment of government fees and excise taxes. Some examples are shown below:

This issue is the Law Stamps issued by the province of Ontario in 1864. Law stamps were affixed to any legal document and were to evidence the payment of filing fees. So a mortgage, a conditional sales contract, a land conveyance - these would all have law stamps. 

This is the federal Bill Issue for 1868. Bill stamps were attached to negotiable instruments like promissory notes, cheques and bank drafts. All cheques until fairly recently (sometime in the 1950's) used to have an excise tax payable for processing them. The above 1c stamps would have been affixed to every single cheque cashed by the banks at that time. Thus, while not rare in used condition, pristine blocks like the one shown above are not common. 

Next we have gas inspection stamps. All gas connections had to be inspected for safety compliance and the payment of the inspection fee would be evidenced by attaching gas inspection stamps to the inspection document. The above strip is used and is from the 1897 series, which was in use until 1930.

Finally, we have the Electric Light Inspection stamps, which came into use in 1900, and were used until the early thirties. 

There are many more categories of revenues than what I show here, but most of them come into play after Queen Victoria's reign. All the above stamps that I have shown are federal issues, but each of the provinces had their own revenue stamps as well for things they had jurisdiction over. It's a fascinating field and many of the original documents are quite rare now. Who knows how many offices have thrown out boxes of records in recent years containing documents worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Progress Check, Newfoundland Listings are Finally Complete and Queen Elizabeth Definitives Are All Ready to Go!

After much hard work over the past few days, I am finally done sorting all the Queen Elizabeth definitives and finished listing the Newfoundland material with the 1897-1901 Royal Family Issue, which is shown below:

So the only Queen Victoria material left to list is a bit of revenue material, which I hope to deal with tomorrow evening and possibly Monday and then this major block of material has all been dealt with.

So how have I done to date given that I have been in business for 107 days?

1. I have listed just under 1,000 inventory items in my E-bay store.

2. Of the items listed, I have sold 277 of them, which is approximately 27% of what I have listed. That is about four times the sell-through rate that I had predicted in my business plan projections. My daily sales are growing each week.

3. I have established a presence on Pinterest with 21 active boards to which I pin stamps of particular interest as I list them. My boards now have 28 followers.

4. I have kept three blogs up to date, posting new topics 4-5 times a week. Each blog gets 50-100 page views a day now that I am sharing them with groups that I joined on Facebook. Half of my traffic is for older posts.

5. I opened an AdSense account and to date, I have hit 1,000 ad impressions, which has earned me almost $2 of ad revenue. Not much money, but better than nothing.

6. I now have a mailing list with 92 new customers that I have sold to since July.

Not bad at all for just over three months worth of work. What I am hoping will become apparent to my readers is just how long it takes for consistent effort in each of these areas to generate traction. At the same time, I hope my readers will see that consistent effort does indeed yield results. I don't yet know how much of my current sales is related to people who saw my blog. For all I know, it could be zero, and that's OK. No matter what, there are now at least 50 people out there, assuming that its the same people who come back to my blogs each day, who know about me and what I am doing. I'm not asking anybody to buy my stamps - not yet. All I am doing on these social media platforms is exposing people to information and eye-candy in my specialty areas. I got into this business because I genuinely love stamps and I believe everybody could benefit from collecting. I want to spread the hobby as far as I can. So I am happy to give away information, which is what I am doing for 2-3 hours every day now. I have no doubt that eventually, some of those people are going to visit my store.

Once I have established a solid social media presence and I have most of my stock listed for sale, then I can start spending a bit of money to promote and market my inventory, but establishing a good online reputation is key.

With that I wish all of you a happy weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Marrying the Woman of My Dreams and Getting Ready to List Queen Elizabeth Definitives

I'm going to depart from the regular theme of my posts today to share a bit of personal news and to give my profound gratitude to the woman who has stood by me and made it all possible.

On Saturday morning, I asked Steph if she would consider becoming my wife. I had wanted to ask her for weeks, and had, for several months been racking my brain to come up with a novel way to propose to her. Despite having had two unsuccessful marriages in the past, I am still a believer in the institution of marriage and I am an old fashioned romantic, albeit somewhat jaded. So trying to think of something that I could do that would amuse her and that would be original was difficult. After months of thinking about it, I finally had an idea: I would spell out my proposal on a Scrabble board during a game of Scrabble! We play Scrabble quite a bit and enjoy it a lot, so this seemed like the perfect way to propose. I probably should have tested it first to see if the words would actually intersect properly, but I didn't.

Anyway, I soon asked Steph if she would fancy a game of Scrabble. She said no thanks. I would ask her three of four times over the next several weeks and each time she would say that she wasn't really feeling it. So finally on Saturday morning I took out the Scrabble board and opened it up and said to Steph, "I just want to see something for a minute". Then I started arranging the tiles on the board to spell "Will you Marry Me". Unfortunately, the word "will"does not join up with any of the others so I said "Damn it doesn't work!". Steph said " What doesn't?". So I gently pushed the board towards her and said "this". She read it and her jaw dropped and then she said " are you? asking me to marry you?" to which I said "yes, will you?". She said she would think about it. Then I got down on both knees and told her that she was my best friend, that she brings immense joy to my life, that I couldn't imagine life without her and that I love her with all my heart. She teared up and said "yes!!".

It is the third time I have proposed marriage to someone, but I know this time it will work. The other two times I was young: 25 and 33 and had not fully matured. The implication of that lack of maturity was that I didn't know myself well enough to know what I could love and what I couldn't. Like most young people, my love was based on how the other person made me feel and less on who that person was. In Steph's case, there is no doubt in my mind that I love this woman - matter how she makes me feel. She is just a good, solid, kind and loving human being. She doesn't see it of course, and that kind of humility only makes her all the more appealing.

I met Steph at one of the lowest points in my adult life. I had just moved out of my matrimonial home into an apartment in North York with nothing but my stamps and a few random pieces of furniture. I had to go shopping at Ikea to acquire the remainder of my basic furniture. I was traumatized by the abuses I had suffered during my marriage, even though I was far from a perfect husband myself. I was about 98% sure that I was done with dating. Despite that, I knew I had to meet people, so I joined a number of meetup groups, one of which was for lovers of craft beer. As I attended the meetups my perception was strengthened - particularly when I attended the events for the over 40's. My god, there was more baggage there than at Toronto Pearson! People were so guarded. Then one night on February 2, 2013 I went out for my first and only beer lover's meetup at a bar called C'est What? I had been circulating and meeting quite a few people that night when I noticed Steph and her friend. The funny thing is Steph doesn't even drink. She was there to act as the DD for her friend. We met and talked for the rest of the evening and exchanged phone numbers.

From that point on, I thought about her a lot, but not in the obsessive way that I did with many of my love interests when I was younger. My interest in her was intense, but it was much healthier. I called her each week and we met 2 times a week for about a month before we realized that we had a mutual attraction that went beyond friendship. This was the first time in my life that I can honestly say that I wanted someone in my life, no matter in what capacity. If she had just wanted to be friends, I would have been disappointed, but I would have accepted that. She was just too good of a person not to have in my life on some level. I had never felt that way about anyone before.

Steph made me laugh and showed me that I could indeed be loved for myself. She has been so completely accepting of me and all of my quirks and idiosyncrasies. I believe that she knows me better than I know myself sometimes. She is selfless to a fault. I have watched her be a model friends to everyone in her life, and a wonderful daughter to her parents.  I started to see the possibility of starting life anew and soon, I felt a renewed hope.

Thanks to Steph, I was able to walk away from a potentially costly divorce by offering my ex far more than her fair share. I was able to see that as an investment in my new life with Steph rather than as a loss that would leave me bitter. It was Steph who suggested to me that I could make a living full time in stamps. It was Steph who took all of the pressure off of me financially by telling me that she didn't care how much or how little money I made - my happiness was more important to her than money. This was the first time that I felt like I had permission to leave my position as partner of a mid sized accounting firm behind. It was Steph who made it possible for me to accumulate my considerable stock over the last two and half years by being a frugal partner and not demanding a constant stream of expensive gifts, trips away and the like.

She is a truly outstanding human being. That's really all there is to it. I want to be here for her. I want to show her that she really can achieve her dream of being a full time comedian.

So we are looking at a wedding in October next year, or possibly the spring of 2017. Very exciting times ahead!

Today, I expect to finish sorting the Queen Elizabeth II definitives in preparation for the listings to Christmas. Then I can spend the rest of the week trying to finish the Queen Victoria material. I wanted to show you some examples of the stamps that I am referring to though. They make for an interesting study:

The first issue of the present reign is nicknamed the "Karsh"issue, after the famous photographer Yousuf Karsh, who took the above portrait of the young Queen. This series consisted of 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c and 5c stamps of the above design, as well as a 7c, Canada Goose, a 20c Pulp and Paper Industry design, a 50c Textile Industry design and a $1 totem pole design. The 1c-5c values were replaced in 1954 by the stamps of the next series, but the 20c remained in use until 1956, the 7c and $1 until 1963 and finally the 50c until 1967. 

The next issue is nicknamed the "Wilding" issue, after the photograper Dorothy Wilding, who took the above portrait of the Queen. This series consisted of a 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c, 5c,and 6c of the above design, as well as a 10c Inuk and Kayak design, a 15c Gannet design, a 20c Paper Industry design, and a 25c Chemical Industry design. The low values to 6c and the 15c were replaced in late 1962 and early 1963 by the stamps of the next issue, but the higher values remained in use until they were replaced in 1967 by the Centennial Issue Group of Seven designs. 

This next issue is nicknamed the "Cameo" issue, due to the very simple nature of the designs. The low values consisted of a 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c and 5c, each depicting a different symbol in the upper left corner for different natural resources: minerals, wood, fish, electricity and wheat. There were also 7c and 8c airmail stamps, a 15c Canada Geese design and a $1 Exports design. All of these stamps were replaced in 1967 by the Centennial Issue below.

This issue is one of the most popular among collectors due to its complexity. It is called the Centennial Issue due to the fact that it was first issued in Canada's Centennial year, on February 8, 1967. The set consisted of 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c, 5c, 6c, 7c and 8c values depicting the Queen on the right and a different scene from Canada on the left. There were also a series of designs reproducing famous paintings by the Group of Seven. These were the 8c, 10c, 15c, 20c, 25c, 50c and $1 values. The 10c above is the famous "Jack Pine" by Tom Thompson. The higher values were replaced in late 1972 by the stamps of the next series and the low values in 1973.  

This series is nicknamed the "Caricature and Landscape" issue due to the fact that the low values consisted of sketches of former Prime Ministers and the Queen, while the high values depicted various Canadian landscapes. The low values consisted of a 1c John A Macdonald, 2c Laurier, 3c Borden, 4c Mackenzie King, 5c Bennett, 6c Pearson, 7c St. Laurent, and 8c & 10c Queen. The higher values comprised a 10c Forrest, 15c Mountain sheep, 20c Prairies,25c Polar bears, 50c Seashore, $1 Vancouver as shown above and $2 Quebec City. The low values were replaced in 1977 by the next issue and the higher values were replaced between 1977 and 1979. This was the issue that sparked my interest in stamps. 

This issue is known as the "Floral" issue, due to the fact that most all the values up to the 35c depict various trees and wildflowers. There were also designs issued for the first class rates in the form of a bas relief of the Queen and another for the parliament buildings. There were two rate increases during the life of this issue, so there are three denominations of each of these designs. The 50c, 60c, 75c and 80c values depict various street scenes in Canada, while the $1 and $2 values depict Fundy and Kluane national parks. The floral, parliament and street scene designs were replaced in 1982 by the next series. The bas relief Queen design would continue to be used until 1987 and the national park theme would be continued into the next issue with additional higher denominations being introduced. 

This issue is known as the "Artifacts and National Parks" issue. The values below the $1 each depicted a different household object from Canada's pioneer days, while the $1, $1.50, $2, and $5 values depicted Glacier, Waterton Lakes, Banff , Point Pelee and La Maurice national parks. The first class rates utilized the bas relief Queen design, a maple leaf design and a different rendition of the parliament buildings.  There were four general rate increases during the life of this series, so there are several of each of these designs. This was the first series to feature a $5 denomination. These stamps were all replaced in 1988 and 1989 by the Wildlife and Architecture series shown below.

This series that appeared in 1988 is known as the "Wildlife and Architecture" issue. It includes a number of very rare and desirable varieties that are eagerly sought out by collectors. The values to the $1 depict various wildlife, while the $1, $2 and $5 depict Runnymede Library, McAdam Railway Station and Bonsecours Market. The first class rates continued to utilize the parliament design and introduced a new full face portrait of the Queen, as well as a new Flag design. There were three general rate increases during the life of this set. This series featured Canada's first Quick stick stamps and was the last series to have 50c vending machine booklets.  It was gradually replaced between 1991 and 1996 by the next series. 

This series, which first appeared in 1991 is called the "Fruit and Flag" issue. The values up to the 25c depict various edible berries, while the mid values below $1 depict various fruit trees. The first class rates were covered by the Queen and flag designs and Quick sticks were continued in this series but were phased out in 1993 and would not appear again until 1995 with the Greetings stamps. The high values continued the architecture theme with $1, $2 and $5 depicting the Yorkton Courthouse, Provincial Normal School and the Public Library in Victoria BC. There were three general rate increases during the life of this series. The stamps of this series were gradually replaced between 1997 and 1999 by the next series

This is the last series that I have material for at the moment. But it is also the last series to feature a completely new set of designs to the new $10 Whale design. All the stamps issued since this series are variations of the first class stamps for local, US and international rates, as well as a new series of low values for beneficial insects.  This set is known as the "Trades and Wildlife" issue, as the low values feature various skilled trades. A new stylized maple leaf design features into the mid-range values for US and international first class mail, while the dollar values return to the wildlife theme, this time utilizing really exquisite engravings. There is $1 loon, $1 White Tailed Deer, $1 Atlantic Walrus, $2 Polar Bear, $2 Peregrine Falcon, $2 Sable Island Horse, $5 Moose, $8 Grizzly Bear and $10 Blue Whale. There have been multiple rate increases during the life of this issue. The low values up to 25c started to be replaced in 2007, but the high values are still in use to this day.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Queen Victoria Listings Come to A Close, Sales Pass $6,500 and Organizing Queen Elizabeth II Definitive Material - E-Bay is a Numbers Game

After a full Thanksgiving holiday off and a day spent organizing the next group of material to be listed, I am ready to finish listing the Queen Victoria material for Canada. My aim is to be finished with this material by early next week, or the end of this week. Then I have to break for a few days to do some bookkeeping for a former client of mine and finish examining a large collection that I am going to be making an offer on.

Queen Victoria is listed up to the 1898 Newfoundland Royal Family Issue. That is the last issue of Newfoundland to fall in that period and then the only material left for Queen Victoria are the Revenue stamps. Revenues are stamps that were not issued for postage but for various customs and excise taxes. In the days before we all paid income taxes, the government raised its money from excise taxes, electrical and gas inspection fees and customs duties. I wanted to share one particular set with you that I just listed last week. That set is the 1897 John Cabot Issue of Newfoundland. This set is quite possibly the most beautiful set of stamps ever produced during the classic period:

      Queen Victoria                                 John Cabot

              Cape Bonavista                                Caribou Hunting

                       Mining                                          Logging

                    Fishing                                The "Matthew"  Cabot's ship  

             Ptarmigan                                       Seal colony

                 Salmon fishing                           Seal of the Colony

                      Iceberg                                     King Henry VII

John Cabot was the explorer who discovered Newfoundland. This set was issued on June 24, 1897 to commemorate the discovery. A pristine mint set retails for just over $400, which is a mere pittance compared to what other long commemorative sets from this period typically sell for. 

As I write this, my cumulative sales total just over $6.500 since July 23. As it is now October 14, that is over 82 days. So I'm averaging just under $80 a day.I'm still nowhere near the sales level that I need to be at to survive. However, my sales are growing as I list more material. E-bay is essentially a numbers game: the more items you have listed, the more you will sell.One of the reasons for this is that their internal search engine algorithm favours sellers who list more material and list more frequently. 

With this in mind, and looking at what has been selling, it was time to decide what to list next after Queen Victoria is done. Initially, I thought of just going in sequence and listing Edward VII and George V. However, Steph noticed that the stamps that are selling best are those in the $1-5 price range. She suggested that I should focus on the less expensive stamps.So I thought that maybe the next best area to focus on are the definitive issues of Queen Elizabeth II. Definitives are simply the regular issue stamps that are usually in use for a period of several years before being replaced. They usually cover the full range of face values from 1c up to $1, $5 or now $10. There have been no fewer than 11 of these sets issued during her reign, and some of them are very complex. 

So yesterday I started on the task of sorting all the definitive material that I have on hand. It turns out that I have a lot more of this material than I thought:

Each of the boxes that you see there (8 red boxes) holds 1,000 stamp cards, each of which usually holds up to 20 stamps each. By my guess, there are probably in the neighbourhood 80,000-100,000 mint stamps here. So I expect that this will keep me busy through to Christmas and possibly the New Year. It should give me several thousand different listings, which will now have the added advantage of quantity: I can expend the labour of 8 minutes (my average) to prepare and post the listing just once and then allow the listing to generate sales multiple times.

This is one aspect of the stamp business that is completely new and has arisen because of the automation that the internet and E-bay allows. It used to be that dealers would consider any inventory quantity over 5 or 10 sets to be overstock and would not buy after they had that much in stock. But now it makes sense to have as much as possible in stock up to a reasonable limit of say 1,000 sets. The reason is because my biggest cost is labour. E-bay only charges me 5 cents a month for a listing. So if I list 500 of an item at 5c per month carrying cost and it took me 8 minutes to prepare the listing, there are 500 opportunities to make a sale at no additional labour cost. If I list a single stamp, once I've sold it the labour that I expended to prepare the listing is gone, as are all future opportunites to make money from it. If I list in quantity like this over a very large number of listings and promote the listings using social media, the chances are very good that I will sell frequently without having to incur additional listing costs. 

The pictures below show some of the sorts that I was working on yesterday:

This was the 1954-1962 Wilding Portrait Issue. Behind me were hundreds of lotting cards with the 1c, 2c and 3c values sorted. The remaining values on the table were the 4c and  above. 

This was the 1962-1967 Cameo Portrait Issue. I hated this issue as a child, but over time, I have come to appreciate the simplicity and retro "Madmen" like feel of it. 

Steph is in charge of dinner this week, so I won't have any new recipes to share until I resume cooking next week. I have a whole new roster of meals lined up for that week, so I should have at least a few good ones to share.