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Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Finishes With The Completion of the Wilding Issue, A Very Disturbing Exchange on Facebook and New Recipes

Steph got me two cookbooks for Christmas and I am very excited for both of them as my weekly menus had gotten very repetitive of late. The first one is a book of over 340 one-pot meals - so casseroles, soups, curries, stews and tangines. The second is Gordon Ramsey's Home Cooking. Think what you will about the man, but he does simple food like no man's business. His book is chock full of tips on how to prepare ingredients and combine flavours. I am really looking forward to trying the recipes in this book. I sat down today and planned 4 weeks worth of Monday-Friday meals, with everything being new. The meals are mostly Winter meals, which is very fitting I think. I will share with you those that I think are worth sharing over the coming weeks.

Sales have leveled off for December and I think I'm more or less done for the year now. I expect to finish December with about $1,400 in sales. Not at all bad considering that most of this was items that sold for less than $5 each. So while my overall sales are down, my volume is up. My plan is to finish the Wilding Issue over the next few days, finish writing the blog posts on this issue, which is almost done now, and then to start January off by listing the Edward VII issues and the Admiral Issues.

However, the year finishes with one of the most disturbing exchanges with other philatelists over Facebook that shows me the degree of animosity that exists out there towards stamp dealers. I have to hope that what I encountered today is not representative of the collector base as a whole, otherwise I have made a colossal mistake leaving my profession.

It started with a retired collector listing the following group of 1935 Silver Jubilees for sale:

From what I can see these are fairly nice stamps. I don't deal in the whole Commonwealth, but I do occasionally get inquiries from customers for these. So I made an offer of $25 USD for all of them. I know that they list for more than this in Gibbons, but for a dealer trying to make a living $25 was a fair offer.

Immediately the collectors started making ridiculously low offers like $7 from this guy, and $10 from another collector. Of course the seller took my offer. I stated that I was a dealer, that I had to make a living and that a private collector should be prepared to pay more than $25. That was what touched a nerve.

One fellow had suggested to the seller that he should hold off on selling them because the catalogue values had gone up in Gibbons and that there were now lots of new plate varieties listed that could make them valuable. I pointed out that while that was indeed good advice, I could see from the photo that there were none of the scarce varieties here and that my offer stood.

It seems that both this fellow and the fellow that offered $7 were highly offended by my presence here, not to mention a few others. Here are some of their comments:

1. The guy who originally offered $10 now changed his offer to $26! after saying that at $10 he was "overpaying". 

2. I'd pay book value if mnh, NOT a dealer... and then 

I'm a better collector, as I rarely willpower sell, especially anything rare in my eyes, I disagree with the whole your worse dealing, and collecting..all about the individual, and their passions!!! 

3.  For the past 30 years most of the dealers have been the ones behind the prices in the Scott catalogs, every year mostly raising the values but hardly ever dropping them. Most of the time dealers used Scott's as a retail gauge as to what they should sell their stamps at, however when it came down as to a collector who wished to sell his collection based on a percentage there was never a dealer around. To me Scott's catalogues are a farce as well as a lot of dealers who don't offer fair market value for their collections.

Here's the point I'm trying to make. Scott doesn't need to ask the dealers what the value of a Stamp should be unless that dealer is retired. When Amos Press first bought Scott and made it a retail catalog it was supposed to be for both dealers to sell their stamps and collectors to sell at a percentage depending on the condition of the stamps. I am not against anybody making a living but let's call a spade a spade here most dealers do not offer fair market value for your collection.

My responses to these:

"I love how Philatelists on FB are so quick to malign stamp dealers - as if we provide nothing of value to the hobby. We make the markets in a global scale. Who do you think is going to buy your collection for tens of thousands when you are in a pinch and need the money today? Other collectors? Maybe. But a good dealer will give you a fair price knowing full well that it may take him up to a decade to sell the bulk of your stamps. And that is after he puts hundreds of hours in labour to identify, describe and prepare your stamps for resale. Also who is going to supply you with the exact stamps you are looking for at any given time?"

"I understand where you are coming from. I think dealers as a whole have eschewed modern material in favour of classic material because it is less labour intensive to handle. At the same time catalogue values for modern material remain high. The reason for the disconnect is that a catalogue like Scott is a Retail catalogue, and it says so right upfront. What that means is it is a collection of prices that dealers typically charge. There is no business that I know of whether it is car dealers or stamp dealers that will pay a fixed percentage of their retail price for stock. Instead it comes down to supply, demand and how much labour is required to sell the stamps. Most collectors love spending time sorting stamps, so they tend to overlook the fact that to a dealer trying to make a living, time is money. I just started my business in July and I'm in a race against time to list all my stock on E-bay. I can tell you that I work 60 hour weeks and if I'm lucky I can list about 300 items a week. I sell about 10% of what I list each month. So to make a living I have to have a massive stock. I can assure you that very few dealers are getting rich. I left a career in public accounting (I was a partner) to do this because I love stamps. They are in my blood. I felt the hobby needs good dealers to disseminate their knowledge and to that end I write two blogs."

I thought that would be the end of things, but it seems that Mr. $7 had to give me a piece of his mind:

"I need to quote mr Chris: ""My offer was based on the fact that I am a dealer and have to make a living. Any private collector wanting to purchase these should be prepared to pay more than what I offered for NH sets."" I am not sure I understood this correctly. Are you saying that you are entitled to these stamps at a lower price, simply because you a dealer who needs to make a living? If that is the case, then you sure lost a lot of respect from me,Mr Chris. It was your choice to start selling stamps to make a living out of it. Therefore don't expect someone to sell you their stamps, with room for you to make further revenue out of it. you referred yourself as a new,good,conscientious dealer who potentially could contribute a lot to the hobby... Well the comment you made,which I quoted sure was not very ethical of you. We realize you need to pay the piper at the end of the month, and also cut yourself a check from all the stamps you sell. This is totally fair in the free enterprise world we live in. But I disagree when the dealer starts setting the benchmark for the value of a stamp. It is a known fact that the Stamp Albums are the benchmark, left for interpretation. Some people but at percentage of it,some don't. 100% of the dealers I came across, when they failed to bully the seller into selling them their stamps, they started to bash the seller,and made him feel like his stamps are valued nothing,and the dealer would do them a favour by buying their stamps. I have yet to come across a good honest and ethical dealer. My motive for selling my stamps is to connect the collector with stamps he is looking for at a reasonable price. The stamps I am selling is my surplus, or stamps I am not interested in collecting. If they sell, great, if not,no big deal. I don't have to wait on the money from the stamp sales in order to pay my rent. So you could call me a "hobby seller" and I will remain that for as long as I sell my stamps. All my stamps are FOR sale, and never will be ON sale"

So basically dealers are not welcome in the hobby because we don't pay fair prices for stamps, even though my offer was four times higher than his. The ensuing exchange which I reproduce below shows that what he is really pissed off about is that dealers like me prevent collectors like him from being able to buy stamps for next to nothing and then reselling them to dealers like me for top dollar later. Somehow its all my fault and other dealers like me. Notice how much contempt and arrogance, not to mention downright belligerence there is in what he writes. 

My response:

"You completely misunderstood what I said. I'm not entitled to anything. But it is reasonable for me to expect to be able to make a living for the many hours that I spend trying to do the same thing as you - connecting collectors with stamps they want at fair prices, sharing my knowledge about stamps through my blogs and contributing to the hobby in any way I can. It's fine to be a hobby seller. There is nothing wrong with that. But what would this hobby look like if there were no professionals dedicated to supplying collectors with stamps? Your ability to amass collections would be severely hampered. What you are suggesting is that I am unethical in my expectation to earn I living through my trade, which is incredibly arrogant and offensive of you to assert. Nobody is compelled to sell to me. If they want to sell individual stamps to individual collectors taking years to sell their stamps, that is certainly their business. But if I'm going to offer to buy everything all at once, then of course I am going to expect to pay less for it because I have to carry it."

"And by the way, you aren't doing what you are doing for the good of the hobby. Don't kid yourself. You said it yourself - you only sell the stamps you don't want to keep for yourself. A dealer enters this business because they love stamps and they are in it to sell them all to other collectors. I'm sorry to hear that you have had bad experiences with the dealers you have dealt with. But it is really offensive to me to see the hostility toward dealers on Facebook that I have seen in recent months."

His response

" Mr Chris, I would like you, or any other member over here to point out to me, where did I suggest that you are being unethical to earn a living by buying and selling stamps. If you succeed, I will offer you a public apology right here. But again, you need solid proof of my accusations. All I said was that it was unethical of you to make a comment that you made, earlier in the post. I would like you to explain me the reasonability behind that comment, if you are under the impression that I misunderstood the point. So again, I invite you to explain me the sense behind the comment you made,as to why a regular collector should be prepared to pay more for the stamps that Jeff was selling,over you?. I am pretty sure I am not the only one here who would like to have that comment elaborated. As far as me not doing anything good for the hobby, how so? The stamps I don't need or want,i pass the onto a collector who is interested in them,for a minimal charge that would cover my time for processing them ( scanning,packing up,dropping at post office). Since I am not pressed to pay my bills off of the money I receive for the stamps, I can offer them for next to nothing... I rather sell a few stamps for a Dollar,than have them sit in the box doing nothing. And chances are I will end up selling them cheaper than a dealer would. Most of us here are hobby collectors. I sold lots of stamps here for the asking price I had posted. I offer volume discounts, combined shipping,I event accepted buyers to pay me in instalments. You cannot afford to do that,nor you should because you make a living out of stamps. I can and will continue to do so. The people to blame for the hostility towards dealers, I believe are the dealers themselves. At least that was the case in every single experience I had with a dealer. Yes, there are some people who show up with a shoebox full of stamps thinking, they will walk out with enough money to buy themselves a car. That is rarely the case,so it's all about how to communicate it to the seller...that their stamps are truly not worth much. As far as my ability to amass collections of stamps,without visiting the dealer is never been easier. People who have stamps to sell, bypass the dealer for the most part,because they know they will get the lowest price possible,knowing the dealer will lowball them.There is a huge market for stamps,outside of the dealer network,and this is one of the markets."

My response:

"Well you said that it was unethical of me to assert that a private collector should expect to pay more for the same stamps as a dealer. What exactly is unethical about that? A dealer trying to make a living cannot compete with a collector. I was completely upfront with Jeff about who I was and why my offer is as it was. What would have been unethical, would be for me to pretend I was a collector rather than just being upfront. MNH silver jubilee sets sell for much more than $5 each on e-bay. I never said you were not doing the hobby any good. Rather, I pointed out that your motive was to get rid of stamps you no longer want or need. There is nothing wrong with this. But I left a lucrative career because I believe that collectors need more knowledgeable dealers to service them. Just before I wrote the last comment I had a question from a collector about cutting guidelines on the 1954-67 wilding issues of Canada, which I answered. I told him what they looked like, what their significance is and what they are worth. I do this because I want to contribute to the hobby, not because I want to get rich.

His response:

"We all share different motives about what drives us to sell our stamps online. Some do it for profit,others do it to connect buyers with affordable stamps. Just because you are a dealer, this does not mean you should be expected to pay less for stamps that someone is selling. I asked you twice to explain me,and everyone else here as to why should you be expected to be charged less,than the collector. You have not given hard facts as to why you think you should be expected to pay less for something,over the average Joe. Is this because you left a lucrative career and decided to offer your knowledge to the stamp community? So because of that, you should be charged less for stamps that are being up for sale, over the average Joe? I guess if those are possible reasons in your mind, so be it. To me that does not mean anything. I have never, and never will go to a dealer to "service" my stamp collecting needs. Most of the source where I go for stamp info is user submitted content,where I contribute my share of knowledge of the stamps I specialize in. When is comes to dealers, They like to be the ones who lecture others,and not the other way around. I admire your decision to leave your career,in order to provide the stamp collecting community with quality service,Mr Chris. But unfortunately that does not give you the right to say that someone should be prepared to pay more for stamps,than you would. I reject that ideology right out."

|I  read some more of your comments,and came across this one also:""Who do you think is going to buy your collection for tens of thousands when you are in a pinch and need the money today? Other collectors? Maybe. But a good dealer will give you a fair price knowing full well that it may take him up to a decade to sell the bulk of your stamps."" The first sentence is pure arrogance,that answers your questions why collector bash dealers. The second sentence is questionable to me, because I cannot imagine the words DEALER and FAIR to ever be able to go together"

At this point I was just done. I could see there was no point in responding to this man's hatred and accusations. Some time ago I did a series of posts about narcissism and this exchange provides a very good example of a narcissistic interaction. This man makes no attempt to address anything I actually said and his strategy is to sidestep what I said and to attack me and my fellow dealers. I sure hope that this is not how most collectors see us. I don't think it is based on the fact that the 175 customers I've serviced in the past 6 months are all very happy with my service. But what if it is? There were a few people who spoke up in support of me, but most people said nothing. 

I probably shouldn't have engaged him and gotten myself all worked up. But I felt I had to defend my new profession. My point in posting all this is that as an entrepreneur you are going to face hostility from people who do not understand what you do or who do not value it. You have to be able to stand your ground and move on.

Now, let me get to those other Wilding Issue posts that I promised the readers of my other blog, and have a very happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Wilding Issue Listing Is Nearly Complete, QEII Material Is Selling Well and Steph Joins Me Full Time

It has been a while since my last post. I haven't had much to report as I have been frantically trying to complete the listings for the Wilding Issue that I have been working flat out on for the past month. As of Friday last week, I have broken the back of it, with the 5c value nearly complete. This just leaves me the 6c, 10c, 15c, 20c and 25c, none of which should take me that long to complete, as they are not nearly as complicated, and I don't have nearly as much of them.

I have made so many additional observations about various aspects of this issue that I did not address in the series of posts that I wrote on my other blog, that I have decided to write an additional series of posts that address the various observations I have made along the way.

What has been interesting to note is that the material from this issue is selling just as well, if not better than the classic material. I was very nervous about this for most of this month, because it was taking a few weeks after listing the material to begin seeing the sales, and my overall sales for December are down from November. However, the sales did start to pour in with one of my customers buying a staggering 59 items out of just over 1000 listed items from this issue. So as of today, I have sold roughly 6% of my total holding of this issue, which is right on track with the sales rate that was forecasted in my business plan. I actually don't want to sell it too quickly because I don't want to run out of it when I am in the middle of listing other material, since I won't have time to replenish it. What is ideal is to sell 5% of the total amount each month for the next year so that I still have 35-40% of it left when I am finished lotting all my other material. Then I can purchase more of it and build on the listings that I have already posted rather than reinventing the wheel.

This is all really encouraging because the profit margin on this type of material is much, much higher than the classic stamps. It is way more labour intensive though.

Steph has decided to leave her job and is coming to join me full time starting in January. I am optimistic that working together, we can get all the rest of my inventory listed and up for sale over the next six months. This will hopefully enable us to get the sales level up to a level where we can sustain the business and our lifestyle.

The rest of this week will be spent finishing the Wilding Issue, then I break for Christmas holidays and return back to work on December 27 or 28. Despite the success of the Elizabethan material, Steph and I have decided that I will circle back and list King Edward VII and King George V first before I move on to the 1963-1967 Cameo Issue.

Have a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finally Some Light At The End Of The Wilding Tunnel...

This past week has been a very long and trying week, but thanks to my focus and the hard work of Steph in keeping everything functioning on the home front, I will have been able to lot all 19 plates of the 4c value, as well as all the booklets. As of today, I will have almost 750 listings for this issue - more than any dealer on the internet for sure.

Next week, I hope to complete the 5c value and then that will place me in striking position to finish the issue by Christmas.

Sales have not been too shabby either. I think I will have done roughly $400 this week, bringing me to about $500 for the month so far - not as good as last month, but not bad. What is especially encouraging is that some of those sales are from this issue that I am working on now, showing me that the modern material does indeed sell when it is properly described.

If you want to look at my listings for this issue, please click on the following link:

Friday, December 4, 2015

December Is Off To A Quiet Start As Progress Is Made on Listing The Wilding Issue

Its been a week since my last post, so I figured I had better check in with my readers and provide an update on what has been going on this week.

After a record breaking November, sales are off to a slow start for December - just around $100 in the past four days. I'm trying not to be too worried about it, but it can be a bit difficult given that I have listed over 500 lots this past week and none of them have sold. I have to keep remembering that I am playing the Long Game here. I don't expect the Elizabethan material to sell quickly as I am up against a huge prejudice in philatelic circles against modern material.

I'm amazed at what I have learned in  the past week though. I have been working on listing the plate blocks of the 1954-1967 Wilding Issue, which look like this:

I have handled hundreds if not thousands of these blocks over the last 38 years and for the longest time I never thought anything of them. Like most dealers, this stuff was just postage to me for many years. But then, I started to look at them more closely and started to notice differences in the papers used to print the stamps as well as differences in the block inscriptions themselves. If you look carefully at the above scans you will see that the left block as 2 purple dots in the margin - one at the lower left and one at the upper right. If you look at the one on the right, there is only one red dot at lower left. This is an example of what I mean. For the longest time, I never even noticed that some plate blocks had coloured dots in the margins. Then once I did, I saw a pattern: that lower right positions always had a dot in the selvage at lower left. Or do they?

This week, I saw the left block, which has the 2 dots - something I had not seen before, and would not have thought should exist. Immediately, I have become intrigued: what is the significance of these dots? Why are they here? What do they indicate? Most importantly, what combinations exist with the different plates?

This is just one example of new information that I have gleaned from listing the blocks of this issue. The other is that there definitely are differences in gum, in paper texture and in the reactions of the paper to ultraviolet light. Which of these differences are considered to be collectible is really a matter of personal preference, but certainly there is much more to this issue than many collectors realize. 

Because of the complexity, progress in listing these blocks has been slow and will likely take 2 more weeks. My real challenge is going to be raising awareness among stamp collectors of the merits of modern issues such as this as well as showing non-collectors how taking up the hobby can provide them with many hours of enjoyment.