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Friday, February 12, 2016

Over 400 Admirals Now Listed And The Difference A Supportive Partner Makes

I worked like a dog this last week. My goal has to try and list all my stamps of the 1911-1928 Admiral Issue by the end of the month. I have close to 1,000 stamps of this issue, so I knew it would be a difficult task. Yesterday, I got stuck on the 4c value, which was in use from 1922 onwards when the empire letter rate was increased from 3c to 4c. I was up until 2:30am last night trying to get through this stamp.

It is a very difficult stamp because it was printed in an olive bistre colour and this pigment is prone to many subtle shades. Some of these are quite scarce and worth a lot of money. My patience was rewarded though with some of the best items in my Admirals so far:

The bistre-yellow printing from 1925-1928. This is the palest of the shades and one of the scarcest. This one is yours for $170 USD.

The rare golden yellow shade from 1922. This stamp is priced at $420 USD

The deep bistre yellow from 1922-1925. This stamp can be had for $80 USD. 

I am hopeful that my customers will appreciate the work that I put into properly identifying all these and listing them.  We'll see what happens. 

Steph has been working very hard organizing the modern Canada and Fabio has been learning how to distinguish watermarks, dies, papers, perforations and printings on British Commonwealth. What has challenged him for most of this week is New Zealand. It's been a great exercise for him and while he has wanted to tear his hair out at times, I know he is enjoying himself. 

This brings me to a thought that hit me this morning and one that I want to share with all of you: the difference between a supportive and unsupportive partner. 

Oftentimes when we think of an unsupportive partner, we think of someone who outright forbids us to do something or who says "I want no part of it, but you do what you want." But I have come to realize through experience that it is much more subtle than that. 

I started this journey a long time ago - in 2000. Back then, I'd never heard of e-bay, but I wanted badly to become a stamp dealer and get out of public accounting. I came up with an idea to sell stamps at half catalogue price - that would be my value proposition. Whatever I could source profitably and sell at half catalogue I would. It is not a bad idea even still. I discussed this idea with my partner at the time, now my ex. She didn't outright say I couldn't do it, but indicated to me that it was "my thing", so I couldn't really talk to her about it, since she would not  understand what I was talking about, since she wasn't interested, and so I could only work on the idea in my spare time. I did buy a large amount of Canada stock spending about $5,000 at the time. She initially objected to me spending that money but later backed off. However, the thing never got off the ground, because I just couldn't find enough time to execute my idea. I realize now, given how labour intensive this whole venture has been that it was absolutely impossible back then to do what I wanted to do and still keep a full time job. 

Eventually, when I complained to my ex about how this idea wasn't getting off the ground and I really didn't want to stay in accounting she did suggest that I apply to the auction houses around the world for a job. So in that sense she was supportive of me wanting to make a change. But on the other hand her willingness to support me came with so many stipulations that had the effect of ensuring that she did not have to make any significant sacrifices of her own or very much risk. Eventually, I found a job which would require us to move to New Brunswick. Before she would agree to go we had to take a costly trip out there to "vet" the location to see if she could live there. So I sold the Canada stock to pay for the trip. It seemed like an ideal place when we went, and so we moved. 

It was during that move that the real tension in our marriage began. Even though she had agreed to support me and move there with me, she didn't completely treat it as her decision that she needed to take responsibility for. A supportive partner in that situation would approach it as a team effort and would look to do what they could to make the overall effort succeed. For people who have never been to or lived in a small rural town, I need to explain that the culture is very close knit and being able to fit in is critical to success. When we arrived there, within the first week, I was invited to go hunting with my male co-workers. They were trying to test my mettle - they wanted to see if I was one of the boys. I should have gone, but I caved in to pressure from my ex, who felt that I had dragged her to this strange place and that it was my responsibility to be there for her and to make her comfortable in this new place. Naturally, with attitude she managed to alienate virtually everyone we came into contact with as a couple. We would be invited somewhere once and then never again. Looking back, I know why - because she wasn't trying to make friends with the locals and she wasn't trying to see what she needed to do to make the locals comfortable with her, and by extension, my son and I. 

So, not surprisingly, we had no friends, or virtually no friends there and once we alienated my boss, we were done. I alienated him because I kept pressuring him to pay me more money, because my ex couldn't keep our spending to a level that we could afford and couldn't work consistently. So the whole effort failed and ended with my getting fired and suing my boss for wrongful dismissal. 

Another aspect to the story is that within two or three weeks of moving there, my ex started putting pressure on me to pursue the purchase of the house that would take almost a year to sell after we left New Brunswick. Every time I hesitated, I would be reminded of how I dragged the family out there and how this was the least I could do to show my appreciation. 

And therein lies the fundamental truth: a supportive partner looks for ways to support the overall effort that the two of you are engaged in and refrains from taking actions that could place the success of the venture in jeopardy. This applies not just to starting a business, but applies to all aspects of your shared life together, because that is what a real marriage is: a lifelong venture that you are both engaged in. 

So in the situation I described, that would have meant taking the attitude that the venture was building a successful and comfortable life in New Brunswick. My job was just one aspect of that venture, but there were many others. My ex, if she had been fully supportive, would have taken the responsibility on of contributing to the success of this an any way she could, and certainly would have meant avoiding taking on too many financial obligations or alienating the locals - both actions that proved to be our undoing. 

Steph on the other hand is a fully supportive partner and I am learning more and more every day about what that means. She has quit her job to come and work with me. Although it wasn't her ideal   job it gave her financial independence and meant that she didn't have to place her full trust in me. She has willfully chosen to give that up and instead come and work alongside me learning all the aspects of how this business is to function on a day to day basis. I may be the Captain of the ship, but she is my First Officer, and she is okay with that. She has already made some suggestions to improve the business, which we are going to try together. She asks me every day about the sales, gives me encouragement when I am worried, makes suggestions, and makes dinner if I am too busy working to make it. She has completely taken on the identity of a stamp dealer and has made it her life from 9-5. She is open to doing whatever it takes within reason to allow this business to succeed, even if that means making personal sacrifices of her own. 

I often find myself thinking about how different things would have been if it had been Steph that had moved to New Brunswick with me instead of my ex. For one thing, there would have been no requirement to go there first before accepting the job. She would have just gone and dealt with whatever came along once we were there. She would have been frugal so as to make sure our funds could cover all the expenses, which it would have, since it was double what everyone else in the office earned. We probably would have rented for the first couple of years until we were sure that New Brunswick was for us and then, and only then would we have bought. She would have tried to make friends with the locals, and I genuinely believe that she would have liked the people there. 

So if you are married or in a relationship and you are accepting a job or starting a business and you feel like your partner is not being supportive of your efforts, chances are they are not. By definition, marriage is a team effort, so unless the two of you have decided together that your job or your business is to be handled by you and you alone, if your partner is not involved enough to understand the challenges you are facing, they are not being supportive. If you are left to manage your career or your business on your own, and the fruits of your labour are going to support your family unit, then your partner MUST step up in other areas,without requiring your involvement. Otherwise they are behaving unfairly. 

Any thoughts?


  1. As the saying goes - "Better late than never"

    1. Absolutely! I just shared this because I think it might be helpful to some. But I do try to look forward rather than back.

  2. How are sales as we reach the mid-point of February?

    1. Not bad. But I'm looking at expanding my reach to venues other than E-bay now.

  3. Other than Ebay??? like what?

  4. There are several marketplaces which have nice followings like Bonanza, Delcampe, Etsy, Ecrater, Tios etc. they don't have as much traffic as e-bay, but the traffic they do have may be more likely to buy. One of the problems with e-bay now is that there are so many listings that unless someone comes and visits my store, the odds of them seeing my item is very low, unless they are going through all the Canada listings daily.

    By the way, because you keep commenting anonymously, I keep wondering who you are. I gather that you are in Toronto given your past comments about the Blue Jays, but you seem most interested in my sales and that naturally has me wondering.

    My merchandise by nature is long- tail, which means that it takes a long time to sell, but thanks to Google, it will be found eventually when someone searches for a specific stamp. But because Google favours both quantity and quality of content over thin content, it is essential to have a deep stock.