I think the stamp market is strong. I think positively about the hobby as a whole and the stamp business in particular.
Iím not bragging, but overall Iím pleased with my stamp business. Could things be better? Sure. Every business person would always like to have more sales and more profit. I feel that my business is doing well and it continues to grow.
I recently started into the worldwide approval business. If I didnít think there was a good chance to be successful and profitable, I would never have entered the market. Itís not a decision I made lightly. I read books about the approval business and I found one book written in the 1970s that I really liked and much of the information is still relevant today. I studied the business and put together my business plan.
Not all dealers are successful or optimistic. There are some dealers who entered the market and have since left. Why? I can think of several reasons.
There are some dealers who come in with a bang and leave with a whimper. They take out large ads in philatelic publications. In some cases, I think they are all about showmanship. In other cases, I think they have grand plans that never materialize because of their get rich quick mentality. In my opinion, the stamp business is a slow and steady effort over the long term. There are no get rich quick schemes.
Some dealers donít put much effort into their business. The stamp business, like any small business, is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work. These dealers could have been coin dealers, retail clothing stores, or anything else. No matter what business they went into (which just happened to be stamps in this case), they just donít have the work ethic to stick with it. The stamp business isnít overly difficult. If it was easy, everyone would be a stamp dealer.
Some dealers lack capital. Yes, there are a few dealers who started selling stamps out of their bedroom as a teenager and went on to great success. Look at what H.E. Harris did. Those dealers are the rare exception. You donít need millions of dollars to start a stamp business, but especially in the early years when you only have a few customers and youíre trying to grow your business, you need capital to keep going and expand. Some dealers never cross that bridge to the other side.
Some dealers never refresh their stock. My stock is in constant motion. There is more I would like to do with my stock. Itís a work in progress. But some dealers have the same, old material as last time. Anything new? No and youíre looking elsewhere.
I could go on, but thatís not my point here.
If you examine recent auction realizations, scarce and rare material continues to sell well and at very high prices. Have prices softened? Yes, a little. But overall, the market remains strong.
I look at a local shopping mall as an indicator of business and the economy. For example, there were three costume jewelry stores in this mall. They all sell similar items at similar prices. Itís the same thing that you can find online or at any other store. All three of those stores are now out of business.
In this same mall, other stores are thriving. One store that has been there a long time, a womenís lingerie store is expanding and moving to a new area of the mall. Why? The items they offer are high quality and upscale. They have something different to offer. And they are doing very well from the looks of it.
I think this is true in the stamp business. If you have something to offer that is fresh and different and itís a quality item, those kinds of items are in demand. If you offer the same, tired, old material that is the same as dozens of other dealers, I just donít see a long term future in it. Especially with competition from the Internet where collectors can now easily buy material from all over the world in the comfort of their home. If nothing sets you apart, youíre just another nameless face in the sea of stamp dealers.
Itís taken me a long time to get to this point, but I think I have a formula that works. Iím not going to reveal what it is for two reasons. First, I donít mind competition. But I donít have to give away my trade secrets. Second, what works for me may not work for others. I donít want people to think that all they have to do is copy my formula and theyíll have instant success. Business doesnít work that way.
Iím bullish on the stamp business. Iím optimistic about the hobby. Is there room for improvement? Sure. Doom and gloom though? Not from me!