It’s not just stamps. You see “Highest Prices Paid” advertisements in a number of businesses. Don’t fall for it.

As Pat Herst points out, this is a trick. Here’s what really happens and I’ll use stamps to illustrate the principle. For example, Scott #594 is a very rare stamp. It’s worth a lot of money. Very few collectors own a copy. Many collectors would love to own a copy.

Company ABC puts out a “Highest Prices Paid” advertisement. What’s at the head of the list? It’s a copy of Scott #594 with a very steep price. What’s behind the scenes? A list of many other ordinary stamps that many collectors have. The prices for these stamps are below what others may pay.

How does this work? Company ABC is relying on your ignorance. You look at the #594 on the front cover with a stupendous price and think, “Geez, if they are willing to pay THAT much for THAT stamp, they must be paying high prices for ALL of the stamps they list.” Sorry, no they are not.

Company ABC knows that it will never be called on to buy a copy of Scott #594 at that price. There are so few copies of #594, most end up in an auction on the rare occasions that a copy is sold. If Company ABC were ever asked to make good on their pledge, they will find some way to wiggle out of the advertisement. The stamp offered to them will be faulty or not as well centered (insert your excuse here). Well, that copy isn’t worth their quoted buying price.

What Company ABC will buy is a lot of other moderately priced material that is offered to them at their quoted price. Those are the stamps they are really looking to buy and they want to get them as cheap as possible. If you were amazed by the price of the #594, you aren’t going to price compare their buy list with someone else’s buy list.

In some cases, Company ABC may have sold you their buy list. They made a profit from selling the buy list. If they never hear from you again, so be it. They already made a profit from you when you bought the buy list.

Most dealers are very honest. Occasionally you get a dealer that comes along blowing his own horn about the big prices they pay for stamps.

I won’t buy your stamps at the highest prices paid. I am interested in your stamps at a fair price: a price where I can resell them and make a reasonable profit for the investment of my time, money, and work to dispose of this material.

If you have stamps to sell, don’t fall for the “Highest Prices Paid Here” trick. If you want to entertain an offer from them for your material, by all means, do so. Nothing says you have to accept the first offer you’re given. You should be up front with the dealers you speak to and let them know that you’re seeking several offers. Get a few offers for your material and select the offer that you think is best.