A local woman called me. It was the typical phone call. She has her grandfatherís stamps and doesnít want them. Would I look at them and maybe buy them? We set up the date and time to meet.
First of all, she was 30 minutes late getting to my house. She only lives about 10 minutes away. She offered no explanation. To me, people like this are either very disorganized or they donít have any respect for someone elseís time. A few minutes late Ė no problem. But thirty?
She handed me a small shoe box of worldwide approvals that were still in glassine envelopes. Iíve seen this kind of material a million times. Itís all common and inexpensive. I took a few minutes to quickly thumb through the few hundred envelopes to make sure nothing of value was hidden in between.
While thumbing through the glassines, the saga begins.
First, she told me that she saw online auctions for stamp collections like this and they were selling for thousands of dollars. ďIs that so?Ē I said quizzically. ďWas that on eBay?Ē She couldnít remember where the auction was at. Strike one.
She then tried to say that another dealer in a nearby town was interested in the collection. However, he hasnít seen it yet. There is only one dealer in the town she mentioned and he doesnít deal in worldwide stamps. I said, ďDid you speak to Bobís Stamps?Ē (Iím not using the real dealerís name to protect the innocent.) She couldnít remember his name. She seemed surprised that I know other stamp dealers. Strike two.
She then said that another dealer from California was interested in the stamps. I guess distance matters. Travelling from California costs a lot of money and involves a large commitment. Again, she couldnít remember the name of the dealer she spoke to. Strike three!
As I looked over the box of glassines, I figured the original owner didnít pay more than $50 or $75 for what was there. Most envelopes were marked 10Ę or 25Ę. They looked to be from the 1980s. She kept insisting that this collection was worth thousands. I tried applying logic to the situation. I said, ďBut if these stamps are worth thousands, then why did the company who sold these stamps only price them for a few cents each?Ē She seemed stunned when I showed her the glassine envelope with the price clearly marked. The envelopes are from a company that is still in business selling approvals to this day. I doubt she ever noticed the price was on there. I continued, ďThey really lost out by selling these stamps so cheap in the first place.Ē I didnít make a dent in her faÁade.
Then she asked, ďDo you keep stamps or sell them?Ē I explained that as a dealer, I sell stamps to my customers. I guess she didnít know what a dealer is, be it stamps, coins, or whatever.
What she was really trying to do was play me for a fool. She thought that she would bring these stamps over with false stories about how much they were worth and I would jump at the chance to fork over a large sum of money before someone else grabbed them. She thought I was some idiot that had no clue about the real value of stamps. Every step of the way, I wasnít pulling out a wad of bills and she wasnít happy.
I made her an honest offer of a few dollars for what was there. She was insistent that it was worth thousands. Not in my book!
Her next step was to say that her kids would play with the stamps. ďThatís fine,Ē I said, ďbut most kids arenít interested in stamps.Ē She agreed. She said her kids were about 10-12 years old. Can you say ďvideo gamesĒ anyone? They donít want stamps.
She made her final desperate attempt. ďWell, there is a large dumpster in my driveway at home right now. Maybe Iíll just throw them in there.Ē She was expecting me to beg, ďOh, please! Donít throw them in the dumpster! Here, will you take $2000 for those stamps?Ē At this point, I didnít care because I knew she was lying to me. Sheís going to throw them in the dumpster? What about the numerous dealers who were interested in them for big bucks? Arenít you going to show them the stamps?
She was a very well dressed woman driving an expensive car. I got this vibe from her that she felt that she was better than everyone else on planet Earth, and especially better than some nerdy stamp dealer. She put me in mind of someone who advances her own causes no matter what the price is to others of less importance than her. I found her very arrogant and condescending. She uses people for her own financial advantage.
What is the moral of this story?
As a dealer, I appreciate honesty above all else. For example, Iíve dealt with sellers who honestly believed their collection was worth a lot of money. I disagreed and we didnít make a deal. Thatís OK and they can keep hoping for that big paycheck.
In this case though, the seller wasnít being honest with me. She thought I was a fool that would just fork over large sums of cash without question. It didnít happen. If someone was going to give her a pile of money for her stamps, you think she would remember the last name of at least one of the dealers she spoke about. She knew none of them because they never existed.
As she was getting ready to leave, I tried one last time and used satire. ďGood luck with those other dealers you couldnít remember. I hope you get a lot of money for those stamps.Ē She didnít seem get the satire.
I never want to insult people. Itís not professional. I almost did though this time because I knew she was lying through her teeth about the value of the collection. I was tempted to say, ďOK, you and I both know youíre lying about these other vague dealers. Letís cut to the chase. Do you want the couple of bucks or not? If not, youíre wasting my precious time. Get out of my sight. Iím not giving you wads of money for inexpensive stamps. Youíre not getting your free vacation to Bermuda at my foolish expense.Ē
Did the stamps go in the trash? Probably. I hate to see good stamps go in the trash. But what I hate more is if I paid a pile of money for something that was worth a few dollars. Iím not looking to be a millionaire. Iím just an honest guy looking to make an honest living. I certainly donít want to lose money at my business. I wasnít about to fund her lavish lifestyle at my expense.
If youíre interested in selling to me, at least be honest with me. If we canít agree on the price, thatís fine. I have no problem with someone who clings to their opinion that their material is worth more than I offer. Weíll part as friends and agree to disagree. But donít come to me with vague references to dealers whom you canít name. I spot a liar a mile away. Iím not going to believe your false stories about other dealers throwing money at your feet hoping you sell your stamps to them. Iím not the smartest dealer in the world. However, Iím not a fool.