Iíve seen some cases of this in the philatelic world. And itís a word of advice to you, the buyer.

I donít know if this practice started in the world of automobiles, but itís definitely used a lot today in car dealerships. Here is the scenario.

The car dealer wants to sell cars. However, putting a price of, say, $20,000 on a car will scare some people away. Instead of putting a price on the car, the dealer offers a car for a payment of $500 per month for five years. You, the buyer, see $500 and not $20,000. Big difference!

The same applies to TV ads. You see a picture of a nice car driven by an all-American family having a wonderful time. At the end of the commercial, you see the payment is $500 splashed on the screen. Thatís an estimated loan payment for the crowd they are targeting. Somewhere buried in the fine print at the bottom of the TV screen is the retail price of the car.

When you buy a car, the dealer asks what you can afford in monthly payments. The dealer doesnít ask you what you want to pay for the car. Thatís a no-no! Their goal is to sell you a car. If $800 payments over three years doesnít work for you, then maybe $500 payments over five years will get you in that car. Either way, the dealer makes a sale and a profit. You pay all of the money in interest. The dealer just makes the length of the loan long enough given the amount you can pay.

You, the buyer though, really donít know how much you paid for that car. You see $500 per month for five years. You donít see this as $30,000 for that car ($500 x 12 months x 5 years = $30,000).

The same can be done with stamps. Iíve seen a few dealers who ďcodeĒ their material but donít price it. The code they use is some cryptic key to tell them how much they paid for that item. The sale price is, in my opinion, based on who is buying it. A clean shaven collector in an expensive suit may pay more for that item than someone dressed in ragged jeans and a T-shirt. For example, the collector in the T-shirt may be told that itís $400 and the collector in the designer suit may be told itís $500. The latter has more ability to pay and is less prone to sticker shock.

Another tactic Iíve seen some dealers take is to display some valuable items for sale. The ad then says something like, ďYou can own these beauties for just three easy payments of $99.95.Ē Let the deception begin! The buyer sees $99.95, not $299.95 for those same stamps. The dealer is trying to drive additional sales from the crowd of collectors who can afford that $99.95 payment per month.

Here is my best advice to you, the collector. Understand the value of what youíre paying for. Itís not $99.95. The correct value is, in this case, $299.95. If you think the material is worth it, by all means, feel free to buy it.