My stamp collector buddy, Steve Pavlina, once shared a story of his with me. I’ve mentioned Steve many times in the past. Cancer took him away in November 2002.
Steve was born July 4, 1921. Therefore, he must have been around 10 years old when this happened.
During the depression, he said that he found a $5 bill lying in the street. Five bucks during the depression was a lot of money. Steve was already a stamp collector and was deciding between buying a set of US Graf Zeppelin stamps (#C13-15) for below face value versus the “Golden Galleon” mixture from the Garcelona Stamp Company.
You heard me correctly. During the Depression, it was possible to buy a mint set of Graf Zeppelins below face value. It’s hard to believe these things were once sold as discount postage!
The Garcelona Stamp Company was a larger stamp company that produced albums, and sold mainly approvals and worldwide mixtures of stamps.
I first met Steve in March 1983. He told me his story in the late 1980s, about 50 years after his lucky discovery of the $5 bill.
I can still remember Steve’s words: “I didn’t want to buy just 3 stamps with my money. No! I wanted to buy hundreds of stamps in that Golden Galleon mixture. Look at the price of the Zeppelins today. That Golden Galleon mixture still isn’t worth what I paid for it!”
In other words, Steve opted for quantity, not quality. It was an obvious choice for a young collector who was more interested in bragging about how many stamps he had in his collection. He probably had a lot of fun going through that Golden Galleon mixture.
Here is my point.
Very few collectors have unlimited funds to sink huge sums of money into stamp collecting. In their lifetime, most collectors will spend a few hundred or a few thousands of dollars on their collection. Given the choice between buying a single valuable stamp for a large sum of money or buying one or more less valuable sets of stamps, I think most collectors would rather have the set(s) of less expensive stamps as they inch their way towards filling all of those holes in their album.
Unless something extraordinary happens, the prices of inexpensive and even moderately priced material do not significantly increase over time. The $20 catalog value stamp today is going to be, say, $30 in the catalog twenty five years from now. That $20 stamp today just isn’t going to be $2000 in the catalog later on. That almost never happens.
When it comes time to sell, the seller has to ask themselves, “Is this a collection based on quantity or quality?” Many times, the answer is going to be quantity. If the collector put $5000 into their collection, chances are, the offers for the collection are going to be less than $5000. It is rare that someone can put $5000 into a collection and come out on the other side selling it for more than $5000.
There is nothing wrong with collecting quantity over quality. I still collect stamps (I wish I had more time for collecting!). Even I shoot for quantity over quality. I know that my own collection is never going to be worth a huge sum of money. That is OK. I collect for fun. I am not trying to send the kids to college with this collection or retire to some white sand beach on a deserted island in my golden years.
Stamp collecting is about the pleasure you get out of the hobby. For most people, it is never going to be a financial reward either for themselves or their heirs. I encourage you to collect what you want and have fun doing it. That is the single most important thing you can do for yourself – have fun!