This happened to a seller I know.

He previously contacted another dealer about some material to sell. After a brief description over the phone of what he had, the dealer offered $6000. Keep in mind, the dealer did not see the material yet. They arranged to meet to conclude the deal.

Guess what happened when they met. The material was not as nice as expected. The offer now was a little under $4000. That is a $2000 swing in value, 33% off the original offer. Why the steep drop in price?

You are thinking, “the material is damaged and the other dealer did not want to overpay.” Because I bought this material, I can tell you that was definitely not the case. The material was as the seller represented it. So what happened?

I have seen this tactic used by others. I think it is unethical and dishonest. However, some dealers still use it. It is not unique to philately either.

To get the seller interested, the dealer throws out a high figure to hook the seller. In this case, $6000 would attract the attention of almost any seller. When they meet to conclude the deal, the dealer will find any excuse not to pay the quoted figure. The material is damaged, the condition is wrong, and so forth. Then the dealer throws out a low offer because, “This stuff is borderline trash.” They are trying to convince the seller that they do not have material that is as valuable as originally thought. And here is the key point. They are hoping that the seller has been inconvenienced enough already (travel time, etc.) that the seller is just going to throw up their arms in disgust and say, “Oh, I don’t care. Sure you can have it for $4000.” It is the classic bait and switch routine. The dealer ends up buying the collection for much less than normal.

In this case it did not work. The seller took his stamps back and eventually sold them to me. You will lose a few deals like this. The dealer is hoping most people just concede and agree to the lower offer.

If you are a seller, here are some suggestions for you.

Legitimate dealers will never give an exact figure without seeing the material in person. Dealers know that sellers sometimes mistakenly describe their stamps. For example, a dealer asks, “Do you have the Columbians?” The seller says, “Yes, all the way to the $5.” Then you find out that they have the 1993 Columbian souvenir sheets and not the original 1893 issues. Without seeing the material, how can a dealer guarantee your items are worth some huge figure? They cannot.

I never give precise figures, but I sometimes will tell someone over the phone or over email, “Based on what you describe, the items are going to have some value. Exactly how much, I won’t know until I see them.” Sometimes sellers rattle off a list of album titles that come from one of those companies that mass produced philatelic items and soaked the people buying them for every cent they could get. I know those items have minimal value.

Or someone may say, “I have 100 sheets of 10 and 13 cent stamps.” I’ll reply, “You have around $500 in face value. My offer will be around $X once I check out the sheets and make sure they are not stuck together and things like that.”

If you ever fall into this bait and switch trap, my best advice is to pick up your material and walk away. Find another dealer who will look at what you have and make a fair offer based on what is there and what the condition is. If I was selling stamps, I would go for another offer. In my opinion, you should get at least what the crook was willing to offer. You may come out with more money though.