A customer on my mailing list who has never ordered wrote to me. “Save yourself the postage and remove me from your mailing list. Too many people on eBay are selling stamps at 10-20% of Scott catalog.”

Let me get straight to the point.

Say there is a $20 stamp (in catalog value) and he is buying it for under $5. If the stamp is faulty and/or off center, then he’s picking up a copy at a fair price. These are the kinds of faulty but inexpensive stamps that I’m trying to shy away from. They don’t reflect my business goals.

If he can get a sound copy with better centering of this stamp for the same price, then he found a bargain. Good for him!

Here is the caveat though.

Say he found a $100 stamp for $10. It’s supposedly genuine and a sound copy. Yes, it is possible that this happens. My experiences on eBay suggest otherwise.

Ignore fellow stamp dealers who sell on eBay, and there are several of them. If you only consider those sellers who seem like ordinary people, this is what I feel. A few of these folks are outright crooks who are listing incorrectly described stamps. They are in the minority and this isn’t specific to stamps. I’m sure coins and other areas have a few crooks in the midst. A few folks try hard to accurately identify their stamps and sell them. But in my opinion, I think many sellers are folks who inherited a collection or bought a collection as an “investment”. They have no clue about stamps, but they picked up a catalog and of course, their stamps are always the most valuable variety. Their copy of Scott #65 is sold as Scott #64. Or their copy of Scott #11 is sold as Scott #10 because “it looks orange to me!” Or their copy is the rare coil with double line watermark because someone else wrote the catalog number on the back of the stamp many years ago. They wouldn’t know how to use watermark fluid if you put it in front of them.

At one time, I used to review various areas of eBay for older US stamps. I was wasting my time. It was taking me a long time to sift through the outright junk and very questionable listings to get to the few listings that I felt could be legitimate. Even then, I was often disappointed because the stamps had small faults that the seller never mentioned or the stamp was incorrectly identified. I came to the conclusion that I was wasting my time on eBay looking for older stamps that were accurately described and identified.

My advice to you is to always verify your purchases no matter who you buy from. The chances of getting an incorrectly identified stamp from a known dealer are small. But dealers are human. Dealers make mistakes too. If you’re buying over the Internet from others whom you don’t know at all, you should definitely check your purchases.

If the stamps are correctly identified and fault free, congratulations! You found a bargain! In my experience, I think many of these stamps are incorrectly identified.

One day this gentleman is going to come to me with his “collection” of $50,000 in catalog value of stamps that he paid $5000 for them. I’m going to point out all of the faulty copies or (worse yet) incorrectly identified stamps. “Your collection is worth $100. Sorry!” He didn’t save $45,000; he lost $4900.

Again, please verify your purchases. If you’re buying from APS or ASDA member dealers, chances are your purchases are fine. I wouldn’t blindly accept items from sellers whom you don’t know. What’s the old saying? Oh yeah, “Trust but verify.” Good luck!