Shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, a local gentleman brought me his boyhood stamp collection. It was a lot of mint stamps from the 1970s-1990s. It was all stuff that is used for discount postage. I made him an offer of $210 for what he had and explained what discount postage was. I showed him the bins of scrap stamps I already had on hand. His material was destined for those bins.

He reluctantly agreed to my offer and was disappointed that it wasn’t more. I understand his situation perfectly. Then he added, “Well, if you could give me a little more so that my kids have a nice Christmas because I’m going to use this money to buy them Christmas gifts.” I didn’t think fast enough. I should have countered with, “Then would you take $150 for it so that my kids could have a nice Christmas instead?”

Sometimes sellers tell me that they are selling a collection for a sick relative that is going into a nursing home. Or the relative is battling a terrible disease and needs medical treatment. Sometimes the money is targeted for funeral expenses.

I don’t mean this to sound cold. But as a business person, I can’t pay extra for material for sympathetic reasons. I need to make a fair profit and that is how I structure my offers. I add nothing for sympathy. Most of these cases are probably sincere. However, I have no idea if someone is trying to play me for sympathy when there really is no sick/dying relative on the other end of the transaction. I’m sure there are a few crooked people who try to play this game and take advantage of me by trying to get me to increase my offer.

I can’t tell a buying customer, “Yes, my stamp costs twice as much as the other dealer. However, you should buy my stamp because the money is going to a little old lady who is in the hospital.” That will never work. Customers will buy from dealer who has the best price.

A dealer must base their offer on market conditions only. A dealer can’t pay more money for sympathetic reasons. They’ll never be able to charge a higher price. They will be out of business very quickly if they did that.