Surprise! The Scott catalog is not perfect. In fact, no catalog is perfect. Iíve said it a million times and Iíll say it again, the catalog is a guide, not an absolute.
There are times when the catalog undervalues an item. Let me explain.
I think the catalog gets it right when they use a dash (ďóď) for a price. If you read the introduction to the catalog, the dash means the item exists, but itís sold so rarely (or hasnít sold in a very long time), that itís not possible to put a realistic price on it. There just isnít enough market data to create a catalog value for an item. Sometimes they also add a footnote that an item last sold at auction for $X dollars.
Sometimes an item has a catalog value, but itís undervalued. For example, suppose an item has 10 known copies and the catalog value is $500. As a dealer, you have one of these items and you list it for $500. Suddenly, you have 5 people clamoring for this item. You sold it to the first buyer at your asking price. Then you realize that a few of the customers were willing to go as much as $5000 to own this item.
Does this happen a lot? No. But it does happen.
The point is that, again, the catalog is a guide. This isnít a slam against the good folks that produce catalogs. They do the best they can with millions of stamps to track. Itís impossible to be right on the money 100% of the time.
Collectors who buy at a fixed percentage of catalog value are doing it wrong, in my humble opinion. Demand is king in philately, but there are other factors too. If the stamp is used, how heavy is the cancellation? Is the stamp damaged in any way? Is the stamp faded or nice and crisp?
Any dealer can put any price they want on any stamp. I can take a common stamp and put $1000 on it. What I ask and what people are willing to pay may be two different things.
Sometimes I list things that are above the Scott catalog price. Why? Because I feel it is an exceptional copy. Or, for example, itís something the catalog doesnít list such as a paste-up coil pair with a scarce plate number on the paste up tab. Someone may say, ďWhy is this item $100 when the catalog value is $60?Ē Well, itís an opinion and I have to defend my opinion. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it wrong and I have to reduce the price because no one is buying.
The great thing about philately is that there are no absolutes. If you look at a stamp and you think itís extraordinary for one or more reasons, itís up to you if you want to pay the asking price or not. If you donít pay it, someone else may come along and buy that item. Iíve had that happen. And then the first customer is upset because they didnít get an item. Sorry, but I had another buyer at my asking price. It happens.
Sometimes the catalog is underpriced. The knowledgeable collector realizes that and goes outside the bounds of the catalog price. Sometimes the catalog value eventually catches up with the demand. Sometimes the catalog lags far behind, even for several years.
Knowledgeable collectors understand that the catalog is an imperfect guide. Many times the catalog is right. But there are times when they are wrong. Knowledgeable collectors know when to capitalize on these underpriced items.