Folks contact me wanting to sell a collection. Sometimes they expect me to come to their house and inspect it and make an offer. People are surprised that I donít drop what Iím doing and run over there right now and look at their fabulous and/or valuable collection.
Here are my thoughts about travelling. Other dealers may have similar ideas.
There are four kinds of collections.
The first kind has no monetary value. Either the material is too damaged or there are only a few common and inexpensive stamps. I turn down collections like this. There just isnít any profit to be made. In these cases, I tell the owners to give it to a family member who would treasure the sentimental value. Otherwise, put it in a yard sale for $50 and sell it to the first person who offers $20 for it.
The second kind of collection is the run of the mill type collection. These collections are worth several hundreds of dollars or less. Modern mint material is bought as discount postage. Used material or older mint material has some value to it depending on centering and condition. Many collections fall into this range.
The third kind of collection is a sizable collection. This collection is worth a few thousands of dollars. Condition is better overall and there are many important and valuable items in the collection. A few collections fall into this category.
The last kind of collection is specialized. These collections are worth several tens of thousands of dollars or more. These are very rare collections that sometimes include very key items to philately. Very few collections reach this status.
When someone contacts me about a collection, I ask a few questions to try and approximate what category the collection belongs to. Without seeing the stamps, itís hard to tell. I ask things like: ďAre the stamps cancelled or not?Ē and ďAre they US stamps, worldwide, or both?Ē and ďAre the stamps in a shoebox, an album or what?Ē and lastly, ďHow much do you have? A small box of stamps, a car load, a roomful or what?Ē
Some dealers ask more specific questions such as ďDid you notice any stamps with blimps on them?Ē The dealer is trying to tell if they have the Zeppelin set (Scott #C13-15). The average person isnít going to know catalog numbers. But they know what a ďblimpĒ looks like. The dealer will ask other questions trying to determine if there are any better items in the collection or not. They donít want to travel unless theyíre sure they are dealing with a very valuable collection that contains better items.
Unless I feel that the collection is in the upper range of the run of the mill category or into the sizable category, I generally donít travel to view a collection. If the collection is local (i.e., within a 30 minute drive for me), I may travel for smaller collections.
If I travelled for every collection that was offered to me, I would never be home. Early on in my career as a dealer, I would travel quite a bit for local collections. Many of those trips were a bust because the collection had little if any monetary value. Instead, if people bring those kinds of collections to me, sure, Iíll spend 30 minutes or so reviewing it to make sure there is nothing of any particular value. I consider that a service to the hobby and you never know when a low value collection might turn up something interesting. The point is, when people bring the collection to me, my time involved is not very great.
Iíll probably never be offered a specialized collection. I donít have the financial means to buy material like that. Nor do I have a specialized customer base who wants to buy those high priced items.
A gentleman in Kansas emailed me a few months ago. He had a collection with $19,000 in catalog value. He wanted to sell and wanted me to get on a plane and fly out to see him to buy this collection. He mentioned some items that he had, there were some better stamps, but he couldnít accurately talk about the condition. In the worst case, if the stuff was damaged, regummed, and so forth Ė this collection could have a retail value of, say, $2000 to $3000. If it was in great shape, it could be $15,000 or more. If it was a local collection, I may have travelled to see it. But I wasnít going to the expense of buying a plane ticket and spending 1-2 days to see this collection when it could be $2000 or so. And if the seller doesnít sell it to me, Iím out 2 days of time plus a couple hundred bucks for a plane ticket. The chances of reward were too low and the cost of seeing this collection was too high. I tried to talk the seller into sending it to me, but he insisted on seeing me in person. I gave him the names of
some other dealers in the Kansas area and wished him luck in selling it. Maybe I turned down a nice collection? My guy tells me I saved a bunch of money by not flying out to Kansas to see a much less valuable collection.
About one year ago, a very eager seller had over $30,000 in catalog value. It was a collection he inherited and he admitted to not knowing stamps very well. But he bought a catalog and came up with his $30,000 value. Again, Iím highly skeptical and I convinced him to bring the collection to me.
I took one look at the collection and I was sorely disappointed. He took all of the Scott #65 stamps (about a dozen or so copies) and labeled them as #64. Within two minutes of looking at this collection, I cut his catalog value in half. Numerous other stamps were also misidentified. Had I bought this collection, it would have been in the $250 range. It had a few moderately priced items, but not much.
Unlike some sellers, this guy wasnít mad at me. He said that because it was so little value, he didnít want to sell it and he would continue to play around and identify the stamps. If youíre doing that for entertainment purposes, maybe. But many of the stamps he identified so far were incorrect. I think he was convinced he had a gold mine in stamps and I just wasnít the right buyer for it. I wished him well and we parted on friendly terms. Good luck finding anyone who would give you more than a few hundred dollars for this collection. I was glad I didnít travel to see that collection!
Once in a while, it goes the other way too. About eight years ago, an older man called me. He had his fatherís stamp collection. He couldnít describe it very well since he wasnít a collector. He and his wife brought it over and it contained a lot of better items. I bought the collection for just over $14,000. This was one time when what sounded like it was going to be an ordinary collection turned into a very nice and sizable collections.
Thatís why I rarely turn down an offer to look at stamps. I never know when Iím going to find a better collection like this one.
Many collections arenít worth travelling to see. But if you visit me, sure, I can spend a half hour or less looking at what you have. But Iím probably not going to drop what Iím doing at a moments notice and buy a plane ticket to come see your collection.