I should have recorded the source, but I didn’t. A recent letter to the Editor (Linn’s Stamp News?) said that organizations like the APS and the ASDA should try to recruit the throngs of online stamp dealers to their ranks. I think that is a great idea. However, I don’t think we’ll recruit anyone new. Why do I feel that way?
First, you have to understand who a dealer is.
At a minimum, a dealer is someone who understands stamps. They should know what perforations are and how to measure them. They should understand what a watermark is and how to detect them. They should know how to use a stamp catalog to identify stamps. I’m not saying that a dealer has to be an expert that can detect every little nuance of a stamp. But they should be familiar with the very basics of stamp production and understand how to distinguish the most obvious varieties of stamps from one another. A dealer should also be able to evaluate the condition of a stamp – especially things that are obvious like major thins and so forth.
No, a dealer isn’t someone who is just full time. Nor do they know how to plate the US 1¢ Franklin stamp from 1851.
To me, many of the people selling stamps at online auctions are not dealers. Yes, there are a few dealers selling stamps through online auctions, but they are in the minority. Even some of the full time dealers have a presence on places like eBay.
However, in my opinion, many of the people selling stamps through online auctions such as eBay are not dealers. Many of these people are absolutely clueless about stamp collecting. Many of them have inherited a collection (or they bought something cheap) and they are trying to peddle it through online auctions.
You can easily spot these people. They use non-philatelic terms to describe their stamps. “It looks good to me.” Or you see a very off center stamp described as “Gem” or “Extra Fine” because they borrowed a philatelic term to try and drive up the price of their item by buyers who have no concept of what “Extra Fine” means. Sometimes the material is blatantly described incorrectly, like a trimmed down #300 masquerading as an imperf #314 when there is little, if any, margins around the stamp design.
In most cases, these folks are selling a few hundred or a few thousand dollars of material per year. Many of these sellers are very casual – listing dozens or a few hundred lots per week.
Which gets me to my point.
Membership in the ASDA is $300 per year. How are you going to convince someone who has very little (if any) knowledge of stamps, who is making hundreds or a few thousands of dollars annually to spend $300 and join the ASDA? I would love it if they did. But I could easily see these people saying, “I’m making a few extra bucks per year selling stamps. I’m happy. Why spend $300 on something I don’t need?’
There are many advantages to being an APS or ASDA dealer member. I’m a proud member of both organizations and I fully support them. But getting these quasi-dealers (my term) from online auctions to join too, I don’t see it happening.