Thursday, September 19, 2013

tomorrow's rarities?

It's amazing just how difficult it is to source fine used GB these days. Even common definitives are hard to find, but the commemoratives are even harder.
There are several reasons for this. The first is simply that many POs don't even stock commemoratives, and many others claim to be too busy to sell them. I once needed some in a hurry and used a different PO than usual. They explained that they did have some commemoratives, but that it would take their safe at least a half hour before it would open! It is ridiculous that stamps designed to publicise and promote the UK are hidden away in dark corners and most returned to be destroyed. In the sixties there would be queues outside post offices every time a new commemorative set came out BECAUSE PEOPLE WANTED TO USE THEM!! Whenever I leave parcels at my village PO other customers love the stamps I use for the postage and wonder where they can get them from! There is not even a poster publicising new issues! The modern PO does not have a clue about marketing - they would rather sell everything via the Philatelic Bureau because the accounting is easier!! Yet they have thousands of outlets throughout the country with many customers who would lap up the stamps if only the knew about them and were easily available. This is almost free money for the PO, and would be a great boost to stamp collecting.
The second reason is that even where commemoratives are available in many cases they receive a stupid killer postmark or, worse, no postmark at all. And how many POs still have nice hand cancellers and how many PO staff have the pride  in their job to actually apply neat postmarks? I am very lucky that my local PO at Pensford love my business and always try to postmark my boxes and letters well. It may well be that the Pensford postmark will be one of the few genuine ones that collectors will find on the small amount of fine used material on the market. 
The third reason of course is that whatever does go through the post needs to survive intact! I protect my packages with plastic over the stamps but a lot of dealers these days don't bother, some even use couriers or scrap recycled stamps.
Some of the very rarest issues of all will be the prestige booklet panes (almost miniature sheets in themselves). Prestige booklets sell at a premium but are listed by Gibbons as the earlier ones didn't. They are of course mainly collected in mint condition. Ask yourself just how many actually see real use! I do use them occasionally on the larger kiloware lots and sometimes I'm lucky enough to get to buy them back! Needless to say when I do get them they sell very quickly - the one above with the 3 Festival of Stamps 1st and 3 £1 values sold within a minute or so when I listed it this morning! But how many are out there, with genuine postmarks used to send a real package? Ten thousand? A thousand? A hundred? Ten??

Friday, September 13, 2013


Kiloware - you either love it or hate it! I've always dealt in kiloware, it's a nice entry level product that gives people a great deal of fun and, occasionally, a real find!
I sell kiloware from all over the world but 95% of what I sell is GB, the market for this has gone through the roof in recent years, just as many charities gave up collecting it! Result - price has risen from around £5 to £50 a kilogram, and I could sell ten times what I do if only I could find the stock!
My secret is to leave it exactly as I find it. I'm never tempted to dip in and pick out the 'best' stuff. For this reason my customers tend to quite happily pay upfront for lots they won't even get for 5 or 6 months!
I also sell country lots, mainly in 100 gram bags. But I also have a wonderful world mix that is always surprising with loads of high values, airmails and older material. If you're a general collector, or want to start trading, there's nothing better! I usually have reasonable supplies of this and there's no need to order up front! 

My rules - ALL kiloware is always untouched with nothing taken out (or added!) by me. I always use good stamps for the postage which receive CDS postmarks from my local PO. 1 kg lots are also protected with plastic, so 9 times out of 10 you'll have lovely scarce genuinely postally fine used GB to sell on ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013


One of my favourite countries for collecting (but not listing!) is Japan. The stamps are very well designed and fairly inexpensive. They also give us a window into a very different culture.
But listing them is a nightmare! Few are dated or have English text that gives a clue! It often takes a fair bit of searching to find them before listing them on the website. An additional complication are the prefectural issues, similar to the UK's regionals, which aren't obviously any different than the normal Japanese stamps but are listed separately.
But I'll keep going - I have a couple of hundred more to list which will probably take a week or more to do. Always worth a look if you collect, are considering collecting - or simply if you want to look at stamp design at its best!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



Do you remember approvals? I think most of us that grew up in the 50s and 60s either received them or were at least aware of them. You'd send off for a free gift, usually a packet of mixed colourful stamps, and you'd be hooked. Every 2 or 4 weeks you'd get a couple of approval books full of sets of stamps at 1 or 2 shillings a set, you got discounts and other teasers. At their peak there must  have been 100,000 books going out every week! Quite a business and really an excellent way of getting people into stamps.

I got thinking about approvals because there was a letter in this month's Stamp and Coin Mart about them.

First of all I was surprised they still existed! The market has changed completely and surely nowadays almost every collector buys from the Internet, auctions or stamp fairs? The closest thing I thought to approvals that were still going were the circulating club books. But it does appear that there are still a few dealers that find it worthwhile to keep going in this much diminished market.

I do think approvals are an excellent idea because it gives collectors the chance to get up close and personal to the stamps they are actually buying. But the economics is all wrong - the cost of secure postage both ways is, realistically, around £5. Okay, a dealer could use good GB commems on the return package and perhaps recoup some of the costs, but there are no guarantees. But realistically it means any sale under about £20 is a loss maker.

The letter in the magazine was from a collector who had been receiving approvals but had them stopped because his average purchase was £9. You can understand why, but it's a shame. High postage costs will almost certainly be the death of approvals.

My own website has a minimum purchase of £5, but this is not usually an economic level when you consider the time to make up a small order etc. But I feel collectors should be able to access stamps as easily as possible, and if they stay with me for years (most do!) then it's worth it.

I bought from my last approval selection in about 1970, I sent out my last selection in around 1995.