Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
By Paul van Zeyl ©
- Why collect stamps?
Collectors of stamps and related material are interested & interesting people. This, essentially, defines the nature of all collector types. So collectors cannot be designated as such by their age, race or occupation. Nor does one’s income level impose a barrier to entry and satisfying participation in any collector field. That aspect relates only to exhibitions. Here, often, the higher valued collections are accorded the higher awards.
In its more modern version, “philately” (mostly, but narrowly, defined in dictionaries as the collection plus study of postage stamps) encompasses not only stamps (postage, revenue & Cinderellas, i e labels; generally for a geographic area and or a theme, e g Southern African flora) but also postal history (a study of rates, routes & relevant markings) & its companion postal stationery; postmarks; picture post cards; documents (the emphasis here being the study of revenue rates); and philatelic literature.
All of this relates to an individual’s interest area. Obviously, there’s the human need to share findings. This facilitates the sharing of knowledge with others, therefore companionship. Accordingly, most collectors will be prepared to show you the ropes, but you must also be prepared to listen to their sharing on their own collections, a lot!!
It needs to be stressed that persons also “collect” stamps for investment purposes. This group tends to focus on “perfect” postage stamps for which there are credible catalogues and applicable prices. Since such persons are also participants in a part of the philatelic arena, their financial objectives are also an important consideration for stamp dealers like myself.
- What should I collect?
One’s heart rules! Wherever your real interests & inclinations lie, you should collect. And this is relatively easy within the wide collecting & study scope that philately currently offers.
I have found that, initially, collectors find their teeth in areas where good catalogues and literature are readily available. As collectors progress, they inevitably find less well defined collecting segments which inspire them, whether these be more technical studies, e g the plating of early Victorian stamps of Great Britain; scientific/thematic, e g the Space Race; or historic, e g mine on the Boer diaspora (to Angola, East Africa & Argentina). Obviously, as a collector-dealer in lastmentioned, I’d be very pleased to assist you in this somewhat uncharted area.
Lots of dopamine flows through inspired collectors! Whatever their circumstances, you’ll find them confident, happy people.
3. What will my stamps be worth on a sale?
Collectors only, ever, sell their stamps when they have found greener collecting pastures. If they’ve managed to inspire their loved ones, the collecting process continues yielding a lasting legacy. The only collection I’ve ever sold was Residents of German SWA at the time of the Nama-Herero Rebellion, and I’ve never stopped regretting it. (I’ve kindly been given permission by the buyer to place it on a website, SA History OnLine [look it up!], so I’ll still have some association, thankfully!)
So this FAQ segment is really only applicable to those who have found a collection on a grandparent’s shelf, and do not want to stay involved. Fair enough! Let’s get it to someone who will want it, at a fair price of course. Naturally, it also applies to the “greener pasture” types.
There’s one golden rule which determines price: money in yields money out. I’ve yet to find, after three decades of dealing, a “schoolboy” type collection, one just accumulated in packets (“quantity”) or even hinged in albums – however neatly, or “old” – which will fund a fully paid holiday overseas. On the other hand, I’ve had the privilege of selling former collectors’ collections at magnificent prices, albeit at current inflation-ridden values! Another easy test is this simple one: are there full sets, to the top value, in the collection? Lastly, look to the overall quality of the stamps, covers, documents, etc. If they are undamaged, fresh unused, lightly cancelled used – let’s just call it a pleasure to the eyes of a (especially male!) beholder – then they should be a turn-on to another.
The exception to these “rules” is the philatelic material, specifically stamps & so-called First Day Covers (FDCs), produced worldwide in the “high fashion” (massive Post Office sales) years ca 1965 to 1995. Regrettably for dealers, as most offers currently come from this source, and for sellers too, oversupply means low demand & prices. To be specific, FDCs in this period, with the exception of “varieties” & those suitably autographed, generally retail at below 50 cents each.
A vital consideration for those who have no idea of a collection’s value is the trust which can be placed in the potential buyer, whether it is a collector or dealer. First, look to the reputation of the collector or dealer. While this is much easier said than determined for those outside the (relatively small) marketplace, dealers who’ve been trading for some time already, say a decade or so, have managed to do so because they’ve probably offered fair value to collectors. Also, find out whether the dealer is a member of the South African Dealers Association (check its website), because it can hold members to its Code of Ethics. Second, look to the sale process, i e look to a reputable auction facility where the “market” makes the price, one with quick placement and quick pay-out.
It should be noted that where a “valuation” is requested, there will be a valuation charge, except in the case of cursory scans (as with most collection-accumulations), of R150/hour. This charge is refunded where our offers are accepted and where we auction collections on behalf of sellers.
Allow me to mention that I’ve been holding auctions since 1978, and I was awarded the PFSA’s (SA collectors’ Federation) Skinner Cup for “service to philately” in 2009.
Other questions? Please just contact me! Also see my “wants” list at point 4 of the SERVICES “Sixpack” segment of this website. Tkx.