Buying and Selling Stamps

Internet (Non Auction)

These days the traditional concept of "mailorder" has been extended - and, I suspect, to an increasing extent, is being replaced by - internet based companies.  Instead of publishing a price list and other material, they have everything on a web site.

This is wonderfully convenient.  Hopefully you're seeing a more up to date stock list on the web site than you would get in the mail, and for the dealer, many aspects of selling via the internet present as being less expensive and more efficient than dealing by mail and phone.  It also enables both buyers and sellers to have ready access to the entire world and all the dealers (and customers) within it.  I've bought Russian stamps from dealers everywhere imaginable in the world, and the vast increase of potential places to buy stamps from that has been brought about by the internet really is a good thing for the hobby as a whole.

The internet also makes it very much easier for stamp collectors to comparison shop a number of different dealers, simply by browsing their different web sites.  

There are some cautionary notes to add to this, however.  Setting up a website generally involves a lot less money, and a lot less commitment, than setting up a regular mailorder business.  You don't have to invest in printing up material, you don't have to spend heavily on postage costs to mail brochures out, etc etc.  At the same time, many people with a gift for Internet page design (alas, not me!) can make a very low budget web site look as good and impressive as the biggest web sites out there.  This means that you can come across some operators that are perhaps less stable that you would encounter in the traditional mail order business, and it also means that they may be harder to recognise.

Here are two suggestions for trading with Internet dealers.  First, always pay by credit card.  Don't worry for an instant about giving your credit card out to anyone at all on the Internet.  It is perfectly safe.  The only people that are taking a risk when you use your credit card on the internet are your bankers, not you!  If someone fraudulently charges something to your credit card, then, plain and simply, you absolutely do not need to pay that charge.  If there is no physical imprint of your credit card (or if it wasn't physically swiped through a credit card reader) and if there is no matching signature of yours on a charge form, then you are off the hook completely.

And using a credit card gives you good protection.  If you don't get the stamps, or if they aren't as promised and described, you can simply dispute the credit card charge and the bank will reverse out the charge.  Speaking both as someone that has extensively used credit cards for some twenty years, and also as someone that has had a "merchant account" for accepting credit card charges for over ten years, I know these things are totally true.  Your very best protection against any sort of fraud is to use your credit card.

In addition, there is another more subtle form of protection.  Banks don't just let anyone accept credit card charges.  If the bank isn't satisfied with a business and its bona fides, it won't allow it to accept credit card charges.  This gives you a double layer of protection.

Secondly, you should insist that anyone you buy stamps from (on the Internet or not!) be members of the APS or some other association that enforces a code of conduct on their members.  There is no reason why any stamp collector and stamp dealer in the US should not belong to APS (unless, of course, APS won't allow them to be a member!) and anyone with any bona fide interest in selling stamps should invest the $15 a year or whatever it is to belong to APS as a very simple and minor expression of their bona fides.

This page last modified on May 15, 2010