Buying and Selling Stamps
Store Front Stamp Dealers
Store front dealers can provide an excellent and convenient service for many stamp collectors. However few of them have much Russian material - it seems that almost without exception, the most popular type of stamp collecting in any given country is of its own stamps (and I guess this is understandable!). If you can find a dealer that does have a good stock of Russian material, and who seems to occasionally buy in more material as well, then this can be helpful, particularly for collectors that need to selectively fill gaps in their collection.
Here's a way that you can work with regular dealers to both your advantage and their advantage. If you find a dealer that doesn't specialise in Russian stock, but who is reasonably active in whatever field they trade in, why don't you get to know the dealer and suggest to him that you'll "take off his hands" any Russian stamps he gets stuck with. Offer either to pay a low percentage of catalog value, or a flat fee per stamp (maybe different amounts for "old" and "new" stamps and different for mint or used). That way, if he is buying a mix of stamps, he knows that he can immediately cash out the Russian stamps in the mix, which means he can afford to pay a bit more to get the complete collection, and/or he knows that he has an immediate buyer to cash him out of part of the purchase on the spot. Be sure to tell the dealer the maximum you're prepared to spend (and I'm assuming that you would be prepared to spend up to at least $100 a time on this sort of arrangement) so that you don't suddenly find yourself with a nasty surprise when the dealer rings up and tells you that you are now the proud owner of $2000 worth of Russian CTO stamps!
Most dealers label their stock using full catalog price, and if you offer to pay the full price, they'll accept this money from you gladly. However, most dealers will also give you a discount off the catalog price, typically anywhere from 10%-50%, depending on the quantity of material you are buying. A 20%-30% discount off catalog price is not uncommon.
Here's a trick of sorts : Some dealers don't update their catalog pricing regularly, and some dealers don't really know what is happening to Russian stamp values. If you find a dealer with some old stock that was priced three or four or five years ago (ie using a 97 or earlier catalog) then, for some of the stamps, there is likely to have been an appreciation in value of even as much as 50%. Now work out the maths - here is a set of stamps that the dealer is showing as worth, say, $10, and he will sell it to you for, say, $7.50 after a 25% discount. Now, in the meantime, the set that was valued at $10 four years ago is now showing a value of $15 in the current catalog. And you've just bought it for $7.50! Everyone is happy. The dealer is actually happy, because this is slow moving stock that he is pleased to sell, and you can be sure that the $7.50 selling price is still higher than his original purchase price, and you're very happy because instead of getting a 25% discount, you ended up with a 50% discount!
As for selling to dealers, this varies from dealer to dealer but generally you will find that they are not interested in low value stamps at all - anything under 25-50c they just don't want to handle at all because there is no way they can profitably work with such stock. If you have higher value items you want to sell, then depending on how they see their ability to resell the items, they may or may not be willing to buy the stamps from you.
The higher the value the stamp, the less of a margin they should expect to make, however at the same time, they should always want to make at least 10% and probably 20%, no matter what the stamp value is. In case you think any of this is unfair, have a look at my analysis of dealer profitability. That is sure to change your thinking!
Here is a strange contradiction. Generally you will find it more expensive to buy Russian stamps from a specialist Russian dealer than from a general dealer. Specialist dealers are more likely to have up to date catalog prices shown, and are more likely to have a mix of other potential purchasers of the same stamps, and so the tactics I've explained above in terms of basically buying "non-core" stock from dealers that don't specialise in Russia don't work nearly so well. This is perhaps puzzling, and maybe even unfair - both to the dealer and the customer - that the specialty dealer is more expensive! But it is also a verifiable fact. However, on the other side of the picture, the specialty Russian dealer is likely to have more interesting stock to tempt you with, and also probably has more fresh stock coming in to keep tempting you with new stamps, and probably also has some high quality pieces to really arouse your excitement.
This page last modified on May 15, 2010