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Stuck On Stamps

The Thrill of the Chase Keeps Collectors Stuck on Stamps
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 2)

Knowledgeable dealers also heighten interest in specialized items by detailing their rich history in glossy brochures. These pamphlets serve as "testimonials" to philatelists who are often saddened by selling their material, and are also, according to Levitt, "one more service that helps me get people more money than they would at impersonal auctions."

"It's a serious mistake to just say, 'Here, Mr. Auction House, take care of this collection for me,' " says Levitt, who was an auctioneer for more than three decades. "Tell them the way you want your collection sold. Don't go to just one auction house; get competitive bids. And if it's a serious six-figure collection, talk to them about a guarantee. Negotiate their commission, and also get guarantees about the date of the sale and when you're going to get your money."

Concluding that "too many people are disappointed at auctions," Levitt says, "sellers often wind up with a residue of unsold stamps, or the material doesn't reach [anticipated] price levels. I sell collections intact, and since I know where the serious buyers are, sellers can get better prices using me."

The buying and selling of stamps generates all sorts of conflicting claims and "opportunities." In this respect, philately is a lot like stocks and bonds. Every broker has a "hot" issue, a sure-shot approach to profits. But once these tricky waters are negotiated after a good deal of research and common sense, stamps offer one reward Wall Street trading fails to match: after acquiring one of these precious little gems, the collector can actually place it in an album.

All that's left to do is punctuate the purchase by following another Wade Saadi ritual: "Once I've won, have that long-coveted stamp, it's a perfect time to light a Cohiba, and to enjoy another of life's blessings."

Florida-based writer Edward Kiersh is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado. Stamps and Tobacco

Call it the "forbidden fruit syndrome." Collectors are now gravitating towards stamps from North Korea, Vietnam and Iran, and especially items from Cuba that celebrate tabaco Habano.

Ricardo del Campo, a stamp dealer in Miami, showcases postcards, first-day covers and assorted other pieces that vividly detail the cigar's importance to the Cuban economy throughout the island's history. These stamps are beautifully illustrated with cigar boxes, scenes of workers in tobacco fields, women rolling cigars and cigars with golden bands.

One stamp stands out in this collection. It's a 1956 stamp from Columbia that pays tribute to a cigar aficionado who reputedly lived to be 167 years old. The gentleman proclaims on the stamp, "Don't worry, drink a lot of coffee and smoke a good cigar."

--EK A Stamp Collector's Guide

To the inexperienced eye, two used 90-cent 1860 Scott #39 stamps appear to be identical; yet one will be worth $5,500, while the other is valued between $1,000 to $1,500. Why the disparity?

It's all a matter of condition. If a stamp is creased, slightly torn or heavily canceled, or the margins are off-center, the value is sharply reduced. The same stamp will be worth dramatically more if its margins are dead-center and there are no creases or tears.

Unscrupulous sellers use certain tricks of the trade to "improve" the quality of stamps. Watch out for:

1) Items that have been re-centered. That is, a stamp that is centered to the left has a lower value than a piece with "extremely fine" or "very fine" positioning, so hustlers take the right side and make it the same size as the left.

2) False perforations. Some stamps have an imperforated or "straight edge" on one side. This can reduce an item's worth 10 to 25 percent or more of catalog value, and so false perforations are commonly added to stamps to increase their worth.

3) Regummed stamps. Stamps without gum on the back can lose half their catalog value, so the unscrupulous have ways of regumming pieces.

4) Patched stamps. Stamps sometimes have "thins;" they've lost some of their thickness when improperly removed from a cover. Be wary, for some sellers will fill a thin by "patching the hole" with a paper mixture.

The best safeguard against these tricks is to have a stamp studied and appraised by an expertizing service. What follows is an abbreviated directory of sources to help you get involved in the world of stamp collecting.

Auctioneers

Ivy & Mader Philatelic Auctions Inc.
32 East 57th St. 11th Floor
New York, New York, 10022
(212) 486-1222

Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries
65 East 55th St.
New York, New York, 10022
(212) 753-6421

Dealers or Philatelic Consultants

Ricardo del Campo
7379 24th St.
Miami, Florida 33155
(305) 264-4983

David Feldman S.A.
175 Route de Chancy, 1213 Onex
Geneva, Switzerland
(41) 22 757-3901

Ed Hines
P.O. Box 4760
Covina, California 91723
(800) 677-4637

Andrew Levitt
P.O. Box 342
Danbury, Connecticut 06813
(203) 743-5291

Ventura Stamp Co.
P.O. Box 508
Brielle, New Jersey 08730
(908) 528-7178

Expertizing

American Philatelic Expertizing Service
P.O. Box 8000
State College, Pennsylvania 16803-8000
(814) 237-3803

Philatelic Foundation
501 Fifth Avenue, Room 1901
New York, New York 10017
(212) 867-3699

Philatelic Societies

American Philatelic Society
P.O. Box 8000
State College, Pennsylvania 16803-8000
(814) 237-3803

The Collectors Club
22 East 35th St.
New York, New York 10016
(212) 683-0559

Stamp Insurance

Call the American Philatelic Society at the number above, or Lloyds of London in New York City at (212) 529-9500.


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