Strength in numbers
A “problem” that stamp collectors have been bemoaning for years—if not decades—is the increasing numbers of stamps issued each year by various countries including, I’m sorry to say, the United States. With some individual issues including 10, 20, or even more stamps, and with mail clerks being reluctant to part with anything less than a full sheet or booklet, some collectors have given up on trying to acquire mint copies of all new material.
Not everyone is throwing in the towel, however. Philosateleian Post Horn reader Danny J. recently shared how he and some friends are continuing to add to their collections:
“As you know, sometimes buying stamps can get quite expensive with all the imperforate issues and bulk buying requirements that hurt small collectors. An Internet friend from Kansas has formed a small group to help a few of us continue to add to our collections. Now, thanks to the strength of group buying, we can afford to get every new stamp issue that in the past might have been too expensive to buy as individuals.”
While this may not be a unique idea, it’s certainly a very sensible one: dividing the expense of acquiring sheets of new stamps by the number of people interested in taking part.
I personally buy very little new material unless it fits into my landscapes collection or otherwise particularly appeals to me, but how about you? Have you banded together with other collectors to help lessen the expense of acquiring mint copies of all of your favorite country’s stamps?
ASDA Winter Postage Stamp Show scheduled for February
Among the items that arrived in the mail today was a post card advertising the American Stamp Dealers Association’s Florida Winter Stamp Show, which is being held February 14–16 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.
According to the card, collectors can enter the show for free. Special stamps and albums will be available to children who attend with their parents or grandparents, and dealers will be on hand to offer appraisals.
Fort Lauderdale is a good ways south of where I live, and with a budget hit with some car repairs over the past month—nothing of the sort that breaks the bank, but enough that I shouldn’t be embarking on any weekend road trips to South Florida—I don’t anticipate getting to attend. Nevertheless, if you live in the Fort Lauderdale area, or spend your winters there, it may be a good opportunity to pick up some new material for your collection.
Out with the old
I’ve started 2014 with a renewed determination to clear out some of the older material I’ve accumulated over the years—in particular, a bunch of old covers ranging from the 1870s on up through the 1940s. As a lot of collectors do with excess material, I’ve been listing them on eBay. I figure that those that sell, even for the starting bid of around $1, are going on to good homes, whereas the more common material that can’t even be sold for that is ready to be chopped up for the stamps, and the bulk of the covers discarded.
I realize certain purists might object to this course of action, and certainly, I would love to find a home for every single envelope that I don’t need for my collection. In reality, however, the most common stamps on cover have virtually no value to anyone, and it seems best to clear out the “junk.”
How do you approach covers that may be 70 or 80 years old, but have the most common stamps and no markings or other attributes to particularly distinguish them? Do you, like me, chop them up, or does the very idea of doing such a thing make your skin crawl?
Philosateleian Post statistics for 2013
After spotting a blog post early last year about how many letters the author had mailed in 2012, I thought it might be interesting to keep track of how many pieces of mail Philosateleian Post carried in 2013. The results are in!
In 2013, Philosateleian Post transported approximately 243 pieces of mail (not including items I carried, such as get well cards from church that my wife prepared, but that did not bear Philosateleian Post stamps). Of those, 194 were “business” (bill payments, donations, small eBay sales), 26 were personal letters—I’m a bit surprised that total is as high as it is—and the remainder were post cards, packages, and international mail.
It was an interesting exercise to see how many pieces of mail I actually did prepare over the course of a year. Have you ever done the same, or will you in 2014?
Mystampworld: social networking for stamp collectors
It has been a while since I reviewed a website here, but I recently heard from Rod T., who asked if I would consider taking a look at a current project of his, mystampworld (not to be confused with MyStampWorld.com, a different site). “Membership is free,” Rod wrote. “Everything is free!” How could I say no to free?
My first stop, naturally, was the signup page, where I chose a username and password and completed other required information. I was pleasantly surprised to find that you do not have to give your real name if you don’t want to—a pleasant nod for those trying to maintain a modicum of privacy. You also have the option of creating an account and using your Facebook or Google credentials to sign in if you don’t want to have to remember another username and password.
After you complete the signup process, you’re apparently supposed to receive an e-mail asking you to confirm your account creation. For some reason, that e-mail never arrived for me—not even after I used the site’s functionality to resend it. I was able to log in, but could not access the “members only” content. That presented a bit of a speed bump, but I sent a message to Rod and he was able to manually activate my account for me.
At first glance, mystampword looks like a sort of Facebook for stamp collectors. When you log in, you have a news feed, notifications about new activity since the last time you visited, and so forth. There are some distinguishing features that make it more than just a Facebook clone, however.
One feature in particular really stands out: mystampworld gives you your own web store. I tested this by listing a stamp for sale, and the process itself really doesn’t seem that much different than creating fixed price listings on eBay or Delcampe. Here’s the difference: mystampworld doesn’t take a commission when you sell something. This is a big win in my book, particularly if you’re trying to sell lower value items.
(In addition to giving you the ability to list stamps individually, mystampworld offers an import tool that purportedly helps you list multiple items at once. I haven’t tried that myself, but it looks like a nice idea.)
Mystampworld offers instructions on how to set up your PayPal account so that users can pay for their stamps without any direct intervention from you, but due to how I use PayPal, I wasn’t able to test this.
Other nice features include a classifieds section (Craigslist for stamps, anyone?) and a forum where you can swap stories and tips with other members. You can also join groups, loose bands of collectors who share your philatelic interests.
Additional areas of the site include photo albums where you can share images of items in your collection, and blogs. I’m not overly impressed with either of these offerings, but then again, I have this blog and website where I can share images; I’m already sort of invested in this endeavor. If you’re just getting started, you may very well find mystampworld’s blog and photo features sufficient.
Another interesting twist involves the concept of rewards. For each action you perform on mystampworld (logging in, replying to a forum post, uploading a picture), you receive a set number of points. Once you’ve accumulated a certain number of points, you have the opportunity to claim a reward such as stamps or a book.
These rewards obviously depend on the generosity of mystampworld’s sponsors, and I wouldn’t sign up with the sole purpose being earning points so you can get a “free” reward. You probably have better ways than chasing points to use your time. Still, it’s a nice concept, and if you get involved on the site, you may discover you’ve earned free stuff without really thinking about it.
In general, I think mystampworld has a good thing going. The personalized stores, in particular, really caught my attention, and it’s nice to see an activity feed about stamps rather than Farmville updates and posts about what that person you met one time ate for breakfast this morning and so forth.
There are, of course, some areas where mystampworld has some room for improvement. There seems to be a little inconsistency in layout from one page to the next. The help section, in particular, made me ask, “Am I still on the same site?” That’s probably all but inevitable when you’re trying to do so many different things. As long as mystampworld continues to be actively developed, minor issues like that will no doubt get worked out.
In my opinion, the biggest hurdle mystampworld faces is getting more collectors signed up and actively involved in using the site. I know from personal experience that getting people involved is easier said than done, but it can happen, and I wish Rod all the best with his project.
Related: me on mystampworld