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Thursday 10 November 2011

Stamp Shows: Alive, Dying and Dead

Just as Europe's national economies differ, even if they share a single currency, so do their stamp shows.

Major stamp shows in Germany, like those in Essen and Sindelfingen, are very much alive, with dealers always offering new stock, often in remarkable quantity and usually at reasonable prices. Collectors have a reason to visit these shows: there is always something to be found. German dealers are helped by a low VAT rate on collectibles (7%) and they are supported by a very strong network of auction houses. In short, Germany is a lively, competitive market oriented towards collectors.

Germany is the first stop for non - EU visitors who require a Schengen Visa. So you find Russian visitors in German shows. In contrast, England is now rarely visited by Russian collectors and dealers - getting a visa is just too much hard work and sometimes impossible.

France's major show, the Paris Salon d'Automne, is oriented towards postal administrations, notably France's La Poste, and to the sale of official "produits philateliques".

Unless you collect France, you aren't going to find very much at the Salon d'Automne and what you do find is likely to be old stock, in poor condition and over-priced. This is what a protectionist economy produces.

On a visit there this month (I speak French and used to take a Stand but never enjoyed the show or made any money), I managed to spend just 100 euro on material for my stock and 40 euro on one item for my collection. My hands soon felt dirty from the dirty plastics - and some dealers don't even use plastic protection for their stock. As for prices, I found one dealer with prices of 15 euro pencilled on grubby Soviet FDCs and such like of the 1980's ... Is this a record?

It's not as if the dealers are trying to imitate a flea market (marche aux puces). Flea markets actually work by changing stock frequently, and by not being dirty. No, the dealers are just lazy. In addition, they have no network of auction houses to support them - I don't know why, but I guess it is bureaucratic complexity which stops the industry from thriving.

If I was a collector in France, I would head straight across the border to the nearest German show. If I was the CNEP, which runs the Paris show, I would expel half the dealers and try to find some new ones to take their place.

Italy? I used to go to Verona but I can't tell you what it's like now.

Belgium? The Antwerp show used to be very lively (and conducted in a fog of cigar and cigarette smoke)but it seems to have suffered from professionalisation / protectionism - some years ago, small part-time dealers not registered for VAT wre expelled. It did not improve the quality.

What do readers think of other European shows, I wonder?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr Pateman,

    congratulations for this post. As a Frenchman myself AND living now in Germany, I can confirm first hand the accuracy of your descriptions. It is said that when the mind is dirty (or lazy), then the actions will follow as such ... I couldn't agree more. I used to enjoy, 20 years ago, trips to the famous 'rue Drouot' in Paris. Now I don't.

    Actually, the last time I visited a dealer there, I was close to give him a slap, considering the arrogant and very unfriendly way he 'welcomed' me. Most of French dealers, with a few notable exceptions, are like most French 'businessmen and entrepreuners': they have little if no respect for the customer, do not feel commitment to professionalism, are particularly unpleasant in their communication and struggle in a complex web of a heavy and 'sticky' French cultural consciousness (and bureaucracy). (please note that I am French and that I know the 'spirit' of my country quite deeply)

    If we look at the French market now, we see how dealers tricked the market and covered unrealistic high prices for decades; current sales now show the truths, with sometimes up to 70% of unsold lots. Which is not a surprise to me.

    I apologize if my post is irrelevant, and you are of course free to delete my comment if you feel so.

    Best regards, Maxime.