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Sunday 18 March 2012

Philately on $1 a day: Collecting in Hard Times

Collectors with little money to spend can build very interesting collections. You can buy some things ridiculously cheap and you can add value to them by doing some work.

For example, 19th century definitives are often very cheap - buy them in bulk (by the 100 or 1000) and you pay maybe a couple of cents each. But for many countries there are watermark, perforation and shade varieties, some highly catalogued. There are also plate varieties and postmark interest. Finland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia are examples of countries where, with patience, you can turn 1 cent stamps into an interesting collection.

Two suggestions:

If there is a specialist Handbook or catalogue, buy it!
And if the stamps are from old collections, wash them and get rid of the old hinges and the dust and dirt!

If I see big lots of old stamps in an auction - sometimes they are bundleware - then I will bid the lowest possible price and quite often I get them. It's really surprising how few people take an interest. I think the least I paid for a big lot of old stamps was US$ 0.005 per stamp when I bought 500 000 Turkish stamps from an old packet maker's stock. But I don't really recommend buying quite so many stamps - they weighed 45 kilos and took over my flat completely for a week.

Another interesting way to build a collection with little money is to buy damaged copies of scarce and rare stamps for maybe a couple of % of catalogue. Then make yourself an expert on paper, shades, perforations, cancellations and - especially - overprints. This is what the experts often do - after all, what you need is simply a stamp or a block of stamps which shows you all the essential characteristics of the genuine item. You are not looking for something which will get you a Gold Medal.

Finally, just find something no one seems to be interested in, like Zemstvos before 1999 ....

1 comment:

  1. Good points, all. So much of "modern philately" seems to be dirt cheap compared to the material from earlier periods, and it can be just as interesting. Stationery revaluations during 1991-1995 in Ukraine - that stuff was cheap, plentiful and enormously interesting! I've also always liked the 1909-1920 Arms types of Russia, but you do need a copy of Leonard Tann's handbook to understand what was going on there.
    As for the stuff nobody likes....I took up a sideline in Paraguay 5 years ago. I think I'm one of very few people to collect 1910-1945 Paraguay and that's fine by me! I buy color proofs for $18, artist's designs for $100, varieties for $3-$'s heaven!