This might belong in the main or show section, but there's a picture of a US classic at the end and this is where I hang. The moderators will do the right thing, of course.
I went to my second stamp show today, MetroExpo Washington. The other was a small show at a town community center. I have to say my experience at both was similar and left me saying "meh!" It wasn't that I (born during the LBJ administration) was the youngest guy there, or the lighting was poor, or the cheap plastic folding chairs uncomfortable, or the dealers ancient and gruff. No, it was that aside from the covers bins (filled w/ 20th century stuff I'm not interested in) everything in the stockbooks was listed at near catalog value! Sure ebay sucks in many ways that have been described elsewhere, but you can get good sound classics for 10-20% of catalog if you work at it. These guys at the shows thought 20% off catalog was a good discount.
I was getting pretty discouraged and was about to leave when some nonogenarian caught me looking at some of his coins (I've always wanted a half-dime), "whaddya collect" he says. "US classics, 1851-1861," I droned out, and soon had a stock book stuffed in my hands. And lo and behold, reasonable prices! I saw a 24 at $10. A 23 at $125. Any of the other dealers would have had it for $850 (if they had it at all, lots of 7s 9s and 24s and not much else). And then he was willing to haggle. Which is how I ended up with this 39R1L for less than $100:
So was this one guy out of 40 the exception that proved the rule? Or is it pretty much catalog pricing at all the shows including the big ones? What's your experience been?
I am not sure how to answer this. I (am from the U.S. and) have been to many shows over the years, including two U.S. national shows and a Canadian international, plus local shows and the annual ROPEX show, which is a pretty good-sized show and well though of (last time I looked its exhibits were still part of the World Series of Philately.)
Maybe you are going to the shows only for the bourse. These big shows have a lot to offer, including exhibits, seminars, and knowledgeable stamp people.
Your gripe is clearly with the dealers. I cannot afford to buy the types of stamps you are buying so I admit I cannot say what the situation is with cat. price vs. dealer price. My guess is that most dealers try to sell anything - pricey or not- at or near the cat. price.
I just look for dealers who are reasonable, I guess. I have found more that are friendly than not, but those who aren't, well, frankly, I just move along. I am there to enjoy myself, and if a dealer is too wrapped up in himself or some mega deal and can't pay attention to the customers, well, I, too, can find someplace to spend some money. (p.s. I may only be spending $5 to $50 at a booth today, but who can say I won't be back with a nice wad at some point, and you can bet my first stops will be at dealers who are friendly, cordial, professional and informational.)
I know exactly how to answer your observations. Many older dealers that have been established for a long time do not use internet auction sites. Granted not all but most. This shows the demise of many brick and mortar shops, hop on board or get run over.
Anyways, back to pricing of the last dealer. I guarantee that he does deal or shop, at the least track what is going on with pricing on internet sales.
Quote: No, it was that aside from the covers bins (filled w/ 20th century stuff I'm not interested in) everything in the stockbooks was listed at near catalog value!
I have had a dealer get mad at me because I asked for a discount on some modern stamps listed at full catalog or more. He actually got mad and standoffish, his lost as I can buy the same type as postage lots and pay under face value.
Quote: These guys at the shows thought 20% off catalog was a good discount.
For these type of sellers most times it is a decent deal. You have to figure their travel, hotel room; food, and renting a table at a show can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 per table depending on the show. That's alot of stamps to sell to make up overhead. Now sometimes I have found that I have 2 or 3 dealers that I have known for many years and will sit down at their table at 8 or 9 in the morning and not get up till 5 or 6 in the evening. Yes, I might have paid a little more today with only 20% off but I just caught up with chatting and visiting with a old friend that has giving me a great discount before or in the future. I have actually packed up at the end of the day and headed out of a show to have some other dealer say you spent all day there when I could have given a better deal. To which my reply was "Yes, you could have saved me a couple of dollars today but can you save me thousands like he has?" I not saying to not use the cheaper dealer because I have. I also like a deal and have always stopped at every table to scan prices or pick up a great deal. But take a good look at some shows and there is always that one or two tables where it is filled and for good reason.
Just remember like you I work the internet for great discounts also but very few will price like that at shows because of overhead. This is why many shows and stores have gone by the wayside. Just some of my observations and sorry but the times are changing so either they need to accept it or get on board and change with it to stay competitive.
I am in a different league. My show budget is usually about $40, which doesn't make me very interesting to the dealers. But I usually have fun, and find deals that make me happy, and fill spaces. I find it most off-putting when a dealer says "what do you collect," and I end up with a book with the cheapest stamps starting at $100. It's fun to look, but I'm not buying that stuff. Sometimes I say it's out of my budget. And sometimes I demur, but I seldom get a dealer who points me to their lower price area. I have to find that by myself.
Ebay doesn't work well for me either. I'm a long enough collector that packets don't help me much. But the kinds of stamps I buy (<<$10 each) don't make sense to list on ebay. So, I struggle a bit at shows to find those middle of the road stamps, and usually go home very happy with what I find. After all, collecting is partly about the hunt. Sometimes those rarer commons are the hardest to find.
Otto, maybe it's just my lack of understanding with the 1c 1851-7 issue, but the recutting of the top curved line mandates a Type IV, so 23 is correct, but is there any way that the perfs are fake on this stamp, and it's an adulterated #9????
Maybe I'm just hallucinating, but it looks like a straight line on the top, bottom, and top left side.
I'm probably way off, but perfs don't look right to me.
A valid concern, Ray, but I'm satisfied the perfs are genuine. Every article I've read about fake perf detection says its not entirely unheard of for people to have used scissors on the new-fangled perforated stamps, or it could have been a casualty of separation from the cover. The spacing of the perfs gauge correctly, the diameter of the holes is correct, the holes on all sides align, and the spacing passes on flip tests and opposite side tests. The perfs on opposite sides are parallel, although interestingly the horizontal perfs are not perpendicular to the vertical perfs. So yeah, the question of whether this is a reperf has crossed my mind :-)
As re the rest of y'all. Yep, typical SCF wisdom, thank you, that's what I was looking for. If I want to see something other than a bourse, I should go to a bigger show. I think Baltimore and Richmond are such near me. And this old dealer, rather than griping that he's the only one with reasonable prices, I should be celebrating that I found a good guy and that this is a relationship I should cultivate. "I'd rather get the quick dime than the slow buck," is what he said, "get to see more inventory that way." He mentioned a number of other small local shows he'll be at. I'll have to look him up and maybe get that half-dime.
In the other cases, I tend to agree also with Otto. Since I've mentioned a bunch of times that I'm a bottom feeder, not many bargains to be had at bourses, that is, unless the dealer is selling something he isn't expert with-- I did find a Type VII imperf (534B) in a lot on a Vario sheet of offset imperfs a bunch of years ago for $25-- the Type VII did have Schermack Type III's so the CV was $100 vs $1000, but still a really tough stamp.
I bought a few stamps at StampShow in Columbus, but it was fancy cancels, some Mint upgrades from some used stamps, and some dated red Documentary revenues-- cheap stuff that I wouldn't use eBay for. When it comes to US Classics, you rarely will find real bargains.
But, I go to the shows for the overall experience. It's a great time for me to just be able to sit at a table and look through boxes and stockbooks, and talk to some dealers and other hobbyists. And when there are exhibits of materials that I have interest in, it can be worth the trip just to see material I'll probably never have a chance to own...
I think shows are what you make it. After going to shows - mostly small - but a few big ones now, it certainly helps to have a strategy. I would hope most collectors would at least browse the exhibits, which I tend to do first. At a big show, there are too many to look at at one time, so I browse, bourse, browse again later; a small show, I can probably take it all in right away. And since I collect stamps and covers, the shows are great in that they are a good place to browse through a LOT of covers in a relative short period of time, as opposed to trying to browse websites.
As for bargains, I think I can say I was very happy at a couple of recent shows at which I bought a few sets of foreign stamps I was seeking at a cost much lower than I had found on eBay or BidStart over several months of looking.
I can only say that I hope shows continue and that collectors continue to support them. Our hobby would suffer greatly without them.
I don't go to many shows any more (due to location I live in), but I have found in the past that smaller shows get you more for your buck. I usually go in there with a limited amount of spare money to spend. I can usually find something I need (again if I need it, I need it) in the lass than 20 dealers there. I have attended Westpex in SF a few times. There are 100+ dealers in that place, after the large entry fee, I am out of money 1/2 way through the entrance row. I do not enjoy being there for 6-10 hours going through boxes, as I get bored after a while. SO, I vote for smaller shows where I can see everything in a reasonable amount of time. Personally I love going through boxes of covers for postmarks and usages.
I have spent most of my adult life in places where large, or even small stamp shows just don't happen and travelling the distance necessary to attend one is often too costly and time consuming. Auction sites on-line are the only reason I have been able to continue collecting and selling stamps. I would venture to guess this is not so uncommon. My formative years as a stamp collector (the late 1950's) were in a larger metro setting and during a period when auction houses ruled the roost and seeing the stamps up-front before bidding was the norm. Those days are gone for most but the internet has filled the void and so long as one is careful who they deal with and examine the stamps and terms in detail it has been quite satisfying.
I do agree that you will likely pay more if you go to a show for commonly sold material. For some this is fine since you do get to see items in person or talk to a dealer you like or other social aspects.
As one stamp dealer told me, what's available at any given show is sometimes just "feast or famine". I find that for myself to be very true and also true for flea markets, antique stores and yard sales. Sometimes I can easily spend $1000 or sometimes I walk away with nothing. It doesn't matter how big the show may be, but what dealers are present, what material has come into their possession, and what they bring to the show. I prefer shows that have enough material to sort through as I love spending the time there, but as I buy covers there's rarely enough material for me to be at a show from open to close. There's been a few exceptions, but rare. Luckily, I have found that volume and dollar amount spent doesn't necessarily equal good finds. The last show I went to which was small (7-8 dealers) and I spent $25 for a box lot. Some of the covers might have some interest and value, but there was some decent stamps mixed in that have about $1500+ in cat value. Luck of the draw.
In my very limited show experience, ebay will beat out shows (in terms of cost) EXCEPT for certain level of quality items (i.e. OG NH or superb centering) and for specialty items--things like paste up pairs, private perfs, certain cover and plating finds. For "middle of the road" stamps (catalog $30-200) it seems dealers will focus on ones with enough quality to charge at or near catalog (and if they can get a grade above 85 it's all over--the prices go above catalog on an exponential scale). I doubt I will ever use shows for more than those unique or rare items.
From my limited experience, I have found pricing at shows is higher than on Ebay other than for higher quality items. However, like patronizing the local hardware store where the prices are higher but personnel can be incredibly knowledgeable vs a big box store, there are times when there is definite added value in buying from the higher priced vendor. Only having been back to collecting for several months, attending a handful of shows has made me willing to spend more on higher quality items on Ebay after developing a better sense of their cost in other venues. However, for someone getting back into collecting, Ebay has been a great place to start (with all the well-known caveats aside).
Naturally the cost at shows should be typically higher. You have to pack up all your material, drive to the show destination which costs money for gas and / or Hotel, time to set it all up, work the show which is time and time is money. Selling on eaby I sit in my slippers, put stamp/s in envelope, change into shoes and walk to mailbox 130 feet from door.