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Descriptions! (A Bit Of A Rant)

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Valued Member
United States
90 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   3:35 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Scanstamps to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Maybe I'm nitpicky.
Maybe I'm the (re)incarantion of the Grinch.

When I'm looking at stamps on a stamp selling venue-- auction, dealer, whatever-- "see scan" IS NOT A "DESCRIPTION!!"

"See scan" tells me absolutely NOTHING about the stamp, other than what's obviously visible from the front-- IF the scan is large enough and IF the scan is in focus.

Now, I totally forgive those who are newcomers to selling stamps online-- it takes a while to get clued in and find your system.

I do NOT forgive LARGE and WELL-KNOWN dealers with YEARS of experience! Shame on you! You should know better! I also don't "buy" the excuses and rationalizations: "Oh, it takes too long (to have a decent scan; to type six words like "clean back, no thins" or "two hinge remnants, small pencil note on gum") to do that."

And please don't INSULT my intelligence by calling an off-center stamp with two pulled perfs and a visible tear "sound VF!"

Seriously, though... I am also a seller of stamps online... have been, since 1995 (the first eBay auction I listed had an auction number that was SIX DIGITS long... think about that, for a sec...), and it strikes me that a lot of sellers are "afraid" that if they described their wares honestly, they wouldn't sell, or would get very low prices. My personal experience has been the exact opposite... I have sold fully described and pictured faulty material for what seemed to me as "ridiculously high" prices, I expect because bidders were making INFORMED choices and decisions.

It just makes me wonder "what gives," sometimes. I'm a pretty active buyer online... but I probably skip over a full 80% of the listings I see, because I "can't tell" what I'm looking at. And I can't imagine I'm alone. Sure, I honor that many of these sellers say "If you don't like it, send it back!" But to me, that's just... Well, I don't have the time, bandwidth, or inclination to DEAL with that. It's a hassle.

And so, maybe I'm the Grinch.
OR... maybe I'm just someone who feels justified in standing up and asking for (my perception of) reasonable customer service.

Is it a "technology barrier?" I've heard more than a few opinions that stamp collectors/dealers tend to be Luddites or at least technologically resistant. Is that true? I say this because I have met some of these sellers/dealer IN PERSON, and they'll bend over backwards to SHOW you their wares, and everything they have "in stock."

Maybe I'm WAY out in left field, but having a poor scan and no description on your $100 item ONLINE is like the "virtual equivalent" of being unwilling to pull that same stamp out of the glass top counter in your stamp store, and instead letting a potential buyer "guess" what it looks like, till he/she has written a check and taken it home.

So why this rant? This morning, I was frustrated by an eBay seller with 1000's of feedbacks who had small fuzzy scans of what SEEMED LIKE good stock sheets with older Scandinavia. But I really couldn't tell. I'd have spent $300, if I could have "told." Instead, I spent nothing, and the dealer ended up with "no sale."

So I ask, again (if you were brave enough to read all this!) "Am I REALLY alone in thinking like this?"

(We now return to our regularly scheduled programming...)


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Posted 02/21/2012   3:54 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Londonbus1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Absolutely agree 120%.
I also skip over listings but I also find myself asking sellers questions that I shouldn't be asking. [And often not getting a reply]

If anyone has seen my sales and auction here you will know that a description is not only important but necessary.
I got a nice email from a member the other day complimenting me on my SCF listings. Just that one email made it all worthwhile. description, no sale.
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New Member
United States
2 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   4:10 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MTC to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Well said Peter. I think the overwhelming number of sellers think that they are providing complete information, and perhaps they are for casual collectors. But for collectors that focus on particular areas of collecting, sparse detail can be very frustrating. Like you I have passed up numerous buys due to lack of detail.

For example, as a Canadian booklet collector, I want to know the Unitrade and / or McCann booklet numbers being offered. I would like to see clear scans of the front AND back of the booklet being offered if it is sealed and additionally the pane inside if it is not sealed. On some recent Canadian booklets there are plate position letters on the back ie "SA" which differentiate one booklet from another.

With a complete description on a lot being offered for sale, I am quite happy to pay a little more knowing that I will be receiving what I was expecting!

So far I have just been a buyer, not a seller, but that will change soon. I plan to take my experiences as a buyer and use them to offer well described lots to discriminating buyers.

Thanks for airing this topic!

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Edited by MTC - 02/21/2012 6:31 pm
Pillar Of The Community
6525 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   4:27 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jamesw to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree with you as well Peter. I too gloss over auctions with little or no description and especially those with bad pictures.
I sell on ebay (though less lately) and here on SCF. I try to describe where I can, especially pointing out flaws. Bigger pictures are certainly easier here than on ebay, but I'm always open to questions. Admittedly I also add the 'see picture' bit, but only as a supplement to everything else.
I know how disappointing it is when you get something you've been anticipating and it doesn't live up to what you were expecting.
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Posted 02/21/2012   4:37 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add fifia to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I am glad I do not 'collect' stamps. I truly enjoy the stamps I have and the ones, like Se-tenants and Europe I pick up as I go along. I read, scan and sort through the stuff I have.

I bought Se-tenants from Londonbus1, framed here at my desk as a guidance for future Se-tenants.

I hope I never go a point where it effects my well being. All this
fuss about Ebay etc. You know what is involved...

Here is my story two nights ago:

My dryer went out. No problem my son said, I check around.
He came up with a floor model from one of the chain appliance stores
for 699.--. I said autsch and gave him the money. He picked it up, hooked it up in place here at the house and it did not work.

He put it back on this truck, went to the store. The store apologized
and gave him another one....and he came home, installed, tried and it did not work again.

He said something....put the second dryer on the truck and took it back.

Next morning at 10 he went to the warehouse and got a dryer originally packed and brought it home. Retail value $1249.--.
it works, chimes and does all sorts of things. I told him to look at the positive side because he made $ 500.-- moving two dryers....

He did not think like that.

So, my point is. In this world there is very little security...

If you want to buy stamps, go to auctions, shows or buy from someone
you know.....or look at the stamps you have.

...and that is my 2 cents.

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6191 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   4:55 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Londonbus1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

I bought Se-tenants from Londonbus1, framed here at my desk as a guidance for future Se-tenants.

Tete-Beche Se-Tenants no less !

Londonbus1....and described thus !
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Posted 02/21/2012   4:57 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Londonbus1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
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Edited by Londonbus1 - 02/22/2012 01:06 am
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Posted 02/21/2012   5:56 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Horamkhet to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi to all
I agree with all that has been said about auction sites, but sometimes I have been able to pick up some bargains from some badly described items. (Bargains for me anyway.) But a full description helps a lot, it let me know if I can really afford something. The better the description, usually the more expensive the item. I try and buy estates and small holdings as usually I get a better price, and sometimes among the run of the mill items there is a bargain.
Happy hunting to all.
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United States
6496 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   6:16 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add stallzer to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Also understand that many of the people selling Stamps are not experts. I'd prefer a high resolution scan of front and back rather than someone trying to up sell a piece. Also once you start describing a Stamp you need to include every minor detail, which is great if you have the experience. With the different paper types and printing varieties you might be setting yourself up for a hard time. Just think of how many visitors SCF gets asking questions about identification let alone 95% of the members here need occasional help with identifying certain Stamps. Most sellers won't even declare whether it's Fine, Very fine or extra fine as it can come back to haunt them as it's a very gray area.

My personal favorite term used on Ebay is "No Reserve auction" and the bid starts at $99.00.
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Rest in Peace
631 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   6:48 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add huckles888 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Great thread - I agree with sentiments being expressed - anything with a "See Scan" descripiton I dont bother going any further - if Sellers are not prepared to provide accurate descriptions (they dont have to be long to be accurate) then I am not prepared to buy
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639 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   7:09 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add centerstage98 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
These are are well said points. I am a buyer only. And most of what you are talking about I assume is probably related to material I usually cannot afford. I can't imagine myself even taking a chance on something more than $10 unless there were decent scans and descriptions.

Lesser material I can understand. I have bought some items from a dealer recently. And he has stopped scanning the very cheap stuff (mostly what I buy), but I know he has good quaility - PLUS he does scan and grade the more expensive stuff, so you can get a feel for how he thinks.

Another oddball description came up the other day. I was looking on eBay at some lots from a contry ... One dealer had several lots in which the basic description was Paraguay (just for example) Scott 256 to 291; and Paraguay Scott 333 to 363 .. etc. ... But a count of the stamps in the scan did not add up to the Scott numbers; there clearly were anywhere from 10 to 20 stamps fewer .. .I sent an email and asked ... well, doncha know his reply was that the stamps in the lot (shown in the scan) fell within those catalogue numbers .... wha?????? .. like someone is going to take the time to blow up the photo (if possible), pull out a catalogue and go thru and compare to see exactly what he was selling??? arrrrgh

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Rest in Peace
6750 Posts
Posted 02/21/2012   7:47 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Puzzler to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I have found that when selling online that even having good descriptions for cheaper items helps to sell them.

It not only helps to sell your item, it is helping to sell yourself as a seller to buy from because you care about what the customer needs to make an informed decision.

It's like having more pictures to help along the sale, but this time having more clear, well-focused, pertinent words.

I like the original post's mention of dealers who would be the most helpful person imaginable when in person but are not so helpful-seeming when online. Quite true and I think perhaps because of lack of skill in online dealings and in conveying a good impression of yourself in words and pics altogether online.

If not that then a mistaken impression that things will sell even if you don't describe them. Maybe true but I don't think they will sell as easily and as well as they could have when described.

When you describe something you are covering all the bases, considering that there may be buyers who know their stamp stuff and also buyers who want to know but don't yet, or who do not know as much as they might wish to.

When you, as a seller, make it easy for them to learn, because you are describing things as if to a person who knows some things but not all, (and it's always best to be as clear as you can when communicating in whatever form) you are making it easy for them to buy from you also. Not in all cases, no, but in many.

If a person sees that you know your stuff or are trying to know your stuff (effort counts) they will trust you more and you buy from those you trust.

As long-time sellers know (and I am still counting myself as a learner) it takes much more than just the above to be a good salesman that cares about his customers but every little bit helps.
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Learn More...
3989 Posts
Posted 02/22/2012   04:27 am  Show Profile Check KGV Collector's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add KGV Collector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Lets put a little reality to it all. I have searched heaps to find info on these covers. This is the 1st thing I have listed with very little knowledge. But I believe I know enough to list or do I. I am relying heavily on the images to talk for themselves.

Listing Title: WW11 Australia Military Cover Field Post Office 170 Many Postmarks Back Scan.

The 2nd scan: Called Back scan.

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Edited by KGV Collector - 02/22/2012 04:30 am
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2761 Posts
Posted 02/22/2012   06:45 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Battlestamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
KGV and others, I'm going to use the above as an example. For a cover like that, if I were listing it, it would basically look like this from what I can see:

Title: Australia 1945 Registered Air Mail Cover FPO 170 to Hobart, Censor Handstamp

COUNTRY: Australia
Origin: Military Field Post Office 170* (*if I had the resources I would find out where this was located)
Destination: Hobart, Tasmania
Date: July 1st 1945, World War II era
Stamps: King George VI 3d. definitive pair, cataglog #
Type of cover: Registered airmail cover using envelope stationery with imprint from the Salvation Army - ACF - YMCA. CDS postmarks on back by sending and receiving post offices. Registered handstamp with penned information on front along with censor handstamp - Australian Imperial Forces, number 833 with initials. Also a dated handstamp marked Geo. Adams.
Condition: Cover slit open at top with a slight jagged edge, but otherwise very nice condition.
Shipping & Payment info: (etc etc)

Clear concise title and a description that covers everything to see and hits all the keywords. Keywords/description, good photos and great service are the three best things you can do as a seller that will ensure your items will sell. Always host your own photos. Ebay's picture services is horrid. Delcampe's is better, but still a good idea to insert your own into the html.

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Edited by Battlestamps - 02/22/2012 06:46 am
Valued Member
United States
90 Posts
Posted 02/22/2012   4:12 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Scanstamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for all the replies! I guess others DO care about getting a good sense about what they are buying.

Yes, I agree that a "description" is probably not as important for a 50c catalogue value stamp listed somewhere like Stamps2Go or BidStart. But a decent photo would still be nice... after all, I collect postmarks, so "just any used copy" of a particular stamp is of no interest to me. But I grant that it's perhaps less important to a collector who's just looking for "one of each" for their album.

KGV Collector: Even if your actual description was very simplistic, your scans are of good size, and in focus. That already puts the listing ahead of 80% of sellers. I sell many things outside my area of expertise (most recently early US), and in those cases I have nice scans, address all issues wrt to condition, and take a best guess at describing the rest... making it very clear what I "know" vs. what I "think."

Battlestamps: Much the same as I describe what I sell (and I wish everyone would do)... nicely done! I agree, eBay picture services are horrid. I do upload one photo, just so I can get the thumbnail picture in searches and listings, but the "real" photos are self-hosted. Typically, I size scans of individual stamps to be 500-600 pixels on the longest sides; covers and entires (and stock sheet lots) up to 1200 pixels on the longest side-- within the confines of 85% of current monitor resolutions being able to display up to 1280 pixels wide without scrolling. If a variety/marking/postmark is of particular importance, I typically would use the "black space" around the object to add a few words directly ON the image... a LOT of web buyers have a tendency to not READ, they buy completely from the photo... so I get the important details where people's eyes go. Also if there's something (plate flaw, type differences) I tend to add a "detail" image of that area-- usually from a 1200 or 2400dpi scan.

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Posted 02/22/2012   4:31 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jamesw to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I'm going to play devil's advocate here.
As I said above, when I sell items I try to add some description, especially faults or problems that can come back to bite me on the arse. But surely a good picture (and this is certainly easier when it is a single item, or two or three together) is worth a proverbial thousand words.
Battleship's description of KGV's cover is wonderfully thorough and would be worthy of any high end album page, but I think we're verging on overkill here. Let's not assume the buyer is completely stupid. He/she is perfectly capable of looking and figuring out a lot of that information for themselves.
I think one needs to land somewhere in the middle. No need to state the obvious. Catalogue number, terrific, especially if there are variations. Condition definitely. A must.
But I'm thinking you can oversell the item. And at some point, the buyer is just going to stop reading.

OK, have at me.
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