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Catalogue Prices And The Real World

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Pillar Of The Community

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Posted 01/25/2021   1:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Timm to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I've always been suspect of catalogue pricing as I often find it seldom matches "Real World" prices.

Two Examples:
Sweden Scott #C8c Mint Never Hinge catalogue value $140.00.
As found on eBay usually sells for under $25.00

Nicaragua Scott #2020-2027 set Mint Never Hinge catalogue value $170.00.
As found on eBay usually sells for under $10.00

Thousands of examples could be listed.

I fully realize eBay pricing is not the "Be all End all", but it does demonstrate how out of touch catalogue pricing has become.

The catalogue makers seem all too eager to raise prices in their books and very reluctant to lower any.

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Posted 01/25/2021   4:14 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add NSK to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
A lot of what is sold on eBay is of inferior quality.
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Pillar Of The Community
United States
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Posted 01/25/2021   4:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Timm to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The two I listed were in pristine condition !!!
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United States
439 Posts
Posted 01/25/2021   6:13 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hoosierboy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Timm and all, The true value of any item is the price at which a willing buyer can purchase the item from a willing seller. Catalogues have there usefulness in providing a listing of known items produced. They cannot accurately state the current market value of anything. They can provide information as to the relative scarcity of an item.
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Posted 01/25/2021   6:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add archerg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Many share your frustration about the disconnect between catalogue and "real world" prices. Catalogue pricing is, in many ways, an artifact of a sales scheme now obsolete.

Catalogue prices are based on transactions in a full-service retail setting where you pay for dealer time, expertise and overhead as well as the stamp. Prices have always been inflated by dealers to build-in the possibility of offering a discount to catalogue, as a tactic to close a sale.

eBay sales reflect a spot cash price. They include bids from collectors and dealers, all seeking a bargain.

As mentioned earlier in this thread, items listed are often there because they are of lesser quality and don't easily sell in a retail setting. Bids reflect the lowered expectations of bidders.

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Posted 01/27/2021   02:44 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add DrewM to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
These responses don't address the subject which is -- why do catalogue prices not reflect real sale prices of stamps?

Sure, some stamps sold online are "inferior," but some stamps sold in stamp shops and at stamp shows are also inferior. That cannot explain the often extremely high valuations of stamps that frequently sell for much lower prices. I do not buy inferior stamps, yet nearly every stamp I've bought for years now has been at a price significantly below the catalogue price, often 50% below. I don't think I've ever paid more than 70% of catalogue and that's for very high quality stamps that are hard to get. That certainly doesn't make "catalogue prices" seem very realistic, does it?

Once upon a time, catalogue makers recorded actual sales prices from auctions and stamp shops and used those prices to arrive at their real world catalogue price. The catalogue price was the price at which stamps commonly actually sold. But that is no longer the case. Something is out of whack. Also old homilies about the "true price" being determined by the market while true enough, miss the point which is this is not about what actual prices should be, but about why the catalogues don't seem to know what actual selling prices of stamps are. If thousands of buyers typically buy at half of catalogue prices or less from hundreds of dealers, aren't those the real prices of those stamps?

A few decades back some of the old timers will recall, Scott revalued their entire world catalogue much to the consternation of dealers who resisted because they felt they'd lose a lot of money. Scott realized its prices had risen well above actual sales prices, so they lowered prices. I wonder if that experience burned Scott badly enough that they don't want to revalue prices once again? Scott gets away with this by claiming their prices are for extremely fine copies of each stamp, but that's a bit of a dodge. If most stamps sold are not extremely fine copies and if extremely fine copies are uncommon, shouldn't those be the prices in the catalogue? That is the case with most older stamps. Try finding extremely fine copies of almost all 19th and very early 20th century stamps. Those are the genuinely "rare" ones that deserve full catalogue value if not more.

With newer stamps, nearly all copies sold are in excellent shape. Some catalogue prices might even be too low. Common U.S. commemoratives typically sell for $1.00 on eBay and HipStamp, often more, in order to cover dealers' overhead and time. Yet the catalogue often values them less than that. So it might work both ways.

Catalogues once were price lists that showed what you could actually buy each stamp for from the dealer who issued the catalogue. Today, that's just not the case. So why not revalue catalogue prices? Again, I never pay full catalogue prices on eBay, Hipstamp, at stamp shows, or at auction. Why aren't these lists of unrealistic prices at which all but the rarest stamps rarely sell a concern?
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Edited by DrewM - 01/27/2021 03:07 am
Pillar Of The Community
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Posted 01/27/2021   06:37 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This subject again!

What gets me is that dealers supposedly buy new catalog every year to tell them what the "market price" is. They should be telling Scott what the price is.
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Al
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United Kingdom
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Posted 01/27/2021   10:17 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add crispinhj to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hoosierboy says
Quote:
They can provide information as to the relative scarcity of an item.


In an ideal world this would be true and in many cases it is. But I have found this not necessarily to be true for the Scott or Stanley Gibbons catalogues that I am most familiar with.

I collect stamps from a number of Latin American countries and there seem to be many stamps valued at the minimum in either of these catalogues that if you look for them on eBay never appear for sale and if you find them at a stamp fair or in a dealer's stock are priced way above that minimum
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Pillar Of The Community
United States
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Posted 01/27/2021   12:14 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Climber Steve to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Al wrote: "This subject again!" Why drop a good subject when it can continue to be beaten on!

Scott is a general information source for the most part. My biggest peeve about Scott is with those US auction houses and dealers who continue to list British Commonwealth material using Stanley Gibbons catalog numbers and prices. Gibbons also tends to be higher priced than Scott. This is the US, dudes!! Kindly use Scott.

For my specialty collecting areas, I find that the overseas catalogs work best although I may compare with Scott to determine a price I want to pay (Portugal & colonies = Mundifil; Poland = Fischer; classic Mexico = Follansbee, which actually is published in the US). These catalogs also give an idea of the rarity of many items by giving printing figures.
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Edited by Climber Steve - 01/27/2021 12:17 pm
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Posted 01/27/2021   7:39 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"What gets me is that dealers supposedly buy new catalog every year to tell them what the "market price" is. They should be telling Scott what the price is"

But they do. However no two dealers will agree on what they think the catalog value should be for for a range of issues and likewise no two collectors will agree on what they think the catalog value should be for for a range of issues. Scott is the final arbiter of what they put in the catalog. Also no dealer is an expert on everything and thus they still find a catalog useful. Also even in an area where they are an expert, they still need to know if catalog values have changed even if they do not agree with those changes because their customers rely b the catalogs.
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Posted 01/27/2021   8:20 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"Scott gets away with this by claiming their prices are for extremely fine copies of each stamp, but that's a bit of a dodge. If most stamps sold are not extremely fine copies and if extremely fine copies are uncommon, shouldn't those be the prices in the catalogue? That is the case with most older stamps. Try finding extremely fine copies of almost all 19th and very early 20th century stamps. Those are the genuinely "rare" ones that deserve full catalogue value if not more"

No, Scott values are for VF (in a few cases for a lower grade for some centering challenged issues).

"why do catalogue prices not reflect real sale prices of stamps?"

Real prices where? There is not one single unified market. You have show dealers (and still a few brick and mortar), you have traditional auctions, and you have online dealers and online auctions including eBay. Those are all very different market places with very different cost structures. No matter which one Scott would choose, they would still be out of whack with the others. Guess which ne Scott picks? Tey go with the big guys because rhe big guys pay the bills. They buy catalogs every year and they advertise in the catalogs.

If we made you the editor and you lowered catalog values as much as you want to, there would be repercussions beyong what you wabt. While specialist dealers know the market and would be reluctant to match your drop in values, there are plenty of sheep out there, especially on eBay, who merely price by applying a formula of their favorite % of Scott for everything. Small changes have a small ripple. Big changes like the ones you want cause an avalanche. You take a $100 cat value down to $60. The sheep then see $60 and go 60% of $60 or $36. You see their $36 and adjust down again and we have a downward spiral (works the same way if you raise values).

"With newer stamps, nearly all copies sold are in excellent shape. Some catalogue prices might even be too low. Common U.S. commemoratives typically sell for $1.00 on eBay and HipStamp, often more, in order to cover dealers' overhead and time. Yet the catalogue often values them less than that. So it might work both ways."

eBay does not allow fixed price (Buy it Now) listings of less than 99c, so 25c is impossible. And who in their right mind is going to scan, describe and upload a listing for 25c?

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Valued Member
United States
6 Posts
Posted 01/27/2021   8:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wjmartin to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Catalogs are essential for establishing the identity of a stamp--basically its catalog number. The value of a stamp can be found from recent sales results from regular auctions, eBay, asking prices in on-line stores, and so forth. Siegel's has an online tool to search a large number of its past auctions by cat. no. There are other pay sites with deeper lists of auctions to draw from. So if you are interested in say, the value of the 1893 US Columbians, you can work it out with some effort, and there you are.

Of course catalogs [i]could[i] have done all that work for you. With some experience, you can learn what areas of the catalog has prices you can trust are simply a multiple of reality. Columbians, for example, may be worth 1/2 to 1/3 cat; while proofs of the same issue are worth 1/2 to 3/4 cat. This is a bit complicated and takes some effort at memory.

Even if catalog companies tried to have more accurate prices, there are enough variations of value over time that they have trouble keeping up with, and you would still need to do some market research on your own. For example, I doubt there is any catalog out there that has anything like accurate values for hot Chinese issues.

I think the reason catalog prices are so much higher than reality in most cases is psychological. Dealers like the high prices so they can offer a discount to customers. Customers like the idea of buying stamps at half cat, subconsciously thinking they are getting a bargain; even though consciously they know they are not.

In any case, it is an ingrained custom that would be hard to change, as Scott found out one time.
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Posted 01/27/2021   9:41 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
There have been multiple threads that cover this topic. It has been well established that catalogs serve two primary purposes; identification and value. And their inability to reflect accurate market values has also been discussed here ad nauseum.

It is possible to harvest 'sold' values from online sources by hook or crook, it is already done in many other market segments. Of course even 'sold' values can be misleading and it is not hard to manipulate those values for material which is less commonly traded or rare. (For example, consider eBay sold values that have been manipulated by the Cartel individual.)

In my opinion it is doubtful that the legacy catalog publishers will ever adjust their values. It may be that to some degree their desire is to set the values not bother to chase the values. Nonetheless, they have multiple financial justifications for maintaining high catalog values. If they decided next year to lower the values closer to market values their catalog sales would drop and their advertising income would drop. For legacy publishing companies who are already struggling in their transition to digital, the last thing they need is more risk.

Identification of stamps online is becoming easier and easier and in most cases it is low cost or no cost. Being chained to a catalog or album organization may still be desirable to some collectors but I think that many hobbyists are now thinking 'outside the catalog box' and designing their own pages and collecting in the way they want instead of the way some publisher thinks they should.
Don
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United Kingdom
363 Posts
Posted 01/28/2021   05:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add steevh to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
If its any consolation to the original poster, real world values have taken a big jump since Covid started.
They may still be a lot lower than the cat. values, but the two have converged a great deal in the past year.

Before you complain too much about the cat. values, try to imagine a world where catalogues didn't exist, and before you bought or sold any item you'd have to conduct an exhaustive trawl through eBay trying to work out how much it was worth.
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Posted 01/28/2021   06:31 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
...try to imagine a world where catalogues didn't exist...


I am ok with a world that did not contain costly printed catalogs (those who support environmental issues may agree). I think it would stimulate a new generation of exciting digital efforts. And I believe that the inane values in catalogs set unrealistic expectation that hurt the hobby. At a minimum, catalog publishers are not having to deal with explaining the discrepancies the way this community (and others) have had to deal with it. And we already have thousands and thousands of existing hard copy catalogs that could be used for folks who desire them. (Who among us does not already have multiple older sets of catalogs sitting around somewhere?)

It has been a long time since I used a hard copy catalog to look up a value; it takes me less effort to do an online search than pull a dusty catalog off the shelf and pages through it only to find a value that is relative at best. <shrugs>
Don
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Pillar Of The Community
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Posted 01/29/2021   8:22 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
IF you know the cat number then a digital look up is probably easier, but if you are trying to determine the cat number I find paging thru a physical catalog easier than paging through an electronic one.
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