outside of high-end rarities, philatelic material (stamps and covers) have not proven to be a "hedge against inflation" in the past. Judging from many of the responses, in recent years some segments of philatelic material have been strong, but for underlying "supply and demand" reasons, not because prices were rising nominally in step with inflation. Since most philatelic material is not likely to keep pace with the kind of inflation we are presently seeing (and are likely to see continue without reasonable fiscal restraint or pro-market economic policies), if you are expecting to sell any time in the foreseeable future, selling sooner than later seems the best bet.
Here in Canada in the 1970s and 80s, I remember non-collectors going to the post office and buying sheets of 8 cent commemorative stamps during that period of high inflation, hoping that the stamps would rise in a similar fashion. Now the source of mint items for less than face value at local club auctions.
Thank you for your observations on eBay auctions. I think your general point on eBay auctions is that people generally don't know what they were doing on eBay. I agree with you. Also, I asked my question as a general question because I wanted to see where it would go, and indeed I did find out some interesting things like Denmark stamps are cheap now. Since I believe Denmark owns Greenland, that may explain why I observed that Greenland stamps are relatively low priced. Maybe you or someone else out there could answer the question, that if the U.K. stamps are relatively cheap, does that mean Channel Island stamps follow? What about Faroe Islands, and Aland? Do they follow their owning country?
I of course, have countries that I follow closer than others. I don't know any stamp collector who doesn't. France is probably my best collection.
Stamp buyers not knowing what they are doing on eBay is a wide sweeping generalization that I think is largely false. Plenty of people know exactly what they are doing on there. Most people don't have stamp stores in their area, and it's a convenient marketplace. The internet is not really ripe with many reputable places to buy stamps, so it's largely consolidated. Many dealers are exclusively using eBay stores as their presence online. Know your sellers...
People buy stuff from everywhere including auctions (a la SAN), yard sales, estate auctions, and slap them on eBay. But what other way would you suggest? Many of the stamps come from breaking down large lots from, for example from Rasdale or Kelleher. A regular buyer, is ok to pay for stamps, whether $5,$50 or $500 worth of stamps this way, than truly get his money's worth by dropping 15k on a lot worth $75000, especially when he only wants specific things.
The problem with this model of "overpaying", is the investment side of it. The reality is you will never realize a profit buying "at retail", unless it's a knowledge imbalance situation (ie misidentification, unknown flyspeck, or simply someone trying to unload fast for cash.
Now if you are looking for graded high quality or rarities you will fare better at auction houses, but it's a scary and expensive proposition given how heavy the rake is.
Interestingly enough... there is a very aggresive dealer in the eBay category I buy in. If a stamp is mispriced, he buys it, and then usually relists it. This type of competition and the inability to source things, tells me that even the slighest uptick in demand from here, will end up in a parabolic frenzy. I believe there aren't enough of the "good stamps" to go around.
The entire premise of the thread title is off base, imo.
For the person knowledgeable in a country or other specialty area, it is always both the right time to buy AND the right time to sell. It is a matter of establishing a proper price. And for true rarities, one must buy them when they are available regardless of the market. And Bobby just nailed it - do your homework - knowledge will win-out over luck.
Quote: There are some outstanding sellers on eBay, but you MUST do your homework.
There is a great restaurant in town, but you have to know what dishes to order because if you don't, you'll end up in the hospital with food poisoning.
I agree that there are some good sellers and some good buyers. But for me the question is about the impact on the hobby. If someone were to paint the perfect storm to damage a hobby... #1 - set expectations that all the money and time you spend on the HOBBY is a great investment. #2 - get catalog publishers to assign values that are significantly higher than market values. #3 - develop an online auction venue without any vetting of the sellers or the buyers.
In my opinion investing in anything requires a lot of time, work, and funding. Very, very few people simply fall into a barrel of ice creme.
In terms of the current buying/selling environment; a set of MNH US Zeps stamps purchased in 1940 is worth the same as it is today when you factor in inflation.
Note how the period of high inflation jumped the catalog values up, this seems to support the idea that during period of high inflation folks look for places to park their money. If so, then the next year or two might be a good time to sell. Don
Correlating inflation with stamp prices is also a slippery slope. There was a time, when people didn't have the information they did today. For instance, know how many Zeps, or US1/2 were available? You had a pocket Gimbels catalog and stamp counters were prevalent. As people realized how many were really out there as the decade moved along, suddenly the "rarity" wasn't so rare. There was a huge collecting boon in the 80s, from comics, baseball cards, stamps and coins. To say it was inflation that drove it, is probably an overreach. There was a unique enthusiasm around it, that was akin to beanie babies, now unopened video games, and dare I say the NFT scam.
Could you imagine Macy's opening a stamp counter today?
I can just as easily correlate the jump in stamp prices to the challenger explosion causing people to mentally adjust their spending priorities.
One thing that I see frequently on eBay is buyers that I assume are unaware that there are other venues available to purchase from. My frame of reference is Russian material and I follow it on eBay, Delcampe and other online platforms. There are some good sellers to be sure. However, time after time I see lots sell for more, many times much more, than you could buy them from at a "real" auction or even a brick-and-mortar dealer like Loral. I am watching an auction now and have flagged a dozen lots to pay attention to. Ten of those lots already exceed the price of Cherrystone sales and even Loral's full retail pricing on a few. There is one stamp that I know the seller purchased in the October Cherrystone sale for $240 plus tip. It is already at $367 with 19 watchers and two days to go. My point is that most of us collect on a budget, and it makes sense to make that budget go as far as possible. There are lots of tools and information available now to anyone with an internet connection. You can research what things cost and stretch your budget. Many of the Russian items in my case will have passed through the hands of Cherrystone or Raritan and the like and you just have to use their tremendous search engine ala Siegel Power Search in order to see what a good number is for a particular item. This is not about money being the end-all be-all in collecting but rather making your money go farther so that you can acquire the things that you enjoy. For new collectors or collectors returning to the hobby eBay is the monster that has branded itself well as the go-to source. Good for them. They are supposed to do just that. Smart buyers need to find other sources because they are out there albeit without the marketing resources that eBay has.
Admission: I intend to take advantage of the eBay buyers that solely shop there. I just acquired a duplicate group of Soviet sheets that sell like hotcakes on eBay at $80 plus a pop. Recently some sold in an eBay auction for over $100 each. I paid $200 in the last Raritan auction for ten of them as new with the Post Office glassine interleaving still between them. I will keep two and sell the balance.
Conclusion: Do your homework and broaden your horizons. And don't let disconnected catalog values which in many cases have not been updated in many years drive your decision making. Buying at a percentage of catalog can be a very false economy.
Agree with rogdcam regarding the need to look at venues other than eBay and be willing to do some comparison shopping checking other platforms. I will regularly check eBay, HipStamp, Delcampe and the APS StampStore before making a decision to buy items.
For example, I decided I wanted to fill the hole in my collection for the 1965 Malaysia Bird Definitives.
While Scott CV was around US$65 in the 2021 catalogue for the set, Malaysia remains a hot area so prices can be quite a bit higher than what Scott seems to suggest. Check of eBay found nothing for MNH sets for under US$90. Hipstamp did not have a set, neither did the APS StampStore. However, doing some digging on Delcampe resulted in paydirt - I found a set being sold by a French dealer for just under US$60 plus shipping (and there were sets above that ranging from US$65 to US$100 in cost). With registration and conversion hits from US$ to Euro that banks do, I paid a bit over US$70 for the set.
Moral of story - if I had simply stuck to eBay I'd have paid a good deal more for this set, but doing some comparison shopping saved me a nice chunk of money - for someone who does not have a huge amount of discretionary income to spend in the hobby, saving every penny is important.
Delcampe in particular is very good for finding lower prices for medium-value stamps and sets, in my opinion. Yes there are language issues (I speak French, German and Spanish and can read several other languages so that helps, but Google Translate is your friend to get the basic jist of any language these days) and not many dealers use Scott (one of the reasons I am involved with the online catalogue I edit - it provides a slide rule to convert different catalogue systems so its simple to know that Scott # X = Michel # Y and so on) but these are not that huge a speedbump with all the online resources available.
Quote: I can just as easily correlate the jump in stamp prices to the challenger explosion causing people to mentally adjust their spending priorities.
No, you cannot. If you look carefully at Don's chart, by 1986 (year of the challenger explosion) Zepp prices had returned to the ("real") values they had circa 1977. The peak of Don's chart centers on 1982. That corresponds to the well known impact of the Fed's experimental policy under Paul Volker of targeting (attempting to control) the money supply rather than interest rates. The federal funds rate rose to 20 percent in 1980, and during this period mortgage rates peaked at 15 percent and double digit interest rates on other types of loans prevailed.
But while Zepp prices initially seemed to keep pace with inflation, over the long haul they did not. And I think that was Don's point (or at least one of several), and confirms my previous post about philatelic material generally not being a good hedges against inflation. Do you dispute that?
I bought the majoroty of my stamps from small dealers (A to Z stamps, New York Stamps and others) I also buy collections (usually eBay). However, as I said previously, I have not bought a stamp for 15 years, except for the $300 stamp I just bought from Marlen, Ltd which advertised the stamp on HipStamp. I am very satisfied with the purchase, the stamp was perfect, as advertisd, and it was sent in a way that was well protected. And I was happy with the price.
On eBay I have seen outright grifting, U.S. Stamps advertised as "rare" when you could easily buy the stamp for a few dollars. Sure, "rare" is a subjective term, in this case a 6-cent mint US airmail, which I would characterize as quite common. If I tried to sell that stamp here for $3,000 on this board, I would be kicked off in two seconds. No one would get away with that here. But there is no quality assurance on stamp sales on eBay. And I have been scammed there.
I have to say, I like the experience I have had with HipStamp and Marlen, and I continue to watch what is being offered here.