I think that, for most houses selling relatively run-of-the-milk material, there's a limit to how much you can load onto the seller vis-à-vis eBay. That means loading the buyer's premium. I suspect that it's that or fewer auction houses.
jamesg - what you say makes sense, if everybody is subject to the same percentage. I pay 10.1% sales tax. Just across the bridge into Oregon, they pay 0% sales tax. I am at a disadvantage of 10% when bidding against people in Oregon, and at a disadvantage of differing amounts when up against bidders from other states with lower sales tax rates than 10.1%. I am not upset with the auction houses, but this is an unlevel playing field. Life would be so easy if I quit my job ($0 income) and moved 200 miles south of here, to Oregon.
This will be the unpopular portion of my post: I contend that raising the buyer's premium indicates an unhealthy stamp market, long-term. Unless they are concurrently lowering their consignor's premium. Maybe they are - I don't know - but since they aren't making big announcements about that, I assume not. In a healthy market, the rise in prices of stamps would mirror the general inflation rate. A commission of x% would provide an income that keeps up with inflation - if the auctioneer could buy groceries before, he could buy the same groceries later. A percent or two, long-term, could indicate small differences between the stamp market and the economy in general (or, frankly, greed on the part of the auctioneer, which I would certainly not rule out). When I started collecting (and for decades before that according to my stamp collecting grandfather, and for a decade or two after I started collecting), the buyer's commission was at 10%. that rate seemed written in stone. Then some companies went up to 12% or 15%, which everyone followed (1990-ish?), and nowadays, the standard seems to be 18% to 20%.--- essentially DOUBLE what it was in the 1980's.
All other things being equal, this indicates a relatively unhealthy market. If the health of the market ebbed and flowed then we could expect to see this rate go up AND down over time, but it has only gone up. To me, it indicates that the market is, generally, in a long-term ebb. Looking at the standard USA #1, SCV is now $350, but it was $550 in 2010, $600 in 2000, $725 in 1990, and $825 in 1980 (according to Siegel's catalog archive). All those figures are in then-current dollars, and inflation has been generally positive over the same period.
Now to my statement of 'all other things being equal'. Of course this is a gross over-simplification!!! SCV's are hardly accurate to ACTUAL value for many periods of history. I contend, however, that 5 values over 40 years showing the same trend certainly indicates that there IS a trend. Maybe the trend as shown for USA #1 doesn't represent the stamp market in general. VERY TRUE! It is what I collect and is the first issue I looked up - too lazy to do that again with another issue. It HAS always been a very popularly collected issue, though, and seems to be represented in every 'market value database' ever made of US stamps. Perhaps the cost of being a stamp dealer has outstripped inflation. Perhaps. Maybe a healthy market doesn't necessarily follow inflation. I expect most arguments against my position will fall along those lines. I don't have much of an argument against that except to say that when I took my economics class in college, the professor made the point to say that markets that differ greatly from the general inflation rate tend to have problems for various reasons.
Now... does this all mean we should stop collecting? From a purely economic POV, yes. But from a I-am-passionate-about-stamp-collecting POV, of course not. If one is in it for the passion, then enjoy the heck out of it, but one should also be aware of the economic reality if $$$ plays any role in one's decisions.
Well, I've only been back to buying stamps for about 5 years (with a 35-40 year gap), and I don't know what you "paid" for a mint 39 or a used #1 or #2 in 1980 say, but 5 years ago seems like the "bottom" in ebay/hipstamp stamp prices and it has only been going up since then. I know I felt like a kid in a candy store at that time and bought anything and everything I could because compared to what I remember in the 60's/70's my purchasing power for stamps seemed to be much, much better. I don't believe someone of my means could have amassed the collection I have today in say 1970 without starving the kids and remortgaging the house. I've noticed prices paid for nice quality stuff getting ridiculous lately on eBay auctions in particular. A few folks, which I presume are stamp "dealers" seem to have unlimited funds and just pay "whatever it takes" to get a good item. My presumption is based on the incredibly high eBay feedback scores these/this auction winner has that they're dealers and selling items at 50-75% of cat instead of the much lower percentage I'm willing to pay (for anything!).
Quote: I don't believe someone of my means could have amassed the collection I have today in say 1970 without starving the kids and remortgaging the house.
So, what you are saying is that you were not fully committed!!
As for new/recent collectors, now may be a great time to pick up the hobby, from an economic POV. In the long-term (in terms of decades) I doubt it. I have no reason to think things will be much different over the next 20-30 years compared to the last 20-30 years. I sure hope I am wrong!!! I suspect the upward bump we've seen lately has an awful lot to do with people doing the social-distancing thing, which is coming to an end. It took 2 years for us to get to where we are today, and it will be interesting to see what the stamp market is like 2 years from now.
I started collecting in the 1960's, but sold everything at the insistence of my now ex-wife and her parents to pay for our wedding. I picked it back up after she left and I got a good job about 20 years ago. Over that 20 year period, I know many of my items won't realize what I paid. Serious moola, and some scarce and specialized items, but my expectations of this being monetarily wise are low. I did it because I enjoy the hobby. I HOPE I am wrong and that the scarcity and 'specializedness' of my material will payoff when it is time to sell. No regrets. None at all. But it would sure be nice to make some money, nonetheless.
Seeing buyer's commissions going up again, though, just makes it that much harder to realize a good outcome, monetarily, for the collector. I am in it for the joy, as most of you are, but since I spent $$$ for what I have and have maximum bids on material I am interested in, clearly $$$ is a factor in all of this, too.
Does it not make more sense to need higher commissions when the stamp market is down in order to maintain revenue?
What is the critical point beyond which commission rates cannot practically go?
Has anybody EVER seen commission rates decrease?
The only party that loses when rates increase is the consignor.
Shipping & handling is never factored in but for many firms it is an obvious additional padded revenue source.
Given Mottermutt's statement:
Quote: Looking at the standard USA #1, SCV is now $350, but it was $550 in 2010, $600 in 2000, $725 in 1990, and $825 in 1980 (according to Siegel's catalog archive). All those figures are in then-current dollars, and inflation has been generally positive over the same period.
It would appear that when things are averaged out for Scott US #1 with a range of 10% commission rates in the higher SCV days and 20% now the net for the House is mostly static.
Would an auction with consignor only fees actually attract more buyers and yield greater realizations that may offset the "loss" of buyer commission dollars at the same time as building some "buzz" and solid customer base.
Do other consignors negotiate their rates with the House? I do with some success.
Has anyone had a non-tax State resident purchase their lots in order to avoid taxes?
How do you know that an auction firm is actually remitting your collected taxes?
Quote: Does it not make more sense to need higher commissions when the stamp market is down in order to maintain revenue?
I always thought of this in two ways - long-term and short-term. Short-term fluctuations seem to be absorbed (or raked in, with gusto, offsetting the short-term ebbs). In the long-term, the companies need to do whatever it takes to stay in business, within what the market will bear. If a company is going under, and the owner figures the only way out is to increase commission rates to 50%, no one will consign there, and they go under anyway ---- the market won't bear what the owner is trying to do. The open market will 'resolve' the issue by causing the weak to perish.
Quote: What is the critical point beyond which commission rates cannot practically go?
Good question. Over the years, as a buyer, I have always thought that critical point is slightly above the current level, until someone makes the change and everyone follows. I guess the real answer is that there really isn't a critical point. At least not if the rise is done gradually, so everyone can get used to the new normal for a while.
Quote: Has anybody EVER seen commission rates decrease?
No! Nor do I expect to unless there is some HUGE upheaval in the economy, in general. At which point, paying for stamps is the least of our problems.
Quote: The only party that loses when rates increase is the consignor.
I agree, with the possible exception of the hobby in general. Although I collect for the fun of it, I DO expect to be a consignor someday when it is time to call it quits, so I can simplify things for my heirs. So, even though I agree, it will still affect me.
Quote: Shipping & handling is never factored in but for many firms it is an obvious additional padded revenue source.
Some companies are truly reasonable and some are not so much. I have bought $1000 stamps from Siegels and they have been shipped to me via Express (their doing, not my request - I figure it is safer if it is tracked and in the USPS for a shorter amount of time) and their charge has been $25. That is a small add-on for a $1000 sale. If I were to buy a cheapie - say $100 - then the P&H fee would be much higher %-wise. I HAVE not bid on some cheapies with the expectation that if it were the only purchase, the postage fee would suddenly make it not such a good deal.
Quote: It would appear that when things are averaged out for Scott US #1 with a range of 10% commission rates in the higher SCV days and 20% now the net for the House is mostly static.
I noticed that, too. AND that doesn't take into account the inflation over the years. 10% of $825 in 1980 is $82 commission, 20% of $350 today is $70 --- it is REALLY hard to make a profit off a consignor of a run-of-the-mill USA #1 today compared to 40 years ago! I can only imagine what the real value difference is in those figures!
Quote: Would an auction with consignor only fees actually attract more buyers and yield greater realizations that may offset the "loss" of buyer commission dollars at the same time as building some "buzz" and solid customer base.
I suspect it has been tried and flopped. I suspect the 'best' way to sell and split fees so the house remains fiscally viable is the way things are currently being done. I DO remember a time when some houses fiddled with the split and made a bid deal about it in their ads. And yet, here we are, all doing the same thing today.
Quote: Do other consignors negotiate their rates with the House? I do with some success.
My experience from the other side of the table is that this doesn't happen very often. There are certainly those famous collections where various commissions are cut down in order to land the sale. Having said all that, with a POV from the other side of the table, it is never completely off the table. In a sense, it can be like neqotiating for a car. I consigned a few $1000 pile a few years ago, asked for a break, and was turned down flat. Depends on the size of the consignment and the relationship with the company/consignor.
Quote: Has anyone had a non-tax State resident purchase their lots in order to avoid taxes?
Anybody live in Oregon??? No, I never have.
Quote: How do you know that an auction firm is actually remitting your collected taxes?
I am glad to see that I am not the only cynic here on SCF. But what are ya gonna do? Refuse to pay that part of the bill and state that you are doing so because you don't believe the auction house is really filing in your state? But, I wonder sometimes! Is David Coogle's new pool coming at the expense of the potholes on I-5 through Seattle?????? Of course not. Who would ever do such a thing?
Quote: Kelleher raised their fee from 18% to 20% and I didn't see any notice about that. I'm sure it was in the rules somewhere. Surprise in the invoice.
You might have been asleep at the switch on that one. Last year, about when they started running the Lang's material, they gave a 2% discount on their house commission to folks who paid early. The net came to 18%. So a year ago the stated house commission was 20% and you paid that full rate if they didn't get what you owed within two weeks.
They kept that up for almost the whole period of the Lang's liquidation. It was a good stimulus to buyers, and kept things moving for Bill's son who was the consignor of the whole shebang. Bill's son is an academy trained commissioned naval officer, and very bright, but he did not share his father's passion for stamps. So Kelleher became the agency of choice to liquidate by whatever means. But liquidating that inventory even had David Coogle rolling his eyes, as he admitted in one of our phone calls.
I once asked Bill how much he had into his inventory and he estimated it at somewhere "around $20 million." Exaggeration? I mentioned that to Jim Lee and he scoffed at it, but Coogle was actually astounded by the volume. Some things they tried selling took a few cycles, but most of those sales were first runs for much of the material in them. In addition to the auction sales Kelleher maintained a shadow management of the Langs online business on eBay and Hipstamp, which saw progressive discounting until just before the Collections sale. Then it all disappeared at once. After almost a full year of spreading things out the consignor was ready to pull the plug. For their part, back in February '22 Kelleher ended the "early pay discount." Enough already! So the recent collections auction got a big dump of the last of the Langs material. And someone had the pocketbook to be ready for it.
Far and away the majority of the Essay-Proof material, and other predominantly Langs lots, went to a single bidder, I-496. Chuck Cwiakala, an auction agent regularly at Kelleher sales, estimated that this buyer poured well into 6 figures (the first not a a low number) for hammer prices alone. All the lots I was after hammered out of reach by a factor of 3 in most cases. I wished they had run one more sale in which the lots were broken down, but it was not to be. Let's just say that the Langs material did not whimper to an end, but went out with a bang.
But don't be surprised if Kelleher floats more Lang's material from their own inventory. They know what they are doing.
Quote: Has anybody EVER seen commission rates decrease?
Real estate commissions have dropped from 6% for decades down to 5% and below in some cases. That is internet driven and partly balanced by the rise in average prices. Of course the average commission far outstrips a stamp commission and the same holds true for higher end purchases. Then in California, a law was passed to force more folks to sell property to keep the grease in the real estate commissions at the lower percentage. They only get paid for the sales, not one cent for the time spent which does not result in a sale.
So the internet affects the market in stamps, affects the cost of brick and mortar companies, all but made print catalogs unaffordable (and generally killed the mass printing market), deepened the available stock for buyers and created more competition for auction firms. Have expenses risen over the years for auction firms? One reason to answer "yes" is the effect that can be shown by the number of no longer in business or bankruptcies of auction firms. Even established firms which were profitable don't often find a buyer when the current owners wish to sell (retire). As lower end wages are pushed up by need or politics, costs of doing business go up especially in a labor intensive industry as philately. The costs have also done away with the auction firms which specialized or carried a large portion of in the $50-300 single item lots, Weiss, Spellman, Nutmeg, Newman, and the like. Internet selling platforms caused that.
Now the sales tax (or any similar form of added government fee) makes the playing field unlevel especially after the SCOTUS ruling which allowed local sales tax no matter where in the world the actual sale took place as long as delivery made within the US taxing region. That had been easy to work around in the past, much less so now. However, it is no surprise to see eBay sellers moving to mail order via retail approval or in house websites which do not charge sales tax for orders mailed out of state.
That all said, if one reviews the posts in here in SCF, most are complaining about the "high" price stuff sells for compared to the "low" price folks want to pay. Where are the threads discussing how to maximize the sale prices of material one has which one wants to sell. Far a few between if found at all as those are in direct conflict with the were can I get stuff the cheapest.
Value of an item at time of sale is $XX.xx less sales or other government taxes, seller overhead, costs to sellers (money processing fees), transportation (shipping or pickup costs) which leaves far less to the owner releasing the item for sale. Hard to change that no matter the selling venue unless the owner is the seller AKA a vest pocket dealer.
Will it get better, or will it get worse? There is no sure answer other than it WILL change.
Quote: I think you fellows don't understand that 75% of this hobby is based on entertainment and buying material to enjoy and relax with , very little thought about what your going to get on the exit .
There's a good bit of treasure hunting mixed in there too. Hobbies that fund themselves are a bit easier on the pockets.