Now that you know what I want and what I have to offer you, we get to an important topic. I have had a couple or few incomplete understandings with trading partners, and I have listened carefully to the advice of other traders. This page is intended to be combined wisdom. If I take the tone of an Omniscient Oracle now and then, please forgive me. If you have additional insights on these ideas, I would dearly love to hear from you!
I have tried trading packets. It does not work for me, for a couple reasons. First, in a packet of 100 or so stamps selected by someone else, it is unlikely that I will find more than one or two stamps that I want. Even if I do find three or four stamps, it is still not reasonable to pay the postage on all the dupes. For much the same reasons, an “approval” system works poorly. Even if I should perhaps find ten stamps out of a hundred, both my trading partner and I have paid postage to ship way too much material. Therefore, I make lists. It is good that there are many ways to manage trades, eh?
As I mount and sort my collection, I prepare want lists and offer lists. Yes, it is some work, but I have software tools and databases, and I am a programmer, so I have automated much of the process. These lists are good enough that you can use them to trade with me – you need not prepare such lists for yourself. Please feel free to use my work. It’s why I do it.
Of course, if you want to prepare lists, or if you already have, that’s delightful too. I have had requests for a copy of my software tools, but sadly, I cannot let it out. It is quirky, and suited to me personally and my collection, and just would not serve adequately for anyone else. I particularly do not want to be in the business of software support – it would take too much time away from my collecting! I would much prefer to do the listkeeping and bookkeeping rather than software support.
To trade with lists, there must be an agreeable valuation system, and accounting records of the trades. Once again, I have software tools in place for this, and it is not that difficult for me. For valuation, I use Scott’s 2009 catalog, and since I don’t collect anything after 1980, I have no plans to update my catalogs until 2015. If you want to use a catalog more recent than mine, and take responsibility for valuing everything, I have no objection at all. But you don’t have to. I am willing. When trading, I email an updated copy of the accounting with each exchange of stamps.
As to “real” or “intrinsic” or “actual” value, surely everyone knows by now that the values published by Scott are not in alignment with the real world. They are proportionately satisfactory for stamps valued under about $100, and items valued that high are better suited to auctions than collector trading. The advice of the APS Sales Division is that material priced from 30% to 40% of the catalog price sells well enough, so I have decided to use one-third of Scott’s value as standard for trading and selling. I have no fixed buy price or ratio, but you now have a clear idea of what I might (or might not) pay. I would rather trade, of course.
Another fairness issue involves identification of stamps. When I send stamps, they are always identified, and I expect to receive identified stamps. A tiny slip of paper, a separate list or “map” of the way they are packed, or any other method that does the job is perfectly ok. It used to be common to write the catalog number of a stamp on the back lightly with a soft pencil. Some of the stamps in my tradestock are so marked, but I do not add such marks myself, and I would prefer that you wouldn’t either.
More fairness: everyone should pay their own postage. The cost of postage and of packing material should never enter into the trade valuation. This is true for both trade and buy/sell exchanges.
Still more fairness: returns are acceptable, period. For any reason or no reason, with or without any explanation, anything sent either way can be returned within a reasonable time. No exceptions. This idea makes the process close to “on approval,” and should be treated that way. Please do not hesitate to return things to me, just as I plan to return things with no hesitation.
Packing is another topic, I suppose. I personally rather like those black plastic approval cards with the clear flap. They are very lightweight (saving postage), and they protect the stamps very well. They fit in a standard envelope with out banging around in there. They are nourishing, well balanced, full of vitamins and minerals, and… um, maybe not that last bit, but they are effective. Other packing methods that protect the stamps and preserve the identification are completely satisfactory. Send them packed between sheets of lead if you are willing to pay the postage.
The condition of the stamps is worth a whole page of comment, but I will boil it down here. I do not want any stamps with tears, holes, serious thins, or other severe flaws. If I do not have a particular stamp, I will accept stamps with minor flaws, but I expect a steep discount. Please tell me exactly what you expect to receive.
My trading lists do not differentiate between unused, used, and CTO stamps. Very often I have both used and unused. Tell me what you prefer or require, and I will send only stamps that meet your criteria, as best I can determine, and if you are not satisfied, return it with the next trade.
More than once I have been talked into exceptions to the terms above, whether large or small, and it is reasonable to expect that some silver-tongued (tonged?) collector will do it again. I will be so happy to hear from another potential trader that I will listen. But really, the above system works.
We are now ready to trade stamps by the thousands, yes?