Howdy y’all. For my 2nd blog post, I thought I’d talk a little about a hobby I have. It’s something I enjoy and it will end up being something I SELL one day. When I get to that age where I’m (much) older and would still like a foot in “the game of making money.”
I’m a stamp collector.
I’m not your average stamp collector as I (now) only collect “Poster Stamps.” (I’ve bought plenty of stamps from the authors of that hyperlink too, off eBay). Another name for poster stamps is “Cinderella Stamps.” Reasons being that they are left out of the limelight (they had no ticket to the ball, as they say) compared to the other USPS stamps out there that people still covet like a bear guarding its cubs. There’s a lot of competition, rivalry. And plenty of snobbery too.
In early 2002, my wife and I went to an “estate sale” here in Houston. Estate sales are when an “estate” or personal belongings of a family (some entity) are liquidated for money. I love to go to estate sales. If you subscribe to the life of frugality like me, you would LOVE going to these sales. Cheap clothes, furniture, kitchen items, etc, etc…. I love finding Ralph Lauren Polo shirts for $2, but I’ll post another blog item on this subject later. (Psssst! Get on Estate Sale Liquidators emailing lists for dates and times)
Ahem, where was I ….
We’d been to many estate sales before, but this one was a high-end sale and the person having it used to be into “Philatelic” materials and very exclusive events. Or (in English) … stamp collecting. The word Philatelic sounds more like you are saying “Flat-L-lick” and thus a person must either be a snob to say it without laughing or you’ve practiced saying it over and over and over to the point of “you’d rather just say Stamp Collecting.” In fact, the family having the estate sale was so into stamp collecting that he had the kind of US stamps worth 4 to 6 figures (yes, hundred’s of thousands). Those were not on sale but there were all these old magazines, old postal history, and stock items about stamps and collecting. I bought a ton of this for CHEAP and sold on eBay for a very tidy profit. I was amazed at how many people are into this hobby. Rabid, frothing at the mouth, enthusiasts who value a single stamp as more important that eating or sleeping. And this got me to thinkin’ .. Hmm.
I started doing the research into this. What I found was a world of profits, and a class of items that would only go up in value like certain artwork and paintings do over time.
- Only a select number were ever made, and
- Every year, there gets to be less and less of them.
The collectors are usually people who are older, but the trade is catching on more and more with a younger set who are looking for alternative ways to find buy-and-hold investments. A place to park some money for the longer haul. Similar to buying baseball cards but considered a more exclusive type of collecting.
Okay. I bought a book on values and types of stamps. I started buying old postal stamps at stamp club auctions and off of eBay. I was a member of the Houston Philatelic Club. I will easily make my money back with what all I have to date. (Don’t ask how many…Ha!) But then, one day …. I saw my first “poster stamp” and fell in love with collecting stamps and postal history.
It was colorful, like a painting or something that made you want to know more about it. Crisp, clear marks and vivid theme. It cost a dollar. It was a Tobler Chocolate stamp. Early-1900’s. They only made so many of them and the one I had was a hard one to find. But, as I learned, these particular stamps are better in collections, not singles. Why? Because they are a theme, based on advertising [chocolate].
Here’s an example of a current eBay auction for such: eBay item# 300456927232 – I hope I got the hyperlink set correctly. That set of 12 stamps is being sold for $100, and in less than good condition (ex: damaged glue on backside). But, the front side and the visual it gives are an example of what a poster stamp is all about.
What is a Poster Stamp?
Poster Stamps are not postage stamps but are commemorative or promotional stamps. A collector will gather a grouping based on my themes. This one (click here for link) is about rowing and spans at least 80 years of time. A very nice collection of rowing/sculling history. As a collection or even individually, these stamps grow in value each year. You can buy poster stamps in the range of anywhere from a few pennies to hundreds of dollars each. Some are worth more individually, and some are very expensive when you have the full set or collection. As a Frugal Cheapskate, I look for the hidden values not found by anyone else.
It’s hard to decipher the mind of a collector. Whether they collect stamps, or even dog figurines, designer shoes (the women) or expensive automobiles, they are able and willing to pay enormous amounts for the objects of their desire. I find poster stamps are cheap and easy to store. I love looking at the various types and varieties in my collection from time to time. I don’t advertise it or tell friends. “Hey, you wanna’ see my stamp collection?” LOL. Unless they were interested in the hobby, they’d probably get the same glazed stare my wife gets when I say, “Hey Sweetie, wanna’ see the new stamp I just bought?” Like coffee, it’s an acquired taste (I guess, as I do not drink coffee, but some do). Worldwide, there are too many types to even try to list, but depending on what you are looking for, they can be as elusive as a ghost. And the Europeans are much bigger enthusiasts than their US counterparts.
Some of the stamps I have are based around the Oil, Gas and Chemical Industries. Some date back to the late 1800’s and up to the present. Most are of the USA variety (preferred) but some of foreign, like Danish, German or Swiss themes. I also collect various types of stamps that were offered at Conventions or Expositions relating to an industry or event.
- A.B.C.B. – American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (I’m a rabid fan and collector of these, very hard to find!!)
- Anything on the Chemical Industries and production.
- Oil & Gas Industries
- Engineering and related
- Old Tobler Chocolate stamps (US and foreign)
- Easter Seals/Christmas Seals are also a type of poster stamp. (I have almost every single size, shape, type and year of any charity stamp ever made. If I’m missing any, they are foreign stamps)
I also found a nice collection from a guy in Denmark who collected nothing but stamps with pictures of women in lingerie or beauty related items. That was the first collection I ever bought, and a very nice one too! When I buy, I buy cheap. I could pay a lot more, but I’m not just looking to make a collection. I’m also for future appreciation in value. There’s a meaning to this madness.
I’ve been doing this for almost a decade. Plenty of the stamps I bought @ $1 to $5 are now worth $20 to $50, due to the sheer fact that “you can’t find them anywhere” and they are in demand. The ABCB stamps I collect have been going for $50 or more. How much more will they be worth in 10 years? Has it been worth my time to do this? I think so.
I don’t think I’ll get rich from this hobby, but you never know about supply and demand. 🙂 It will keep me from sitting around doing nothing when I get to the age of retirement. And it will provide another stream of income that I will be able to make effortlessly from the comfort of my home. I will have something in a specialized nitch market that others will be looking for. Those with the money/resources to pay for it. There’s the key.
This post may not be as comprehensive as I’d like it to be, but it is a taste of what some are collecting for enjoyment and future profits. I’ve seen people who collect (let’s say..) horse figurines. They have 100’s of them, different shapes, sizes, varieties and made of numerous materials, including those cheap resin ones that come from China. They’re everywhere. They can be quite pleasing, satisfying to look at for the collector and add to the decor of where they live and work. It works for them. For me, I wanted something that was “out of the way, easily stored” and would hold or grow in value (appreciation being #1 on my list).
Buying old Poster Stamps off eBay is a fun hobby. I also collect the various types of old Revenue Stamps. Mainly from Florida, Texas and California. On top of this, I also collect very old postcards/postmarks from the 1800’s … USA and worldwide. These are going to get very hard to find as the years roll by. Estate Sales are great for these types of things because most just overlook the “paper” sitting in those file cabinets. If interested, eBay has a huge area set aside for “Stamps.” Topical and Specialty, Cinderella, and Postal History are where I browse often. One of my search strings is using “post cards 18*” (18* = 1800’s). I’m surprised at the material I buy for cheap off of eBay. And some of the best quality I buy comes from over seas (usually England or Germany). The postmarks (or “Franking” as they call them) are very sought after. And when you are really into postal history? “Stampless Envelopes” dating back to the Civil War years and earlier. With those, quality is essential to guaranteeing the item will never lose value … but you will pay for it. No doubt! But if it’s a good investment, and you’ve done your homework on the item, then the only thing you have to deal with is cost. If the one selling the item has no clue about what they are selling (ex: Estate Sales are liquidators), then the chase is always worth the effort.
If anyone has any questions about stamp collecting, Google has plenty of links talking about such. Or, you can always ask me. If I don’t know, I can point you in the right direction.
What do you collect? And why do you collect what you collect? Is there any value to what you are collecting? Or is it something that you are accumulating in mass quantities because it’s (fill in the blank)? If you wanted to start collecting something that would appreciate in value, what would you want?
I forgot to add….
That Estate Sale I went to years ago? I found hidden in a box of items, a letter that was written in 180…? Pre-1810, and written by a Baron Von … (I’d have to pull it out to remember his name). It was sent to someone in Switzerland. Written in quill pen and very dramatic signature. The letter was offered for sale at a Shreve Auction/New York. It did not sell. I have no idea what it is worth, if anything, but I keep if safe from the environment and one day I will research it to see who this guy was (German Royalty?). The cost was just a lot quantity of papers in a box (Cheap).
Yes, I love to browse through all the “paper” that people forget about in those shoeboxes that sit on a shelf for years and years. I love this hobby. 😉