Where Can I Buy Stamps for My Collection?
Since we’re stamp dealers, it may seem odd (or self-serving) to pose this question, because one obvious answer is, “You can buy stamps at Akarius.com!” We are, of course, one avenue of purchase, but we also think it’s important for stamp collectors to know their options. With that in mind, and acknowledging that the advice to follow is based on our informed but ultimately personal opinion, here are some thoughts, with comments on the benefits and pitfalls accompanying each method:
- Auction sales (non-online). We get auction catalogues in the mail all the time. Some are finely printed on high-quality stock, some are more of a newspaper format, and pretty much all are large. In theory, this would be a great way of purchasing stamps, since the price (again, “in theory”) is being set by you and competing bidders. In practice, many (most?) collectors do not buy at auction. Why? First, because almost everything sold at auction is in the hundreds-to-thousands-of-dollars range. Second, because most auctioneers set a fairly steep minimum bid for an item, making the chances of finding a bargain low or nonexistent. Third, because some auctioneers charge a buyer’s premium, over and above the winning bidder’s bid. Our advice: if you do buy at auction, be sure to closely read and examine the terms of the auction closely before placing a bid, and don’t spend more than you’d planned by getting caught up in a bidding war with someone else.
- Auction sales (online). This used to be a great way to buy stamps, and bargains abounded. Those days, alas, seem gone forever. The good news is that you can occasionally find a good buy on a stamp here and there if you’re willing to invest a good bit of time and effort - be honest with yourself about how valuable your time is. The bad news is that a) many stamps one purchases this way end up being in less-than-desirable condition (and, sadly, less than the described condition); b) many stamps purchased from online auctions are shipped in a haphazard manner that can cause damage to the stamps being sent, and; c) one may have little recourse if an item is found to be unacceptable. We used to buy a good bit of stamps at online auctions but, having been disappointed one too many times, rarely do so now.
- Private treaty. Sale by private treaty is largely the domain of the wealthy specialist collector. Most stamp collectors never get involved with private treaty.
- Dealers stock. In the old days, this meant taking a drive over to your local stamp shop. Today, buying stamps from a stamp dealer usually means visiting a stamp dealer’s website (like ours), browsing a stamp dealer’s selection, and making purchases. It may seem odd to state that your primary consideration should not be price, but it's actually very good advice; your primary consideration should be to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable dealer. Does the dealer have a fair return policy? Are shipping charges reasonable? Are you dealing with a full-time stamp dealer, or only a part-time dealer? Is the dealership an actual business entity, such as an LLC or a corporation? And, very importantly, is the dealer a dealer-member (not just a member) of the American Philatelic Society? Getting answers to these questions may seem to be a fair amount of work, but when you find a good dealer you will probably do business with him or her for years, even decades, so it’s work worth doing. (Akarius' return and shipping policies are posted clearly on our website. We are an LLC organized in the State of Arizona, a full-time dealership, and a dealer-member of the American Philatelic Society.)
- Other collectors. It’s always fun to associate with collectors with interests similar to one’s own, and buying and selling can certainly be done with such collectors. Know who you are dealing with, since there will probably be little recourse should things turn out poorly. One good way of finding other collectors is to join a local or specialized stamp club.
There are, of course, other methods of acquiring stamps. It’s a good idea to let everyone know that you are a stamp collector.
We trust that the advice we’ve offered will prove helpful and that, whether you buy from us or from someone else, you will benefit from being an informed collector. Happy hunting!