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Sales, Swaps, Auction & Approvals/Auction Disc. : Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

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TheBlueDude
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To error is human -to really fowl things up takes a computer
02 Feb 2014
10:12:44am
I just have a few question's concerning the sales difference on the cover listings.
Overall covers in a auction format seam to have a much higher rate of sale's than in the approvals format. Those of you that bid/purchase the cover's in your opinion what is difference between to two types of listings.
1. Is is the quality of the cover's in the Approvals.
2. Is it the subject matter in the Approvals.
3. Is it the price of the covers in the Approvals.
4. In the approval section there is no availability to the reverse or back of the cover.
5. Is the shipping terms and cost.
6. Other.
I am only asking so that those who list can better understand how and what you are looking for.
I also hope this is OK to ask as I am not promoting my self but asking for the entire community.
Thank you in advance,
Ross
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Rhinelander
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02 Feb 2014
12:53:17pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

I checked the covers category of the Stamporama Approvals category. It certainly appears to have low sales overall. Cover collecting is in many respects more specialized than collecting stamps. That is, there are actually a lot of serious collectors for U.S. covers, albeit probably fewer than collectors of U.S. stamps. However, this groups breaks down in dozens, if not hundreds, of different sub-disciplines emphasizing rates, destinations, franking, postmarks, military-related etc. etc. etc. If you are getting into foreign covers, the permutations become even more endless except that the initial number of serious U.S./Canada based collectors is smaller.

The types of covers that have relatively low interest are the majority of uncacheted FDCs, the majority of unused postal stationary and postal cards, and the majority of event covers. I am not saying that a more knowledgeable collector cannot pick out one or two more desirable items out of a random common bulk selection of this type of material, but generally once the perhaps 5% of "slightly uncommon" are picked out, the remaining really common stuff is unsellable. This type of material is much better suited to be sold in a bulk box. The time to scan and list individually is not worth it, in my opinion -- however, I am sure the second I post this someone is going to cry for a book of uncacheted FDCs. Areas that I observe sell well (?) on Stamporama are flight related, including flight event and first flights, military related covers, and pre-1900 covers.

Because cover collecting is so specialized, I believe there are two things that can be gleaned. Firstly, books should offer an appreciable selection in any one given area. So far nobody has tried a book of flight or military related covers, or slogan cancels, censored, coils etc. etc. Second, patience is a virtue. It may take some time for the right person to come along.

As for pricing, the most exciting aspect of the Approvals is the ability to fill the bulk of missing inexpensive stamps in your collection. At stamp shows, you will find specialized cover dealers that have a neatly organized stock of covers in any one given specialization, but will ask a minimum of $10 for any item. Or there are boxes of $0.50/$1 each for the bulk of more common covers. There is some overlap and one can find covers that will be offered at $10 priced individually one table over, but the obvious gems will certainly be picked out already.

I'd think in the context of our Stamporama Approvals, books of $0.50/$1.00 covers will have a better chance of selling whereas holding out for the more specialized collector, who will spend more on the exact missing item, will be a less successful strategy. At the lower price range, you will also tap into some of the regular collectors that don't mind picking up an interesting looking cover to add to their stamp collections once in a while.

For me, the key in pricing is how much I have in it. If I got the stuff essentially free, included with other stuff that I was interested in, why now hold out for the person willing to give me $2.00 if I can sell readily at $1.00? This does not make sense to me. In the desire not to give away an item too cheap, some sellers appear to suffer from outright paranoia that someone could pick up a $5.00 cover for $1.00. At the same time, the same person would never ever in their live spend $5.00 on any stamp or cover ever (but others are expected to). I think we all know some of these characters. It is mildly amusing, buying junk and selling treasure.

I believe it is a much better strategy to let someone have a few covers for $1.00 that someone else might pay a little more for, if that deep-pocket person should ever materialize, BUT have the person also pay $1.00 for a few items really only worth $0.50 at the same time. This is how it usually works. Once I make one purchase, I usually add more items to make it worthwhile. So, selling a $2.00 cover for $1.00 (if it was that exact of a science to begin with) can be thought of as a loss leader. I think it is frustrating for buyers to go through a book that starts with $0.50 or $0.75 covers, thinking, Yeah, not too bad, maybe one or the other, then, when it gets a little more exciting, prices jump to $2.50 per item, and I go, Nah, not worth it.

As for postage, I always try to use at least some of the most recent commemorative stamps. We are all stamp collectors and it is a courtesy. So, I am actually paying for postage. However, many sellers use bargain postage, older damaged gum stamps, that can be picked up at 50% of face value, or use plain outright MNG reused postage. This is quite common on ebay. In these instances, I am usually a little annoyed: You are charging me $1.50 for postage for a regular letter that cost you nothing to mail? In these instances, I think if postage is costing you nothing, why don't you offer free shipping? How cheap are you? So, in setting postage rates, sellers should consider how much it actually costs to mail, and if the benefit of making an extra $1.00 is worth the embarrassment.

Well, not sure Ross, if there were any nuggets of wisdom in this, but at least some other perspective.

Arno

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
02 Feb 2014
04:00:30pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

Ross, first, as i often do, I agree completely with Arno. His treatise saves me a lot of time. i'll offer a few additional comments.

First, for PPCs, the inability to show both sides will hurt most sellers. I wouldn't put PPCs in approvals; i'd list them in the acution with both sides showing, unless they are unused, then the approval section is fine. I typically buy PPCs as much for the business side as the pix, unless it fits a topical interest.

Second, there's nothing wrong with the pricing I saw for the US FDCs, although, at a quarter, most are in the upper end of their range; at 50c, we're pushing them UNLESS a buyer is looking for THAT FDC. I didn't look hard, but I didn't find anything that I thought was underpriced. Too much work for the seller, and way too much for any but the most bored buyers.

Because there is no larger previews, as there are with the auction, it is important to keep like items together and not present a mishmash of unrelated stuff, so if they are all of an area i enjoy, i might look longer. But for a mishmash, i am seldom willing to explore the approvals deeply. If i'm not captured by the second page, i'm gone.

I hope this helps. Arno was both more articulate and expansive, but I hope i've added a little to the conversation.

David

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BobbyBarnhart
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They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -Benjamin Franklin
02 Feb 2014
06:21:11pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

I wish someone with the requisite scanning and editing would post some cover books in the approvals. Unlike Arno and David I believe they might have a chance for success for the very reason that, unlike the auction, they can "hang around" for a much longer period of time, waiting for that buyer who is interested in such things, but who does not regularly review the auctions because they are seldom offered there.

You can display front and back - just takes time and effort (and the aforementioned photo editing skills). If there is someone out there who wants to do this, and uses Irfanview as their photo viewer/editor, I would be delighted to tutor you in the process.

However, Arno may be right on the money, and they might not sell at all. But what have you lost if they don't? There are a lot of old coots like me out there who have more time on their hands than they know what to do with - this would be a perfect project for one of you if you have a bunch of covers collecting dust in a corner of your philatelic clutter.

Bobby

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TheBlueDude
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To error is human -to really fowl things up takes a computer
02 Feb 2014
08:45:24pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

Bobby, David and Arno,
I agree with whats been said, but for approval books scanning both sides and stitching the picture reduces the image size by at least 50% defeating a nice scan to start with.
Arno I agree with reused "Postage Scam" that some sellers are using on the bay. When I ship 1 cover or more I always use a 3M cardboard photo mailer which automatically increases postage cost but is a relatively cheap form of insurance. I would rather pay an addition $0.50 in postage and handling cost than receive damaged purchase's from inadequate packaging.
The approval are still relatively new and maybe the trend will change.
Thanks for the input I need to read them several more times. please keep the input coming it can only be a benefit to the membership.
Ross

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
02 Feb 2014
08:57:49pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

One could scan the front of a cover on page 1, then notate that page 2 contains the back scan of the cover. The seller just needs to disable the selling button on page 2, and notate the page appropriately and there shouldn't be any problem (I would think).

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rrraphy
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Retired Ap. Book Mod. Retired Pres Golden Gate Stamp Club, Retired consultant
03 Feb 2014
05:27:48pm
re: Covers: Auction vs. Approvals Buyers and Sellers Input Please.

As a buyer, as I look at the list of Approval Books, I find many titles have little or no information I can use to decide whether to look at a book or not. Especially true when material from one country is divided into a number of books, with no other info.
I would like to see more descriptive titles.
Country X, book 200, 201, 202, 203 204..etc is not serving my needs.
First it is redundant, since the book number is already displayed.
And second, if you are going to split your overall book in smaller booklets, please at least describe what is in it, like Scott # X -> Y, year A -> B, M or used, etc.
As a buyer, it will save me clicking aimlessly at your books (to the point of no longer wanting to continue clicking!), when I am just looking for some specific material. Not too unlike an auction's description, but in a few concise words please describe the range of material in this particular book. This would be really helpful. Winking
rrr...

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