APS StampStore seller, Lewis Sprague, sold nearly 1,000 items valued at $10,000 in 2019! He has been selling with the APS StampStore since 2012, during which time he has sold 3,667 items total. What stands out about Lewis is that he receives very few returns. Of the 3,667 that sold, only 26 were returned; 24 of which were returned for minor or no reason and were relisted for sale. Therefore, we consider Lewis to be an outstanding seller and have asked him to share a few tips with fellow sellers.
Lewis suggests that sellers answer the following questions to avoid having stamps returned:
Q. Did you verify the perforations of the stamp?
There are many varieties of the same stamp with different perforations. Make sure you have a proper gauge and know how to use it.
Q. Did you properly identify the color?
Many older stamps have color varieties and should be properly checked and verified before listing. In the early British period, the color can make a big difference in the stamp’s value. I use a Gibbons color guide. I also have a library of stamps that are identified by color for reference.
Q. Did you verify that the stamp is in “never hinged” condition?
When in doubt, call it hinged. Otherwise, get a good magnifier (I prefer a 30 power scope) and examine the stamp. Using magnification can help determine what extent of hinge residue remains on the stamp — lightly hinged, very lightly hinged, heavily hinged, hinge remnant. It’s important to note that any gum disturbance disqualifies the item as being considered never hinged. And, of course NH is never hinged. Incorrectly identifying hinge condition will obviously result in buyer frustration and returns.
Q. Did you inspect the stamp and list all flaws?
Buyers will want to know up front if there are thins, creases, writing on the back, etc.
Q. Do you know what “fresh” means when describing a stamp?
Be cautious in using undefined non-philatelic terms such as “fresh.” To most, a fresh stamp is just as it would be when purchased from a post office — no irregularities, such as those from humidity, heat or time. Others seem to use the term to describe the centering or color. So it is best to avoid using such words unless you are clear about the meaning — using “post office fresh” may be more clear if you are meaning that the stamp is as it was when purchased.
Q. Can you identify the difference between a “stamp crease” and a “gum crease”?
A gum crease should not affect the value of a stamp, but should be noted.
Q. Did you properly check for watermarks?
If a Scott number is determined by a watermark, you should properly check for it before listing it as such. A questionable watermark has no value. Watermarks can be “visible” or “clear and visible.” A “visible” watermark needs help to identify: consider tools such as a Signoscope with applied pressure or the use of a watermark fluid. “Clear and Visible” means the watermark can be identified visually with your eye.
Q. Did you verify the printing type, such as photogravure, typography, lithography?
There are stamps that are issued that are the same design, but with different printing processes. You may need a microscope to see the difference, but properly identifying the printing type will ensure they are priced correctly.
We would like to thank Lewis for sharing his advice and hope that other sellers will benefit from his insight. Lewis’ experiences reinforce that verifying complete, accurate descriptions improves sales and reduces returns — a win-win for you and the APS. If you have useful tips for sellers or buyers, let us know at email@example.com. Maybe you’ll be featured in a future column.
Editor's Note: This "Buy and Sell" column is current as of the February 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. APS members can read the full February issue here and discover back issues of the AP.