You want to invest in stamps. You can learn the basic ins and outs yourself or you can go the easier route - finding a reliable stamp dealer who will work with you and as part of value added guide you through the choppy waters of basic stamp investing.
The Importance of Stamp Condition
Note that I am not dealing with high powered investing here, where rarities are bought and many thousands of dollars are necessary to take part. Rather, consider the stamps you buy for your collection as investments and you will avoid one of the major problems of stamp collections: those put together without a consideration for stamp condition, what should be a guiding factor for all stamp collectors.
With any luck you'll already have a dealer you trust and who you have a good working relationship with. If you haven't already, tell him that you are now interesting in better quality stamps and you are willing to pay a premium for them. Although this might mean buying fewer stamps, in the long run the payoff will be very pleasing for you.
Establish Trust with a Stamp Dealer
The most important thing is that you lay your cards on the table. Make sure you speak the same language. Be sure that your grading standards are the same. When you tell him that all the stamps you will purchase will be no less than Very Fine/Never Hinged, make sure his idea of Very Fine matches yours. If he puts lesser items in front of you it wastes time for both of you. Likewise, if he offers you a selection of Extra Fine/Superb stamps to choose from, which may very well be out of your price range, that too will create a problem.
After the question of quality is settled, you must then come to an agreement on price. Remember you are looking for premium material and you should expect to pay premium prices. Certainly you should not expect less than his basic retail, but hopefully not too much more than that. I always believed that any quality stamp I bought would be able to be sold at least at the price I bought it within five years. Some collector/investors believe that if the stamp hasn't appreciated to the point that the dealer will buy it back at the same price, it is not a good investment. But that situation is a rare one and if you do strike up a buy back deal with your dealer, it can easily be as much as ten years before the buyback occurs.
Benefit from Face to Face Stamp Buying
Another consideration for the stamp buyer is that his dealer has good contacts, sources of supply, a solid credit rating, membership in stamp dealer and philatelic organizations and good standing in the philatelic community. If the dealer is able to purchase material at an attractive price, he will be able to pass on his savings to you. But remember, that it is a regular buyer who benefits - unknown walk-ins (or log-ins) will be paying the dealer's full price. It is only fair, and from your point of view, one of the ways the dealer charges his favored buyers, including you, less.
The value of a good, long-term relationship with a stamp dealer cannot be overestimated. If you are a ready and regular buyer, he will save his best material for you. After stamps with the condition you require, at the price you are happy to pay, the most important part of any stamp transaction is a stamp dealer who is equal parts broker, financial advisor, teacher, mentor, and ideally, a friend. As stamp buying and selling becomes a little more impersonal with passing time and the Internet becomes a big, faceless stamp dealer that seems to offer everything to the stamp collector, it is good to remember that there is one thing that can be lost to technology - the personal touch.