Years ago a daily Doonesbury comic had a theme that had stamp collectors nodding their heads in recognition. One of the characters - Zonker, if I recall correctly - had come into some money and was living pretty high on the hog. Getting bored, as I've heard the idle rich tend to do, he sought out a new interest to take up his time and attention. His butler suggested stamp collecting. Zonker thought that was a great idea, and in the next panel he was on the phone ordering "Monaco complete," in stamp parlance meaning every stamp ever issued by the Principality of Monaco. In the last panel he turned to his butler and said something like "Hey, I really like this stamp collecting thing."
It makes one think about how the Internet has changed stamp collecting. We don't use the phone, but we can go online and get nearly any stamp - excepting rarities and other high ticket items - we want with the click of a mouse.
The Impact of the Internet on Stamp Buying
The really high priced auction items are mostly not on eBay. But they are on individual auction sites online. One of the great benefits of bidding online, especially for stamp collectors who are indoor types who don't like to create any public fuss, is that you don't even have to leave your stamp cave to participate in these auction.
Imagine how quickly stamps are disappearing from stocks opposed to how long it might have taken a shop owner to sell that stamp. As collections swell and dealer stocks diminish, there will only be one outcome, provided demand stays at least at current levels: prices will go up.
Today, those who stay away from online buying are doing themselves no favors. Those that don't believe that an online presence is a legitimate thing these days should look at who's online: respected auction houses like Stanley Gibbons, Michael Rogers, H.R. Harmer and many others where the collector is assured of fair dealing.
Certainly there are many basic stamp sellers online who don't have a good grasp of the pricing of stamps. One only need see a few eBay auctions where damaged stamps are offered at high opening bids, when based on condition the stamps are worth a fraction of that - if anything - to know that caveat emptor should guide the collector on the Internet.
Benefits to the Stamp Sellers Online
But by 2012 the great auction houses had migrated to the internet, often using it as they once had the telephone to connect bidders to the floor action. And why not -- one of the great downsides of auctions is distance prohibiting collectors from attending auctions, reducing competition, and in many cases guaranteeing that some items sold for bargain prices.
Collectors with the wherewithal are now able to add important items to their stamp collections and investment portfolios quickly and easily. Although there are some who claim that there is no excitement involved in the mechanical way of taking part in a stamp auction, it is clear to anyone who has taken part in an online auction that those last moments before the close can be a hot and heavy time.
Those who want to assure that they win have been known to purchase sniping programs, which will get a bid in on the bidder's behalf at the last nanosecond of the auction. While there are those who claim this isn't fair, the programs are allowed by many auction sites. And why shouldn't they be, when they mean yet a higher bid for the item and a greater return for the auction house.
After all, one of the great excitements of stamp collecting is scoring that great stamp that is also desired by other collectors. If you've ever seen collectors rush through the doors when a large stamp show opens, in order to get to the dealer's tables for those early bargains, you've seen the passion of stamp collecting that is multiplied by 1,000 by the Internet.