The privacy of stamp collectors has always been a concern. Especially in the area of rarities and expensive stamps anonymity is often desired by collectors who would rather not advertise their possession of a stamp or philatelic cover that might attract the attention of those with bad intentions. Also, in the world of popular culture, while there are many who delight in having the spotlight on them, stamp collectors and philatelists are known for staying out of the light of fame's glare.
Interestingly, sometimes a purchaser of a stamp rarity will start out by remaining anonymous, only to later have a change of heart and go public with the information. It may be an individual who wants to keep a low profile for personal reasons or a cartel of dealers who have their own reasons for avoiding headlines until the next time for selling is right.
The Privacy of the Stamp Collector
Those who have been to a stamp show have seen collectors hunched over stock books examining the items within, like a poker player holding his hand close to the chest (vests no longer being in style) and having no desire to broadcast his purchases to surrounding philatelists.
Pre-Internet stamp collecting activity, one of the most important concerns of the collector who was privacy minded was how to strike a balance between letting dealers and fellow collectors become aware of their needs, and not giving away too much information about themselves and their collections that might be taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.
The Internet and the Collector's Privacy
This is why transitioning to online stamp activity is difficult for some stamp collectors. Forums for stamp chat abound, but how much information does the collector want to share through Internet channels? It is easy for the unscrupulous to pick up a small piece of personal information and add to it until he has a nearly complete profile of his mark. This is why, though the practice is condemned in some circles, a username is important to the collector who shares information about his collecting habits and collection on the Internet.
Auction Agents Offer Privacy and Expertise
But the exchange of information is at the basis of the stamp collecting community. There are those who even now bemoan the fact that paywalls are going up at various sites, limiting the free exchange of stamp collecting information and making it difficult for the newer collector to learn about the hobby without the need to shell out the money that he would rather use to add to his collection. But this need for privacy has always been in place in the hobby and sometimes trumps the expense of engaging buying agents who represent collectors who don't want to reveal themselves at stamp auctions and higher level sales.
Auction agents, aside from simply buying a high value stamp for you can also help you avoid the pitfall of buying a lesser quality stamp. Their trained eye may pick up a slight imperfection that you would miss. Or, if you can't attend the auction in person and are relying on a catalog illustration, their in-person examination of the stamp can save you the inconvenience of returning the stamp - if, in fact the auction house will allow a return - at a later date.
Privacy should by all means be a concern when the collector buys stamps online. It goes without saying that dealing with a reputable dealer is of primary importance, but now, unlike earlier days, the collector must make sure that the sales site is secure from hackers and computer viruses. A skilled hacker can get into an online stamp dealer's secure area and get the collector's buying history, as well personal information including billing and payment methods.
A wise collector knows the benefit of keeping personal -- if not philatelic -- information to himself. To be circumspect in sharing the former, while freely giving and taking the other brings one of the most important aspects of the hobby to the collector. And that is peace of mind.