Why Has Trading Stamps Become So Difficult?

As I have often said, I am a serious collector of the stamps of Ireland and I am also collect used stamps of the world …for fun.

A hobby SHOULD be FUN  but sometimes it can become obsessive, there is no fun.

While I get a lot of satisfaction from my Irish collection, I think that the best times I had with stamps was when I was a schoolboy in the 1960s. As schoolchildren we make mistakes with collecting, thematic “cancelled to order” stamps catch our eye but will never be worth anything. And as young adult or novice collectors we make still make mistakes or are exploited by unethical dealers.

Very few young collectors survive to be serious adult collectors. It is not just about any hobby being a passing phase, a rite of passage. More so, there are only so many times that a collector can make mistakes or be exploited.

“Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me twice….shame on ME”.

One of the odd things about collectors is that occasionally names of dealers come up in conversation. And the conversation quickly turns to how trustworthy or untrustworthy the dealer is or was.

Certainly over the last few years, I have enjoyed throwing the name of a dealer into conversation and I have enjoyed the reaction. Every collector and indeed dealer has a story.

Although this is amusing at one level, it is less amusing at another level. For every one of  us who has a story, there are a lot of collectors who gave up simply because they believe that being conned should not be part of the experience.

I am lucky. I arrived at the point where I really only have one dealer and I trust him.

Since I came back to Stamp Collecting in 2012…after a 12 year gap, I have been working on the basis that my “Ireland” collection is serious and my “world” collection is just fun re-capturing the enthusiasm I had as a child.

It seems to me that a good way to increase the number of my world collection is to trade my Irish duplicates…I have literally thousands of stamps which I could send in lots of fifty to collectors in exchange for stamps from their country.

The experience has at best been ok and at worst it has been pretty bad.

Last summer, I placed an advertisement on a trading website. I got over thirty five replies. This should have been a good sign but actually it was pretty depressing. Most of the people who replied to me had list of conditions….catalogue value, large commemoratives, condition, scans…………whatever.

While I acknowledged all the folks who expressed interest, I only sent off stamps to eight people. I got four replies….

This does not imply that the other four had not sent me stamps. International mail can be a problem. Possibly they did not get my stamps.

I don’t really mind that maybe two replies that I got were worthwhile and that two were not a good exchange. It is the nature of trading stamps that you win some and you lose some. It all balances out in the end.

Yet it should be so much easier. Anyone is welcome to my surplus stamps. It is simple re-cycling. If you want them ….you can have them.

But please, please treat the process with respect.

As a consequence, I am suspending trading stamps for a few months. Its just not worth the hassle.



About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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3 Responses to Why Has Trading Stamps Become So Difficult?

  1. Anthony says:

    I am sorry that it hasn’t worked out as you wished it would. I thought your offer was very clear and a very nice way of doing something for enjoyment–not as a way of bypassing dealers and building an immaculate collection.
    I appreciate what you did for me and I hope other people restore your faith in the hobby.

    • John says:

      Oh I will be ok about it in a few weeks. I enjoy the re-cycling of stamps and as I told you absolutely no need to reciprocate.
      I think the Americans have a thing called “paying it forward”.
      About 30 years ago, I was a member of the Irish Philatelic Circle (global collectors of Irish stamps) when I got a letter from a man in England called John. He wrote to me because I lived in his hometown.
      Over a period of about two years he sent me loads of stamps from my wants list and I guess it saved me about five years and some money as I was a young family man.
      He did not want anything in return. He died of course and his wife sent me a letter saying how much he enjoyed sending me stamps that helped me along the way. On reflection the stamps he sent me helped bridge the gap from being a novice collector to an advanced one.
      I just don’t understand the mercenary nature of some people. In any trade, someone marginally loses or marginally wins. Some are obsessed with winning all the time.

      • Anthony says:

        The same thing happens here at yard sales/garage sales. People have seen these shows on TV where these people buy something for three dollars and sell it for 300–and that’s what they want to do. All the time.
        As I am just starting out in the stamp hobby (but have done dozens of other hobbies) I now take a much different approach. I am not in it for the money. I am going to spend mine, but I don’t think I will make any money out of it. Instead, I just want to enjoy myself.
        In the case of stamps, I want to learn about what cultures value by what they put on stamps.

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