How to Build a Collection

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Jude at work at our South Yarra, Vic. Australian office.
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Jude at work at our South Yarra, Vic. Australian office.

Blue Owl Stamps Pty Ltd

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© Jude Koch, Blue Owl Stamps, 2014

Whether you are just starting out as a collector, an intermediate philatelist, a club level displayer, or a full blown international exhibitor, the importance of a well constructed plan and working strategy cannot be overstated in assisting you to reach your goals.

The most successful and satisfied collectors will concentrate their focus on one chosen area at a time and mostly complete it before moving on to another. That is not to say they won't dabble and accumulate in other areas of interest where a good opportunity presents itself along the way, but their primary focus is on the chosen area. Their collection will have a clear theme and a consistency in quality. These are the collections you see that look right and make sense. The 'X' factor these collection radiate is no accident.

Collectors who have too many projects running at once tend to become overwhelmed both financially and mentally and end up putting things aside for later. Their collections, or more the case, accumulations, will tend towards an uncertain direction and inconsistency in quality - most of us have been there!

The Reborn Collector's Working Guide

The Clean Out
A good starting point is to sort through your accumulated material. Make firm decisions about what collections you are likely to complete and what no longer holds your interest. Locate a suitable buyer for the material and convert it to funds for a new project or to properly complete projects that still interest you. We are alway happy to purchase or trade collector excesses. 

Developing your new project
Ask yourself what really excites you, where does your true passion lay. Decide specifically what you wish to achieve within that area that excites you. Set a realistic budget, a time frame and the grading standards you are prepared to accept. These factors work closely together. You can extend and modify each as required to find a balance that will achieve your desired result, or at the very least one you can accept and live with.

Specify and spec your new project
The secret to success lay in putting pen to paper and mapping out a plan. By being bold enough to do this you will avoid the common mistake of starting something you won't be able to finish. It also enables you to set that time frame and budget. Now whilst all of this may sound easy and appear to make perfect sense, be assured you will be challenged when you actually go to do it. Warning: ignore the little voice that says don't worry about any of that we'll sort it out as we go along. Most of us have been there and heard that little voice - be tough, ignore it and get specific.

Gathering the facts
The table below demonstrates the harsh realities you need to confront before commencing a project. Due to their immense popularity I've used the Australian Kangaroo & Map series stamps to demonstrate the benefits of gathering pricing data before taking on a project. Important Note - The same principles of costing out apply equally to whatever series of stamps, revenues, area of postal history or anything else you decide to take on.

The complete set of the highly popular Kangaroo & Map series stamps (1913-1948). It consists of 53 stamps printed on 5 different watermarked papers. A Simplified Set consists of 17 stamps comprising one stamp of each denomination and colour from the various watermarks. It is selected on the basis of the cheapest price for that denomination.

*Various Kangaroo Costing Options in $'s             MUH          MLH      FU  
1. Complete Set with all Watermarks (53)            167,000       48,000     23,000
2. Replacing high values with Specimens (53)      51,000       10,500       7,000

3. Simplified option i.e. the cheapest denominaion from
across the range of watermarks (17)                       38,000       13,000      4,500
4. Simplified option using Specimens (17)              7,300         2,600      1,600

By constructing a costing table like the one above a collector can immediately see if their goal is realistic! *Note pricing is based on quality fault free stamps.

Scenario - A collector decides it would be nice to put together a full set of Mint Unhinged Roos (gulp!). Overly ambitious plans like these are not uncommon as many collectors find it quite manageable until they start hunting for the higher values.

The Kangaroo Costing Options Table shows that at current price levels an investment of approximately $167,000 is required to achieve the complete set in MUH grade. If premium centring was a pre-requisite you could at least double that. At the other end of the scale you'll see that for $1,600 you could compile a Simplified Fine Used set, providing Specimens were used as alternatives for the higher values. In the case of Kangaroo & Map series sets you soon discover the bulk of the cost lay in the higher values and that by using Specimens as alternatives to these, the cost drops dramatically.

Common mistakes

Over emphasis on Centring - Many collectors find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that the technology of yesteryear did not produce images that sat perfectly in the centre of the stamp real estate. Understand what is average centring for the series you are collecting and be guided by that. If you insist on perfect or very well centred stamps, especially pre 1937, expect to pay a hefty premium and be prepared to spend many years to locate them. They simply don't exist in any quantities.

The Mint Unhinged Syndrome - Once again the early issues simply don't exist in any great quantity in the MUH form and hence the hefty premium you pay when you do find them. The vast majority of collectors at that period in time, hinged the stamps and stuck them onto Album pages.

As contemporary collectors we need to accept that, or take up collecting modern decimals! Hinged stamps offer better value as there are simply far more to choose from. You are therefore offered a wider range of choices in far more important areas like - perforation quality, freshness and colouring. Who displays gum side up anyway?

Inconsistency in overall appearance - Mixing mint and used stamps just doesn't look right as does mixing any stamps of vastly different grading. If you've decided upon collecting say average to slightly above average MLH or MH stamps, avoid filling tough gaps with Used examples. If you are collecting Fine Used with a Circular Date Stamp cancellation, don't mix them up with Machine or Parcel cancels. By most grading definitions they can't be FU anyway.

Important - In chasing perfection you can become bored & frustrated and never complete your project. Furthermore and more importantly, it is simply not a realistic representation of these early issues. The best collections are the ones that most accurately represent the stamps of the period and demonstrate their correct usage on Cover. What you save on MUH and premium centred stamps will enable you to compile some nice Postal History, and with plenty of change

By following simple common sense rules like these your collection's appeal will be greatly enhanced. If a time ever comes where you wish to sell your collection, a much higher price will be achieved if it has a consistent look about it.

Showing correct usage - Postal History
No collection nowadays is complete without showing the stamps in action. A truly complete collection would include the different values from the series on Cover, used in the period of their currency, paying for the various rates and routes of the day. There is an abundance of literature on the market to assist you in this area. Postal History research is great fun and is now very much part & parcel of the contemporary philatelic scene.

Enhance your enjoyment & education
Join your local stamp club, you'll make friends and constantly add to your knowledge base no matter what level you are at. It is also worth your while developing relationships with dealers you can trust and who can understand your goals. You can save yourself a lot of time and money and further enhance the enjoyment you will derive from our great & noble hobby.

Summary

* You must develop a plan that defines a Budget, Grading Standards and a Time Frame.

* Successful collectors concentrate mostly in one area of their overall collecting plan at a time.

* Sort through unwanted material and convert it to funds for projects you feel passionate about. 

* Specify & Spec your project. Ignore the little voice that says we'll sort that out as we go!

* Don't chase MUH and premium centring. They rarely exist and are a recipe for  disillusionment.

* Complete your collection properly by showing correct usage on Cover in your displays. You can advance on this simplified approach and show more detail with routes, rates etc (Postal History).

Join a stamp club and enlist dealers that understand your goals. You will save time & money, make new friends, rapidly expand your knowledge base and further enhance your enjoyment from our great & noble hobby.

Contact me if you require any further information or assistance. The full article is on our website. Just google Blue Owl Stamps to find us. Many other useful articles are listed there too!

I wish you all the best with your collecting! Jude
Melbourne 2013 International Stamp Show
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Melbourne 2013 International Stamp Show

Blue Owl Stamps Pty Ltd

Australian Colonies, Kangaroos, KGV Heads, Pre-Decimals, Booklets, G.R.I. Papua, New Guinea, N.W.P.I. NZ in Stamps, Specialty Items.
 



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