Reminiscences - Part XIII

by Michael Rogers
The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine -October 2011 Issue




The Makings of a Stamp Dealer

To my mind, what makes a stamp dealer is philatelic knowledge, financial acumen, and the ability to get along with others. Every transaction is a reflection of integrity. Serve the hobby.

A dealer can know his material, be glib and a financial whiz, but if he’s corrupt, he won’t survive. For that matter, it takes a life to build a reputation, but one sour transaction can destroy it.

I haunted the stamp shops of my youth, buying, selling, chatting the dealers up. Worked on Saturdays in Manhattan’s Diplomat Stamp Shop. As a voracious reader, I scooped up whatever philatelic literature that was around. Some handbooks would delve into arcane subjects, without photographs, and assume the reader understood highly technical terms. Auction catalogues pointed directions that I wanted to learn more about. I wasn’t an American Philatelic Society member so didn’t realize membership brought the ability to borrow books from the swell APS library.

When I designed my stamp shop on tony Park Ave in 1978, the back wall which so impressed folks held our philatelic library. In time, our library grew to over a thousand volumes. My mantra has been that every book I come across which is not in our library is fit for us. At times, I’ll include volumes on history and sociology.

A devotion to literature has paid off in so many ways. It’s a great advantage evaluating material when buying or selling.

Poking through dealer boxes at a NYC show, I came across some 1922-3 $2 and $5 high values on parcel tags priced for little more than used stamps. The Scott Specialized doesn’t address this rather unusual usage. Auction catalogues do. Specialists devour this material.

When an advanced collection comes to MRI for auction, we usually have the literature to describe it. While there’s much literature in English, technicians on staff read handbooks in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. Scott is a very fine catalogue but it only starts the journey.

Stamp dealers are intellectually curious, unintimidated by research. It’s fun poring over books, trying to figure out rates on postal history, FDC cachets, translate cancellations and place philately in a historical context.

And as knowledgeable as one may be, no one knows it all. Never hesitate asking for help.

Any business must be on steady financial grounds. Maintaining a healthy cash-flow is essential. In these troubled economic times, its difficult borrowing capital for those dry spells, so its mandatory knowing where you are. Coordinate things as if you always need the funds so when you do, the money is there.

One reason why my stamp shop lasted the 29 years that it did was the rapid turn-over of inventory. I closed it in December 2007 because I saw this recession coming and didn’t want to have a street level stamp shop. As an auction/Internet sales company Kelleher & Rogers (MRI) is doing well. I’m on the road for consignments and buying many weeks a year. It’s enough.

Winter Park Stamp Shop would try to sell new purchases for six months, turning whatever didn’t sell over to the auction company for cash flow. For the stamp shop then, as for MRI now, we’d evaluate purchases in terms of how to merchandise and how long would it take to turn-over.

You’ll recognize me as a China specialist. Would you be surprised to know that I positioned my company in Chinese Philately way before China became hot? It took time to understand the marketplace, make contacts, develop the inventory and learn how to merchandise. The initial plunge into China came as the result of a huge purchase in 1982, but I was tempted to flip it. Sure am glad I stayed with it.
These days MRI is developing other areas in which we see promise. No matter how narrow the field, there’s a core of passionate collectors seeking it. Reaching those collectors is how creative merchandising pays off.

Its common sense that for business to proceed there must be harmony. And yet, I observed a dealer who would interject politics and potty-mouth language which has nothing to do with the equation. An opinionated fellow may offend. I try to be sensitive to the person I’m with, remembering that though I’ve done this many times before, there’s a first time for everyone. The best transaction is one where both are at peace six months hence.

Membership in the American Stamp Dealers Association is a must. Put to the side all the benefits. Membership says the dealer subscribes to a rigorous code of ethics. If a complaint is made over a $200 transaction, the member must take care of it to the Board of Directors’ satisfaction, or risk expulsion. This kind of activity gives the collector a real sense of comfort when conducting transactions with an ASDA member.

Stamp dealers serve the hobby by starting new collectors. Support your local club with donations. The ASDA will supply members with beginner albums that are perfect for distributing at grade or junior high schools. And it feels so good to be helpful!


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