Reminiscences - Part XXIX
by Michael Rogers
I don’t believe that a big red sign over my booth with neon lights blinking away, flashing the words "FREE MONEY" would have drawn bigger crowds poring through my postal history boxes the afternoon before the 1979 New York ASDA stamp show opening. Here I was, setting up my booth, at the first ASDA show of my own, not one where I was working it for an employer. MINE!
Booth holders who had set up the day prior to the show opening were allowed to buy and sell with each other. Since I was the new boy, everyone was eager to look through my inventory. Dealers tend to look at postal history first because its magical: no two people look at it in the same way. If a dealer had the clientele and knowledge that surpassed my own, he would pay my prices and realize multiples of my asking prices. And I had an eclectic postage stamp stock, chock full of specialized material.
Wouldn’t matter to me that I was selling to a colleague. First to the table gets the prize. It seems to me that what I have for offer will eventually find a collector’s album. If I sell to a middleman, that’s fine. Perhaps that guy earns his profit by recognizing facts I didn’t take into account. More the better if he’ll teach me.
But wouldn’t you know it—during the mad rush to buy from me, one dealer disrespectfully said in German "stupid kid," to which I turned around and asked him to apologize. He wouldn’t so the covers he’d selected from my stock went back into inventory. He was flabbergasted that I’d give up the sale.
The dealer next to him stammered and asked if I wanted his covers back as well, to which I said "Nope, you’re a gentleman. There goes a dunce." I’ll never forget that the gentlemen cover dealer I met that day was Edward Proud, dean of the English postal history professionals. He’s co-authored a multi-volume encyclopedia of British Commonwealth postal history.
Fast forward to a local Orlando area show that I attended a few years ago. I did not have a table. I have a pretty intense five day work week though I do enjoy going to local stamp shows when in town. Though I arrived mid morning, it was lightly attended. Scanning the room, I noticed an unfamiliar dealer. As I made my way over, I saw he was engaged with a loud and abrasive fellow, so I paused a few feet away to watch the goings on.
It’s a given that any dealer who sets up at a show wants to sell what he’s got with him, but the loudmouth was so rude, the dealer wasn’t going out of his way to be helpful. Seeing little, the guy strutted off. I wasn’t sure if he was a collector or dealer. He sure needed some people skills.
If you’ve never met me, I can say that the words which describe me best are gentle and soft spoken. Sitting down with my name tag "Mike," I asked if I might see his postal history boxes. Gradually I went through most of his stock. He showed me some tantalizing material so I was able to spend over a thousand dollars. When I was finished, walking away, the brash fellow that had been there earlier wanted to go through my purchases (I declined), and he wondered why he wasn’t shown more. "Respect," I thought.
Some years ago I was traveling through the Florida panhandle, returning from California. We’d become weary of driving on I-10 so not being in much of a hurry, diverted to a parallel state road which had antique shops and such. Then all of a sudden there was a wooden sign saying "Coins—Stamps" nailed to a tree. We swerved to a stop, followed the directions to the guy’s office over his garage.
While my traveling companion Barry poked around the seller’s coins, I looked at his stamps. Pretty much the only thing I wanted to purchase was a legal sized Japanese Offices in Korea envelope, a magnificent piece of postal history if you knew what to look for. If you didn’t, this rather ratty cover sure was ugly.
He didn’t have a price on it so I asked what he wanted for it. Said he didn’t have a clue but would I like to make an offer? I calculated the retail price and backtracked to an offer of $1,200, surely a number that was far in excess of anything he could dream of. Amazingly he refused the offer, saying that he wasn’t going to allow a dealer to make a profit on him.
I said better that it finds its way to a collector who’ll appreciate it rather than laying there. Would he feel better if I’d offered a few dollars? He said an offer of a few dollars and we could have made a deal because a collector would offer that. He just didn’t care selling to a dealer. Tilting my head, I rejoined, "Or a wise guy taking advantage of you." I had to leave that precious cover behind.
I’ll bet it’s still gathering dust in his showcase.
This article is edited differently from the magazine version.
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