Speaking of Hobbies: Lessons in the Occasional Worthlessness of Collectibles

A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit about being gifted six big plastic bins filled with a friend's late mother's "stamp collection." As I often do with 'estate lots," I hoped to find "treasure," but — as almost always is the case — I did not.

The many bins of stamps!

A substantial portion of this "hoard" turned out to be a long series of the US Postal Service's annual "Commemorative Stamps Yearbooks." These are quite lovely and colorful hardbound books, each of which we sold with a packet of all the postage stamps issued during the corresponding year.

Naturally, these were originally sold as "collectible" because you got a book with stories behind all the stamps issued that year, and you got a complete year stamp collection to go with it.

Because of the large number of stamps issued, these books were often quite spendy, retailing for up to $70.00 and more.

What people get: A colorful book with a matching sleeve and a packet of stamps


I've been going through all those boxes and put all the books up for sale on eBay about a month ago. I had no takers during the first four weeks, so then I went back in and "changed the format" to where they are now all "auction style" where the open market gets to set the price.

While in the process of setting up all these auctions, I did my fair bit of research by looking at the "sold" listings... because there's a big difference between the prices at which things are "FOR SALE" and the "Actually SOLD" prices. That's one of the things that makes eBay a worthy venue for selling collectibles... you have access to a huge database of previous sales.

Anyway, one of the baffling things I kept running into was the number of people trying to sell these yearbooks "no stamps included." Now, I could understand a few people paying a premium and buying the yearbooks as a way to get all the stamps they needed for a contiguous US stamp collection covering many years... but based on 50 years in the stamp collecting world, that would only be a very limited number. So... what gives?


Now I know...

It did not take long before that mystery solved itself.

I started getting messages from lots of potential buyers wanting to know how much shipping would be "for the stamps only." Finally, it all became clear when one of these inquires came from a very active SELLER whose message included the words "You can do whatever you want with the books, I just want the stamps."

"So what?" you might ask.

Well, in checking that person's seller profile, I noticed that he was in what the stamp industry calls the "discount postage" business. Meaning, that he was looking to just buy as many unused stamps as possible at a substantial discount from the face value, so he could turn around and SELL them — STILL at a discount from face value — to people who mail large enough volumes that buying legitimate official USPS postage at 85 cents on the dollar would represent a substantial savings in their annual mailing costs.


So Much for "Collectible!"

It might come as a surprise to many, but most veteran stamp collectors are pretty aware that the market for "modern" stamps took a quick trip down the drain in the 1980's when "big business" and "investors" came in and turned a "hobby" into a "money making INDUSTRY."

Even though it has been 30 years now, clearly there's still an oversupply of "investor" stamps out there... and all these years later, these fancy U.S. Postal Service products essentially are only "worth" about 70% of the face value of the stamps, with the books and whole presentation being worth no more than something that'll end up gracing the shelves of your local thrift store, or possibly in the landfill.

Seems like a shame, but that's evidently still the state of things, and a great illustration of how industrial scale opportunism can totally destroy a hobby!


But Not All is Lost!

Meanwhile an old hoard of Canadian stamps that have been sitting in my closet for a number of years is turning out to potentially "make up for the difference."

You see, those were issued long before the latter-day shenanigans were started, and have retained their value rather well... but they are also from the late 1800's and first couple of decades of the 1900's.

They may not be as "pretty" or as "shiny" as newer stamps, but their value is significantly higher for collectors.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

How about YOU? Do you have any "collecting" hobbies? Is "value" important, in that hobby? Is there an active "trading market" among collectors? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!


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Created at 20220318 14:27 PST



I am a fan of miniature war games, but between the expense of the hobby and some disgust at Games Workshop legal nonsense against the fanbase and hobby community, I am looking to the secondary market for models.


I collect things because I like them or use them, things like my every day dishes, my cooking pans, and, of course, books!

Construction - loading cabinets2 crop Nov. 2020.jpg

These are the ones in use. I have replacements stored in the attic.

Office - big bookcase crop Oct. 2021.jpg

Just one of 8 bookcases and not including all the books in the attic.


my dad wants to sell his collection of specialist stamps but he paid 30k over the years but we'd be lucky to get 10% of that nowadays.