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The Glen Stephens (monthly)
Stamp News Column" Page.

       August 2003



Cover Stories …


By Glen Stephens.


eBay Stamp Selling

“A fool and his money are soon parted ….

 This was an expression my father used to say, and every now and again I am reminded of it in this hobby.


We all know about eBay and selling and buying stamps there.  Well MOST of us know, as there is still a small percentage of collectors who are not computer savvy yet.


In brief for that small number, eBay is an on-line marketplace that sells virtually everything from real estate, used cars to cameras to stamps.  Millions of items each minute of each day.


My personal view has always been, and still is, that dealers selling stamps via eBay - taken as an OVERALL experience is a complete and utter waste of time and energy and money.


Many will have opinions that differ and please email the Editor or myself if you do with your experiences.


Yes, I can see that some collectors and small part time dealers find it useful, as they have no client base of their own to draw on.  I am talking as a busy dealer in my comments.


           Put a time clock on yourself


Any well-established dealer that is HONEST about it and accurately logs how much time they actually spend typing and lotting and scanning the eBay material, dealing with the mountains of email paperwork, and frequent hassles chasing folks for small sums will likely agree with me.


I know one well-known dealer who decided to list 100 lots just to try it out.  He selected good material and reserved them all at REALLY low prices.


End result?  Three lots sold.  The time taken to lot, accurately describe all lots in quite some detail, and scan and list the 100 lots, and answer the dozen or so stupid questions he was asked took him about 8 hours.


One peanut in the USA emailed and asked if he could list out (with Scott numbers!) all the stamps that were contained in the 1988 Australia Post year album that he had reserved at $US45.


               Listing fees equated to sales made


The eBay listing fees came to nearly as much as he netted for his 3 sales.   He values his time at $A60 an hour, so he “lost” about $500 versus doing normal stamp work, via his shop or mail.


Yes, I have heard stories from some sellers who tell me: “I got $ZZ for an item I normally would only ask $XX for.”  Perfectly true I am sure.


However like every person who plays slot machines or bets on racehorses, you only hear about the $500 win “just the other day” – not the $1000 quietly LOST in the same period. 


eBay now has just so many sellers that it is tough to make good PROFITABLE sales - consistently.  Listing fees were initially much lower (and often free) - and sellers far fewer.  All that has changed.


I know one dealer decided a different approach was warranted and listed a bunch of material all with no reserve – i.e. bidding started at one cent.


He selected items that he thought everyone KNEW what a “fair” usual retail price would be.  He listed a CTO used 1932 5/- Harbour Bridge.  Then a decent looking 1840 Penny Black.  And a heavily cancelled but sound 1913 10/- Kangaroo.


Other folks had told him “the market will pay what they are worth, and eBay bidders like no reserve lots – just wait and see.”


So he waited.  The Penny black got a typical retail price, and on that he was happy.  The 5/- Bridge sold for $US60 – then $A110.  Anyone reading this article would have readily overpaid on that price.


                  10/- Kangaroo sold for $US23


The 10/- Roo sold for $US23.  He paid $A250 for it, and had it marked at $A450 in his shop.  I will gladly pay anyone - anywhere with a sound SG 14 about TEN times what he got on eBay!


There goes the theory about “no reserve” lots getting sensible prices.


So be mindful of all this when trying to sell if you are otherwise getting normal retail prices via a stamp shop or mail order business.


eBay is of course not a one-way street where everything gets low prices.  Far from it.


I have seen truly insane prices obtained where two or more determined bidders duke it out.


My column here 2 months back illustrated a common looking 3½d 1955 Australian commemorative on FDC that bought $A943 as 2 keen bidders were after it.  I would have priced it at $1, as would most dealers.


And yes you CAN get “bargains” on eBay at times.  But “caveat emptor”.  You have no idea whatever whom you are dealing with in many cases.  A new seller with 5 or 10 feedback points is hardly in the same league as buying off Greg Manning.


A dealer like myself that is a Life Member of the ASDA in New York, and the PTS London etc needs to stand absolutely behind the material that is sold.


If I advertise and sell a used 1913 5/- First Watermark Roo for $200 it cannot be the much more common 1915/18 3rd watermark or you get your money back.  I am held accountable for my descriptions, as are all reputable dealers.


                    Weird prices on eBay


I get “Linn’s Stamp News” by airmail, and am their Australasian correspondent, and see in there some quite nutty prices obtained on eBay.


The current July 7 edition of Linn’s has one such example.


An eBay seller from Florida listed a lot - 2931364399 for a June sale with the subject heading: “UNITED STATES AIRMAIL C3a?”


Now as virtually everyone reading this would know, Scott C3a is the legendary USA 24¢ “Inverted Jenny” airmail stamp of 1918 of which one sheet was found.  Scott catalogue is $US170,000 each - hinged!


The recently surfaced “Locket Copy”


Certainly the most fascinating example to come to light is the Inverted Jenny “Locket Copy” which was given by eccentric millionaire Colonel Green (buyer of the entire sheet from the finder Robey) to his new wife, Mabel in a gold locket behind glass. 


It had never been offered to the public until Robert A. Siegel Inc auctioned it in NYC May 2002 by order of the Bank of New York.  Both lower corners were damaged when the jeweller roughly squeezed this poorly centered stamp into the locket.


The error stamp is gum side back to back with a regular 24¢.  It was never removed from locket so the auctioneer "assumed" the inverted centre stamp was MUH!


This auction firm achieved the rather remarkable price of $US192,500 for another “Inverted Jenny” in their sale 804.


This recent eBay lot mentioned in Linn’s however did not start at $170,000 but started at 1¢.

                                   “NO GURANTEES”


The seller used exactly this description – and the rude cyberspace “shouting” use of capitals and spelling are his - not mine:




There were 32 bidders.  Auction opened at 1¢ minimum bid.  The first bid was 10¢.   Despite the clear warning there were ‘no gurantees’ (sic) whatever in the part description above, the final 2 bids were at $US100 each, and I presume the winning bid was the one made earliest at that price level.



                           Auction Lot Image of Inverted Jenny

Two collectors each bid $US100
on this turkey!


Now $US100 for a genuine “Inverted Jenny” is the buy of the century.


However, offering $US100 for this Turkey gets my “dumbest bidder of this decade” award – and the 2 top bidders share that prize equally!


Just look at the illustration that was attached to the auction lot.  The genuine “Inverted Jenny” has close margins, is line perforated and many have straight edges.


This clumsy dog of a fake is simply a colour photo very roughly cut from an auction catalogue or magazine, and glued (sideways!) over a 1¢ Canadian stamp.


Linn’s did not identify the stamp used, but my research - confirmed via the sharp eyes of the Canadian owner of  seems certain that it is the vertical 1973 1¢ Canada definitive stamp depicting Sir John A. Macdonald.  


You can see from the eBay scan parts of the orange design are still poking out under the "invert" that on the original were top and bottom that on this fake are at left and right. 


The very distinctive yellowed phosphor “tagging” strips on left and right of the 1¢ can be clearly seen under the “Inverted Jenny”.  Now you would think every collector over the age of 5 years would have picked this silly fabrication, but not so it seems. 



This 1c stamp turned into $US100

The seller said in Linn’s (a month after the Auction) he would have refunded the money if asked.  Whether he would have/did who knows?


In this case the seller really bears little blame as had the item sold for 1¢ or even 10¢ he would have been out of pocket after listing fees were deducted.  The lot heading “UNITED STATES AIRMAIL C3a?” was highly deceptive.  The BIDDERS are the ones who amazed me.


My experience is that eBay are interested in commission and they only get that from goods sold, and in a case like this would likely not insist on any refund given the clear description.


As my dad used to say: “A fool and his money are soon parted”. 










                   Check those mail snippings


It has always been the dream of any dealer or collector to actually find a unique item and be able to report the discovery and prove the provenance.


This would be nice in your mail snippings!

In August 2002, Melbourne dealer David Kirby was sorting through a few higher value West Indian fine used stamps snipped off his incoming mail looking for a specific used stamp required for a client.


In the glassine bag he came across the Barbuda overprint stamp illustrated nearby -  and noticed what he mistakenly thought was a double overprint.


Initially David did not get very interested, until he checked the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue, which showed an entry as: 1988 $3 Royal Ruby Wedding SG 1032a overprint triple. This is unpriced in Mint or Used.  A footnote says: "The only known example of No 1032a is used, uncancelled, on cover from the Philatelic Bureau".


Kirby is a specialist dealer in cricket and Rugby Union stamps and ordered many of the Barbuda cricket issues direct from the Bureau.


Like many of us, when the packet arrived he snipped the stamps off and added them into the kiloware box that all dealers doubtless have.  Normally this is sold off for a pittance and is never seen again.


The unique stamp illustrated nearby shows a clear Codrington Postmark (where the Bureau is located) with part date of October 1995.  Kirby was able to trace this back to a consignment invoiced to him by the Barbuda Philatelic Bureau on 30 October 1995, so it would have been posted either 30th or 31st October 1995.


Kirby submitted the stamp to Stanley Gibbons Catalogue division.  David Aggersberg, long time (and recently retired) SG Catalogue editor is an authority on modern issues, and confirmed this as the 2nd known example of this triple overprint error and wrote Kirby earlier in 2003 stating they will amend the SG footnote in future editions to include the discovery.


While Barbuda material is not the most collected Commonwealth country by any means this stamp’s Queen Elizabeth theme is one very widely sought.


The underlying stamp commemorates the 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, which in this year especially is very popular, being the 50th Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty's Coronation.


              Only used copy known



I asked David what he was going to do with the stamp. He just laughed and he said: “if I get a half-decent offer, it will have a new home!”  His email address is (how appropriate for a Cricket stockist) so contact him if you have any interest.  It is the only known used copy, and as such is a lovely find off commercial mail!


I have sighted both the original Barbuda Bureau invoice, and the letter from David Aggersberg, Catalogue Editor of Stanley Gibbons.


David Kirby trades as Strand Stamp Centre, and tells me 2003 is an Anniversary year of sorts for him too, being his Silver Anniversary of being an ASDA/APTA dealer member!


2003 will be his busiest year ever with the World Rugby Cup being played in Sydney in October/November. 


He today me today: “Dealers and collectors worldwide are ordering ‘everything produced’ in local covers and special cancels etc – and most of the countries competing are also issuing philatelic materials.”


Next to the Olympics and Soccer World Cup, this is the most televised sporting event on earth with 3 billion viewers anticipated worldwide.  Australia defeated France in Cardiff 1999, score 35-12.


Kirby has been kept briefed by Australia Post as to their stamp issues for the Rugby event, and tells me the designs and concept are “superb”.





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