Don't keep it a Secret

Don't keep it a Secret
Peter Mosiondz, Jr.

Watching a recent remake of the old television show, I’ve Got a Secret, with Garry Moore as the MC, gave us the idea for this article. The thought of having visited so many uninformed philatelic widows provided additional fodder.

We can see several reasons as to why the non-collecting half is kept in the dark.

1. The husband, not wishing her to know just how much he was really spending on his stamp collection, intentionally played down its value.

2. The husband, perhaps in an effort to impress the better half or other relatives and friends with his philatelic vacumen, intentionally overstated the value.

3. The husband did not know how much had been spent over the years or did not care about the potential resale value. The pleasures of the hobby seemed ample enough for this chap.

We spoke earlier about the importance of obtaining a competent philatelic appraisal (see ASD January 2007). Something that goes hand-in-hand with that appraisal is starting and maintaining as accurate an inventory of your stamps and covers as is practical.

We are not suggesting that one itemize every cheap stamp or cover. Something on the order of; “300 First Day covers in blue box on top shelf on bookcase - - - Cost = $60.00” is sufficient.

I use the same system that has worked well for me for about five decades; 3” x 5” blank index cards. My rule of thumb today, as far as values are concerned, is that I do not inventory separately any stamp with a cost of under $10.00. These cheaper stamps are “jackpotted” together. An example is:

“Used stamps Scott #’s 300 through 899 in blue dealer pages, not separately carded - - - Cost = $300.00.

The card for individual items looks something like this:

656     LP          F-VF, NH


Blue binder #12


3/07     XY Stamp Co.                55.00


I use pencil to make things a bit neater when making updates or modifications.

The top line gives me the Scott Catalogue number, format (e.g. LP for Line Pair) and my grade. The information contained on the bottom line is the date of purchase (month and year are sufficient), the source and the price paid. The center area of the card is used for additional descriptions, if necessary, and the location of the item. In this example I can easily pull out the binder in question if I need it. Also, if multiple copies of this item were in stock, the entry would be made under the location by; Quantity = 3 (telling me at a glance that I have three examples in stock. If that were the case, the entries at the bottom would be added to by another two lines in ascending order. I choose to list the oldest stock at the bottom of the little card and methodically work my way up to the newer inventory. Each specific line item would have its separate cost figure. Or, things could be shortened somewhat:

3/07; 4/07 (x2)

XYZ, Ajax, Quest 52.50

What this bottom line format tells me is that these three pieces were obtained during the period of March through April in 2007; the three sources are listed and the average cost is listed as well (based averaging the costs of $50.00, $52.50 and $55.00).

Being a dealer, I use actual cost figures to make things easier for my accountant. A collector is advised to use replacement cost values. These can be updated once or twice a year. If you are collecting United States stamps, the semi-annual Scott Valuing Supplements make life that much easier, especially since we’re dealing with approximate retail prices.

There are many ways to get an inventory started. Some may want to develop an elaborate Excel™ spreadsheet. And, there are commercially available programs available. Whatever the format, just do it. You’ll enjoy greater piece of mind when the task is completed. And, updating the system is a snap.

Remember to keep any data, whether card or printout, in a safe place away from the stamps. And no doubt most important of all: please be sure not to forget to tell your loved ones where to find your collection, inventory system and appraisal.

And here is here is something to keep in mind: there is nothing more advantageous to heirs of a philatelist than when a stamp dealer is contacted by well-informed
widows.