8 Things to look for when

8 Things to Look For When
Selecting an Online Stamp Dealer

In the past, it was a pretty simple procedure to find a trustworthy stamp dealer who could supply a collector with one's exact needs. It was usually just a matter of answering an ad in a stamp publication—for after all, those magazines and newspapers “screen” their advertisers. At the same time, many a good dealer could be found at the various stamp shows.

In today's Internet world—with literally thousands of dealers offering websites which are listed on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo—how does one make an educated decision in choosing a dealer? Which dealer(s) will be fair, honest and prompt in their relations with you, the customer? Here are 9 handy tips to help you find them:

#1 • Obvious References
By “obvious” we mean: is the dealer a member of the various major philatelic collector and dealer organizations (i.e., American Stamp Dealers Association, Philatelic Traders Society, American Philatelic Society, etc.)? Like the ASDA, such organizations have stringent codes of ethics that dealers must observe. Not all stamp dealers belong to such organizations, but when they do, it generally is a very good sign about their integrity.

#2 • Listing On Yahoo or Google (Important)
These search engines don't just automatically list a website. Individual members of their staffs actually check a site owner's references and validate a site after they've checked to see if everything looks right to them. If a stamp dealer's site is listed at Yahoo or Google, it means it has passed their review. More than 86% of all searches on the "Net" are done on Yahoo and Google.

#3 • Does Dealer Advertise Elsewhere?
The most serious of the stamp dealers with websites are those who also use traditional methods of advertising such as the various stamp magazines and newspapers. Those publications always check the integrity and reliability of their advertisers.

#4 • Are Transactions Secure?
A vital factor. Credit card purchases on the dealer's site should be managed with a secure (encrypted) system that is safe and reliable. This should be clearly stated on the site.

#5 • Privacy Statement
Look for a “Privacy Statement” that gives the site owner's clear policy on what he does with personal information (i.e., credit cards) customers provide to him. All sites should have this on view.

#6 • Is A Guarantee Offered?
It has been a tradition (extending back to the 19th century) in the stamp business that a guarantee is offered to the buyer on all purchases. We think that one of the best ways an online dealer can help form a positive bond with the customer is to offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is, for any reason, not satisfied.

#7 • Quality and the Use of Images
The Web is a visual medium—the perfect place to display excellent color images of philatelic material, whether it be stamps or covers. Well-conceived websites will offer lots of images of the material for sale. The dealer who does this is obviously proud to show off his outstanding stock.
But there's something more important than just seeing many colorful images. You can examine them and determine the kind of quality being offered—from checking the centering and perforations on stamps, to seeing how clear a postmark is on a 19th century cover. Thus, the quality of the images is as important as the quantity.

#8 • Quality of the Website's Appearance
Just like the positive impression you get when you meet a well-dressed person, a well-designed and attractive website (which is easy to navigate) sends a clear message that the owner truly cares about his clientele.