US Stamps

Show checklist: a surefire plan for success

Apr 28, 2021, 3 AM

Preparing and properly organizing a checklist before attending a stamp show makes it easier for the collector to find what he needs at the dealers’ booths. Linn’s Stamp News photo by Jay Bigalke.

A stamp show is coming up.

You’ve created a substantial stamp want list, and you’re anxious to make your show visit a success. But if you don’t have a plan before you head to the show, you’ll waste a lot of time and you might not find what you need.

So here’s a road map to follow — a checklist of what to do and what not do to make your visit efficient and successful.

First, do your homework: Make sure your want list is in order.

If it involves just one country, such as the United States, simply list what you want by Scott catalog number, starting with the lowest number. Note on the list whether you want mint or used stamps.

If your list includes a group of countries or areas, or worldwide stamps, list the countries alphabetically, and start the want list for each country with the lowest Scott number. Identify any numbers that are souvenir sheets, blocks or strips that won’t fit into the smaller Style 102 stock cards most dealers use.

If you are a topical collector with multiple topics, do all of the aforementioned, and if you have a computerized list, go one step further: See if you can meld them together alphabetically by country.

By making one orderly run of the dealer’s stock from A to Z, you can cut your time at the booth about in half and save the dealer a lot of running.

If there are a few items you’re desperate to get, arrive at the show before the doors open on the first day. Larger shows should have a printed program, usually free, with all kinds of information, including a list of dealers, a map of the bourse and maybe an article or two.

Read through the program, and if you find one dealer you especially want to see, make a beeline for his booth when the doors open.

Otherwise, before you hit any dealer table, take a stroll around the room. Look at the signs: Sale, New Issues, Country Collections, New Stock of Topicals, 50 Percent Off, Discount Postage, and so on.

There might just be a sign that says the dealer has what you want.

Is there a new dealer at the show? That’s fresh stock you’ve never seen before, so it certainly would be worth a look.

If you have a favorite dealer, be sure to stop and say hello. He knows what you collect and he might just have something stashed away for you.

So now you’re ready to sit down and buy. Try to get close to the middle of the table, if possible. That’s less running for the dealer and, more importantly, quicker service for you. When you order, be specific. Don’t just say “Germany” when you mean “Germany Third Reich, including semipostals.” Try to use specific descriptions of what you’re looking for, such as “19th century used, including back of the book,” “Italy occupation,” “Western Europe mint,” “butterflies,” “Naval covers,” “Baltic States,” “U.S. Official stamps mint and used,” “Portuguese colonies, starting with Angola,” and so on.

And don’t forget to specifically mention any Scott numbers that are oversize items.

Let the dealer know the condition you want, whether it’s very fine never-hinged (VF, NH), a space filler, or something in between.

Please remember the common courtesies. Keep the material you’re looking at in Scott order, and when you refile the material you’ve examined, take note of whether the stamps or covers are filed behind or in front of the numerical or titled divider.

As you start looking through the material, determine the dealer’s pricing policy. Is the figure shown the catalog value (which probably will be discounted) or an already discounted real-price figure?

If you’re looking for a discount, ask the dealer what his policy is before you start buying.

If you’re not sure about something you’re contemplating buying, ask the dealer what his return policy is.

If you want to have something you’re buying sent in for expertizing, work out details with the dealer in advance.

It’s important to be aware of your actions at the table. You might do something quite innocently that raises security concerns for the dealer.

A mass of catalogs, bulky want lists, stacks of file folders, bags, briefcases, newspapers and the like should not be piled up on the table. In addition, it might be comfortable to hold stamps and covers in your lap to examine them, but holding the stamps out of sight is not appropriate.

Finally, remember to keep coffee, soft drinks and the like off the table and away from the stamps. A spill could be disastrous and costly.

Now you have a road map to success at a stamp show. Shows are still the best way to really see, touch and examine what you’re thinking of buying before you buy.

Now turn to the Linn’s Events Calendar (in this issue on page 86), find yourself a show coming up, and put this road map to the test. You’ll be happy you did!

Jim Dempsey began collecting at age seven and started an approval service in 1956. In 1980 he went full-time on the show circuit. He and his wife Sue sell only at shows; no wantlists or approvals by mail. Contact A&D Stamps and Coins, 2541 Venado Camino, Walnut Creek, CA 94598; telephone 925-935-8212.