Monday, May 25, 2020

Stamps: Economics Judo

As I worked through my Boxes, I stumbled upon my dad's childhood stamp collection from the early 1940s. I was dimly aware that the stamp market had fallen apart (perception of scarcity -> myriad collectors -> flooded market -> no value), but, wow. Afer a couple of solid hours researching his 19th century Imperial Russian stamps, his obscenely inflated Weimar Republic stamps (denominations of 50 million, uh, Weimarbucks?), and other beaucoup-seeming items, I was kind of hoping some would be worth more than five dollars. But nyuh-uh.

I also unearthed first-day-of-issue stamps from my childhood, sent by various friends and relatives of my parents to fund a nest egg for me. But I remain eggless. You see, everyone on Earth figured these things would appreciate into treasure, so everyone on Earth saved them, so they're less rare than toilet paper (for those clicking in from the future, that's a little pandemic humor). It seems strange that everyone missed the obvious economic fallacy, but flocking is a thing. #flockingisathing.

It's all worthless. All these stamps are heartbreakingly worthless:
Sorry, Li'l Leonard....
And all these sets are worthless, too:

All for naught, alas.

The easiest and most productive route of mental re framing (aka flip of perspective) is to turn things inside-out/upside-down. Simply flip it. I once wrote about the eureka that taught me this trick:
When I was shipped off to college, I was given a strange and foreign object: an iron. And since they don't come with instruction manuals, I had no choice but to teach myself to use it. It wasn't long before I discovered the first rule of ironing: you can't iron away a crease. You can reduce it some, but the fabric will always have an inclination to bend there, and there's no changing that, even with the brutest force.

This for some reason fascinated me. I spent time rolling it around my mind. And, eventually, I had an insight, realizing that there is, after all, one - and only one - way to eliminate a crease: flip the garment and then iron to create an opposite crease.

I realized I'd hit upon an essential truth, and have applied it all my life. For example, if you're plagued by nightmares full of scary monsters, the trick is to love the monsters (this was surely the original intent behind giving children teddy bears).
So how did I flip the sad result of Stamp Bummer? Think about it! Take a minute!

I bought some stamps! For pennies! It's a buyers I became a buyer!

Sure, I could have simply enjoyed the ones I'm drowning in, here, but they don't do much for me, aesthetically. But check out what I scored (average price, including shipping: $4):

China PRC 1988 Sc. #2157 110th Anniversary of Stamps

China PRC 1987 MNH 1985 T106 Giant Pandas

China PRC 2377 MNH 1991 T167 Outlaws of the Marsh

China PRC 1997-21 Outlaws of the Marsh (there are apparently lots of marsh outlaws stamps)

China PRC 3005 MNH 2000 Spring Festival

Scott 2869 Legends Of The West

I bought these all in "very fine" condition - below the unnecessarily fussy (and marginally more expensive) highest level, but more than good enough for my purposes.

I haven't figured out how I'll display them yet. I certainly won't keep them in a book. They'll go up on a wall, in a cluster. That's why I bought "souvenir sheets", a larger and more showy format, rather than nerdy little individual stamps.

Obviously, I like the Chinese ones. But, for only $7, I also sprung, what the hell, for the Wild West set at bottom. These are impulse-buy prices, and I can always use these to mail stuff - a $5.80 value! This is why American stamps cost a tad more on eBay. Their intrinsic values elevates them slightly from utter miserable worthlessness.

One can afford to be casually extravagant. Were there ever stamps that you liked to use for mailing? Like in the last 150 years? For example, perhaps these Jimi Hendrix ones?
If so, eBay is your oyster. Hundreds of stamp nerds will glumly sell you sheet after perfectly preserved sheet for a nominal premium (even ones you'd assume to be expensive, like Star Wars themes), and then you can thumb your nose at beleaguered philatelists by using them, like a Phyllis Stein, to just, like mail stuff. Too bad for you, suckers!

I've flipped seller's catastrophe into buyer's zeal!

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