It’s Still Difficult to Become a Stamp Dealer

The stamp business used to have what economists call high barriers to entry. It took a lot of knowledge, a lot of capital, and years of advertising and satisfying customers to build a good mailing list and a good stamp business. When the Internet became the preferred method of buying and selling in philately, there was considerable worry that old time stamp dealers would lose their competitive edge and that eBay and Stampwants would, overnight, make any seller a competitor of dealers who had spent decades building their sales networks.
It has worked out somewhat differently. It is true that today anyone can be a seller with immediate access to the worldwide philatelic community. Twenty years ago only a few professionals had access to selling stamps to more than a few thousand customers, but today every seller has access to millions of worldwide collectors. But just as access has increased, so has clutter. Today’s stamp collector who goes to eBay will find over one and a half million items for sale (there are another four million items available for sale on Stampwants). This very clutter of material has made the Internet mediums problematic for collectors. Even with numerous filters, who has time to go through thousands or tens of thousands of items to find something for their collection? What most collectors do is find a few dealers who sell the kind of material they are looking for at prices that seem fair and then concentrate on patronizing those dealers.
In many ways, what has sorted out in the Internet age is that unlimited access and information operates the same as restricted access and information. In the interest of saving time, collectors restrict themselves to dealers who they know can satisfy them. And so companies like ours now use new technology to do business the old fashioned way.
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