Inverts and Special Sales

The results of the Spink Shreve sale of Inverted Stamps of the World are in and they were spectacular Most stamps sold at record prices and many items sold at multiples of catalog. But while high prices are always better news for professional philatelists than low prices, we should temper our enthusiasm for a few reasons. First, just as everyone got excited about the Reagan tax cuts and the proposed Obama tax increases, they really only affect the very wealthy-a small number of people. Stamps that sell above $10,000 each represent only a minuscule proportion of average stamp sales. Currently there are 215,000 items listed to sell within the next ten days on EBay. I did a sort by price and none are currently listed with either a reserve or high bid of even over $1000 let alone $10,000. So, while there are probably hundreds of sales each year of items over $10,000, there are millions of stamp transactions. What happens at the top end of our market really has little to do with the main market in general. Second, Robert Cunliffe (the Inverts owner) did himself a great service in assembling this collection. Most auctions have only a couple really rare stamps in them and sometimes these rarities get lost in the noise of the other stamps being sold. Cunliffe cut through the noise and spent decades of serious searching to assemble the rarest of the rare so that lazier wealthy collectors could have the chance to buy all these rarities in one place. Wealthy collectors typically pay a big premium for this convenience. And third, many of these stamps are very undervalued in the catalogs anyway. Many were not on the market in decades and their catalog values reflect years ago sales. Prices at this auction were high but often the comparison was to very old comparables. That being said, the sale was a wonderful collection beautifully cataloged by Charles and Co. And despite all of the above, the prices astonished most of us.

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