Almost feel like I'm wasting my time.

Set up my store in February. Have a bit over 300 items posted. A lot of British Commonwealth. I've sold a dozen or so, but less than a third of my offerings have merited even one look. Most of my offerings are around 20% of CV. How are other folks doing....primarily those with less than a year in?


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  • John,
    Can you post a link to your store? Or what is your store name? Tried to search just for "John O'Nell" in the store search, but got nothing.
    If I can take a look at your items, might be able to help you here.
  • It takes time and inventory to gain traction. 300 listings are a tiny fraction of the 10s of thousands of stamps collectors are looking for.
    Others have said it on this forum, and I can attest to the wisdom of this advice: you need at least 1,000 listings before you will start to get a regular trickle of orders.
  • I'm believe this is his site based upon the description. I just searched "John"

  • John,

    Scott and Ted are as solid as they and especially my cat Bentley...not so much. .If you could share your store link with us as Scott said and allow us to take a gander at it, there may (or may not) be some things we can help you with. Having said that, you have a brand new store with three months on it on a platform with over 1200 stores alone in it. Maybe 200+ or so of those are solid dealers large and small with years if not decades of experience under their belts. A lot of competition on HipStamp alone not mention the other online platforms. I don't say that to discourage you. I say that to encourage. Everyone starts at the beginning. Everyone goes through a learning curve. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone comes up with great ideas that work for them. Point is, we are willing to help.
  • John,
    Assuming the link John Eckardt provided is your store, then I have the following feedback for you:

    1. Some of your items are misidentified. This will cause some buyers to look at your store, notice that there are mis-IDs, and then you lose their confidence, so they may move on to other stores. (I've sent you specific comments on a couple of items there).
    2. You have great resolution in your images, but they are "sloppy" in their presentation. The stamp isn't at the center, is tilted within the image, and has too large a border around it. The highlight here is the stamp, and when you just see the thumbnail in the listing, without realizing the actual resolution, people just move on. Crop the image to within not more than 10 pixels of the perfs, and show them vertically.
    3. Some of your images aren't very well focused. This is another issue, as people can't see the features they are looking for in the stamp to properly ID it if it's too out of focus. Some details are really fine, but at the resolution you are taking your images at, they would be visible, but the blurry image just negates all that useful image size.
    4. You have only a front image. Post a back image to go along with your listings. (The one exception to this is, if you're putting together collections, you may mention "mixed condition". Then there's too much, but buyers are able to decide if this mix of items is equal to the risk of it's value.
    5. Your descriptions are too brief. In one you just mention "Less than 10% of CV"... well that particular stamp is not a great example either, and it has a 2+mm tear at the center. When people can see this, but you don't mention it in your description, that again, results in people losing confidence in your store a s whole. It's fine to sell damaged material, but it really needs to be described. A damaged stamp typically isn't going to be worth 10% of CV. Realistically, that stamp would be lucky to fetch $1. I would recommend, search for similar items and see what others are selling for, and compare the quality of the copy you have to what others are listing for. I found a pretty great 148 that has an asking price of $6. Compared to your offering, this one would sell way before a damaged stamp would. CV is something to be understood... it expects (in most cases) that the stamp has VF centering (pretty good centering actually), and no faults. The moment a stamp is creased, torn, has perf damage, faded color, all these will drastically drop the value. So I would suggest, you may have some unrealistic expectations of the value of your listings. You can check that, as I mentioned, by searching for other items on Hipstamp to see what others are listing for, at the same quality.
    6. There is no need to mention "no hinge" on a used stamp (and again, if you did back images, this would also be obvious). Hinges on used stamps are usually warnings of an attempt to hide damage (thins, tears, alterations). We actually soak all material off of used stamps before we list them. For Unused stamps, with original gum, then mentioning previously hinged, light hinge mark, heavy hinge, etc. is useful in the description and the title, but including a back image again will be worth 1000 words.

    I would suggest if you put a bit more focus into these details, you will yield better results.

    The "1000" magic number that others have mentioned, I don't really agree with. We've been here a year now, and we've never had 1,000 items listed at one time. We run between 400 - 800 a month, (we're very light at the moment due to time constraints in other areas), but we're still selling between $4k and $10k a month. That said, you need the material to do that with as well. Some of the stuff you are selling is somewhat average to common. Bigger sales come from more scarce material. And, know what's "hot" in the market at any given moment as well. We focus almost exclusively on US, but we still have a big mix of material as well too. You won't get anywhere listing 100 of the exact same $4 (or less) item. The laws of "Supply and Demand" will ensure that doesn't happen.

    I'm not trying to be harsh, and I'm also being very "picky" about small details, but it is my experience of selling online for 28 years, that these things are the things that make the difference.

    An old friend of mine told me long ago "Anyone can sell something cheap, it takes still to sell value". And that's what you have to focus on here... what is the value of what you are offering, and present it that way.
    Hope this helps.
  • I went to your store and you have a lot of nice stuff and there is nothing to complain about the prices. I am considering buying several, but I won't say which ones. Right now I am working on competing my six volume Schaubeck French collection,. You do not have a single French stamp. I know I need some of the stamps you are offering, even though those countries are not my primary goal at the moment.
  • Wow....thanks to all! Great advice, and I'll do my best to take and act on it all. Very comforting to see the willingness to help...even though we are "competing". Couple questions....1) What are you all using to take your pictures? I'm using my cell phone. It's certainly convenient, but it does a lot of auto focusing which sometimes I have to retake. 2) Inventory. So far, I've been using my old collection, as well as my dads. I was also quite lucky to pick up a couple albums, each with very nice British Commonwealth stamps at the only collectors stamp store within 100 miles. However my recent buys on Ebay, Etsy, and Craigslist have been busts. Are you folks using these as sources of inventory?
  • Scanners at 600dpi and up yield much better results than cell phones and allow for easier manipulation of the images (such as straightening and cropping).
    eBay is OK for getting hold of stock, as are any major auctions, which can be found on SAN. Keep in mind that the hobby is in a "hot cycle" right now, so bargains are far and few behind, but they can be found, but the days of "bottom feeding" are, at least for now, far behind.
  • edited May 8 1 LikesVote Down
    I scan all images at 600 DPI. This provides consistency with a quality image. I agree with most of what Scott said, except don't be afraid to list multiple copies of the same stamp number. Many buyers collect cancelations and I often sell multiple copies to the same customer. Sometimes even 100's of the same issue. My descriptions simply state Scott cat number, condition, any damages, and SCV (but many don't). While some indicate they accept offers, as you do, personally I price the stamp at my minimum and don't offer that option. On higher valued stamps, I will get individual inquires offering a reduced price which I sometimes accept if the stamp has been listed for a long time.
  • John,

    I agree with Scott's comments and will add a few. Emphasizing quality images (via a good scanner), quality descriptions (including all aspects of the item that might be relevant), and of course quality material are all important things to consider.

    Other things you can do to improve your store and its performance would include putting together a good set of store policies. Right now, you have no stated store policies at all. This does not instill confidence in a buyer's eye.
    Issues come up with transactions even for the most seasoned dealers and when they do, it is important to have policies in place to deal with them. Examples include return policies, certification policies, shipping policies, definitions of terms and shorthand you use that might not be common to philatelics. Things like that. Surf a bunch of stores here and steal ideas for your own store and modify them to fit your own comfort level.

    Here is a link to the Internet Philatelic Dealers Association webpage that is a good compilation of Internet Listing and Selling Guidelines. By no means comprehensive but a really good place to start for you.

    Really all this boils down to creating a level of standards for your store that will instill confidence on the part of the customer in you and your offerings.


  • John Eckhardt does make a good point about cancellations, but I would group those together. While there are lots of ways that collectors approach cancels, you might consider grouping based on:

    1. Color Cancels
    2. Fancy Cancels
    3. Pre-cancels
    4. "Calendar" cancels (some people want a cancel with the date of every day within a year, perhaps with the same year, but sometimes year is less pertinent than the actual date
    5. Cancels by location
    6. Unusual cancellations (not the normal "Town with date stamp"

    Just some ideas. I didn't really focus on this because if you're a new dealer it's probably something you consider later as you sell, unless you've acquired a specific collection that focused on cancels.

    You will find that in some cases, the cancel is far more valuable than the stamp. (Check out Waterbury Connecticut, and the various colors especially Green, Yellow, Ultramarine and Magenta (there are other colors too, but these as a rule of thumb will add mad value to the stamp). Red, Blue can increase value, and Black is typically expected as the "cancel", unless it also server some other purpose, like Town Cancels and Carrier Cancels, some Supplementary Mail and ship or train routes.

    But don't expect that listing 10 of the same common stamp with ordinary cancels, that these will get scooped up... they won't.
  • Great thoughts all! Thanks again. mentioned some listings as misidentified. Without going back, do you remember anything....even country might help, or was it colors etc?
  • edited May 8 1 LikesVote Down
    John just take a look at your store. Any problems on your first page?

    I would also suggest using Scott numbers as most of your buyers will be US. A "No Returns" policy will turn many potential buyers off.
  • "A "No Returns" policy will turn many potential buyers off."

    Especially since most buyers know that is not binding. PayPal will refund their money if they claim "Not as described," anyway.
  • John...did you notice anything else on first page?

    Thanks folks!
  • Your stamps listed as Canada SG 551, SG 552 and SG 555 are from Great Britain.
  • John,

    Use Scott catalogue numbers and also get a good scanner and learn how to use it.
    Photos generally do not show any professionalism.
    As others have said give a good description and have a good set of policies.
  • This was extensively discussed in this thread:

    Over the years, we've used scanners, cameras, back and fourth, but after getting the IPEVO 4k camera, the speed, accuracy and lighting control we have over it it is about 8x - 10x faster with a better yield an more flexibility in ability to take multiple items in 1 shot, and then just crop. Can't stress enough how more than 25 years of getting good quality images, this is hands down the best at a very reasonable cost, and the speed is incredible.
  • edited May 9 0 LikesVote Down
    Hi, John I notice that you have listed some of your item twice, Brazil 66 used and Antigua 20 used. I've done that in the past and it's one headache you want to avoid. :-)
  • Guess I'd better get to work.....much to do. Thanks all.
  • I've use Stanley Gibbons #s on Brit Commonwealth stamps, figuring those collecting them would perhaps be more familiar. I use Scott for non BC stamps. Also, SG actually has more #'s for certain stamp varieties than Scott, so even posting both CVs may not always work. Those were my thoughts.
  • I think your strategy is reasonable there John. My philosophy has always been to use local pricing (ie. Scott for US, Gibbons for GB, Michels for German, etc.) Of course there are countries like Singapore or Uruguay that either don't have a well known local pricing, or they follow one of those mentioned, or they just try to follow the market. For me, in the absence of local, then I default to Scott, mostly because I have the entire library over several years.
    When you start to wade in to the pricey material ($300+), then I might look more at what the market is doing, by looking at things like Kelleher Auctions, Siegel Auctions, or other specialty houses for the countries you deal in. For US there is also SMQ which is maintained by the PSE, and for some issues has a much more accurate value for high value issues, and covers the going rate of "Jumbo" which Scott does not cover.
    If you're trying to reach what the market will bear, its sometimes out of alignment with Scott. You have to know what they have "right" and what clearly hasn't been updated in price in decades (Private Die). What every you do, ALWAYS make sure the condition (Centering, flaws) of yours matches the one you compare to. Oh my, so many times do I see terribly centered stamps (Columbians, Pictorials, you name it...) and people are asking "Full CV" for them, then you also see they are damage (creased, torn, repaired, regummed), and they don't understand why one at Siegel sold for $950 and why they can't get $150 for theirs... (and insist on leaving the price at $950). I can't stress the monumental increase in value for excellent (XF) an better (XF-SUP, SUP, GEM) add to the value of a stamp, no matter the issue.
    So keep that in mind. If you want to claim something much above XF though, you better be ready to have a cert to back that claim up.
  • If I might interject. This is primarily a US audience, and I think you would be better served by using Scott primarily, then SG. I know there are deviations between the two, but you're a big guy. You can figure it out. There are several dealers that use both numbers, study how they handle things.

    I suggest this because most of us ( your customers) are lucky to have a full set of Scott, much less a library of fact, I'm eyeball-deep in stamps and my set of Scott includes 3 volumes from 2000 and one each from 2010, 2013, and 2015.

    Well, I'm done. Thanks for your attention.
  • Hey do you know I'm a big guy?

    LOL.... point well taken.
  • I primarily use Scott even though most of my material is worldwide. For older and/or classic GB and Commonwealth, German and German States and Colonies, and France and colonies, and other "oddball" items, I will try to add the SG, Michel, or Y&T catalog numbers respectively. No reason you can't use both for certain stamps. One thing that should be in your store policy is to state which catalog you do use and from what year.
  • Many collectors who are deeply invested in British Commonwealth, especially from the so-called 'Classic Era,' use SG catalogue numbers (in addition to Scott) since, as you mentioned, SG lists many more varieties than does Scott.
    IMO, the safest way to play it is to list both (clearly stated in your title) and to avoid listing grading and catalogue prices. Let the buyers figure out if a stamp you're selling is F, or VF, or whatever, since grading is somewhat subjective (eye of the beholder), but price them according to the grade you see them as. This way there can never be any complaints such as "you said this stamp was VF, but its not." The same goes with listing catalogue prices. Astute collectors will already know this, and collectors are all working off of different year's editions with different prices. One benefit of this is that it saves you listing time right at the get go.
    If you're planning on selling internationally, using both catalogue numbers will help non-US collectors find your listings more easily as well, especially those located across The Pond.
  • "grading is somewhat subjective (eye of the beholder)"

    Actually, this isn't subjective if you study how grading is done. I would highly encourage anyone collecting or selling read PSE's guide to grading. Free and available as a PDF from here:
    And despite the guide saying "Guide to Grading US Stamps", 99% of this applies to any stamp.
  • Scott thanks for sharing that PSE guide. it is a extremely good.
    John, if you have SG you no doubt have read their Condition Guide and seen their images of mint and used stamp condition.

    Also Amos / Scott does a similar display for mint stamps with the following text

    Something all collectors and sellers should be aware of and follow.grading-text-from-Scott
  • John,

    I am impressed with the upgrades to your store. Back scans will help quite a bit and I see you have introduced some store policies which will also help. Keep it up and keep going. There are always things I look at for my store to make improvements and would think that, based on what you have done so far, you will be doing the same. So far so good amigo!!!! :smile:

    Greg (and of course, the lazy cat Bentley)
  • "Actually, this isn't subjective if you study how grading is done."
    That may be true, but the amount of mis-graded stamps for sale vastly outnumber the mis-identified ones, and that includes the big auction houses as well as around here. Perhaps my point was lost, but to reiterate, I price items according to the grade I decide they are, but avoid putting the actual grade in the listings. This way, any buyer's remorse can't be pinned upon the seller. Like the old saying goes, stamps are all fine when the dealer makes you an offer, but they're all suddenly VF when the dealer goes to resell therm.
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