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Canadian Stamp Auctions

How Much Should I Bid?

This is the fifth in a series of articles to be presented

for the collector who would like to learn more about

the tools for building a more complete collection.

For the collector of Canadian stamps sitting in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Geneva or Tokyo, it is a daunting task to figure out how much to bid on a valuable stamp at a Canadian stamp auction. There are so many variables and so little guidance.

Glancing through an auction catalogue three or four times helps the collector select the group of stamps in which he is interested. He may need a stamp to fill a particular void in his collection or he may want it simply because of its beauty. He may choose it because he wants to bid low in the hope of getting a bargain. He may be buying it as a long-term investment. Stamps are very small and are easily transported.

But then comes that difficult question again. How much should I bid? The auctioneer, eager to help move things along, will provide the catalogue price and a description of the quality of the stamp. Let's assume for the sake of simplicity that the stamp in question is described by the auction house in their catalogue as being VFNH. A quick look at prices realized at most auctions shows that few stamps sell for their catalogue value. To demonstrate this we'll take an example from some recent auctions using Scott No. 57, the beautiful 10¢ Jubilee which catalogues at $210 in VF NH condition:

Realised $140

Realised $220

Realised $400

Realised $425

What is it that determined the price? The answer is that it's everything: the auctioneer, the overall quality of the auction material, the momentum that developed, the number of mail bids, the number of bidders on the floor, the amount of advertising, the time of year and….oh yes….how many other bidders wanted that particular stamp.

It is difficult most of the time to project what the stamp will sell for. Usually, there is a range. But only the experienced auctioneer, the dealers and the serious collectors who have been in the game for a few years will know the highs and lows of the range. You can, of course, ask the auctioneer. While he probably has the best feeling for the range, he would likely admit that lots of times he's been disappointed as an otherwise beautiful stamp drew few bids and sold below the range and vice versa.

We have found that there is no substitute but to keep track of the actual prices realized by a group of auction houses for the particular stamps in which you are interested. In our experience, these prices differ materially from those shown in the catalogues. Prices have to be tracked for hinged vs. no hinged stamps, regular used vs. used with SON cancellations, and each variety of a particular stamp. It is a big task, but there is really no alternative.

To help you with this task, we at Canadian Stamp Auctions have compiled a record of prices realized at auction over the past five to ten years for many of Canada's more valuable stamps. Please check this page on our website and use it when you bid. This is why we created it. It could be very helpful.

We at Canadian Stamp Auctions hope

you have found these comments helpful.

More articles will be added on a regular basis.

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