By Jesse Robitaille
Long-time philatelic dealer Isidore “Issie” Baum has announced his intention to sell his topical business, Wonderful World of Stamps, which he started more than 30 years ago.
“If somebody walked in and wanted to buy my business, I’d sell it tomorrow,” said Baum, adding “2016 ended with a bang.”
Although he feels like he’s in good health, Baum was diagnosed with low- to intermediate-risk prostate cancer late last year, around the same time his wife, Zila, suffered a minor heart attack; however, the 76-year-old philatelic aficionado said his business has outgrown his desires.
“I have to cut back for a number of reasons, not the least of which I have so much stuff here that if I were to drop dead tomorrow my wife would be inundated,” he said. “It’s getting to be too much, and I can’t keep up with all of it.”
Despite his current hang-up, Baum – always jovial – said “everything is fine.”
“I feel great, and I’ve been told there would probably not be any effects. I feel good, and I’m out and about working every day.”
Baum owns two businesses, Judaica Sales, which boasts the largest stock of Judaica material in the world, and the aforementioned Wonderful World of Stamps, which focuses on worldwide topical material.
“It’s time to let somebody else at it,” he said, of his topical business, adding he’s not selling solely for health reasons. “I don’t anticipate anything happening – I will finish radiation and keep well – but it’s my back and my knee. I can’t travel unless I can ensure someone can help load.”
‘A LOT OF STUFF’
Baum said he has accumulated “a lot of stuff” in the past three decades – “a lot of good stuff and a lot of junk,” he admits – and as long as he’s alive, it’s worth money.
“When I’m dead, it’s junk,” he said, adding he has upwards of 20,000 covers on sale for $1 each, for example.
And it’s not just covers: Baum’s topical stock includes the gamut of philatelic material and other collectibles, such as antiques.
“I cater from kids to advanced collectors,” he said. “It’s across the board, from five cents to $5,000.”
Altogether, he estimates there are 500-600 square feet of stamps scattered throughout his home.
“Crazy isn’t the word for it,” he said. “You don’t realize what you accumulate until you start going through the stuff and try making things right. Sometimes I find stuff in a shoebox worth a couple thousand dollars.”
KEEPING HIS JUDAICA
Baum said he isn’t planning to sell his other business, Judaica Sales, unless he can find the “right buyer,” adding it’s a “more specific and centralized” collection.
“Besides stamps, I sell a lot of history and knowledge. I also sell documents and Holocaust memorabilia, anti-Semitic postcards issued by many countries over the years, and all kinds of stuff that relates to Jewish history,” he said.
“I can’t sell that stuff to any dealer; if he’s not interested in Jewish history, he won’t be able to sell it. He has to have good knowledge of Jewish history.”
Baum began his topical business in 1986. Under the name Wonderful World of Stamps – a play on “Wonderful World of Disney,” suggested by his daughter, Shafrit – he specializes in Disney and other worldwide topical issues.
In addition to his two philatelic businesses, Baum previously worked for 22 years as a comptroller for an import company owned by the now-defunct Dylex Ltd., a large clothing conglomerate.
“I was blessed to have two things I loved besides family: accounting and stamp collecting. I loved my job.”
Baum retired in 1995, when Dylex “went belly-up” and had to sell its assets.
“They gave me a golden parachute and I left. After that, I decided to go for the first time into stamps full time.”
Regardless of if he sells his topical business, Baum said he will continue collecting stamps.
“I wouldn’t collect Israel because I’ve already done that once. I sold it all, and there’s no desire to do it again,” he said. “Been there, done that.”
Instead, he’d likely choose a topic and begin a thematic collection.
“But I don’t think I’d collect accounting stamps,” he added with a chuckle.
After owning a storefront in Montreal’s shopping district, and following a five-year stint in an office building, Baum brought his philatelic businesses home, realizing he was doubling up on expenses.
“I had an alarm system at home and at the office, telephones, the insurance … and revenue at the second-floor office, unlike the shopping centre, wasn’t as good.”
And that’s when the “upheaveal” began, according to Baum, who moved a 1,100-square-foot business into his home.
“That was a major move,” he said. “I never had a garage for a car; my garage was my warehouse. In my sub basement I built an office. When my daughter moved out, I used her bedroom as a warehouse, too. Probably half of the square footage of my house is tied up in stamps.”
Baum said he’ll continue to sell as much as he can online while looking for the right buyers.
“If someone wants to buy my business or part of it, that’s fine. I have parts that are junk, parts that are good stuff, and stuff in between. I’ll get rid of it one way or another.”
He said he’s not opposed to selling segments of his business; for example, if someone is only interested in souvenir sheets, they can make an offer on his stock of souvenir sheets.
He also plans to offer specials for his customers, some of whom have been dealing with him for the past three decades.
“I would certainly entertain people coming down and giving them tremendous deals. I have customers who have been loyal to me for 30 years, and I’d rather give it to them at a discount than have a dealer make the money,” he said.
“I have way too much respect for the customers who have been with me for years to ignore them.”