Knowledge, effort lead to valuable treasure

The recent discovery of a third two-cent Large Queen green on laid paper has a lesson for all collectors. For starters, the stamp was found in a circuit book. That means that there are still great finds out there to be had, if you have your eyes open, your wits about you, and a bit of knowledge. We don’t know how many people looked at that stamp before it was purchased, but we do know the buyer had enough knowledge to know the stamp stood out from most.

That buyer had taken the time to learn enough about the stamp issue to know what to look for, and then had the smarts to keep his mouth shut so he didn’t start a bunch of hype only to find out he was wrong, or had acquired a fake or altered stamp. He then had the sense to send it to the Vincent Graves Greene Foundation for expertising. The result is that he now has a very valuable stamp, of unquestioned authenticity, for a fairly modest investment in time and money.

Time and time again that story plays out in clubs, on bourses, and even in the comfort of collectors’ dens as they go over circuit books. Knowledge is king. I tell people that, assuming the buyer and seller are both equally motivated to make a deal, whoever knows the most will win out on the deal. If the seller knows exactly what he has, and is able to prove it to the buyer, he will get the best possible price for the item. If the buyer is the one with the knowledge, he will be able to make discoveries such as this from a vendor who isn’t fully aware. It is this knowledge that separates the collector from the accumulator, or the investor. The others are both buyers, to be sure, but the collector is the one who takes the time to ensure that he is getting the best deal he can for his money.

A dealer once told me that his most valuable asset was his library. With the knowledge contained on those shelves, he explained, he was able to properly attribute items so he could find the right buyer. The old collecting maxim, all too rarely repeated today, is “buy the book first.” In our modern society people are too impatient. They often rely on what the vendor tells them without question. If the vendor is a reputable stamp dealer, that shouldn’t be a problem.

But this industry has its share of fly-by-night operators. This is especially true on the Internet, where what appears to be a nice guy selling off grandpa’s stamps can turn out to be a con artist two continents away. Am I envious that a collector was able to make a big score like this? Of course I am, but it wasn’t blind luck. This anonymous buyer had knowledge on his side, I’m sure he did his research before he laid out any money.

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