Dear Ted and Jody:
Late last year I offered 25 different, US, used, attached, coil pairs of stamps for on-line auction. The lot sold. So I offered another one. It sold. I began offering 25 different, US, attached, coil pairs every day. They all sold. Indeed, they all sold to one person. Eventually, I could see I would soon run out of used, attached coil pairs to offer. In January I cast about the stamp market looking for more. I eventually found a hoard, set a snip bid (one that is cast by computers at the very last second, so one does not signal an interest and competition for an auction lot with an early bid. It turns out that early bids often create interest in an otherwise uninteresting auction lot. The psychology seems to be if someone else wants it then it must be worthwhile). I won and became the proud owner of tens of thousands of used, US, coil stamps in multiples.
The hoard I purchased was not organized, so I began sorting. After a week of sorting, I had a feel for what was in the hoard and began offering used, attached, coil multiples in lots of 25 from the hoard—three lots every day. The same fellow bid on them.
I looked about for mint coil stamps in multiples that I could use to mail the used coils he purchased. I figured if he like used US coils in multiples, why not give him extra ones on his incoming mail. So far, I have been able to find enough mint coil stamps to make his envelopes interesting (I would be interested for I am a collector too). It is a challenge to find enough multiple, mint, coil stamps in a variety to keep his mail interesting. I use a lot of precanceled stamps which means I have to use a permit and hand my outgoing mail across the counter at the post office. Hence the clerks get to see the variety of stamps I am using. Most just appreciate them, remember them and the like. It was strange yesterday when the postal clerk asked me “Where do you get all of these coil stamps?” Did I want to tell him about the secondary market for the stuff he sells over the counter? There was a line behind me, so he did not press the issue. Besides, it may have been a casual question and not of burning interest to him.
Once in a while, someone else bids on these coil lots. However, except in three or four cases, my regular buyer outbids them. He has won all the lots I have put up for sale save 3 or 4. Additionally, the two other people who bid against him, occasionally will buy a coil lot using the buy it now feature (I list auction lots with a starting bid and a buy it now price that holds until someone places at bit at the starting bid level). However, they have to be quick, as my regular buyer bids every night between 10:30 P.M and 1:30 A.M. So even if I list a lot at 5 in the morning they have less than 14 hours to find it and buy it now for a 7-day auction lot. If they only bid, my regular buyer outbids them. Funny, he doesn’t use a snipe bid, he used the regular bid process. I guess, the fun is in the bidding for him.
My regular coil multiple buyer accumulates five or six days’ worth of auction wins before he has me ship them to him. Since he pays for multiple lots in one payment, that saves me paying 30₵ for all but one lot on PayPal fees (their charge for each time someone pays me is 30₵ plus about 3%, so for 10 lots that saves me $3.00 in PayPal fees—it is called combined shipping). I reward buyers by reducing the shipping costs when they pay for multiple lots at one time. For my regular coil buyer, I do not charge shipping when he pays for at least 6 lots at one time and if he pays for less, I have a flat $1 charge for him. By accumulating lots, I am also able to use larger multiple coil stamps on his shipments. A win-win situation.
This morning I awoke to a payment for 15 lots from my regular buyer. He appended a note to his payment “The free shipping is appreciated. Are you ever going to run out of these coils?” It turns out that I made a mistake in two of the listings. I relisted them when I should have moved them to a “posted lots” file. So I had to refund part of his payment and tell him what happened as well as attempt to answer his question. So, I wrote him a note:
“Good Morning: I messed up. I listed one lot twice and another lot that you already bought I mistakenly listed again. I am refunding the $1.98 you paid for them. I have marked your packing slip so you can see which ones they were. Again, I do apologize for my mistake and general overall carelessness. I suppose the older I get this will happen again. However, I will endeavor to try not to cause it again. I am using self-adhesive coil strips attached to the backing on your envelope so they can be saved as used strips. I had to chuckle at your question this morning. I am not likely to run out of used coils in multiples for a couple of years at the rate I am selling them. Indeed, I am not finished shorting the ones I have yet. Running out of mint coil strips and pairs to put on the mailing could happen any day. But, I keep looking for those to keep the mailings interesting. The postal clerks in Toutle and Castle Rock think I am obsessed with using older coils on my mailings. It is strange when a postal clerk asks, “Where do you get all these old coiled stamps?” Regards”
As you can probably pick out of this narrative, there is a complex relationship going on here. With minimum of communication between the two of us, we have, in effect, a niche market with one seller and one buyer that has been active for close to a year. Yes, other buyers show interest from time to time, but by in large, it is just the two of us acting through an on-line auction mechanism. I suspect if the mechanism were not there, the relationship would not be sustainable. Strangely the auction site both buffers us from content and facilitates contact. It will be interesting if the relationship continues after this brief exchange over when I will run out. I plan not to run out. I will simply buy more.
Warmest regards, Ed