You sell what?

My first association with Junior, another road nickname for the buyer, took place in the early 1980’s. When introduced I asked him what he did for a living and he replied that me he bought and sold stamps. Huh?

“What was that again, did you say you sold stamps”? And from that beginning I have now traveled more than a million miles transporting something like $100,000,000 of stamps, coins, and other merchandise.

Now, you are saying Huh? And maybe even doubting the claim, but it is true. Check out the Mystic Stamp Company website, they claim purchases of $30,000,000 in just the last three years alone and $70 million in the last five. Read further and the claim is that Junior has purchased more stamps than any other person in the world, and I believe that to be true.

Don and Mark have worked together for the last 30 years or more. When visiting with customers Mark will represent that he has worked with Mystic for 35 years.  The Godfather, Don Sundman’s nickname, and Junior make a perfect team: Mark has the stamp buying expertise and Don supplies the name recognition, money to purchase the stamps and runs the marketing machine to make the phones ring with ready sellers.

What they have built is an amazing stamp purchasing machine that makes lots and lots and lots of money and God bless them because along the way I was paid very well as a connected component in the money-making apparatus. I used to tell my friends I was the highest paid truck driver on the road.

Along the way over those million miles of driving and all the countless transactions with sellers and other stamp dealers I have witnessed some crazy happenings and I do mean crazy. There are some odd personalities out there and I’m not only talking about the collector’s but also stamp dealers as well.

So from my unique perspective and over three decades I have observed the stamp collecting hobby as it morphed into what it is today. What was once an activity centered around a local stamp store and regional stamp shows held on weekends at a hotel has completely changed.

Gone is the local stamp store and local shows. Gone are the cadre of local, small time dealers who would purchase a small collection upon the passing of the collector. Gone are the stamp clubs found from city to city. And most importantly, gone are the aging, white, male stamp collectors who are dying off along with the hobby itself. But is wasn’t always that way.

One day while buying out a collection I came across a copy of the book Nassau Street, A Quarter Century of Stamp Dealing. Herman Herst Jr., the author and stamp dealer Godfather of his era details what was probably the golden age of stamp collecting when the hobby was vastly popular.

It is amazing to read that a collector could find nearly 250 stamp stores on Nassau street in New York City in the 50‘s and 60’s. By contrast, today, there appears to be just one remaining stamp store in New York City.

What happened? Just as Herman Herst chronicled the golden age of the hobby I feel compelled to do the same for the “tarnished age” of the hobby.

Herman: “The purpose of this book is to tell in as entertaining manner as possible the incidents, anecdotes, and vicissitudes that have befallen me from those days of philatelic infancy to the present. And I solicit the cooperation of the reader in permitting me in the pages to follow to continue to use the first-person singular in telling my story…. Many facts are told for the first time, and many background stories known only to a few, are now revealed.

Now comes John Lane picking up where Herman Hurst left off with  Wheeling and Stamp Dealing. And just like Herman I will also be revealing facts for the first time and giving my reader the back stories where the good stuff is lurking.