Monday, April 28, 2008

Westpex...waste of time

So, I went to Westpex on Sunday in San Francisco. What a waste of time. Despite having e-mailed all the dealers with what I was looking for, just 1 dealer had Israel material. There was also an SIP meeting there, with a total of 5 attendees, including Ed Rosen who was running the meeting and Ephraim who gave a talk about self taxation in Israel during the 1940's. While the talk was interesting, most of the material discussed was so specialized as to be beyond me. That was a common theme for the day. I walked around the 3 rooms twice. First, I was looking for Israel, Egypt overprinted Palestine or Jordan overprinted Palestine. Most of the dealers had nothing. Two actually had some basic material, but nothing of interest, and 1 dealer had some interesting items. That was the extent of it, for a show with about 50 dealers. There was really only 1 booth doing a lot of business, and that was the A & D booth in the corner. They were the only ones at the show who seemed to carry basic material (for example, any items that sold for under $5) for the world. For the 3 hours I was at the show, this double sized booth was packed, often with 3-4 people waiting in line to take a seat at one of the 15 chairs in front of the booth. None of the other dealers had more than 1 person at the table. I was also the youngest collector in the room, by at least 2 decades. What does this say for the future of stamp shows? Why bother going to a show, paying $5 admission, and seeing less than 10 items of interest when I can log into E-bay at any time and see over 1000? Of those 1000, I typically will watch 20-40 at a time, and it costs me nothing to browse. Of course, you pay for shipping (sometimes it is more for shipping than the stamps!), but the dealers at the show don't carry this material anyway, so that argument goes out the window. I think the show promoters just don't get it. They set up kids areas with stacks of used stamps for a penny a piece, and think that is going to attract kids to the hobby. But, when they want to go from collecting penny stamps to being more serious collectors, they have to abandon the shows. There is no one there providing stamps in the under $5 range, with the one exception noted above. At this point, 90% of the kids will give up and move on to some other hobby. Dealers would rather hit the home run selling a few $500 stamps, then actually have to work at the show selling hundreds of low priced stamps for the same net profit. When I was a kid, 90% of the dealers at the show would have items for the average collector, and I would spend hours going through a box of covers, or through stock books. Now, it is down to 1 dealer a show. Give it 5 years, and the shows will be attended by fewer people than a Marlins-Dodgers game in August, when both are fighting for last place.

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