Monday, March 30, 2009

Costs of doing business

I was answering a question on the Virtual Stamp Club about shipping fees, and it got me to thinking. How much does it cost to sell a single item? So, lets look at the costs:
  1. E-Bay insertion fee - the cost to list an item on E-Bay, it is not a fixed cost, but depends on the start price. The lowest cost option is to list an item for $0.99 or less, which costs $0.15.
  2. E-Bay Final Value Fee - the cut that E-Bay takes of the sale. Again, it is a sliding scale, but for items that sell for less than $25, it is 8.75%
  3. PayPal Fees - the cost of accepting a payment via PayPal. Of course, E-bay now requires you accept PayPal, and the majority of buyers pay via PayPal, so this fee is incurred the majority of the time. $0.30 + 2.9% (for all sales under $3000).

So, for an item that sells for $0.99, I would need to pay $0.57 in fees. So, unless I paid less than $0.42 for the item, I am better off tossing it in the trash than trying to sell it on E-Bay.

Of course, that doesn't include shipping costs, which include not only postage, but the packaging material and envelope to send the item in. Most of the time, I get my shipping charges figured out correctly, and the buyer actually pays enough to cover the cost of shipping the item to them. However, in a few cases, I have been surprised at the post office when the postage comes out higher than I would expect. Whether this is because of a non-machinable surcharge, or an envelope being too large to qualify as a letter and going out as a parcel instead, I can never quite figure out. Some countries, like the Netherlands, are just insanely expensive to ship to for some reason as well.

Looking at the fees, it is easier to understand why E-Bay shipping fees often seem quite high. Rather than start an item at $3 with a $0.42 shipping cost, I can start it at $0.99 with a $2.50 shipping cost. Both cost the buyer about the same, but I can save $0.20 on insertion fees by starting the item at $0.99 rather than $3. Also, since the E-bay final value fee is on the final sale price, before shipping costs are added in, I can save an additional $0.175 in fees if the item goes for the minimum bid. I know it is not much, but on a percentage basis, it is huge.

I also know that a lot of dealers have discount postage around. If they sell US stamps, they can use the scrap from there US inventory to pay for postage. If you are willing to play some math games, you can also find large amounts of lower value US stamps for sale below face (left over $0.41 or $0.39 stamps, for example).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Now I am curious

In volume 1 of the Israel Plate Block Journal, there was mention of 2 different commemorative stamps that have multiple printing dates in the plate block. I went through the nearly 30 years of archives that I got from the SIP, and there was no other mention of what these two issues were, or what the two different printing dates were. Does anyone know what these issues were? I checked my Bale catalogs, and see no reference to this either. Any help would be appreciated.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The blog hits the radio

A few weeks ago, a comment on this blog caused me to post on the Virtual Stamp Club message boards to continue the discussion. Yariv, a dealer in Israel, posted a response to my blog saying that E-bay sellers were driving down the value of Israel stamps. I disagreed, and posted a message on the stamp discussion boards to solicit other opinions, and hopefully get some interesting dialog going. Well, not only did I get some dialog going, but Nancy Clark, host of the APS StampTalk Internet radio show saw the post, and invited me on her show to discuss it further. My 30 minute interview took place on Wednesday, and today it is available for download.

Although there were some technical difficulties at the start of the show (the VOIP system at my desk phone evidently doesn't like the radio system), I think it went well. The only thing I wish I had done differently was that I didn't have my 2007 E-bay data open in front of me at the start of the show. I had thought we would be discussing more of the impact on prices, and less on my data analysis of market trends on E-bay. Oh well, live and learn.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Israel Plate Block Society

I have been collecting plate blocks for a while, and I just discovered a great resource. The Israel Plate Block Society Journal. I am not sure if the society is still in existence, as my e-mails to the president have gone unanswered, but I was able to borrow the archives of the journal from the SIP library. The archives contain almost 1200 pages of material, starting with the first issue in 1978, and ending in mid-2005. So far, I have made it through over a thousand pages, extracting about 250 different items that I need to add or modify in my database. The research done was incredibly detailed. Most issues are listed, with the number of panes per printing sheet, number of printing runs, and information on how to tell where a given plate block came from.

So, given all this information, what should I collect. My current plan is to collect all plate blocks that have a visible difference. For example, the four different perforation types, or different colors of plate number, or different printing dated. For the shekel issue only, I am trying to collect each plate and each printing run, but this is only because I have a fairly comprehensive collection already. I will not be going back and trying to collect the various pane and printing runs for other issues. Otherwise, I could go on forever.

One last thing. I said I discovered this resource. The discovery was made on E-bay. I saw a lot for sale of the back issues of the journal. I lost out, as the lot went for more than $75. I then went to the APRL to see if they had a copy that I could borrow, and I sent a request to the SIP librarian at the same time. Both libraries had a copy, and it was cheaper to borrow it from the SIP, so I did that. Had the lot never appeared on E-bay, I would not even know this resource existed.