GB Stamps Offer All Kinds Of Opportunity
Please don't think I have no appreciation for the academic study of the designs and processes revealed within each Royal Mail stamp issue. Where would our hobby be without people carrying out the close up examination of stamps and discovering the varieties and subtle differences. So, with my respect for serious philately stated, allow me to now stray away toward the arts rather than the science surrounding postage stamps.
It never fails to surprise me the amount of creative uses and added value people can bring to the stamp hobby. Jewellery makers using the simple, colourful Machin definitives found in the cheapest kiloware. The same cheap raw material used to form huge and amazing collages built entirely from stamps. Souvenir covers of events too niche to attract the attention of the major producers, covers and postcards that remind us about our history. The list of uses is restricted only by the imagination.
But go beyond the philatelic and the humble postage stamp can even be used to simply, yet effectively, create added value to other types of creative work as a mark of authenticity or limited production. Just as a philatelic cover might be serviced with a postmark in use only on a certain day, it's possible to create, add value to, and protect the authenticity of a whole host of things like limited edition postcards, greetings cards, ACEO cards, photographs, coin displays, published poetry, cross stitches or even dried flower displays! You can make this list as long as you like.
How can a postmarked stamp protect these type of works? Given the amount of sales done online now and the technology available, it's sometimes going to prove difficult to know whether a photograph, for example, is a genuine original print you created or a cheap copy made by someone the other side of the world. But, if your originals were all created and distributed bearing a postage stamp and specific postmark on the reverse, copyright theft can become obvious. Take it a step further and use a stamp or postmark relevant to the topic in the photograph and you've also added genuine additional interest to the collectable product you've created.
Remember, within reason, provided your creation can bear a basic postal address, on one side it can usually be stamped and postmarked by Royal Mail's Special Handstamp Centres. Now they won't thank me if people take this to a silly extreme, but there is nothing wrong with, say, an A4 photograph being addressed on the reverse (remember it might be Large Letter rate) and having a stamp postmarked as if it were an oversized postcard. Handstamp Centres will also return postmarked items to you in separate protective envelopes if you provide them.
Also bear in mind that the postmark doesn't have to be the last part of the creation process. For example, if you plan to do a card mounted coin display, flower arrangement or some painting on textured card, you don't have to risk sending the finished works through the mail to get a postmark which will add extra value, interest and cheap IP protection. All you need to do is send the blank cards first and create your artwork display later on the cards that are now already postmarked. Use peelable labels for the address and these can be removed once the item has been postmarked and returned too.
So, while most traditional stuffy philatelists have probably clicked away long before now, that's just one thought about a productive use of stamps and postmarks but there are many more ideas waiting to be exploited too. All we need to do is let our imagination wander. Next thing you know you can be selling the results of your creativity from your kitchen table. They may not be edible but, if you promote your work well, your kitchen table products can still sell like hot cakes!
Doing a complete 180 now. It may surprise some readers to know how I also admire the entrepreneurs who can make GB stamps pay just by buying and selling them. While we aren't very good in the UK at appreciating the talent of wealth creators, I believe they deserve far more respect than they get in most cases. It takes good knowledge and a lot of experience to correctly judge the right time to buy certain stamps or covers and when to sell them. It's trading.
At this point I can hear some people, who find the money angle distasteful, offering the view that these "mercenaries" know the price of everything but the value of nothing. With respect, that is so very wrong. A trader cannot survive long without knowing both the price AND value of traded items as that's the very margin that will determine the outcome of transactions. You underestimate the market judgement of a good trader at your peril.
While stamps and covers are the commodity in play, traders will live or die by the shrewdness of their buying and selling activity. There are many people doing this now and some, those who consistently make the right calls, are highly successful. You may turn your nose up, because it focuses on the money rather than the stamps, but do you really think someone working all their life in a metals exchange really loves bits of copper, zinc or aluminium? Of course not, but it's their job and it puts food on the table.
One such trader lives very close to me and we talk regularly. In his opinion, the most important skill required to make money from trading modern collectables is decisiveness. He looks to capitalise on the fact most people are too nervous to make their own decisions. This trader follows his own hunches to buy things he believes are cheap as soon as they appear and hopes everyone else is waiting for "experts" to tell them what's worth buying. By the time this happens, everyone knows the same tips and the real value in these items has probably gone. Traders rarely make a killing on one trade. Their aim is to consistently earn what can be a surprisingly small margin in as short period of time as possible. It's a massive subject to cover adequately in an article like this so I may well return to it in more detail at a later date.
Sometimes the worlds of arts, crafts and entrepreneurship collide. For example, while my wife is not as hugely in to stamps as I am, she does like to create postcards, covers and other such items. She's now realised how stamps can create added value to such creations and will produce, say, a dozen postcards featuring a certain stamp and postmark often to fit within a scrapbook project or display she or a friend is forming. The spares are then sold or swapped, not aiming to make much of a profit but more to recover costs. She's happy with that. However, because I sometimes suggest she uses a particular stamp or postmark, a lot of her creations catch the eye of dealers or traders. It's quite a regular occurance that she lists half a dozen cards on eBay hoping a couple will sell during the following month only to see them all snapped up by one buyer within hours. Plainly someone believes there is the potential for profit.
Hopefully I've managed to spark a few ideas by now but, whether or not you're inspired to try something new, I hope most readers can agree that few other items offer the same artistic and commercial opportunities as cheaply and easily. The low cost, small size, virtual weightlessness and visual attributes of the postage stamp can combine to make all kinds of things possible. I suggest these features all add up to something that is now way under-appreciated, way under-employed and way under-sold and creative minds have opportunities galore staring them in the face.
So who cares if we can't be bothered to write and send snail mail any more? Well, actually, I do. Because that trend's creating more fantastic collecting opportunities I'm very keen about....
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