Following a good and gratifying business year it is always much more pleasant to take a retrospective view than after difficult times. The worldwide economic recovery, the renewed quite low unemployment rate in Switzerland, the historically low interest rates in the capital market and the generally very positive outlook for the coming year have likewise led to a generally positive change in the fundamental mood of Classic Switzerland collectors, which also expressed itself in an increased willingness to purchase. I presume that this development will be maintained in the new year and might well accelerate further.
Allow me to mention and address a few points which I consider to be important:
During this year we experienced an increased demand for Classic Swiss stamps, primarily also from foreign countries. There are those who regret this because, of course, a portion of our old stamps which, without doubt, constitute a Swiss cultural asset, migrate to foreign countries. As for myself, I see this somewhat differently. Aside from the question as to whether or not cultural assets must, at all times, be exclusively kept and appreciated in their own country, to me this foreign demand constitutes a very attractive indication of international esteem of our classic stamps of which we may well be proud! Because, you know, there are not that many other stamp countries which find so much international recognition! Besides which, it was the case at all times that large, yes, mostly even the very largest Classic Swiss collections were located in foreign countries. It would not even be possible to place all our classic stamps in Switzerland alone.
Further, in no other year have we received such a volume of inquiries from colleagues, whom we were able to supply probably 95% of all their customers’ requests for desired catalog numbers on commission within 24 hours and continue to be able to do so. I am honored by such demand on the part of my colleagues and it motivates me to continue to intercede in a market-supporting manner where too much merchandise is thrown on the market at one time so that it cannot even absorb it.
It appears to be a part of human nature, that we feel especially well and prefer to develop ourselves preferably at a place where we feel welcome and well-received. Many collectors clubs complain about the situation that, currently, they have hardly any Classic Switzerland collectors in their midst and new ones can hardly be found. When I listen to remarks of many of my customers, I do have understanding for this. For all too long, one has drummed into people’s heads that they should only purchase luxury items. But in the field of classics, luxury items almost inevitably mean expenditures in the millions, at least when one begins with the most expensive Cantonals. But when one is not in a position to invest such amounts in a collecting object, one should not be discouraged or even be criticized and also should not feel obligated to "excuse" oneself for one’s pieces. As long as the motto prevails, "Better no Classic Swiss stamps than those with flaws", one will neither bring such collectors back into the clubs, nor cleanse the market for such material. It is no wonder at all, that such collectors prefer to conduct their collecting activities within their four walls, rather than in the publicity of a club. Primarily the real joy of collecting has nothing to do with the quality of a stamp! And also nothing with the price! Only, it must be right!
I remember quite well the first imperforate stamp which, as a schoolboy, I was able to trade from a classmate. It was a Rayon II. Incidentally, a cut-in Rayon II, because I would not have been able to afford a flawless one at the time. I never regretted this swap. Not even when, years later, it became clear that I had given a number of highly expensive mint Vatican stamps of the best years in trade for this. To me this was the first contact with classics and that brought to me far more than the diminished value as was later revealed. One who has never experienced the joy of acquisition of a long sought-after and dreamed about piece and thereby enjoyed a true pride of ownership can probably never understand or duplicate this.
We should all do our part in encouraging collectors in the performance of their hobby and in enjoying it. This should already be done during purchase from a dealer. Only satisfied customers return! Or at exhibitions where the collector currently experiences more frustration than joy. Here in Switzerland, we probably have the strictest judging standards of the world.
But should we all take a lot of pride in that? The diminishing interest of collectors to present themselves in juried exhibitions does not lead to the conclusion that one expects all too great blessings as an exhibitor. The same applies to clubs. What the collector looks for there are not stories (particularly with regard to prices) about the good old days but, as a rule, active assistance in evaluation and in the procedure in building up a collection. Is it not a fact that people like us have the proclivity to recommend to others mostly those collecting fields in which we are also engaged? When, as is currently alleged, there are no longer any "classicists" in the clubs, who then is there to introduce new collectors to the classics?
In light of this, it is nevertheless amazing that, each year, new customers contact us for Classic Swiss stamps.
And so long as an increasingly large turnover volume is achievable, one hardly can seriously uphold the thesis that the interest in, or the number of collectors of Classic Swiss stamps were on the decline. The opposite is the case — but it is conceivable, if not probable, that collectors are not experiencing an excessive urge to engage themselves in clubs.
Several collectors have begun this — unfortunately not (yet) all. Generally, the search for new, young collectors takes first priority. I am also of the opinion that this is very important, even presuming that practically all of these young "stampers", at the beginning of puberity or upon entrance into professional life, put their stamp tongues aside and, only 20 years later, when settled down somewhere and, frequently, when the children reach their "collecting age", pick them up again. Probably the most promising method of providing a child — be it a son or daughter, a grand or godchild, or simply a future heir of one’s own collection - with its first real relationship to such a collection, is to give them, as an introduction, a small collection of loose stamps as well as covers with their own birthdate. Not with the right year of course, but only with the month and day. Actually, it should be the aim to bring together as many such pieces from as many years as possible. This can include various other countries as well. Here one can hardly expect a collection of many volumes. In most instances, one must be satisfied with a few album pages. But these very personal items already suffice to awaken the interest and joy in collecting, to include the rest of the collection. And experience teaches that it is not that highly important whether or not one accumulates very inexpensive pieces in this manner or, occasionally, an expensive Cantonal cover as well. Both can, without doubt, provide delight. Tell us the dates which might be of significance to you. We shall be pleased to inform you which of these are in stock. You can, of course, readily establish your own expenditure limit. And you might be surprised that, in this manner, your spouse might show a somewhat greater understanding for your hobby, if she found herself endowed with a birthday letter of her own.
Let me, "at the very outset", begin with the Cantonals. Although the supply here has clearly diminished, it was sufficient to continue to hold the very moderate prices of past years.
You will find with us many of these stamps at 20-25% lower prices than during the high price period, with the exception of some items which (for the first time in many years) are currently completely sold out and could not be supplemented. At least not at the recent lower prices. Unless larger supplies of these issues come onto the market (e.g. from estates which simply must be liquidated), bringing down prices in the process, the market here should continue to positively stabilize and develop. All in all, a very favorable time to begin or expand a collection. Rayons, Strubel and Perforate Seated Helvetia (particularly with attractive cancellations) have reached a nice price level and constitute an ideal field of endeavour, especially for the home area collector. But generally, one cannot speak of an overheating. Only the valuation of rare destinations on foreign letters appear to me to have reached the top pricewise. Here unbelievable prices are occasionally realized at good auctions, which would never be possible in the direct sales business.
Areas of Lagging Price Developments:
I have already mentioned the Cantonals which, generally, are at a very interesting buy-level and yet have hardly experienced the renewed purchase demand which is noticeable in the other fields. Here one should particularly attempt to acquire the better or even rare cancellations, for which currently one is still required to pay merely minimal surcharges. I, for one, would do this even if it can be done only to the detriment of quality. In the field of the Rayons, the common pieces (usually with Federal lozenge cancellations) are, as before, on the market at quite favorable terms. We have an attractive stock for collectors who take pleasure in plating the various printing stones. For plates of the 40 types or for entire reconstructions of the individual stones, we can submit very interesting special offers according to your desires. You can also acquire such platings from us "by subscription". This means that, each month, we present to you for review those plate positions which you desire to have. In this manner you fill your plate slowly but steadily without too much of a financial burden and, above all, without having to take along unneeded duplicates.
Currently, unused Classic Swiss stamps certainly can also continue to be recommended, because prices still are relatively low. Although the demand has strengthened during the past two or three years and some catalog numbers are completely sold out (and I would like to repurchase!), we can deliver at the old, certainly not excessive prices. Mainly, these unused issues appear interesting to me, because no one posesses a noteworthy stock of these. Accordingly, supply pressure of any type, which should have an immediate effect on prices, need never be reckoned with.
Pairs and larger multiples generally are all among the probably most left-behind areas in the field of Classic Switzerland.
As stated previously, this applies to all issues (not to even mention the Cantonals) from the Rayons to the Strubels and perforate Seated Helvetias. Just try to think how many a Classic Switzerland Collection you know in which even relatively simple items, such as all Strubel in pairs or all Rayon stones in pairs, etc, can be found! These are not impossible, let alone unaffordable, objects by any means. But most importantly, these are currently still to be had quite inexpensively. This, of course, applies even more so to larger multiples or blocks of four!
Once again we find ourselves on the threshold of a new year. Allegedly, even on the threshold of a new millenium. At this point, mathematicians will hardly agree (neither will I), but it is of no great importance whether we should recelebrate the new milenium a year from now, or not. In any event, this is the appropriate moment to cordially thank our numerous customers and our colleagues who we were again allowed to supply during the past year . I cannot even imagine such a relationship of many years duration without the foundation of mutual trust.. And this is an incentive to continue to strive for this trust during the coming year.
These thanks are equally due to my family: my son, Markus, who to a great extent edits this catalog and who, in the Internet, under http://www.ghonegger.ch has created a frequently viewed company presentation, my wife and daughters, who, during the pre-Christmas season, each have demonstrated great dedication in the creation of page designs for the film production or lateron — together with numerous family members — in turning the packaging of catalogs into a sociable family experience which none of us would like to miss.
I wish all of you many happy hours with your hobby in the new year as before; please lend a hand whereever you can to make this, in the new millenium as well, into that which it always was — and is hoped to always remain — the greatest hobby in the whole world and the most rewarding free-time occupation of all.!
Schmerikon, December 8th, 1999