I just missed the last target I had set myself for this past millenium: again I am in arrears with the few articles forming the introduction to our sales catalog for the coming year. It would surely be nice — and I have had this dream for years! — if all texts would be all complete on my desk two to three weeks prior to delivery to the printer and one had time and leisure to reflect upon them and, occasionally, to revise them here and there. But this year again this won’t be the case, because not weeks, but only a few (night!-) hours remain. Unfortunately, you have to live with this. Thus please be a bit more lenient in your evaluation. But then, spontaneous expression are frequently the honest ones.
Things look somewhat better with us as far as the attainment of business goals goes. Not only will we match the very excellent year 1999, but will probably exceed it. This is far more unusual in our line of business than elsewhere because the sale of one or more very large pieces can greatly distort the annual result. If such sales are realized, it becomes almost impossible in the following year to repeat the result. Well, we were able to conduct such sales during the past year, but nevertheless the chances are good that, for this year, we will have another increase. This primarily because our sales to colleagues (worldwide!) have strongly increased, mainly in the sale of entire lots and collections. But we also had excellent sales this year of pairs of Geneva Eagles. Initially, we had no clear approach as to the manner in which these sales were to take place, whether as a whole or in parts or even individually. Accordingly, we began by looking for potential buyers. Absolutely never, in the entire history of Swiss philately, did one live to see that, within three weeks, not less than 13 of these pairs were sold somewhere in the world! This came about because we had decided to retain one of the best samples of each pair for my own small collection of classic Swiss pairs. Therefore, none of these were offered the end of the St. Gallen exhibition and before the summer vacation. As it happened, one of our best customers only later inquired about one of these items. And since one does not like to say no to a good customer and since, admittedly, the item certainly enriched his collection, I could not and did not want to say no to him. And so there is another missing piece in the remaining collection and the question immediately arises whether or not to now offer the remainder or in some manner to search the market in order to again gather a complete object. At this time, I allow myself to be guided by the favor of the moment — that which comes first, the demand or the offer, will probably be accepted. Even if it must be said that I currently lean more towards further personal purchase than towards sale.
Currently, sales and profit increases in large industrial enterprises are, in most instances, realized only by mergers and acquisitions. Growth through one’s own power has mostly become meaningless. Globalization has become the vogue word. Thank the Lord — or whoever else may be responsible for you in philately - that this is not (yet) the case in our line of business! A healthy philatelic development, in particular also the market supply to the smaller and youngest collectors, is not assured by merely a few large auction houses or large mail order companies. A sufficiently large number of serious store dealers who themselves still have daily direct contact with the customer and properly maintain it is absolutely necessary. Make such dealers your concern and do your part so that the coming generation will still find them.
It may be presumed that the store dealers, who have a number of difficult years behind them, can speak of a satisfactory to even a good year 2000. I speak here, as always, quite generally and solely of the pure Classic Switzerland business, thus of our stamps from 1843 to aprx. 1880. I must leave the evaluation of the later issues, particularly those of the 20th century, to specialized dealers. It would be presumptious of me to give an opinion in this.
It appears rather unlikely to me that only we alone, as a pure mail order business, can speak of a very good year. As expected, the economic situation was quite gratifying, the unemployment rate in Switzerland is almost negligibly low and the overall prospects actually are favorable throughout. Additionally, there is a better competitive position for us on the important US market. There our current Swiss prices are considered moderate to actually cheap on the market because the US Dollar has strongly risen in value. Recently this was strongly noticable. One must, however, be very careful because this Dollar-euphoria will come to an end one day to again make room for a more realistic evaluation.
Once again this year, there were some nice stock market profits here and there. Mostly not to the same extent as in 1999, but nevertheless. It appears to me that some of these (easily) earned profits flowed, to some extent, into our stamp market as well and it is my own opinion that everyone would be well-advised if he would convert his realized profits (or at least a portion of them) into a tangible asset such as Classic Swiss Postage Stamps in the coming year as well.
The time still appears favorable. We have a situation where some areas, such as Rayons, Strubel and Perforate Seated Helvetia, move well and are sought-after, but one cannot speak of an over-heating. And that is good. The peak of the price range appears to have been reached only in certain specialized fields which are hardly a subject for the normal collector, such as rare destinations and certain specialties.
Conversely, the prices for Cantonal stamps continue to be very low. However, one can clearly determine (at least for the past two years) that they have bottomed out. If, at this time, some few larger buyers would appear at the scene, these (low) prices could hardly be maintained for long because there are very few firms still maintaining a proper stock of these first Swiss stamps. I must say this is regrettable, because if more of my colleagues would endeavour to keep a stock (or could afford one), as was still the case some decades ago, the prices for Cantonals would currently be higher to quite some extent for this reason alone! And not at all because they would ask too much for this material, but simply because, under such circumstances, the market would be swept clean!
he market for unused Classic Swiss Stamps has developed variably but, all in all, quite gratifyingly. Years ago it was hardly possible to find a buyer for these unused items. Since, during the past years, I have published a few lines on the subject, we have found quite a number of new customers. Above all in the Strubel area, where we have a genuine purchase need ourselves at this time. Above all, for the better numbers. There is a healthy demand for the Cantonals as well. In this area, we are missing certain numbers unused entirely. Only with the Rayons, many collectors still appear to hold back. This may be a result of the fact that most of them have doubts about what is still on the market today. To this must be added that offers of certain firms are accompanied by (Swiss) certificates which — to put it mildly - certainly require review and thereby cause further feelings of insecurity. One must understand this. Even on the premise that to err is human (I am afraid that this happens to me every day!), every purchaser must nevertheless ask himself the question whether or not, in the case of the mentioned firms or individuals, we are really concerned with human occasional errors of which we complain and which we attempt to correct, or whether there might not occasionally be more behind it, namely intent!
My advice to all stamp buyers: first make personal contact with the maker of an offer and don’t fall for every plump advertising trick. Today everyone (also every dealer) must earn his money if he wants to survive. If you begrudge him this, find yourself another hobby! If you don't, then leave him his profit. And become very careful if the emphasis is not on the merchandise but rather on the discounts. Because again: no one can give anything away today with which he wants to make a living. But it might be that, behind these alleged "discounts", there are hidden, undescribed or unmentioned flaws which, in the final analysis, render the purchase very expensive! You can safely presume that many examples of this could be cited.
In my opinion, you get the best value for your money where you can get precise and correct descriptions of the merchandise including all flaws (also those not mentioned in the certificates) so as to enable you to make an informed purchase decision with full knowledge of the facts. And when, above this, you gain the impression that your provider is not a mere salesman but knows something about his profession and thus about your items, then not much can go wrong. Then that situation is soon reached which to me actually is the most important prerequisite for a long-lasting, satisfying business relationship: absolute confidence between buyer and seller. If that does not hold true in your case, if you have not gained this impression, then I clearly recommend discontinuance of further purchases from that dealership. And I say this to you with full knowledge that this might also apply to me, should I not meet these prerequisites! If, however, you have found a supplyer in whom you have full confidence, then you should not delay purchases which you intended to make and which are financially possible for you. And all this under the motto: Buy that which you can afford, but only that which you enjoy! Not only does the present (and apparently also the next few years) still appear to be a very favorable time for purchases, but by this means you additionally have a much longer period of time to enjoy the long-desired items! Time and again I see collectors who, for years, would like to have a certain item and can also afford it. The concern that they currently might have to pay a (laughable) two percent more than, possibly, in one or a few more years prompts them to postpone such purchases. They fail to realize in this that not only the stamps, but they themselves constantly grow older and, with that, the time during which to enjoy the purchase constantly becomes shorter!
And with that we have, this year again, reached the not so simple subject of the bequest of a collection. Many are disturbed by the fact that, among their own descendants, no one can presently be discerned who would genuinely enjoy the stamp collection of the father, grandfather or uncle. Not surprising! If we look back to our own "storm and stress" period, who of us, at that age, spent his evenings over an open (and almost empty) stamp album!? A lack of interest in a stamp collection is therefore not at all unusual. As a rule, most collectors have their first contact to stamps during their school age (exactly for this reason, those teachers and youth group leaders are to be supported who are able to bring about such contacts!) which, in almost all cases, ends with school completion and is only resumed at an age of maybe 40 years or somewhat more. Namely then when one not only has established residence and started a family, but when one begins to be more engaged in domestic activities. Disinterest on the part of one’s own children or godchildren should certainly only be classified as "temporary" and rather serve to create possibly the best entry assistance for a beginning collector in form of a birthday collection. By accumulating birthday postmarks of a possible collection successor on loose stamps or also on covers one leaves to him one day a quite personal collection, thus an object which is introduced by his own birthday. In this, merely the day and month are important, but not the year. Just as one celebrates one’s birthday every year, one collects this date from various years on loose stamps and covers. Whether this ultimately becomes a small or very voluminous collection, is unimportant. It is a personal collection which usually is accepted as such. One would treat such a stamp collection in the same manner as you would honor and not heedlessly give away a dedication of someone close to you. With this, there is a completely different relationship to the object. Consider whether or not you wish to begin such a collection for your wife or your children, grandchildren or godchildren. You can, after all, select and decide what you wish to purchase — and in what volume. No matter what, you help in fighting the alleged lack of a rising generation of collectors, in that you assure that your own collection, your philatelic life’s work, is not just sold or possibly dumped or sold at a loss. The main concern of many collectors would be removed with this! Without obligation, you can let us know the dates of interest to you and we can see what our computer has registered!
Still a very appropriate form of a Classic Swiss Collection would be a Home Area or Cantonal collection. Here you only collect the cancellations of a single Canton (where indicated only of one district or, occasionally, of only one city or town). This has the advantage that actually you have no blank spaces in the collection. One looks at that which one has. Above this, one gains an excellent view into the life of an area 100 to 150 years ago. With such collections, it is much easier to bring in postal cards and any other objects which fit into the collecting field, than it is with normal collections. Let us know the areas which interest you. We shall be pleased to offer you material in our stock.
Quality has always played a large part in all old collections. In the past, many advisers tended to recommend to new collectors to collect "only superb quality". I have always placed a question mark behind this. I openly and gladly confess that I prefer to sell a superb item, which is of course much more expensive, than a flawed item. And when occasionally I treat myself to a stamp for my own small collection, I surely enjoy a superb item more there as well. Only . . . I simply cannot at all times afford this condition! And with equal frequency the situation arises that a certain rarity is not even known in superb condition, not available or, if available, is beyond financial reach. And it is precisely that what I wish to say to my customers: in my view, it is far more important to actually own any specimen of an item than not to have it at all! This also applies if it contains some (smaller to larger) flaws. I’ll lay it on even thicker: if I were to describe the demand in our business openly and honestly, then I must admit that the demand for Cantonal stamps of inferior quality has increased during the past few years and that currently, as a rule, we sell more of them than superb items! That flawed items cannot be sold, as one consistently wishes to make collectors believe, is just not a fact. The opposite is the case! To prove this, I hereby make to you personally my offer of "upgrading". If you have any Cantonal stamp of lesser quality which you wish to exchange (against payment of a premium) for a superb piece (or simply a better one) of the same catalog number, we shall allow you a particularly advantageous price for your item of lesser quality. This applies for the time being, as long as we have a sufficiently large quantity of superb items available. I don’t know what the future holds, but make the attempt and improve your collection in this manner!
At the end of this year, it is my desire to cordially thank all of you, my valued customers, for your faith and customer loyalty during this last year of the old millenium. This also applies primarily to my colleagues with whom we could again and increasingly conduct purchases and sales. Personally, I find contact with colleagues most meaningful; it is, at the same time, a yardstick: anyone who can chose from hundreds of dealers and auctioneers throughout the world but, time and again, but returns when he has a want list for classic Swiss stamps, must have a reason — is that not so? We shall endeavour to merit and earn this trust in the coming year as well.
If one publishes a catalog not under the name of a firm, but under one’s own name, and precedes it even with one’s given name, it might result in the totally false impression that, in my case, the catalog is the work of Gottfried Honegger of Schmerikon alone! In no way! Even if during the whole year I primarily conduct the processing of purchases to the greatest extent by myself, as of autumn it is the whole family who makes the publication of such a work even possible. Primarily my wife works on this and, not to forget, a nice portion of our extended family makes the packaging of the catalogs for shipment a family event, and also especially my son, Markus, who takes care of all editing and processing of the catalog under his own power, not to speak of his internet appearance which I personally find excellent. If this appears to you to be too subjectively tainted, then please take a look at our home page under http://www.ghonegger.ch and subsequently let him or me know your own evaluation! I look forward to it, as well as to every other contact with you during the new year to which I cordially wish you much pleasure with your stamps and good health.
Schmerikon, December 12th, 2000
Yours, Gottfried Honegger