This was by no means a normal and simple year which now approaches its end. We not only experienced apocalyptic terror attacks of a type simply inconceivable in times of peace, but also stock markets which presented crash-type downward slides and upward corrections. In the economic area we had to experience bankruptcies with griveous effects upon the labor market which, a year ago, was simply considered unimaginable. Under such conditions, one can, in no way, imagine an annual review of an ancillary field such as philately, a mere hobby to many of our contemporaries, to be described in rosy colors. Well, let us leave aside the question whether or not the colors are to be described as rosy. It is nevertheless a fact that classic Swiss stamps, which is my sole topic and our field of supply, have held up quite satisfactorily. Certainly out of luck were those firms which had scheduled their auctions a few weeks subsequent to September 11th and, as a result, had no choice but to conduct them. When, in addition to the momentary uncertainty, one adds the impossibility of travel, to go to Switzerland by plane at all, surely the traces of these terror attacks could not be overlooked. Nevertheless: these were and are short-term, momentary effects which, a few weeks later, are placed ad acta and forgotten. Naturally, there were and always will be people who, after such warlike occurences, initially are rendered insecure, have justified fears and, for this reason, want to undertake nothing and thus do not wish to purchase stamps either. The collapse of status symbols such as Swissair (if one looked at the quotation sheet of the stock exchange during the end of September, one gained the impression that other substantially large Swiss enterprises are faced by the same situation!) has exactly the same short-term effect for others. But there is also the other side. Those who tell themselves: now more than ever! When there is no joy, much less profitability, to be had with stocks and bonds, then one at least wants to have some return from uninvested funds. Alternative investments, such as classic Swiss stamps, quite to one’s surprise, suddenly became a topic again! Let us look a little more closely at the various categories:
Cantonals: Our sales of luxury items were more sluggish than ever. Additionally, the supply of normal items – particularly at auctions – was plentiful. All in all, one could repurchase at favorable terms, as a result of which we were able, as a rule, to lower our prices. Contrary to this, the demand for items of lesser quality was stronger than at any time during the 35 years for which I have been professionally engaged in this subject-matter on a full time basis! Here one must be glad if one can hold prices at this level for some time to come. With these, there are certain differences between the individual Zumstein numbers. Let me give an example:
We hardly had any demand this year for superb copies of the Vaud 4. On the other hand, we had aprx. seven orders for such a stamp with major faults which we had offered for CHF 5500.- Because we always have many items not contained in the catalog in stock, we were nevertheless able to deliver about six to date. But we are quite interested to purchase such numbers in inexpensive condition! Or a second example:
Basle Dove. During the past three to four weeks alone, while we have not sold a single superb item, we did sell not less than eight with certain faults. One might regret that there are fewer buyers for the expensive superb items at this time. However, for me there is another side of the coin and I like it just as much if not far more: these qualitatively not perfect items were sold to different collectors who, until now, had not, or hardly had, contact with the Classics and who now suddenly enjoy it. These are new collectors, and are these not precisely those which we wish to find and have? Additionally, I have often been told by such new customers that, at this time, they merely wish to fill these gaps in their collection and that at a later date – when from a financial viewpoint such purchases are more readily possible – they wish to supplement the collection by purchase of the same numbers in faultless quality. Within a short period, these new customers will have new desires which they will want to fulfill. These are good prospects for the future! The market is greatly broadened by precisely such people and that is the best basis for a comprehensive support of the market! It becomes less crisis-sensitive and with that more stable! And in this respect don’t forget this one thing: the above developments took place precisely now, in this doubtlessly not very easy time! Thus not under ideal conditions! This leaves me looking with confidence to the future.
Special Offer of Cantonals: Because I continue to consider Cantonals as generally undervalued in relation to the other categories and because we are pleased to let you profit from the favorable repurchase possibilities, we should like to make you the following offer in order to further promote the collectors’ increased attention to the Cantonals : if you order three lots of the same Cantonal stamp from our offer, you will receive a discount of 10%. But if you order five items of the same Cantonal catalog number to create an entire album page, you will even get a discount of 15% of the listed (partly already reduced) prices! You can combine these items from all fields, thus also unused stamps and covers and you can further chose from the rest of our stock which is not illustrated in our catalog. This offer remains open as long as stock remains available but, at the longest, to the end of the year. Payment in installments is possible upon agreement. Upon request, we shall also be pleased to submit an offer of entire album pages to you. For this, you must merely let us know your desires as to condition and the various kinds (whether used, unused or on cover).
Rayons: The stagnation of the previous years is gone. In the meanwhile, there is quite a number of collectors who are devoted to the reconstruction of printing stones by means of display of positions within the stone. At this time we still have a nice stock – of cancellations as well – and can continue to deliver at unchanged prices. Should you be interested in this most interesting and productive field from a purely philatelic viewpoint, you should use this to your advantage and begin with this or expand upon it. A few numbers of the Durheim issues have surely stayed behind. This applies to the Orts-Post and Poste Locales, the dark blue Rayons and also the Small Numerals and the Centimes of the red Rayons where soon a plating book should become available. Mr. Geiser is working on the very last still open questions on position and, should you have multiples (pairs or larger) of Zumstein numbers 18 and 19 (also 13 and 14) available, I shall be pleased to forward photocopies to him. Perhaps you may be privileged to clear away the last doubts with your items and thereby accelerate the issue of the reference book! With regard to the Large Numerals of the Rayon III, we are still in a position to supply two or possibly three collectors with far advanced reconstructions of the entire plate of 180 at very interesting prices.
Strubel: This field enjoys steady popularity and forms for collectors, coming from the area of perforated stamps, the actual entry into the Classics. Here the demand has not slowed in any way. An important field, of course, primarily for the home area collectors!
Perforated Seated Helvetia: An exceedingly popular field among home area collectors. There is no other issue where this many different cancellations are found. Letters to other countries are frequent and rare destinations still realize very high prices. Just as is the case with earlier issues.
Unused issues: Here the general upward trend has been most pronounced. The prices for unused Strubel had to be generally raised in the Catalog of the Dealers Association. The notations for Rayons and Cantonals were still left untouched, but the demand for these has gratifyingly increased. Nevertheless, I should still like to describe the unused stamps of the purely Classic issues as undervalued and recommend them for purchase.
Home Area collections: Many collectors do not dare to begin a Classic general collection because they “fear” the few large, expensive items which they consider to be beyond their means. However, there is a very viable alternative: to begin a collection, not according to all numbers, but rather by cancellations of only a certain region or Canton or, if indicated, of only one or a number of locations. This has the great advantage that here one pays attention only to that which is on display and the eye is not directed to those numbers which are still missing! I consider this to be an excellent method of collecting, primarily as a second collection or simply if one does not wish to be disturbed by missing items. Let us know the geographic areas of interest to you. We shall be pleased to inform you about what is available and will furnish you a few examples on approval.
Birthday collections: Since we developed this idea a few years ago, a number of collectors who started such collections have contacted us. The idea is to accumulate as many items as possible which bear a given birthdate (your own, your wife’s, your children’s or godchildren’s), etc. But only items with the correct day and correct month in the cancellation, not the correct year in every instance! In this manner, you accumulate the birthdate of this person from as many years as possible. Full albums are hardly created by this means, but possibly a few pages over the years. To me, this is the best entry for someone to whom one wishes to convey, thus to impart and bequeath, appreciation of our beautiful stamps! By insertion of a few such items, any collection you please becomes an absolutely personal collection. And a very personal gift is not simply set aside like an unloved book, but one at least holds it in esteem. Probably one will, sooner or later, proceed to apply one’s self to the collection and become occupied with it. When today many older collectors and club members complain that the younger people no longer have any interest in stamps, the question should be raised as to what they have done themselves to encounter this. My advice to them: Try it with one or more of these birthday collections! With this you will have the best chance to awake the interest of youthful collectors or heirs! In earlier times, children or godchildren were frequently presented a gold coin on special occasions. Or an entry in the savings book. But both unfortunately no longer have the importance or the prestige that they once enjoyed and I believe that presenting such a classic Swiss collection with the applicable birthdates would be a better idea by far! It should be the aim of every collector to see to it that he finds and motivates at least one collector, if not more. It is perfectly in order if this involves a young person. But it may also be a pensioned senior who has not been successful as yet in the search of a hobby. Why don’t you also try it in your circle of colleagues? You can readily obtain supporting documents or technical aid material from us.
Classic Switzerland training courses: During the past years, we have conducted several such courses or chats about our classic Swiss stamps. Initially with six, then with four persons and, finally, it became evident that surely the most productive form for the participant was the discussion with the individual. There are many collectors who feel generally insecure in the area of classic Switzerland, who don’t dare to simply start somewhere in this field, because they fear a flop. Possibly also people who no longer can count on such help and support in the stamp clubs. If somehow you belong to this category of persons who still have questions about the classic Switzerland area or feel insecure about it, and if you presume that I might be of service to you in their solution, then I should personally like to offer you a non-obligatory get-together and discussion right here. On this occasion, you can bring your collection right along with you if you consider that important. My concern in this event would be to convey increased confidence to you in this field. Confidence in evaluating classic stamps or the determination of the stone in the field of Rayon stamps, etc. You can buy stamps everywhere without problem. But I should very much like to show you why you should acquire them, which are better and which less desirable and what one should pay attention to. In short: as time goes along, you should feel more secure in this field and, gradually, put aside the aversion to classic stamps where “each has its own price”. I shall be glad to take the time for a personal conversation with you. A sale is not precluded, but by no means a prerequisite. Should you be interested in this, please check off Number 1640 on the order card attached to the catalog. We shall then agree upon a date.
“Upgrading”: A few collectors have made use of our campaign last year. This involves the exchange of one of your bad stamps for a better one of the same number in that you pay a fair additional amount. With this, we simply want to prove our thesis that lesser quality Cantonals (these are involved in most cases) can definitely be sold. If, additionally, the lesser quality stamp was originally purchased from us, the credited amount for it will be that much higher! Thus, should there be a few numbers in your collection which you wish to improve, let us know and let us see the ones which you wish to exchange. We shall make an effort to find a satisfactory solution for you – as was the case in all instances of the past year!
Introduction of the Euro: This will have no effect on our classic Switzerland business or, at best, positive ones because some people - for whatever reason – will prefer not to exchange their DM resources into the new currency but would rather look for another method of use. Particularly in Germany, the faith in the Euro seems to remain within limits and, for this reason, the investment of certain asset portions in tangibles would not surprise me at all. For us, nothing changes to the extent that we convert the value of deliveries into foreign countries at the daily rate of exchange ($ or L) as we have always done in the past.
Future Outlook: In general, I am not at all in a pessimistic mood. Those fellow-men who are concerned about the current political and, in part, economic situation are faced by at least as many who say to themselves that the last months in particular have demonstrated that everything on this earth is finite and thus transitory. And thus also life itself. But since we are incapable of adding a single span to this life, why should we not enjoy it as long as we still can? What good does it do us if we fill the remaining time with fear and sorrow? To the extent it is granted us, we render a far greater service to us, our families and our fellow-men if we enjoy each new day and are thankful if it turns out to be comfortable and enjoyable! I believe that a hobby such as classic Swiss stamps can greatly support such joyful activity. But this does not exclude in by any means that we must retain an open heart (and an open hand) for our fellow-human beings who have become destitute.
During the new year, we will probably experience a low, probably very low, inflation in the whole free world. This leads to very low returns on bonds and this, in turn, will cause many, particularly elderly people, not to extend bonds which have reached maturity at the substantially lower rates, but rather to “treat themselves to something”. Since the airline business will probably be under strong pressure for some time to come, much less money than before will be spent on travel. It can be presumed that a certain portion of thus “saved” funds will also flow into alternative investments such as classic Swiss stamps.
The booming stock market, primarily of the year 2000, has given way to a disillusion and quite a few investors today – a year later - consider what would have happened if they had not invested their funds in stocks, but rather in classic Swiss stamps! In part, some out-of-this-world objects would have been created! And in no way am I thinking only of those (unfortunate) contemporaries who tried their luck in the New Market! Well, on the basis of hindsight, one is always smarter. But such <> , as is well known, fear the fire in the future. At least for a limited time. One may therefore presume that surely from this (investor) side rather more money will flow into the realm of classic Swiss stamps.
But all collectors, whether exhibitors or simply collectors who enjoy the accumulation of an object for themselves and, as time passes, will expand it in any particular direction whatever, should be guided by one thought in all investment decisions: buy when this is within your means, but only buy that which provides pleasure to you! And the more you know and understand something, the more you will also experience the joy which one of the most beautiful of all hobbies can provide, namely the work with our classic stamps, a Swiss cultural asset!
If this catalog is again delivered to you this year in a timely manner, which means in January, then my thanks for this go even more this year to my wife, but primarily to my son who took over much work in the arrangement of the catalog and who additionally is going to introduce the whole work in the internet. You will find our home page under http://www.ghonegger.ch Why not take a look at this completely revised appearance. My son will be glad to regard your judgment as appreciation for his work and thankfully note it. By this means, you show him whether or not he is on the right track. A change he made this year is that sold items are no longer removed but rather marked as such so that the offer as a whole conforms to the catalog. Absent this, there was repeatedly the case – primarily, of course, with the Perforated Seated Helvetia and also the Strubel for Home Area Collectors – that in certain categories nearly everything was removed and almost nothing on offer was still visible. In this procedure, it now becomes important that you also indicate sold lots, if they would have been of interest to you. Because by this means – and only by this means! – are we able to offer you similar items from our stock (see Vaud 4, above). Let us know, without reservation, which method you find more suitable. This way or another: we only indicate lots as sold which really are sold and not just mailed out on approval. Thus it might happen that a lot, which is not as yet struck, can nevertheless not be delivered because it is underway on approval.
Commission shipments to dealers: As a rule, our stock is quite abundant and our delivery service prompt. In most instances by far, colleagues from Switzerland can expect to have the desired catalog numbers on the table (at the usual dealers’ conditions) on the following day. To foreign countries, because of postal delivery, this, of course, takes a bit longer. To the extent desired, we can, in most instances, also make such presentations with other items than those listed in the catalog.
I should like to express my cordial thanks for all contacts during the past year and it is my desire to wish you luck and joy and good health for the year just begun.
Schmerikon, November 21st, 2001, Gottfried Honegger