I actually wanted to write this article exceptionally some weeks ago so that it is done early enough and not only hours before handing the text to the printers to have it put quickly on paper. In this way some points were not always forgotten, which I meant to include to point them out through the year. I would have spoken about the situation that we had less demand for single lots but really much more demand for collections, particularly from dealers to ask for entire collections and larger lots. I never recorded this fact statistically although I reckon it was in earlier years 80 % of sales of want-lists and single lots and 20 % sales of entire collections. And this year the relation of single lot sales was almost the same until October when the sale of collections was much higher. It was considerably higher than the sale of single lots. The turnover was thus remarkably higher than in the good year of 2012.
Then came October and even much more in November everything was reversed. Firstly we had a big surprise we sold –against all our expectations- the beautiful Dream collection Sitting Helvetia perforated of covers abroad all in one lot. This is totally against all odds. Naturally this was sold reasonably and presented possibly a true deprival of a higher profit. This was balanced and meant that this collection of Swiss Cultural heritage remained together. I have explained this already in my article “ Philatelic Dream of a Lifetime”. You can see this for yourself by looking at the album pages online on our home page.
We could add to the sale of that big collection in the month of November also several unexpected sales of single lots, mostly of very fine to superb pieces. When did we ever sell in one single week (in one single week!) no less than six Double Geneva items. In addition several highly priced covers! I am speaking here not of low or medium priced items which are requested all year round but I mean really very high quality items. That has resulted to the fact that we sold some lots offered of our catalogue of 2014, which we would not found elsewhere.
In other words: As a rule we start selling lots of the new catalogue from approximately November onwards, once we have scanned them. Naturally we are able to offer similar lots, since we have a big stock and not all lots are scanned and offered at once. Under these circumstances we cannot speak of a reduction of selling single lots. It is like in a game of football. The game is only finished after the last whistle. A year should be commentated only at the end of the year.
It does not make much sense to divide the classic stamps from 1843 to about 1870, in which we exclusively specialise and sell all cantonals, Rayons, Strubeli and Sitting Helvetia imperf. and perforated and to comment each part separately. And only for the reason because I am now convinced that a part only “goes/sells well” when you can offer rare and important items at reasonable interesting prices. Then there will be demands. If you have nothing much to offer, then it always confirms that collectors do not bother to ask for these items. We had in fact demands for all issues. When you have an increase of turnover, you can seriously not speak of a loss of collectors or speak of a drop in prices.
The tendency is that there are always new collectors, who not belong to any club and who simply looking to invest. People, who are looking and avoiding to invest in shares and bonds like they used to but prefer to find an alternative way as for example in classical Swiss stamps. The classic Swiss stamp market has increased a lot this year. For us dealers it signifies naturally where to find our new clients and as you can realise not where they were before. When I started my philatelic career close to 50 years ago, it was sufficient to advertise in two or three philatelic magazines what one had to offer and what you were looking for. You were sure of getting in touch with a deal of collectors and dealers everywhere. Today it has become difficult. It is especially for our classic Swiss material. The best way of succeeding today is surely a personal recommendation of a satisfied client to his friends. That means that you as dealer have satisfied one or more clients, who feel that they were well and professionally advised what to buy and served. That is any way my main target. I always like them entirely satisfied and pleased to come again. That is for me more important than the yearly increase of the turnover. It is certain that you do not always succeed in all cases since some clients have demands and wishes, which cannot be fulfilled all the time.
If you ponder long enough, you can always find a hair in the soup. This is the moment, when you should have chosen a better way of business. It could a sheer hazard when we did not take enough time this year but the sales to geographical collectors and those of birthday dates collections. Clients are probably diminishing a little although we did check this detail.
Under the title of geographical collectors we understand those, who do not collect a country but only cancellations of places, which are meaningful and significant to them like their birthplaces or the canton, in which they were born that has the advantage that you can build a very individual, personal collection in contrast to a collection systematically built to the catalogues, which has each stamp only once. Nobody”must” have a stamp. Everybody buys only what he likes. It will not be noticed or even criticised whatever he will not include.
Birthday collectors buy only for themselves or family members a certain birthday date on stamps or covers. Of course only with the day and month and not the year. This way they achieve really unique collections, which are meaningful to the family members. This type of collection is particularly recommended when somebody would like to pass his collection. His inheritors have possible no interest and his grand kids are too small. Children look for other things than stamps because one starts to collect generally after the 40th birthday when a man has a home and family. When you receive such a collection, whatever size of your father or grandfather, you don’t want to sell it, because it is personal and encourages to continue this work. It would be a pity to break it up and disperse it.
Possibilities for the coming months and years
There are no big chances for the content of my catalogue. The evolution was going in the predicted way.
-The Federal Banks are still producing new money in incredible quantities. That presents a considerable risk of inflation. Although I cannot see this happen in the coming year. A gentle slow increase in interest and financial politic will not have important effects on people how to invest.
-The Euro is still not in “absolute safe waters”. But at the moment there are no big waves. Short term investing will not happen.
-The dollar is still the most important currency of the world, although it cannot be called absolutely healthy. But the US Federal Bank has still its hands tied. If they increase their interest, the industry would undoubtedly suffer and also the stock exchange. Since the unemployment figure is like before higher the desired, we will not see a quick change.
-The “problem countries” in South Europe just struggle along. The help of the rest EU are in the main time so progressed that one does not want any collapse. These problems are surely still not solved in the long run.
-Germany as motor of the EU will overcome the crisis. The industry is performing very well. This fact is for Switzerland very important since they support our Swiss exports very strongly.
-Hardly any other European country has got over the 2008 crisis better than Switzerland. The forecasts remain very well.
Money is certainly around and needs to be invested somehow. The unemployment is compared to other international levels very low and the inflation negligently low. The investment possibilities remain as before very limited. It is no subject saving money in the bank, the shares are quoted high and bonds give you little more but any gain is swallowed by bank commissions and tax. Gradually more and more people (and not at all only the old ones) look for alternative investments and are no longer willing to accept lengthy commitments and low interest rates. The investors want to enjoy their savings. They want to buy something from their money, for which they had to work hard or which they inherited. They look at luxurious holidays (sea cruises are very popular nowadays) or invest in art, famous paintings, precious stones, gold, or classic Swiss stamps. These are not promising a foxed increase but they make people happy and confident when they receive good useful advice. This should today the most important point when spending or investing money that they enjoy what they are doing. A holiday is soon fading when it is over and all what remains are only memories. A nice collection of Classic Swiss stamps can however be always enjoyed and gives you pleasure each time when you open it. The new album printed by the Swiss Dealers Federation is beautifully designed with illustrations and about the geographical and historical explanations. It was created for the purpose to show the new collector in easy way to be acquainted with this great hobby. We still do offer the album and the complete sheet-set for free to any buyer of a cantonal stamp for CFH 1500.- or more. In order to save our foreign clients we could take your order to the multiple international exhibitions, where we will be present.
We would be pleased to advise you and answer all your questions concerning the purchase of Swiss classic stamps. Always remember and never forget that you invest not only in the strong Swiss currency but also in one of the Swiss cultural present. It is not our task but our wish to thank all collectors and dealers to have helped us to bring about our record sales year.
It may not be possible to repeat this so simply next year. We do not sell a product, which can be ordered and supplied when needed. On the contrary, when we are able to sell some items, it is probable that we sold something unique which cannot be replaced when needed. You can help us. If you could offer us as many items of all areas and as much as before to replenish our stock, it would help. Offer us nice single items or good collections, which are in a reasonable price range.
When you receive our catalogues, you do not know, who has put the catalogue together. Certainly not only me. My son Markus edits the catalogue completely. His wife and me sort out the lots over the whole year and we also pick out the single lots out of collections and purchases to have for you a good choice. My wife is helping daily in the office and without the help of our loyal relatives, it would be impossible to pack and mail you the catalogue. Many thanks to you all.
22th November 2013, Gottfried Honegger