03 honegger philatelie Wissenswertes

Thoughts about the market situation

If we leave out the several millions of Francs stemming from collection brokering in recent years, which have been severely inflating our annual sales numbers while not affecting our profits, and tend towards traditional customer sales, we are glad to be able to speak about another successful year of business. Not only catalog sales which include all areas of interest are accounted for, but also those from our annual spring list, which primarily includes pre-philatelic material as well as cancellations on loose stamps or covers due to the moderate pricing being affordable for any collector. We have however noticed an increasing number of sales of bigger accumulations and whole collections to collectors and especially to colleagues.

Let me take a look at the different areas of our Old Switzerland stamps from 1843 to about 1873. We still have stunning results for imperforate mint issues. It becomes obvious here that merely anyone seems to have an actual inventory of these stamps and even specialized dealers must find them one by one. As you might know, these issues (Cantonal stamps to Strubel issues) are not required to have any gumming. The Swiss Association of Stamp Dealers’ catalog does neither require nor appraise it. Used values rake in record prices for fine and scarce cancellations. As for regular issues, auction companies seem to have noticed that it is easy to flood the market with these items nowadays. If scheduling conflicts or unacceptable terms of auction make matters worse, obviously, the result will be disappointing. This is not just a problem for commissioners and auction companies, but for the whole market.

The area of homeland collections still offers the ideal moment to start a collection as collectors start to shift towards collecting cancellations of a certain area instead of trying to build a complete Old Switzerland collection. These collections can encompass a whole canton, a district, a valley or just a single village. Such items are especially interesting due to their extraordinary depth in this single field of interest when compared to a regular Old Switzerland collection. Without these homeland collections, many areas would lack the detailed knowledge about usages and cancellations they have today. Many outstanding books were written on that fundament. An especially mentionable one would be the work about Ticino oval postmarks. I also still endorse birthday collections. This is where you would collect cancellations from a single date using day and month, but disregarding the year. Collectors who spent a lifetime being excited about their hobby and countless hours investing and gathering for their collection, are naturally worried about what might happen to their collection one day. Interested family members or heirs might be too young to get involved with philately. This is where a birthday collection might be especially helpful. A collector would just gather material for one or several specific dates next to their actual collection and thus create a personal connection for the person to receive the collection one day. It is not just a bundle of cash or a stock portfolio that will eventually be used or sold, and then forgotten about. Personal souvenirs are valued much higher. And – be honest – as a collector, would you not cherish the thought of the work of your lifetime being continued instead of just turned into cash? The decades of hard work and investments would be preserved. There is however no guarantee for that, but still an actual possibility.

Curiously enough, world politics still has its influence on our Old Switzerland business. I still do not think that the political situation is an ideal one for us. Most people from the United States will agree, but lately Europeans might think the same way as well. The Brexit is not concluded yet and the latest changes in Germany, Europe’s strongest economic power, mean trouble beyond the current government. On the economic side, interest rates are historically low, which will only change once money printing is slowed down again. It is a good time for loans, but could be disadvantageous for senior citizens, who sometimes spent a lifetime saving for their last stage of life and have no desire to extend their bonds at zero interest, as not even bank fees are covered by the sparse interest returns. Understandably these people turn away from such investments and would rather enjoy their savings for themselves. They start booking cruises or traveling the world otherwise. During recent years, some of that available investment money starts flowing towards classic Switzerland stamps. We are expecting this trend to last for some more time, which is an advantage not only for us, but for you as well. Dealers like us can only purchase your collection at a fair price if our sales numbers keep us alive. Moreover, these investments are meaningful for several reasons. They are a simultaneous investment in the strong Swiss Franc as well as offering joy for a lifetime. These goods are genuine Swiss cultural assets.

Let me point out two events next year: there will be a national Switzerland exhibition in Lugano from May 17 through May 20, 2018. Numerous extraordinary collections will be on display, and almost all renowned Swiss dealers will be present. Instead of just one day, why not allow for two or three days for your stay? We are sure you will be rewarded. Our team will also make an effort to present a number of highlights there. If you are an exhibitor yourself, you might want to contact us for suitable additions to your collection early next year, so your collection will be ready on time. Also, 2018 will be the 175th anniversary of Swiss stamps. The Bern Museum of Communication will feature a special exhibition from March through July including the rarest Old Switzerland items that will ever be on display together. The museum’s modern environment will accommodate young and old as well as non-philatelists. We recommend you a visit there as well. A group of dedicated collectors and dealers created a distinguished book for the occasion with most of the work accomplished by Jean-Pierre and Colin Senn. No serious Switzerland collector should miss this work. It is available for order with the Swiss Stamp Journal or any bigger dealer throughout Switzerland.

Concerning personal matters and this year’s title image: ever since our son Markus joined the company more than 25 years ago, it has always been my wish to not only confer responsibilities on him, but also help him build valuable business expertise. As the company founder I feel great relief and joy in finding that he mastered these tasks with excellence. On the legal side this resulted in him gradually receiving company shares. This year is the first year when he is holding the majority of shares. It is a new, but comfortable feeling for me being able to continue my work under a superior for the first time in 50 years. This means comfort because I can cede some of my responsibilities and even more because I can be certain that he will carry out his work just as fine as he did in the past. We are not going to change in these aspects.

The approaching end of the year is always the time when we would like to take a look back and express our gratitude. The latter is especially directed to you, dear customers and colleagues. Without your continuous business, we would be at our wits’ end very soon. Further gratitude goes out to our family members, including everyone from wives to grand-children, who all play their part in some way, but especially help out during the shipping of catalogs.

Let me wish you many moments of joy throughout the new year. I would miss you dearly if I did not hear from you soon.

Schmerikon, 2017-11-23
Gottfried Honegger

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