03 honegger philatelie Wissenswertes

Thoughts on the market situation

It would be interesting to find out how many people, customers, read a foreword to a catalog at all!

In young entrepreneurial years, some may assume that such an overview will desperately interest (almost) everyone.

So you just write cheerful spirits on it for pages. With increasing experience one becomes more realistic. Whether this is due to a stubbornness of old age or rather to a slowly becoming noticeable wisdom of old age, we leave it open. Either way: Unfortunately, no study has yet been written on whether such thoughts summarizing the past year meet with any interest or merely represent a "futile effort". In our special case there is an additional difficulty!

It is well known that for decades we have been dealing only with the very first Swiss stamps from 1843 to around 1870, and also with the pre-philatelic era of the Swiss Confederation.

And not too much has changed in this area in recent years. My statements or predictions in the last catalogs have proved to be correct and they are still true to a large extent today.

So it is difficult to hardly possible to report a lot of news! I would therefore like to briefly summarise the individual points: Demand in general for cantonal stamps: impeccable, beautiful pieces are sold today without further ado.

It is often the case that customers who have been served for years or even decades no longer need the normal catalog numbers. And this simply because they are already complete there. But also this year we have received several (several!) completely new customers, who have acquired these oldest and therefore also most expensive Swiss stamps or would like to acquire them. Rayon stamps were and are especially important for collectors who want to delve into this (probably most interesting) field of classic Swiss stamps. This is not only about the numerous colour shades that can be found here, but primarily about the different printing stones. In other words: the various issues of these stamps, which have been produced with ever new printing stones. The reconstruction of an entire type plate can occupy and inspire you for many years. Not to mention the large number of cancellations and frankings. A more and more important area are documents about rarely found places or even destinations in other countries! We have made these areas a major area for decades and therefore we are able to offer help to practically every collector.

Strubel and sitting Helvetia perforated: One of the most numerically collected areas in the classic, i.e. very old Swiss stamps. What's the matter with you? Because the so-called home collectors (collector of a specialized area), i.e. those who do not want to collect all the old Swiss stamps immediately (e.g. for financial reasons), but only the postmarks on single stamps or on letters of a certain region (be it a whole canton, or a district or only a few places or a single city) find what they are looking for in this area.

And this at much lower prices than for the older issues. The expansion possibilities here are almost unlimited, especially if - and because - you can also include even larger frankings or foreign letters. An area that will give you lifelong pleasure.

Birthday collections: As an introduction to a collection, collecting a number of pieces (single stamps or letters) with your own birthday date (but only day and month, not year) makes a lot of sense. In this way an anonymous collection suddenly becomes a very personal one! Such a collection introduction is primarily recommendable, if one collects the data of the own children or grandchildren or godchildren and would like to present one day these with it. Experience shows that such a souvenir of the founder remains (because it has become a personal collection because of its date) much more than the beginning of one's own collecting activity and is not simply sold as a gift or inheritance. It is a great satisfaction for every collector who has spent decades on his collection and has often invested large sums of money in it, when he can see that his legacy in this respect will not simply be unused old Swiss stamps as soon as possible: Demand in this area remains unbroken.

Since there are hardly any stocks worth mentioning anywhere, even a specialized dealer must work with want lists. No one can simply deliver "everything" from stock! The prices for the better numbers have by no means already reached the top. They could be increased practically annually. Since, however, certain numbers are often hardly to be found on the market for years, one must be cautious with excessive increases and wait for some time after each revaluation. In general: Older collectors often find it difficult to cope with the fact that the number of members in the clubs is decreasing (with a few exceptions, very active clubs). That's right. The membership numbers there are dwindling, as - unfortunately associated with it! - the number of subscribers to the Swiss stamp newspaper. Now one must by no means make the mistake of only predicting near death to philately! In many other cases we also experience that today we live in the Internet age and no longer in the time when the collectors gathered weekly around the local Stammtisch and raved about the "good old days". In principle, this has nothing to do with philately alone. The latter, however, is affected. Young people today carry their mobile phones in their trouser pockets and no longer the box with the surplus stamps for the exchange during the school break. This inevitably leads to a decline in the number of collectors if we do not succeed in attracting young people to stamps or even inspire them with enthusiasm. We would like to support teachers or leaders of youth courses and are happy to receive such messages. But there is also another site, which is naturally known to an active dealer or auctioneer, but hardly to a "regulars' table collector"! There are certainly new collectors or more precisely: new buyers. But these are almost certainly not people who meet at the regulars' table of the collector's association like in former times and try to fill their collection gaps or hand over their duplicates to their colleagues. More about this in the next section.

Economic conditions: We are still experiencing an unprecedented period of low interest rates not only in Switzerland, but also in large parts of the economically prosperous world. In addition, many people in these countries are doing well to very well economically. For years or even decades these people could put some earned money ("for retirement") on their side.

During all these years, the securities yielded a return that was usually higher than the inflation rate. But for some years now this has often been a thing of the past! Older people do not want to extend due investments today for years. Especially not for free (if you consider the bank charges and investment fees). Many would like to afford something from the savings, as long as this is still possible. Why are cruises or holidays (often several times a year!) so booming today? But now there are also people (every year again and again and the longer, the more!) who make considerable investments in tangible assets. Be it pictures, jewellery or even classic Swiss stamps! And this is exactly what benefits us all today!

But these are mostly people who don't have a "crackerbarrel hobby". I may regret it, but I cannot change the fact that these people have no desire to join an association - not even a philatelic one.

And so they just don't appear in the membership numbers of the clubs. However, if these dwindling membership figures were to prove the decline of philately, this would have to be reflected in the turnover figures of the major auction companies or in our business. You can assume that this - at least with us - is not the case at all! We are very satisfied with the course of business in 2018 and know very well that we owe this above all to you as our customers! Prospects: The political outlook was also less cloudy at one time or another.

There are still many cliffs around the world to circumnavigate and there are always new dangers lurking that could frighten you. Europe's strongest economic engine, Germany, is stuttering. This is meant above all politically. And even after the announcement of the replacement of the leading politicians (including the Federal Chancellor), the new people will first have to familiarize themselves with the new system and build up a network. The former leadership role is still distant. France only took on this role in the short term, but the old problems are already piling up again. The UK's Brexit is far from over and we will see how it will ultimately end in the coming months. Euphoria is not yet the order of the day. Any political activity is not to be expected. And in the eastern states of the EU, resistance to "Brussels" is becoming noticeable here and there. All in all, when you look at it soberly, you think you're surrounded by "lame ducks"!

From the other side of the Atlantic harsh tones come into the former friendly relations. Blue-eyed, if you want to rely on too much help or concessions in the near future. On the contrary: the audacity with which even treaties concluded with major powers such as China and Russia are terminated without prior contact and dismantled trade barriers are rebuilt because they do not fit into Trump's concept, gives rise to new problems in world politics which could take years to solve and overcome.

And in the Middle East, many states have been boiling lately, or are still boiling. Even supposedly friendly states suddenly show a second face, not to say an ugly grimace.

No wonder that these uncertain times are also evident on the stock markets. There the highs and lows alternate, so to speak, in weekly cycles. Such times unsettle investors.

Especially those who do not want to take part in daily speculations and are looking for a continuous investment avoid it and wait. And this not only for some time, but probably also for the near future. It is precisely these political and economic uncertainties that motivate people willing to invest to seek alternative investment opportunities. Investment opportunities which, if they do not offer a return guarantee, at least provide pleasure. And this, in turn, is a strong investment argument for our old Swiss stamps!

Interest rates are likely to remain low for two or three years. To look any further into the future would be speculation. And this is exactly what you should not do with stamps: they have nothing to do with speculation. There have been speculators in philately time and again, e.g. the last time in the 60s to 80s of the last century. We have suffered from this market overheating for years. There is no reason to wish these times back!

Above all, stamps should give pleasure! Joy that can and should last a whole life! This makes the question of a return in this respect seem petty and irrelevant. Think about which other hobby earns a return in Swiss francs and centimes? Playing golf or tennis maybe? What "pays" then a day in the powder snow with lift subscription and if possible still with accommodation? You do something like this simply because you are happy - and not because you are looking for a financial return!

So why must the purchase of stamps be "profitable"? If these do not give you joy, then you should leave the purchase better. Nevertheless, an investment in old Swiss stamps is by no means synonymous with the loss of the invested funds. With a good knowledge of your own or serious advice from a reliable supplier, something will surely come back one day. First of all, we invest in one of the strongest currencies in the world, the Swiss franc. Investors from other countries may get back much more in their own currency when selling items than when buying, because their own currency has fallen against the Swiss franc. And secondly, the fact that the purchase of old Swiss stamps represents an investment in a Swiss cultural asset serves one well! Private: Our business doesn't work all by itself! We wouldn't exist any more if we weren't allowed to count on a large number of customers, including many of our colleagues and quite a few who have become friends in the meantime.

My first and very personal thanks also go to them this year. But this is not only from me, but naturally also from my son Markus, who mainly takes care of the good course of business. If you haven't already realized it yourself: he actually does everything better than his former boss! If you don't believe it, then put it to the test! We can't afford dozens of employees like the biggest auction houses. All the more we are glad to be able to count on the support of my wife and that of my son (all year round), as well as several grandchildren and relatives, who are particularly active in helping with the catalog dispatch. Therefore our thanks go above all to them. I wish you a peaceful winter with best health and many happy hours with your collection in the new year.

Schmerikon, 16 November 2018
Gottfried Honegger

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