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When I was a kid, one of the ways collectors bought stamps was called "approvals."
A dealer would send you a selection of stamps. You kept the ones you wanted, and
sent back the ones you didn't, along with payment for the ones you kept. It was all
based on trust. But times have changed, costs have risen, and there aren't many
approvals dealers any more.
But the American Philatelic Society's Sales Division still works almost the same
way. Director Tom Horn calls it a clearinghouse.
"We have members who send in stamps in sales books that we sell them, the blank
books. They price them, describe them, and send them in to us. We send them out to
members who have asked for particular categories, and we have about 168 of those
Stamp stores are disappearing. Pricelists and the Internet just aren't the same
"A lot of people want to see those stamps right in front of them."
When I was a kid, getting approvals was a thrill, and for many adults now, it still
"When they see this thing coming in the mail, it's like a little stamp store coming
to them and they get a chance to look at it."
You'd think with the Internet and eBay, the one-hundred-and-twenty-year-old A-P-S
Sales Division would be a dinosaur, but Horn says no.
"We're going to be just as thriving 20 years from now as we are now, mainly because
people like that, and it's an inexpensive way to get inexpensive stamps."
Of course, says Horn, the A-P-S Sales Division DOES use modern technology. Every
sales book is microfilmed before it goes out to buyers, but--
"We're going to be switching to digital imaging, from microfilm, and we can use that
digital imaging to send things to members in countries we can't send to now."
--because of import restrictions, import duties and taxes, or just high mailing
I'm Lloyd de Vries
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