I suppose I’m lucky that I live in an area where there are a couple of stamp shops, or at least they pretend to be stamp shops. I haven’t walked into any of them recently because I haven’t really collected stamps in a while, but since I’ve gone a little nutty of late and gotten a considerable number, I was running low on a couple sizes of stamp mounts, I figured I might as well stop in and see what I could see.
Now I wish I hadn’t.
The closest shop is the one that I always went to in the past and while I knew that they’d moved more toward coins and precious metals in recent years, as I think most stamp retailers have, now they probably ought to take “stamps” out of their business name because they effectively have none. They used to have a decent selection, at least one long wall of stamps and covers, plus a bunch of books on the counter filled with various stamp sets to buy. All of that is gone now. They did have a small display of stamp mounts that looks like it’s just leftovers and very overpriced leftovers at that. Online, I can buy a pack of Showgard mounts for $5.15, there they were charging $10 for the exact same thing. No thanks. I can see six or seven dollars, but ten? Forget it. Otherwise, I didn’t see a stamp in the place, all of the cases were filled with coins, all of the stamp albums they used to have on the bookshelves were gone, etc. Even the copies of Linn’s Stamp News were gone, although I did see one old issue haphazardly thrown into a rack near the door on the way out. Needless to say they didn’t get any of my business and I won’t be going back.
The second place is a relatively new one that I haven’t been in before but they weren’t much better. They had some stamps, I guess, if you consider sorted used stamps stuffed into envelopes to be indicative of a stamp dealer. They had a couple of albums and some album pages stuffed here and there but nothing interesting or impressive. Like the first, they were virtually all precious metals, even though on the front of the building it very clearly says “STAMPS”, there were very few to be found.
Of course there is a third that’s quite a distance away, I have no idea if it’s even in business anymore because I no longer drive past it, but I know from past experience that it’s a cluttered mess with unfriendly employees and I strongly suspect it’s a front for some illicit underhanded business. They sure don’t want any customers in the store and they offer no help whatsoever if you manage to get in the door. I didn’t bother going there.
There’s also a fourth that I didn’t bother with because I know they’ve given up the stamp ghost. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall in a little failing mall that used to have a good selection of stamps but is now only coins, they even took all references to stamps down. They’re not worth the trouble.
It’s really a shame because I remember growing up, tons of stamp shops that actually sold stamps. They’d have display cases stuffed full of them, with tons of stock books filled with hundreds of thousands of stamps behind the counter. If you were looking for a specific issue, they probably had it, just ask and they’ll bring out the appropriate album to page through. Those days are unfortunately long gone and it’s really sad because it was fun to just go in to shoot the breeze with fellow collectors and learn some things from those more knowledgeable than you. Oh, and to buy stamps, of course, I virtually never left a well stocked shop without a package of stamps in hand.
So I came home, jumped online and ordered all of the supplies that I needed, it will be here in a couple of days and even though I had to pay shipping, it still cost far less than I would have spent in any of these local shops. The stamp world has changed and not for the better, I fear.