Stamps - Does It Pay?
( Originally Published 1893 )
SO far as the dissemination of knowledge is concerned, the magazines devoted to Philately are by no means in the background. There is so much to be learned of and about stamps, that the acquirement of a thorough knowledge of the science is, indeed, a difficult task. Whatever their fault may he, therefore, our magazines are, certainly, entitled to recognition as the foundation of Philately, the result of their establishment being that stamp collectors have been more easily able to give and take information of a character mutually beneficial, thus making the collecting of stamps to be looked upon as a vocation pursued by those possessing more than the usual amount of intellect, instead of as a species of crankism. To Philatelic journalism, then, in my mind, belongs the honor of the success of Philately and the multiplication of its adherents. It is useless to harp upon the question of the fitness of the average Philatelic journal of this age. Taking the magazines as a whole, the better class is becoming better, and the worse, worse. There are flaws in everything, and it is useless to endeavor to eradicate them.
Who support stamp papers ? Dealers in and collectors of stamps. The former by advertising, and the latter by subscription, presumably. Does it pay ? This is the tantalizing question which confronts our dealers, and it is one in which they are personally interested.
It is invariably acknowledged that an affirmative answer is the more frequent. This. however, refers to advertising generally. Does philatelic advertising pay ? That is the question.
Pecuniarily, philatelic advertising does not pay, unless it is proceeded with in a business-like and methodical mariner. Stamp dealers and vendors are at a great disadvantage as compared with merchants who have other wares to sell. Why Because stamp dealers—the ordinary stamp dealers, I mean—all offer stamps for sale, and they have no other way to offer them than through a stamp paper. Thus it is that each advertiser in a stamp paper is competitive with the other advertisers, one and all.
In a monthly magazine, for example, Scribner's or The Cosmopolitan, one thousand and one distinctly different articles are offered, which, of course, gives each and every advertiser a better chance than the dealer in stamps, who has nothing to offer but stamps, and articles pertaining thereto, and nowhere to offer them except in stamp papers.
I have intimated that advertising will pay if it is conducted on a proper basis. A spasmodic advertiser is, in most cases, a failure. To keep at it is your first lesson. Remember, then, dealers, rather than insert a two inch advertisement in alternate numbers of a paper, insert one inch in every number. You are, of course, aware that you are among a class of people whose sole aim is identical with your own, which is to convince stamp collectors that you sell the best and cheapest stamps. Your advertisement is on a page where there are a dozen other advertisements, each of which is a direct competitor of yours. It is needless, therefore, for me to counsel you to see that your advertisement is attractive, and so worded as to catch the reader's eye. In order to do this you must have brevity. " Be brief." Do not, under any circumstances, force the compositor to set your advertisement in six point type. °An inch advertisement containing twenty words is ample for the space.
So far as advertisement construction is concerned, philatelic advertisers are " in the backwoods." Originality is displayed by few, and these few are the successful dealers. In this respect, that is, lack of originality, the dealers are, in a measure, responsible for the failure of their advertisements to bring forth fruit.
Take any stamp paper from your library, and scan its advertising pages. Fifty per cent. of the advertisers invite you to send for their approval sheets, at various commissions. Fully thirty per cent. more want you to try one of their packets. A few—only a few—advertise good stamps and attach thereto a statement of their prices. They deal in the creme dc la creme of the business.
There are, of course, exceptions to the general run of philatelic advertisements. Notably among these is Guy W. Green's "only one on earth." Mr. Green has struck a good thing ; he knows it, and he keeps it up. 'Tis truly too sad, however, that so good an advertisement should be wasted on so poor a production as The Philatelic Fraud Reporter. "One column" Rothfuchs is another effective advertiser. Mr. Rothfuchs generally uses one column in which he enumerates the cash prices he will give or take for certain stamps. This is far better than the blind way of asking people to " send for our approval sheets at 'steen per cent. commission." E. V. Parker is another notable advertiser. Brevity appears to be his standpoint, although his advertisements do not appear quite as regularly as they should. Who wants a better advertisement than the inch cut that Trifet is running in all the papers ? The signature at the head attracts attention. The wording of the advertisement is complete, yet concise. Many dealers could take good points from such an advertisement.
Among those dealers who display ingenuity in their advertisement construction are the Crittenden Borgman Company, George Kaufman, Charles Beamish. the Mekeel Company, Southern Stamp and Publishing Company, etc., etc.
The advertising rates of American stamp journals are, in most cases, exorbitant. Papers with a circulation of less than five hundred are generally worth nil as advertising mediums. Their mailing list is but a fragment of a contemporary's with a larger circulation. Still, a paper with five hundred circulation might, in some instances, pay better than one with a circulation of five thousand. How can you judge of this ? Ordinarily by the tone of the magazine's contents, its appearance, and the class of the dealers who patronize its advertising columns. The best test is, unquestionably, a trial advertisement. " Does it pay ? " will be answered forcibly and finally in three month's' time.
Dealers can afford to spend some money in advertising, even though it is not of direct benefit to their business, as there is as large a margin of profit in a properly conducted stamp business as in any other business on this globe. Like all other enterprises, however, it takes capital to run.
Dealers are beginning to understand that a magazine of respectable proportions, giving entertaining and instructive reading matter, typographically neat and editorially well conducted, is the magazine in which to be represented. If they will eschew the small insignificant sheets, the average returns from their advertisements will warrant an affirmative answer to the query : " Does it pay ?