The Rail Philatelist May 1998 Newsletter
Number 10 May 1, 1998
Volume 2 . Number 10 May 1, 1998
Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
To celebrate my 15th year as a mail order stamp dealer, all orders from this month's lists will receive a 15% DISCOUNT. I registered my trade name on May 1,1983, placed some classified ads in Linns, Stamp Collector, Model Railroader, and Trains, typed out my first pricelist on the Heath 89 computer I built from a kit - the rest, as they say, is history! I thank all of you who have made my hobby-business such a pleasure over the years.
RED DOT: The dreaded RED DOT is back. It means I haven't heard from you in 10 months - I've offered you the entire world of railway philately during that time and nothing has caught your fancy. Therefore I won't waste more of your time and my postage. If you find a RED DOT on your mailing label, this is the last newsletter and price list you will receive from me unless I receive an order or some other compelling message from you. Sorry, but I have to cut expenses wherever I can.
SURVEY RESULTS PART III: One reason for asking about magazines in the survey, was to see where I should be spending my advertising dollars. Your responses were somewhat surprising. Only slightly more than half of you read LINNS STAMP NEWS while slightly less than half read GLOBAL STAMP NEWS, but it is mostly the same half so about 40% of you don't really read any stamp or hobby magazine! About 25% of you read STAMP COLLECTOR, AMERICAN PHILATELIST, MODEL RAILROADER and TOPICAL TIME, while 30% read TRAINS. I had been considering an add in TOPICAL TIME but now I'm not so sure. There were a smattering of write-in votes for several other magazines but no real consensus. Another surprising response was that only 2% of you had a train stamp collector friend to share with and only 15% were able to add to your collections via stamp clubs. It seems that stamp collecting is a somewhat solitary hobby for most of you. I guess that means this newsletter is the primary print medium tying many of you to the hobby - that makes it an awesome responsibility - hope I'm up to the challenge.
MAIL BID SALES: Several of you suggested that I conduct periodic mail bid sales or auctions. I have toyed with the idea but discarded it after talking with a couple dealers who have conducted mail-bid sales for several years. The returns don't seem to be commensurate with the effort required, especially in such a specialized area. There just are not sufficient train stamp collectors to make it worthwhile. By the most optimistic estimates there are probably fewer than 1000 collectors to draw from ( Casey Jones Railroad Unit membership is about 500 worldwide). As part of the Westminster train stamp buy-out mentioned last time, I also acquired their train stamp customer list for a limited use. After eliminating all the names already in my customer database, I mailed out letters and pricelists to about 300 potential new customers. Only about 10% responded favorably, 9% were bad addresses, 20% were no longer interested in train stamps, and the others didn't respond even though a fill-in-the-blanks postal card was provided. With that kind of response to what should have been a well targeted mailing (all had made at least one train stamp purchase previously), either my approach was wrong or there just isn't enough interest out there anymore. Frankly, with everything else I am trying to do I am not sure where I would find the time for the extra bookkeeping and paper work associated with mail bid sales. My monthly specials list and price lists are in effect Net Price Sales. They seem to be working reasonably well, so I think it would be best if I continue to try to improve them before venturing out into another arena.
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: A slight alteration of a sign for sale at a recent train show: "I love my wife... I adore my trains(tamps)".
STAMP OF THE MONTH: Denmark, Scott #1077, commemorates the Danish Traveling Post Office (TPO) service which had its final day of operation April 6, 1997. The last TPO operated along a 125 mile route that crossed the "Great Belt" between Korsor and Nyborg on the ferry (also shown in the stamp). Opening of a new railroad tunnel resulted in the discontinuance of the TPO. The ferry crossing took over an hour while the tunnel allows the transit in about 10 minutes. I guess that just didn't leave much time to get the mail sorted so they canceled the TPO service.
EVENT COVER LIST: Attached is the first installment of my NORTH AMERICAN CACHETED RAILROAD COVER CATALOG. I hope to publish the complete catalog with photographs someday soon. In the meantime, I have included prices for the covers that I have several of. Your comments and suggestions are solicited as well as your orders.
ALPHABETILATELY: Now there's a mouthful! Bill Senkus and some associates put together an interesting slide presentation called "Alphabetilately- a philatelic alphabet" using philatelic items for each letter. I'll have a more detailed report on his presentation another time, just this short excerpt for now. As part of the talk Bill presents an excellent collecting philosophy which I asked if I could share with you: "One message I'd like to communicate is that any sort of collecting should be fun, and should be done to please one's self. Some people like strict guidelines, they like to know what and how to collect. For them, filling an album with every stamp of a particular country or theme gives great satisfaction. Others prefer to collect only what they like, with no list or limit or end product other than the pleasure as they go along. I know a guy who collects sightings of trains - he has no photographs, no notes, no visible record - nothing concrete to show - his collection is entirely in his head, and gives him great pleasure. So only you can define what collecting means to you, and how to go about it. But whatever you do, have fun." Well said!
APRIL TRAVEL: I guess there is no fool like a train fool. I spent part of a rainy April Fool's Day watching two westbound CONRAIL freights exit the Galitzen Tunnels and a couple eastbounds descend Horseshoe Curve (good thing I had my umbrella). After visiting Subway Stamp Shop in downtown Altoona to buy some supplies, I watched AMTRAK'S Train #40 "THREE RIVERS" arrive and depart the local station - it had more freight cars than passenger cars! Five baggage/express cars on the head end, seven Road Railer trailers on the rear and four coaches and a diner/lounge in the middle. There is also an excellent little railroad museum there devoted to the area's Pennsy heritage, but I didn't have time to visit again on this trip - had to get to APS Headquarters in State College to try to find more treasures for my lists - didn't find much this time. The Buffalo train show wasn't worth the effort except for another pleasant visit with Norm and Florence Wright. Norm and I even left the train show an hour early on Saturday to get to a local stamp show just as it closed - I still managed to spend a few bucks with a couple dealers. On my way home, I made another pilgrimage to the Union Pacific's North Platte yard - always lots of activity there (over 100 trains a day). The highlight of doing a stamp show there a couple years ago was a tour of the huge engine servicing facility. The show chairman was the General Electric Locomotive Site Manager so he gave me a private tour of the entire facility after the banquet on Saturday night! I just got back from a delightful but physically demanding trip to the Big Sky Country. Schlepping the ton of stuff I carry in and out of the former Northern Pacific depot in Livingston, MT on Saturday and then doing it again at the Civic Center in Helena the next day is more work than I normally am willing to do, but the people are friendly and the sales (and buying) were pretty good. I spent a couple hours Friday evening watching Montana Rail Link GP-9 #118 flat switching the former NP-Burlington yard in Laurel, MT, just west of Billings, while I ate my Hardee's "Monster Burger" for dinner and listened to the Colorado Rockies lose another baseball game (I eat well when I travel - actually I had a great prime rib at the Paradise Inn Restaurant in Livingston Saturday night - more than even I could eat!). There was no train activity at Laurel but switchers #16 and 17 were each working cars on the east end of the yard while two GP-9s worked the west end. There is also a log loading yard, an auto-rack unloading yard and a Burlington Northern rail welding facility there. The engine servicing tracks held an eclectic mixture of power from the home road, four BNSF "War Bonnets" but no BN green, Electro-Motive and Livingston Rebuild Center lease units, two Kansas City Southern (KCS) road units that pulled out to go find their train just as I was leaving, and Camas Prairie switcher #143 visiting from Idaho (saw it in a westbound consist in Livingston Saturday evening after mass where I prayed for strength and customers!). Ballast work at Glendo, WY and just south of Hardin, MT had the BNSF Cheyenne to Billings line tied up - there were three southbounds waiting at Casper, WY on my way North and two southbounds and two northbounds there on my return. The UP was moving things pretty well though on Monday - I saw eight eastbounds, one westbound and a couple switching moves at the west yard lead in Cheyenne in a little less than two hours as I ate another "Monster Burger" dinner - then rushed home to meet the latest addition to our family - my wife's new Shelty puppy, Sadie! Hey, don't blame me for the name - I suggested Shelley.
INSURANCE: I hope the new APS insurance servicer is doing a better job for you collectors than it is for dealers. Since my policy with the old carrier, now Collectibles Insurance Agency (CIA), was coming up for renewal, I thought I should check the new APS carrier out, particularly because of all the hype about improved benefits and service. Well, my first two telephone calls for information got no response - the receptionist answered the phone and took my name and address but no one ever called back or mailed the requested information. After almost a month, my old policy renewal deadline was near and still no info from the new firm, so I called again and told the receptionist that if I didn't get some answers my next call would be to APS to complain. I was transferred to a supervisor who apologized and promised I would be contacted that afternoon. And I was, by a kindly British gentleman who handles the dealers insurance. He gave me some information and asked me some questions and said he would get back to me. He did, by e-mail with a policy application, and by telephone with a price quote which was about $20 less than I was currently paying, but I would have to pay one large annual premium rather than the two semi-annual premiums I was currently paying. That and no first hand claims experience about the new carrier led me to decide to stay with CIA for the time being. Actually, I had heard a couple instances of dealers having their Lloyd's of London insurance canceled after a claim, the same underwriters evidently handling dealers insurance for the new APS insurer, and at the same time I had had excellent claim service from Dan Walker & the old APS service, now CIA, on my two claims. The first was when I had a US #293 disappear at TOPEX in Omaha a few years back. Actually, I had more problems getting a police report from the Omaha police department than I did with any other part of my claim. The other claim was a couple years ago when the hot water hose on the washing machine broke during the night flooding the laundry room, kitchen, etc and the basement below which unfortunately contained the work area where I was sorting and organizing stamps and covers.(Of course,both Sue and I were out of town at the time!) In both cases, my current insurance paid my claims promptly and completely and without any hassle. So, I sent in my premium renewal with a note saying that I was renewing for now but hoped for a premium reduction in the future because of the competition. Well, competition must really work because I got a pleasant e-mail from Dan Walker reducing my premium almost 18% effective immediately. While I certainly appreciate the reduction and consequent cost savings, I now wonder if I was over-paying before? Probably not, since with my claims history so far I have received more in claims than the total premiums I have paid to date. I hope you all have good coverage for your collections and never have a claim!
MAY 16-7 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTER KNOXVILLE,TN MAY 30-31 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CASHMAN FIELD CENTER LAS VEGAS,NV
MAY 16-7 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTER KNOXVILLE,TN
MAY 30-31 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CASHMAN FIELD CENTER LAS VEGAS,NV