Enthusiasts for stamps, coins and other collectibles can build collections without donning their anoraks after Stanley Gibbons launched an online marketplace.
The philately auctioneer, established in 1856, has entered the internet age with a basic auction website. It will add features early next year to allow buyers to target particular items and sellers to price their goods by answering automatic questions.
Mike Hall, Stanley Gibbons’ chief executive, said sellers with individual stamps worth more than £50 should have them valued in person but for cheaper stamps the marketplace will provide an eBay-like service that is secure. Buyers’ money will be kept in an escrow account until they have received the goods and sought advice if necessary.
“We have tried to provide a website that removes the difficulties of buying and selling collectibles online,” he said.
The announcement came as the company reported pre-tax profit excluding acquisitions rose 123% to £2.9m for the six months to the end of September, with like-for-like sales steady at £17.2m. The company has bought businesses including Mallett, the antique furniture dealer, so that it can sell the full range of collectible items.
Wealthy people in China, Brazil and Australia are snapping up stamps and coins, partly as a hobby and partly as an investment. The biggest buyer of stamps in the first half of the year spent £3m. In May, Stanley Gibbons sold an Edward VIII coin for £516,000 – a record for an English coin. An 1841 Penny Red stamp, which Hall said was the stamp collectors’ “holy grail”, is on sale at a guide price of £475,000.
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