You seem to have a very unique and interesting job. Please Tell Us a little about yourself and what you do at Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries?
I'm sort of a jack of all trades. Siegel Auction Galleries is the largest auction house in the United States for rare stamps and postal history. We have been holding auctions since 1930. I advise people on building their collections, and I also take care of many new initiatives to bring our business into the modern age. You don't get to be at the top of your field by resting on your laurels - we are constantly trying to add new ways of interacting with our customers.
From what we saw on the website, Siegel Galleries have some amazing collections. Is stamps something you were always interested in or did you simply fall into it?
I started collecting when I was growing up, and was fortunate enough to be able to turn my passion into a career.
These collections seem to capture a very important part of Modern History, what kind of stamps exactly does your auction gallery work with(if there is a specific kind)?
We sell primarily classic stamps, with a focus on 19th Century and early 20th Century issues. We sell many of the most famous stamps, such as the so-called "Inverted Jenny", which was printed with an airplane flying upside down. We sold the unique plate block of the "Inverted Jenny" for almost $3 million a few years ago.
Out of all the collections that you have seen, have there been any that have been proud or amazed to be part of?
Every collection is different, so it's fun to see how different collectors develop their own philosophies. Some collect only used stamps, and try and get the finest quality examples they can. Others will focus on just one issue, say from 1869, and collect the varieties and stamps on covers for just this issue.
Is there anything interesting that you have learned about stamps that you feel the general public doesn't know?
They really are miniature works of art. The early stamps were all produced from engraved designs, and have a phenomenal degree of detail. For instance, in one stamp from 1869 the engraver shows 42 distinct people in an engraving about one inch wide! We also sell postal history, which are the stamps used on their original envelopes. People collect by destination, and back then there were different routes it could take, which cost different amounts to send. A cover could be sent to France by a half-dozen different routes (though England, direct, on a French boat, American boat, etc.), and these routes reflect the geopolitical realities of the time they were sent. It's all very interesting.
What do you use 1DollarScan for?
Our customers enjoy this as a hobby, and one component of that is research. Census work is important to many of them - how many copies of a rare stamp exist? We have been scanning in all of our past auction catalogues, to make them easily available and searchable. We have had 1DollarScan digitize over 600 of our past catalogues. Our goal is to make our entire run of catalogues from 1930 onwards available. Pretty soon you will be able to carry around three bookshelves worth of catalogues on an iPad or other mobile device. It's pretty amazing.
How did you first hear about us? Was there a specific problem that you were trying to solve?
I first saw an article on 1DollarScan in Forbes and thought that this would be perfect for us. Our philosophy has always been that we should give collectors as much information as possible, and this allows us to do so.
How has 1DollarScan helped in these matters?
1DollarScan made the process extremely easy. I don't have to worry about adding infrastructure and overseeing a complicated process. I just make my list, send the old catalogues, and download the files when they are done. It's the most cost-effective and painless solution I could ever imagine.
How do you feel about 1DollarScan and is there any request about our operations that you have for us?
The Platinum membership is perfect for us. We send off a stack of catalogues each month, and then it gives me time to assemble to next batch for the following month. We have been able to set up a steady workflow this way, which helps make the process easy. I can log into the website and see the status of my past order, so I don't have to wonder what's going on. At this point there isn't anything I would change - it looks like you've thought through everything very carefully.
So, if someone were to be looking for a place to buy or auction off a nice stamp collection, your auction gallery would be the place to go right?
I would certainly hope so!