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Buying BSAC material at online auction sites or online retailers is a minefield for the unwary.

Here are some tips that will help you negotiate your way through.

We will start with eBay – which still remains the primary venue for BSAC material – with an estimated 70-80% of market share in online sales of BSAC material.  There is much variety of material being consistently offered – a lot of which would not easily or otherwise have been made available to the general public.

However, eBay is also home to many unscrupulous and morally-challenged individuals with a few being outright criminals.  In about 2014, for reasons that defy common sense, eBay dismantled the group of expert collectors who provided their expertise to eBay in closing down fraudsters.  Since then, there is really no viable or effective means for eBay to control the increasing number of fraudsters or fraudulent listings that appear. 

As a buyer, it is now very much “buyer beware”, but these tips might prove helpful:

Make sure you have an excellent scan of the stamp(s) in front of you.  Be cautious toward sellers who use low resolution scans.  It takes little tech know-how to put high resolution scans on a listing, so there is really no excuse.  Request a scan of the reverse if that is not supplied by the seller.  This is important when buying high value BSAC mint stamps.  Gum distribution and disturbance as well as the number of hinge remnants will considerably alter the value of the stamp.

Sellers are notorious for not adequately describing their stamps.  BSAC is a specialized field, and many of the eBay sellers will only have a general knowledge at best.  Some sellers deliberately give as minimal information as possible.

On occasion, sellers will misrepresent the catalogue number either knowingly or unknowingly.  Don’t assume that sellers know what they are talking about.  Don’t assume that because there is a catalogue number next to the stamp on an album page that it is in fact correct.     

Be especially wary of any high value items that do not have a certificate.  There is a reason for the lack of a certificate – i.e. there is a problem with the stamp that the seller may or may not know about.  We see untold examples of BSAC material that have been used fiscally, but subsequently cleaned of the fiscal ink and a forged cancel applied, or the stamp regummed and sold as mint.

Be especially wary of Expertizing Certificates that date pre-2000.  Be even more wary of Certificates that emanate from obscure individuals who have no history with Rhodesian stamps, but are more of an expertizer of multiple countries.  With the exception of the BPA (British Philatelic Association), the only other Certificates for Rhodesia material that are trustworthy (in our opinion) are from R.M. Gibbs, S. Reah-Johnson and CJR Stamps.  If you still insist on buying an item with an expertizing certificate that does not emanate from any of the aforementioned, do yourself a favor and have it vetted again.

From time to time, we will come across scammers offering material that is not in their possession.  In other words, they have sourced (stolen) scans from elsewhere.  These sellers (typically with lower feedback) suddenly offer high-end philatelic material at low starting prices.  The item gets sold, the buyer pays for it. Weeks go by.  The buyer finally contacts the seller to find out where the item is, but does not get a reply. The buyer typically then seeks eBay’s help for a refund, which is given.  The scammer has made off with your money and any trace of where that money has gone.  The scammer’s account eventually gets closed by eBay.  eBay/Paypal takes the loss.  This is more of a frustration for the buyer than anything else.   

As a rule, we would strongly advise against buying from sellers who have private feedback (feedback you cannot read) or who have private bidding.  Shill bidding (the seller bidding on his own material) is a not too uncommon occurrence on eBay.   For the buyer, it means he or she is likely to pay more than what would have been the final bid without the shill bidding.   Shill bidding is not allowed on eBay (or anywhere), but there is no effective mechanism on eBay to identify it. 

Fortunately, there is a website where you can check an eBay seller’s integrity (or rather lack of integrity).

Click on http://www.stampboards.com

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website.  Right under “A powerful Google Custom Search Engine for JUST This Site is below”  enter the username of the eBay seller and see what comes up.

Finally, here are some quotes from some savvy collectors:

“Never believe a word of anything written on eBay descriptions; use your eyes and common sense.”

Be wary of buying from someone who uses the euphemistic term “Sold as seen”.  This is another way of saying THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS LOT WHICH I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED BUT HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO AND WHICH I DON'T WANT YOU TO COMPLAIN ABOUT WHEN YOU BELATEDLY NOTICE.  More often than not the phrase has no legal effect because you cannot see the fault anyway.”

“In the end, buy what you know, not what you don't know”.