De-cluttering Story #1: Portfolio Effect Illustrated

I’ve been a hand-luggage only guy for about 4 years now (see my previous post “Never check a bag again”) and in the last 12 months I have decided to apply that philosophy to other aspects of my life. To de-clutter, simplify, reduce.

My low information diet strategy is also part of this theme.

I’ve been particularly inspired by The 100 Thing Challenge book where Dave Bruno told the story of his project to eliminate all but 100 of his personal items.  I was particularly inspired by his story of the challenges of getting rid of some items that he had emotional attachment to.
He had a particular trouble getting rid of his train set.  Despite not having used this train set for over 20 years he continued to cart it  around from house to house.

I was a stamp collector as a kid,  inspired by stories of “Penny Blacks” and highly valuable First Day Covers.
Each year, from 1981 to 1985 I bought 4 issues of the Annual Collection of Australian Stamps.  These twenty packages are my train set.
Collectively they weigh 13.1 kilograms and cost me about $575 in 1980’s dollars. I have diligently stored them and shifted them through 5 house shifts. I even had a portion of the collection in a Bank Safety Deposit Box until recently.

None of my kids is particularly interested in stamps so I thought that it was time to cash in.
I gathered up my 13.1 kilograms of mint Australian stamps together with few other little treasures that had been in the recently retrieved safety deposit box.
I knew that I had a stack of mint one dollar notes (in an unopened envelope) from just before Australia stopped making one dollar notes and reverted to a one dollar coin.
One recent Saturday morning my son and I ventured into the stamp dealer lugging my valued collectibles.
He had a quick fossick around in our boxes and proceeded to deliver  a speech that he apparently delivers about 30 times per week.
He informed me that there’s no significant market from my collection of Australian stamps.
The best he could do was offer me 30% less than the face value of the stamps. Face value was about $300 – so he offered me about $200.

To maximise my return his advice was to rip the stamps out of the very heavy albums and to use them to post letters!

With our tails between our legs Patrick and I trudged over to the nearby coin collector that Mr Stamp had recommended,  expecting a similar reception.

After a brief poke around Mr Coin asked to look at the envelope that I knew contained the mint one dollar bills.  He thought that I could do probably bit better on Ebay but offered me about $200 on the spot which I was happy to accept.  As we looked at what else was in the envelope we came across a $200 Australian gold coin.
I had completely forgotten about it.  With the price of gold through the roof he was prepared to offer me $450 for the coin, which I accepted.
He said that I could probably do ok with some of the other coins and I did a deal with Patrick to sell them and he could get 30% of proceeds.

So as I explained to Patrick this is a  lesson in  portfolio theory.  My stamp collection was a dud but I did ok overall,  primarily  because of the gold coin.  As Mr Coin  said “not so long ago when the gold price was low, people were also taking those coins back to the bank to retrieve the face value”.  So timing is also important.

But it really goes to show – lugging 13 kilograms through 5 houses was a delusion.
I told the story to my buddies at my Sunday Coffee Club and one of them has got a bigger collection of the Australian Stamp Albums than me.  They currently sit in a cupboard and he has also carted them around from house to house.

I offered my stamp albums for sale on Ebay with a reserve of about what Mr Stamp had offered. The auction failed but I sold them afterwards. The buyer sent me some stamps (that he had previously bought at less than face value) to enable shipping.

I’m already feeling “lighter” for knowing that I no longer have to lug around my stamp collection!
(but it was still an emotional challenge to get to the point of parting with them).

I have since also sold my highly prized (but unused for 12 years) SLR film camera. ($28 on Ebay).

What is your train set / stamp album ?
Do you still have an SLR film camera ? How long since you used it ?


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