Jim Mehrer's Postal History
Mail Bid Sales

Frequently Asked Questions

I began this list on July 19, 1998. Little by little, I will add to it. With any luck, I'll end up with a comprehensive list that will save having to retype the same answers again and again, as I have been doing for the past few years.

1. Q: What do you do for a living?

A: This is my full-time job. My wife helps me with the workload, and we have three other part-time employees. My work week is typically about 100 hours long.

2. Q: How do you determine the estimates in your mail bid sales?

A: I use my reference material and my experience. Sometimes the owner of the lot will stipulate an estimated amount (or minimum bid amount), but I still research the item. If I disagree with the owner's assessment, then I usually don't run the piece. Many of the same references that I use are available for purchase. Go to my Literature page for a complete listing of available titles.

3. Q: Do you accept charge cards?

A: As it says in several places throughout my web site (and implies in my catalog, where it says to pay "by check or money order in U.S. funds only"), I do not accept charge cards. Since everybody follows that question with "why not," here's why not:

My commission on the mail bid sale lots is 20% of the selling price. All of my expenses of conducting business (employee payroll and taxes; insurance; telephone and utilities; printing; advertising; etc.) have to come from that 20%. Since those expenses take about one-half of the 20%, it leaves me with a little less than 10% of the selling price as personal income.

Although many people don't realize it, charge card companies take a percentage of every sale that a merchant processes on a charge card. Because I run a mail-order business, the percentage that they would charge me would be about 5% of the gross sale. Since the consignor is assured of getting 80% of the sale, and my expenses take another 10%; the 5% that the charge card company would get would have to come out of the remaining 10% that currently represents my personal income. In other words, if I were to accept charge cards, I would have to sacrifice one-half of my personal income every time that someone used a charge card!

The charge card companies have a solution for this. They suggest that I raise my prices to cover their fee. The problem there, of course, is that I don't set the prices in my mail bid sales. My bidders do.

Some customers have suggested that I just bill them for the additional fee that I would incur. The problem there is that the charge card companies specifically prohibit adding their fee to the invoice. Any merchant who is caught doing that can have his account canceled because of it.

4. Q: When I place bids in your mail bid sale, do you notify me if I am outbid?

A: The short answer is "no" - but please read on.

This question wasn't asked very often until computer-operated on-line auctions started up. With those systems, there is only one lot in each auction, and there is only one way to bid. You submit your bid from your computer to their computer, using their bidding form (which many people think is an email, but it really isn't.) If you are subsequently outbid on that lot, their computer informs you of this by sending you an email. This notification method is possible when only one lot is being offered in the auction, and there is only one way to bid, computer-to-computer.

By contrast, my auctions contain thousands of lots - not just one lot - and all of the lots close simultaneously at a specified time. During the course of the auction, which lasts several weeks, hundreds of bidders submit their bids on thousands of lots using regular mail, email, fax and phone. Every bid that is received here has to be processed and entered into our computer by a human being.

While the auction is in progress, there are thousands of instances where people are outbid. In many cases, we may have nothing more than a street address with which to contact a bidder. Other times, we may have a phone number, fax number or email address. Regardless of the contact information that we might have available, the process of contacting bidders each time that they are outbid would be an utter impossibility.

Imagine if the first bid sheet that we received for a particular auction contained bids on 30 items. Of course, the first bidder in the auction is going to be the high bidder for everything on his list. Next, imagine that this bidder is outbid on each of the 30 items - one per day for 30 days. If we have a phone number for him, do we call him each day, to let him know that he has been outbid on another lot? Or once a week? Or do we wait until the last few days of the sale to call him and a few hundred other people who have placed bids which have been outbid? When Bidder Number 1 raises his bids on the 30 lots, beating out 30 other bidders, do we call, write, email or fax those 30 people to let them know that they have now been outbid?

While this exact situation may not happen precisely as stated - with one bidder being outbid by 30 other people on 30 lots - it serves to make the point that notifying hundreds of bidders about thousands of changes just isn't possible. However, we do accommodate bidders who wish to check the status of their bids during the final seven days of the auction. Please see Condition of Sale #7, by CLICKING HERE.

5. Q: In your Postal History Mail Bid Sale pages, why don't you show the contents of the seven individual sections? I have to search all of the pages to see which categories they contain.

A: I do show a category list for the entire catalog on every catalog web page. With this as a guide, it shouldn't be too difficult for a person to find the categories that he's looking for. As for listing the specific contents of the seven catalog sections on the site, the reason that I don't is that it would mean renaming the pages, restructuring the list, and reconfiguring the inter-page links (49 of them) every time that I did a catalog. This is because the breaks occur at different places each time, depending on the sizes of the various categories. That's a very time-consuming project on this end, all for the purpose of saving the bidder a couple of minutes in going through the web site. For all of the effort that it takes to compile the catalogs, post them to the web site, and conduct the sales, I don't feel too bad about asking the bidder to spend a couple of minutes finding the categories that he wants.

Here's a tip that will make the process even easier. Since we always divide the catalog into seven web pages, all that you have to do is go to sections 2, 4 and 6 to see where each of those sections begin and end. Comparing this to the full category list will indicate which sections are on those pages, and which are on the other four pages.

To see our list of Supplies for Collectors (sleeves, albums, storage boxes, etc.), click here.
To see our list of Postal History Reference Literature, click here.
Do you have postal history material for sale? For consignment information, click here.
To see our Postcard Net Price List click here.
To see our Show Calendar for Collectors of Stamps, Postal History and Postcards, click here.
To see our Old-Time Postmark Calendar click here.
To go to our Phone Card page click here.
To return to our Home Page, click here.

Comments? Questions? Email us at mehrer@postal-history.com
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