Catalogue Price or Market Price?

This is a common question – what constitutes a catalogue price? I think many of the collectors and dealers use the term catalogue price rather loosely. “Below catalogue price” is the most common phrase but what constitutes below catalogue price? 

Catalogues are issued by stamp dealers as a reference for the price that they are willing to sell. Now, you and I and anyone else in between can produce a catalogue. That would then constitute a “catalogue price”. Thus there is a question of which catalogue to refer to?!

When a dealer quote “catalogue price”, there should be a reference to which catalogue the person is using. In Malaysia, the most accepted catalogue price is the International Stamp and Coin (ISC) Standard Stamp Catalogue of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. This catalogue is currently into its 30th Edition and is also the last edition (as mentioned by ISC). Thus, the next time you see the word ISC, you know which catalogue they are referring to.

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A recent addition to the local catalogue scene is the SM Stamps Catalogue of Malaysia printed by SM Stamp.

What other catalogues are out there? Plenty for sure. Every major international dealer wants to stamp their mark. Stanley Gibbons has an extensive array of catalogues. They are commonly referred as SG. The pricing is steep compared to ISC. That is the reason why ISC is more accepted as it reflects a price closer to home.

Is the catalogue price equal to the market price? Definitely not.

Market price is determined by supply and demand. Quite often the market price is higher than the catalogue price due to the scarcity of the item. Sometimes the market price is lower than the catalogue price – especially if there is excess supply.

Market prices are also determined by the condition of the item and for covers (including FDCs) …….. the postmark/cancellation/markings/cachet. A reader highlighted that market prices also vary by geography as well as the platforms (e.g. virtual market place versus brick and mortar).

Is the market price equal to the transaction price? Again, not necessary.

Market price is what you “see” on the label, list, advertisement and is an indicative price. The final transaction price is the price reached at the end when the deal is done. This is usually lower than the market price as the seller might offer better terms for bulk purchases or the seller wants to clear off the stock. Sometimes, the buyer is a great negotiator!

Therefore it is not appropriate to say “higher or lower than catalogue price”, as the catalogue is the reference for the person who issued the catalogue. The reference catalogue should be defined. Often times, market prices dictate the final transaction price.

In conclusion: shop around first and compare the market prices offered with your preferred catalogue.

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