Maverick stamp dealer Marc Rousso is shaking up the world of stamp collecting.
The 35-year-old French financier has started an international stamp exchange in Miami Beach so collectors can buy and sell rare postage stamps, like stocks, by computer.
"This will be like a new life for the stamp industry," Rousso told about 50 philatelists who attended the opening of his exchange in September.
"I hope you will always look back on Sept. 30, 1985, and say 'that was a day that revolutionized the art of stamp collecting.' "
Stamp dealers believe Rousso's plan will rejuvenate the hobby as well as drastically alter the way collectors hunt their prey. Rousso hopes it will also persuade millions of investors to buy rare stamps the way they now buy gold or stocks.
"It's a terrific idea. I can only see additional collectors coming in on this," said Stan Kopkin of Tropical Stamps, a large dealer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"I've been in the business 52 years and stamp collectors don't hook on to new ideas too quickly," said Herman Herst, a philatelic appraiser in Boca Raton. "But we need something like this."
Kenneth Miller, president of Promenade Stamp Co., added: "The search, the hunt for stamps, for many, is the greatest challenge of the hobby. With the opening of this exchange, this hobby comes into the 20th Century."
The International Stamp Exchange Corp. opened with a stash of 25,000 stamps worth $3 million to $4 million. The stamps are stored in 2,800 safe deposit boxes in a locked vault at the exchange headquarters.
In a year, Rousso said, he expects to have $50 million worth of stamps inventory, and have $300 million worth of stamps in three years.
The stamp network will work something like a computerized stock exchange. It will have representatives in all 50 states and in Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
To gain access to the data base, traders must have a personal computer or a use of a telex. Sellers set the "ask" price they want for their stamps and send the stamps to Miami Beach where they are authenticated, insured and entered into the computerized listing. Buyers submit a "bid" price.
Transactions will be conducted in U.S. dollars and the exchange collects commissions of 9% per trade--6% from the seller and 3% from the buyer. The data base includes up-to-the minute foreign currency conversion rates.
Stamp dealers can join the exchange as a broker now for free, but eventually it will cost $5,000 to become a member, according to a brochure describing the business.
Although the business is organized something like a stock exchange, there is one significant difference. It is not regulated by the federal government. The Securities and Exchange Commission says stamps are tangible, not a security.