- Overgrading: many auctioneers and mail sale dealers are rather "liberal" when it comes to grading, ignoring minor defects which nevertheless have a major effect on market value. In addition, some of these individuals make a practice of delaying refunds on returned lots (sometimes for months), or refunding the cost of the lots minus shipping and handling. Grossly mis-describing lots is a disservice to bidders, and in my opinion, the best way to avoid inconvenient and infuriating situations is by providing the auctioneer with references, and then bidding conditional on "inspection prior to payment - net in 10 days of receipt" terms on won lots. Grossly mis-described lots should be returned without payment for shipping, and should an auctioneer send some lots which are purchased by the bidder while others are grossly mis-described and returned, the "round-trip" costs for shipping these lots should be deducted from the payment for those kept.
- "In-bidding", or secretly raising the second highest bid at auctions in which the winning bid is supposed to be one advance over the second highest bid. This is usually impossible to prove, and frequently an auctioneer who does this will attempt to lessen suspicion by not raising the second highest bid on every lot won by a bidder. There is really no means of preventing being cheated in this way; therefore one should never bid more than one is willing to pay for a lot.
- Allowing buyers to beat a winning auction bid for several days after the close of the auction: I've been informed that at least one mail bid auction engages in this practice. Obviously it would be unthinkable at a public stamp auction, and one wonders why anyone would want to bid at all if winning bids simply become increased reserves for buyers to beat after the auction is over.
I have recently started a petition against excessive stamp auction commissions, which I encourage readers to copy and circulate. It gives the signer the option of indicating the maximum commission level that he or she will tolerate as a consignor, and includes an address to which to send completed petitions. When a sufficient number of people have signed the petition, copies will be sent to the American Philatelic Society and the American Stamp Dealer's Association.
Until such needed reforms are implemented, there are other less expensive means of selling stamps. Ebay's stamp auctions have a far larger audience than that of any stamp auctioneer, and Ebay waives the insertion fees on the first 50 unsold lots per month. The total commissions on items sold amounts to less than 15%, even after combining the insertion fee, final value fee, and Paypal fee. Members of the American Philatelic Society's can use its online StampStore, by sending in stamps mounted on pages, with brief descriptions of the stamps, catalog values, etc.. The member sets the price, and if sold, the A.P.S. charges a 20% seller's commission. This is a recent innovation, similar to the organization's Mail Sale Circuit books, which have no online component and which provide a convenient means of selling inexpensive stamps. With both Ebay and the A.P.S. StampStore, the seller sets the minimum bid or price, and in both cases, reserves can be lowered online, via re-listing lots on Ebay and by changing the price online with StampStore.