In The Spotlight
GBCC Webmaster Larry Rosenblum interviews
John and Tina Carlson, proprietors of JET Stamps Part 2
Back to page 1.
Rosenblum: What do you think needs to be done in the U.S. to keep the local/regional shows here alive?
Tina Carlson: As in any business venture, publicity is key. Given that newspaper/radio/TV advertising is too expensive for most local stamp clubs or show promoters, other avenues of getting the word out must be pursued. There are many local papers that give free listings, and even the concept of hanging flyers in supermarkets, bookstores, hobbyshops, etc. should not be overlooked. If we want to bring young people into the hobby, hanging flyers on local school bulletin boards is a must. Reaching out to teachers who may want to bring a class to a show as a field trip would be a good idea too. In order to keep people coming back to the same show, it is important to give them an appealing environment that they will look forward to returning to. A venue that provides plenty of seating, lighting, refreshments, and perhaps some diversionary activities for accompanying family members should surely contribute to a show’s success.
Rosenblum: What is the highest-priced item you’ve ever sold?
John Carlson: A VR Official Penny Black, but to be honest, it was so long ago now, neither of us can remember how much we sold it for.
Rosenblum: David Aggersberg, Gibbons Catalogue Editor, in an earlier “In the Spotlight” interview, predicted that, in light of the proliferation of modern issues, many collectors down the road would gravitate back to the earlier (pre-1960s) issues. How do you react to that?
Tina Carlson: Based on our customers’ buying habits, we couldn’t disagree more! We have many steady new issue customers, who, in addition to their new issues, tend to work backward from the present day in filling in their collections, and they certainly aren’t skipping the ’60s through the ’90s! Still others are working exclusively on new issues — nothing older at all. We don’t see any signs of this changing in the near future.
Rosenblum: Do either or both of you collect stamps? If so, what do you separately collect? What other hobbies do you have?
Tina Carlson: No. As the Good Book says, you can’t serve two masters. We consider our stock to be our revolving collection. We enjoy looking at everything we handle, but ultimately, if a customer wants it, it goes. When we’re not working on stamps, we like to use what little leisure time we have to read, garden, travel, listen to music, and attend concerts.
Rosenblum: What are each of your favorite GB stamps? If so what is it/are they? How about favorite Machins?
John Carlson: Wow! That’s like asking “What’s your favorite Beatles song?”! There are just so many good ones. It might be easier to name our least favorites instead: For Tina, it would easily be the recent Millennium commemorative series — all just very indistinct in their designs. That series didn’t end too soon! For me, it would be the Occasions multiple choice of 2003 where one is encouraged to deface the stamp. My favorite Machins are the entire pre-decimal group, (the predecimal 2d is shown at left) primarily because of their colors, but also because I am quite nostalgic for that time period. Tina is partial to the 1969 engraved £1 (shown below at right).
Rosenblum: What advice would you give beginning Machin collectors? Experienced ones?
John Carlson: To beginners, don’t get overwhelmed. Spend your money on stamps rather than peripheral items like ultraviolet lights, magnifiers, etc. Start with a good second-hand or older catalog, as the new ones are quite expensive. Read everything you can, and familiarize yourself with your stamps as you collect them. And above all, have fun! Tina Carlson: To experienced collectors, keep enjoying the fun you’re already having, and share what you’ve learned and observed with the rest of us.
Rosenblum: What were your customers’ reactions to self-adhesives? How do they react to the re-issues of high values that seem so plentiful in recent years? What is your customers’ reaction to the recent Fun Fruit and Veg children’s stamps?
John Carlson: Some customers have expressed concerns that the adhesive would prove unstable with the passage of time, and they are worried about the issue of cutting them down to fit album spaces. We haven’t actually had much reaction to the recent high value re-issues. Our new issue customers seem to roll with them within the parameters of the particular album pages they are filling. So far, most people we’ve spoken with actually like the Fruit and Veg issue and regard it as a breath of fresh air.
Rosenblum: Today, non-denominated stamps take the place of some values that formerly changed fairly frequently. Has this noticeably cut into your business?
Tina Carlson: Not at all. There are always new variations being issued.
Rosenblum: What catalogs do your customers use for sending you requests?
John Carlson: Mostly Scott or Stanley Gibbons Concise or Specialised, but a few also use Deegam or the Connoisseur, and some have used Stoneham. We can cross-reference them all, and usually can figure out what the customer wants.
Rosenblum: You have your own numbering scheme for Machins. Please describe it. How did it come about? Will you ever publish a comprehensive catalog containing your numbers?
|Majestic Machins, the catalog produced by JET Stamps.|
John Carlson: Our stock numbers started as a simple system. As the series became more complex, it became our own quirky thing. It is in place to immediately label all the specialized new varieties as they come in, without having to wait years for a new edition of a specialized catalog. It’s our own in-house identification, nothing more or less than a shorthand method of keeping track instead of writing a book on every glassine envelope for every new issue.
Every few years we try to put together a cross-referenced listing with our stock numbers, SG Specialised numbers, and Connoisseur numbers. We have indeed published a comprehensive catalog; the most recent edition was in 1999. The next one will be in the works after the publication of the next SG Specialised Catalog. In more recent years “The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook” has become the most reliable reference. It’s probably not in enough hands in the U.S. If there is enough demand we may consider cross-referencing our stock numbers to Deegam.
Rosenblum: Most “In the Spotlight” readers seem to like to know as much as they can about the people behind the name. So tell us what you can about the Carlsons – where, separately, you were born, grew up, met, now live and any significant plans you have for the future.
Tina Carlson: John was born and grew up on the south side of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s. I was born in Connecticut, but did most of my growing up in Rhode Island, also in the 1950s and ’60s. We met in Boston in 1976 while John was working in the Dealer Service Division at H.E. Harris, and I was completing my degree in Journalism at Boston University. We married in 1978 and lived in Boston for another year before fleeing for the more affordable home prices across the state border in Rhode Island. We very much enjoy living within a twenty minute drive of some of the nicest beaches on the east coast, and our proximity to business and leisure functions in New York and Boston comes in very handy indeed.
As a wise man once said, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” so we really just try to live each day to the fullest, and let tomorrow take care of itself when it gets here. Our significant plans are really only to get better and better at what we do, promote the hobby of philately, and keep our customers happy.
Rosenblum: What do you wish most for the hobby and its future?
Tina Carlson: It would be nice to see more young people take up the hobby. As in anything, young people really are the future. We would like to see the hobby and industry thrive in the hands of up and coming hobbyists and business people who can successfully promote philately in the face of so many other leisure diversions that compete with it.
Rosenblum: Finally, tell us which of you was the brave contestant on Jeopardy, how that came about, and the results.
Tina Carlson: That Jeopardy contestant was me, but bravery really had nothing to do with it. The whole experience was a lot of fun from start to finish. I’d been a Jeopardy addict since the old days when Art Fleming hosted the show, so when they advertised that they would soon be auditioning contestants in Boston, I jumped at the opportunity. The audition session consisted of a rapid-fire audio quiz of fifty questions, followed by a trial game using the infamous signalling buttons. After that, it was just a matter of awaiting a phone call from the show’s producers, which finally came a few months after the audition. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw on the show taping day had me playing against a virtually unbeatable opponent with a machine gun for a signalling thumb, so in spite of the fact that I ended up with a total of $7,399, it was only good enough for third place. The experience was priceless, though, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, if only they allowed repeat contestants, which they don’t.
Rosenblum: Thank you both very much for the time and trouble you took to answer our questions. I’m sure our members appreciate learning about your background, your business, and your thoughts about the hobby.
Some of our newer members may not know that the two of you have been supporters of the GBCC since the club’s early days. On behalf of all the members of the club, I’d like to thank you for your support and wish you much happiness and success in the future.
I’d like to thank Gordon Milne for providing many of the questions for this interview.