Scams and Shill Bidding in ebay!


Ended for $856.22?

Ended for $587?

Beware the Trap!

The two stamps above are neither faked nor forged, they are genuine in every respect and would certainly get a certificate of authenticity from the Royal Philatelic Society (RPSL) or whatever authoritative body there is. The issue is not the stamp but the seller. These two stamps along with other high value stamps of North Borneo and other countries have been listed periodically in ebay by a seller named marys-gems.

If you look at the first stamp:

The stamp was listed in ebay and ended on 2 Jan 2011. There are 10 bids placed on the stamp and apparently managed to push the price to a whooping end price of US$856.22! The catalogue price for the stamp in S. Gibbons is GBP750 and in Scotts is $450. Seems so far everything is benign until you click at the bids for top bidders of the item:

And when you click at the top bidder, here's what you find:

All activities of this particular bidder revovles around only two sellers! From Jan 02 to Feb 25 2011, approximately in two months period, this remain unchanged, showing that the bidder only bid on this one seller and I suspect the other account of the same seller (emmastamps). It is of course quite unlikely to bid stamps just from one or two sellers and not from the other sellers. Surely there are many more cheaper stuffs in ebay that the bidder can bid on. This raises the suspicion of shill bidding. Pay close attention on the second highest bidder as well.

Now if we look at the other example of the North Borneo $10 stamp, we'll see that:

We'll see that the top winner was the second highest bidder on the previous item! This bidder, incidentally, is no longer a registered user. And when you click on the his account, you'll see that all (100%) bidding activity is placed on the seller marys-gems involving items such from Fiji, Ireland, Malaya etc. This pushes the possibility of shill bidding even further...

What have we Known from the Seller so far?

From various discussion in stamps forum or general online site, the seller marys-gems is quite well known among other philatelic bidders in ebay. In for example, there's a specific thread dedicated to this seller and some other dodgy sellers. Click here for more information on the tricks and shameful shill bidding techniques employed by the seller. From the discussions, we also know that the seller uses another account by the name of emmastamps!

All this, I believe, is to scam the non-suspecting bidders, especially the ones without good knowledge on the general market price of a particular item. Ebay of course would not care much about the rampant shill bidding because they still get their 10% revenue when items are sold. The more people spent on the item, the richer ebay will become. So why would they employ they resources to police these activities when they can pretend not to know and at the same time increasing their profit? Of course if you report these shameful acts to them under the much touted buyer protection scheme, you may actually get some seller kicked off, but many people have reported this particular seller, but I still see him/her doing his/her uusual shill bidding and scam.

As a conclusion, for a safer online bidding experience and transaction, please don't forget to regularly check the seller as well as the bidders. This will protect you against rip-off and online scams! Ebay is not protecting you enough...

A Trip Through North Borneo 1907


A Trip Through North Borneo, 1907

This is a very old black and white film of various scenes throughout North Borneo, filmed in 1907 by Charles Urban Trading Ltd, and sponsored by the British North Borneo Company. The original film has no audio (silent throughout) and I didn't bother to put any music on it. So here's the clip in its originality.

The clips starts with a train journey and views from the train as it passes through a village and crosses a bridge. Note that the locomotive train is the one depicted in the first North Borneo pictorial stamps as opposed to the one we still have in Sabah today. Next, the film shows rapids, most likely to be in Padas river. It also films locals on a raft and members of the expedition fording the stream. This is then followed by scenes of the local industries. Locals quarry for manganese ore, gather rubber from a tree (watched by Europeans) and pick and sort tobacco leaves from the fields.

Further scenes reveal locals at a trading post and performing for the camera. Next, Chinese convicts collect their food, before a sequence showing a European supervising two locals as they chop a sago palm tree. Once felled, the trunk is sawed off and buffaloes (ridden by locals) haul the logs off screen. Local boys take part in a swimming race - diving off a gangway, watched by a European figure rowing alongside - before the film concludes with further shots of the buffaloes, driven into, and crossing, the water.

I think that it is a very informative film, showing how North Borneo looked like about 100 years ago. This is the time which, if given some supernatural power, we would go back and collect all the North Borneo stamps, revenue documents, the coins and banknotes etc and would travel to remote areas such as Silam, Mempakul, Gayah etc to post our letters franked with the rare North Borneo stamps as we know today...:)

Labuan Registered Cover 1905 (Parker Cover)


There is not much going on in ebay recently - much the same kind of items except for a few notable and unusual postmarks. The CNY celebration in Ireland as well as other stuffs mean that I spent less time on the internet in the past few weeks, explaining the lack of entry. :) Nevertheless, I'll share with you the most recent cover I acquired - a registered Labuan cover addressed to Mr. Fred Parker. The cover is franked with Labuan stamps of 1904 issue from 4c on 5c. to 4c. on $1 (Complete set of 9). The cover bears the violet Labuan boxed registration mark numbered 2216 and is strucked with a black single ring Labuan cds dated 2 OCT 1905. The stamps are cancelled with the 9 bars obliterator in black. At the back shows London arrival registration mark dated 8 Nov 1905.

The cover is definetely philatelic in nature and quite obviously contrived with the printed address and the "Registered" capital on top left corner. In Stanley Gibbons' catalogue, there is a brief note mentioning this -  "The barred cancels can be found used on 'Philatelic' covers of this issue". I guess the note must be referring to this example. The cover itself is not unusually rare as such, and I certainly have seen at least one other example of similar cover (also franked with the 1904 complete set stamps) also addressed to Mr. Parker. In North Borneo philatelic circle, the Parker covers are quite well-known possibly because they are among the few philatelic covers from North Borneo and Labuan. Some early German dealers concentrated on the earlier postcards (eg. Kiederlen, Adolf Bauer etc) as well as the early North Borneo and Labuan covers. Nonetheless, I find the cover above particularly attractive not only because it is borne to be attractive and collected but also because I don't have many early covers from Labuan.

On a lighter note, I have started casual collection on other philatelic items outside the British Borneo and Malaya states. Some people collect China because of anticipation of increasing prices in the future, I certainly could not afford any of the Chinese stamps, so I'll collect Ireland and Great Britain as well as the works of the master engraver from Sweden, Cz. Slania (deceased). The most recent auction of an inverted overprint on China stamp by Spink reached an amazing realization of GBP 95,000 whereas the inverted India stamp reached GBP 80,000...which means I shouldn't venture on those areas at all, at least not for the time being...:)

Happy Chinese New Year 2011


To all my stamps-enthusiast friends in Sabah and other parts of Malaysia, as well as to the rest of the worldwide community,
Have a Good one!