by Rachel Witkowski
William Rose is known as “The Stamp Man” for his collection of about 1,000 U.S. postage stamps. But he will never call himself a stamp collector — he’s a salesman.
“Now I’m selling it to you for a real good price,” said Rose to a customer in Hemming Plaza at the Farmers’ Market last Friday. Another person walks by. “You see anything you like — I’ll give you a special on it.”
At 80 years old, Wise has plenty of experience in selling things. He worked 17 years at food distributor Sysco Corp. as a senior marketing associate after serving in the navy during World War II. Wise then retired and began volunteering at gift shops that sold framed stamps, which is where he decided to start his own small business.
Wise has sold real postage stamps in colored, decorated small frames for 10 years, primarily at the Pecan Park flea market, the occasional stamp shows and currently, Hemming Plaza. Most of his stamps — he says they fill a whole room at his house — were collected while he was a kid.
He brought more than 350 framed stamps to the Farmers’ Market for the fourth time last Friday. Wise has a wide range of stamps including occupational, animal, cartoon, war and American history designs. But for a man with so many stamps, Wise denies that he’s a stamp collector — he’s a stamp “accumulator.” Wise doesn’t even want the stamps, he said.
“It fascinates me that people are buying this stuff. I know how to sell these things and it’s profitable,” he said. “I know two or three people that tried it and they couldn’t do it.”
Wise said being a successful salesman has a lot to do with the location, display, and having what the customers want when they want it. Wise made his own free-standing display out of cardboard that slants and has slots to hold the frames in place. Every spot has a description on the front and a picture on the back so Wise knows exactly where and how to organize the stamps when he sets up his booth. Even the boxes he carries the stamps in are labeled by categories. That’s what it takes to try to keep track of so many stamps, said Wise.
Being a salesman, Wise also experiments with other ideas. He also sells copies of old postcards of Downtown Jacksonville in the early 1900s. The post cards were letters that his father, who was in Jacksonville, sent to his mother while she was in Baltimore before they married. The “Jacksonville of yesteryear cards” is one creation that Wise said sells. But for Wise, a sale doesn’t always equate to success.
“Sometimes you get greater satisfaction out of giving them away than you do selling them,” he said, recalling that he once gave a sign language stamp to a deaf lady.
Wise said he enjoys coming to the Farmers’ Market because of the hours and it’s easier, even though he had stable business at the flea market.
“It takes a little while to do better, but every week it keeps building up,” he said.
Wise will come back to Hemming Plaza every Friday “as long as it doesn’t rain.”