Stamp and coin collecting has been Brian Grant Duff’s lifelong hobby. As a young boy he was hospitalized for a lengthy period and his grandmother would visit him regularly with gifts. When the novelty of comic books wore off she began bringing him stamps and coins, which were instant hits. Little did Brian realize the introduction of this hobby would lead to him becoming a stamp and coin dealer.
At age 14 he ran his first stamp approval business. This involved sending selections of stamps to other collectors on approval – they would purchase the ones they wanted and return the rest.
Following high school Brian began an arts degree in English and History but abandoned his studies to run and eventually own stamp and coin concessions at both Eaton’s and The Bay. Eaton’s also sent him to Toronto to run the stores and auctions in that city.
In 1998 an opportunity arose to purchase the well-established business All Nations Stamp and Coin shop which was originally located in downtown Vancouver. Brian simultaneously juggled his work at The Bay with ownership of All Nations for ten years.
In 2008 he moved the shop to Dunbar (where he resides with his family) to the former home of The Silver Shop. Brian says, “To this day people still drop in looking for the previous owner Murray James.”
He brought to the business his vast experience of buying, selling, and auctioning Canadian and worldwide stamps, collections and postal history.
“This is a labour of love. I want to keep the hobby going.” Brian Grant Duff
Stamp collecting has been around since shortly after the inception of postage stamps. The world’s first stamp was issued by Great Britain in 1840. As the originator of postage stamps, Great Britain did not put the country’s name on its stamps — the tradition continues to this day.
Like other retail storefronts, online shopping has impacted All Nations walk in business. Brian has cleverly adapted his business and holds a live weekly auction every Saturday at noon. He says this is now the largest part of his business. He curates and publishes a list on All Nations’ website of the postcards, stamps and coins up for auction.
“Collecting is a great tradition to carry on. Collectors of all ages come to see me for stamps; young collectors are looking for coins more than stamps at the moment. The market is looking for gold and silver,” he says. Only Canadian coins minted before 1968 are silver; coins minted after 1968 are composed of copper and nickel.
Some of Brian’s customers have been loyal to him since his Eaton’s days more than 30 years ago.
He explains, “It’s about building a clientele who trust you.” Collectors come from far and wide, from Bellingham to Yukon, and on auction days bids come from across the country.
Choosing the theme of a stamp collection is part of the fun – some collectors focus on stamps from their home country while others select a favourite topic such as ships, trains, birds or royalty. Brian mentions Mrs. Eaton enjoyed collecting frog stamps.
Are you thinking about selling your collection or perhaps just a few pieces? This can be the right move if you realize you’ve gone as far with your collection as you are likely to. Sharing your material with other collectors who have been searching at length for material you possess can be very gratifying.
Tip: Don’t clean coins if you are planning on selling them.
If you have a coin or stamp you are curious about Brian and his staff offer a free quick look over; if you are seeking a detailed appraisal the cost is $1 per minute.
As a history buff Brian is excited about Canada’s 150th birthday and mentions the opportunity for plenty of historical tie ins for his business. In the past he has sold some unusual items including a Gassy Jack Deighton letter and signature from 1875, the year the Gastown founder died. Brian mentions the document yielded a fair price at auction.
Only a couple of stores in Vancouver continue to still sell stamps and coins. Brian points out All Nations Stamp and Coin is a member of the Canadian Stamp Dealer’s Association. He says, “I am a stamp and coin resource. I can help people locate what they are looking for, and if I don’t have the answer I will refer them to someone who does.”
Brian concludes, “I always welcome people to join in our merry band of collecting. It is a way to relax and take control in a chaotic world.”
All Nations Stamp and Coin
5630 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6N 1W7