Gordon Carroll has reviewed more than 100,000 collections during his time as owner of The Glasgow Stamp Shop, which he founded in 1969 as Buchanan Street Stamps. Now based in the city's West Nile Street, the business also runs online operations serving customers around the world.

What is it that you do?

The Glasgow Stamp Shop does free valuations on all stamp collections, as well as selling stamps and stamp products. We do this for private individuals, solicitors, auctioneers and others. Enquires come from people who have inherited collections, which can range from one to 100 albums. We also offer directions on selling a collection, whether it’s via an auction or on the internet. 

Our supply business Etc1908 sells collecting products to retailers throughout the UK. Traders use packaging products, as well as stock storage systems.

And then there's Your Penny Black, which retails both our The World’s First Postage Stamps and Penny Black books. These two products are new to the market. The first contains the world’s first four postage stamps while the second book is in the same vein, illustrating the various printing plates of the Penny Black.

Who are your customers? 

We sell to local and national customers, and of course tourists from many countries. Over the generations, new visitors come along and become friends and clients. Some enthusiasts collect stamps depicting flowers or birds, while other collectors prefer an historic period, for example, King George V stamps.   

How many people do you employ? 

There are just two of us - me and my son Austin Carroll, as well as a couple of volunteers, Arthur and Tom. 

Why have you chosen this path?  

As a youngster I had an interest in all kinds of collectables and saw that there were numbers of collectors who had an interest in things like stamps, coins, banknotes,  and football programmes. I could see that there was a buzz around these items and decided to get involved, not as a collector but as a dealer.

Austin decided to cut short his flying career to follow me into the family business. Like so many pilots, the Covid lockdown put an end to his flying career when his contract came under review. I hope that his older brother, also Gordon, will join us at some stage.

What do you least enjoy? 

As time goes by it's the lifting stamp books, which in boxes are heavy, so we try to get things brought in. Due to health issues we are not able to do house calls as such trips usually ended up with the collection having to come into the premises. Stamps on their own are not heavy of course, but once in the books the weight issues become very different.

What are your ambitions for the firm? 

I plan to reduce my input over the coming years as Austin and Gordon take over the reins of the business. As a family business, there comes a time when the next generation moves to the fore. It’s the natural cycle of things. Of course, Austin and Gordon Jnr take a more business-oriented approach which includes a sophisticated angle on marketing issues like use of social media.

What single thing would most help? 

More marketing of our expertise to interested parties. In the old days, businesses relied on the Yellow Pages, nowadays it’s social media as well as online magazine and trade shows. While there may be fewer collectors around these days, there is still a hard core of more than one million stamp collectors in the UK and many more abroad, especially in fast-developing markets such as China and India.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned? 

Every customer has the same value whether they spend 50p or £5, or don't spend anything at all. We use the slogan that at The Glasgow Stamp Shop, “no one is second class”. We are more than pleased to offer free advice, whether it’s just for curiosity or the possibility of finding a gem.

Where do you find yourself most at ease? 

The joy is valuing stamps, and of course, explaining where the value lies. Some of our visitors enjoy a chat, and usually there is a story behind the collection - perhaps an uncle who was a prisoner of war or spent his career in the Merchant Navy. Sometimes children come in looking for stamps for a school project, or film studios looking for a prop for a particular project.

If you weren’t in your current role, what job would you most fancy? 

In a different world, a paramedic. The first call out for medical issues is often paramedics, who do amazing work. I think there are so many worthwhile jobs that would appeal, but I was exposed to philately at a very young age, and as they say, the rest is history.

What phrase or quotation has inspired you the most? 

A phrase I use a lot is "I stopped being modest 20 years ago when it comes to philatelic knowledge". I believe I pretty much have all the knowledge I will ever need, and Austin is learning fast too.

In some ways, valuing stamps is not all that difficult. Like all things it comes down to supply and demand, and supply is set by printing numbers. Most countries of the world keep records on how many stamps of each type were printed.    

What is the best book you have ever read? Why is it the best? 

The title of the book is Where Does Money Come From. I have always been fascinated by where all money comes from. This book, whose second edition was published in 2017, covers all the mysterious elements of money like the gold standard, quantitative easing, and lots of other monetary topics.

What has been your most challenging moment in life or business? 

The Covid pandemic was not something we could plan for, to such an extent that The Glasgow Stamp Shop temporarily ceased trading in March 2020. Etc1908 was able to continue on a limited basis, as it is mail order only. Within the regulations, we were able to send books and storage products to a number of clients. 

What do you now know that you wish you had known when starting out in your career? 

I suspect we should have got involved the hobby of coin collecting from the start, as coin collecting continues to be very popular.

Is coin collecting now more popular than stamp collecting? Well, there’s a debate. We often get asked to value coins, but we have no profound knowledge, and rather than bluff a valuation we guide clients to specialist collectors who can offer authentic advice.