Selling My Stamp Collection
Grampa George passed on to his proper reward, and you inherited his fabulous stamp collection. It must be valuable as Grampa spent so much time and money on it. How much is it worth? This simple, straight-forward question elicits a straight-forward answer, right? Unfortunately. wrong! As with anything, a stamp collection is only worth what someone will pay for it. So, what are you likely to be offered if you take your collection to a stamp dealer?
It is almost always easier to find the value of a collection by categorizing the collector and collection as you look at the stamps. Collectors tend to fall into categories depending on how long they have collected and how seriously they collected. Below you will find the steps you need to take in selling your collection. You will see several categories of collections and collectors and can examine your collection to see where it fits into one of these categories (or probably in between two of the categories). Furthermore, I have attempted to estimate a range of value a dealer might offer you on a wholesale basis.
While you are evaluating your collection, you might want to see the value of certain of your stamps. An excellent site for pictures and values is The Swedish Tiger at http://www.theswedishtiger.com/. Some of the stamp pictures for this site have been used with permission from this site.
Look at the first page of your United States stamp album. Are these the first two stamps in your collection?
Way back in 1847, the United States Congress approved our first two stamps and instructed the Postmaster General to release the stamps to the public. These stamps were imperforate stamps meaning they had to be cut apart when they were used. They also didn't have gum so an adhesive had to be used. They honored two of our important patriots, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Collectors call them the 5 cent Franklin - red brown and the 10 cent Washington - black. The 5 cent stamp paid for a 1/2 ounce letter going to addresses within 300 miles and the 10 cent stamp for places over 300 miles in the United States. These stamps are considered to be two of the most exquisite stamps ever issues.
To the right are photos of these stamps and collectors greatly covet them; however, they are expensive and few small collections have them. They will probably be on the first page of your United States album. If they are in your collection, you probably have a very nice collection. This is one way to judge the value of your collection.
Scott # 230 - 245. How about these, the Columbian Series?
The complete Columbian set of stamps is one of the most coveted sets of all US stamps. You can often evaluate the value of the entire collection by looking at which of these stamps are in the collection. And, if the stamps are mint, the value is higher.
If your collection had none of them, it would probably be a beginner's collection.
1 or 2 might indicate a small collection
3 to 5 would probably indicate an advanced small collection
6 to 10 would most likely indicate a classy collection
11 to 14 would indicate a first-class collection
15 or 16 would indicate a highly advanced collection, perhaps a dealer
Let's Place Your Collection Into a Category
Below I have separated common collections into categories. Look at the collection you have and estimate the category in which it fits in order to figure out an estimated value.
Very Small Collection ($5 - $10): A collector's album with a few hundred to a couple thousand worldwide stamps
Most dealers will not make an offer on this kind of collection as they don't need the common stamps usually found in them, and/or they feel it would make the seller feel bad to be offering such a small amount to what the seller thinks the collection is worth. There are hundreds of these little collections with stamps from the 1930s to the present. Most often it is better to try to interest a young person to use the collection as a springboard toward a fulfilling hobby that might last a lifetime than to try to find a buyer.
Average Collection ($100 - $500): A sometimes collector with several albums often with a specialized collection or two plus several hundred loose stamps
Generally, a life-long collector starts accumulating some stamps with more value. Dealers can sometimes separate out the stamps and/or covers with value to sell separately to help recoup what they paid for the collection. Dealers have a hard time selling this type of collection as a collection, although in recent years, more and more of these small collections are being offered whole in online auctions. If this is your kind of collection, you might try yourself selling it whole on EBay. If you set it up as an auction, you probably can get some value out of it. However, it would probably have to be broken down into lots to get the most out of it.
Large Collection ($1000 - $3000): A life-long, continuous collector with many albums, several specialized collections, 1000s of loose stamps
These are collections that can sometimes be re-sold as a collection to other collectors although they are often broken up into country collections. Not many small stamp dealers are willing to pay more than $3000 for a collection no matter what it is; therefore, many of these collections are broken up and sold at auction where they usually have more value.
Dealer Collection ($3,000-$8,000+): A large well-established over years stamp dealer or substantial, eminent collector
If your grandpa was a stamp dealer who ran a stamp store, you would probably know it. There are few of these businesses around today. However, I do sometimes hear from persons who inherited such a collection. If this is you, it would probably be best to have professional help in selling the collection. Today, sale of this type of collection is almost always handled through a stamp auction house where they are broken into lots and sold to dozens or hundreds of individuals. Even so, you as the seller must understand that this "wholesale" selling price will almost never be as much as it was purchased at on the retail market. However, really rare single stamps are heavily advertised in glossy catalogs and sold separately to investment "collectors"; they often bring extremely high prices, especially on the auction market..
First Day Cover Collection
Almost all collections will have some first day covers. However, some collectors specialize in collecting first day covers. First day covers are envelopes with a design or picture (cachet) on the left and a stamp with a cancellation on the first day it was issued. After the 1950s, most can be found without the address. Virtually every collector has a few covers, but a specialized collection of several hundred covers, probably in albums, makes a great collection. Dealers will sometimes offer $.10 to $.15 each for large numbers of these covers; however, not all dealers specialize in first day covers.
Plate Blocks of Four Collection
Some collections have large numbers of plate blocks. Over many years quite a few collectors bought plate blocks of four for all the new issues. These are four mint stamps with a number attached on the selvage. Almost invariably these collections are from 1960 to present and are worth no more than face value to be used as postage, so be prepared to be offered 20 to 40 percent or less than face value. A dealer has a hard time getting rid of them. I bought a collection of them in the '80s and am still using them for postage.
Selling Your Collection
If you don’t know where to turn, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer virtually all email inquiries.
There are not a lot of places to sell your collection. Below I have outlined some ways.
Dealers: Look in your telephone book or search on the Internet to see if a dealer has a stamp shop in your city or a large city near you. There are not many left; most dealers are selling their stamps on the Internet or in stamp shows, but it is nice to look someone in the eye when you are selling your stamps.
Stamp Shows: If there is a stamp show near where you live, you might want to take your collection there These shows are usually advertised in your newspaper. These are often small dealers who band together to sell their stamps. Sometimes some of them will buy smaller collections. These shows are very interesting places even for the uninitiated. Ask the greeter at the desk as you go in who is buying collections. There is usually no entrance fee.
Making Yourself a Dealer: If you have the desire to sell your collection yourself, you can do it on EBay or BidStart, the ones I use. It can be fun, but it does take a lot of time and effort.
Below is a video that might help you learn to sell on Ebay.
The EBay Connection
You might want to sell your collection yourself. Ebay is the leading seller of stamps and collections in the world. Below is an example of one dealer who sells collections on EBay. Check this one out and look at other examples to see how they are doing it. Then put your collection up for sale.
A Helpful Book
If you want more help than I am giving you, you might want to consider a book. The following book can help you from A to Z. And, you can usually buy it used.