To the average consumer, stumbling upon a stamp collection in your grandmother’s attic may be just another pile of trash. To more savvy collectors, these stamps could be a potential gold mine. But how exactly do you know if your stamps are worth anything? This blog will help provide tips and information on how to determine their worth.
What are the Different Kinds of Stamps?
If you’re new to the world of stamps, it’s beneficial to understand the various types of stamps available to collect.
- Mail-use stamps: These are the most common types of stamps in circulation, typically the generic types you see sent on letters and cards to individuals or businesses.
- Commemorative stamps: These stamps honor notable people or historical events in American history. Examples include a president or the constitution. Commemorative stamps are printed in smaller batches and are larger than a typical mail-use stamp.
- Special stamps: These stamps are for holiday celebrations, such as the Fourth of July or Memorial Day. They are also usually produced in limited quantities
- Semipostal stamps: These stamps are more expensive than typical stamps, although the price differential goes to a good cause, such as cancer research or Alzheimer’s disease research.
- Denominated stamps: Some stamps carry a specific numerical value, such as $0.99 for square envelope stamps or $4.50 for small package stamps.
- Denominated stamps: Known as Forever® stamps, these types of stamps can be used to mail a 1-ounce letter regardless of the current cost of stamps. In other words, the stamps can be used “forever.”
What Determines a Stamp’s Value?
The British Guiana 1856 1 cent magenta is regarded as one of the rarest and most expensive collector stamps out there. In 2014, it sold for more than $9.4 million.
This is the exception – rather than the rule – on a stamp’s value. How does a stamp like that end up with so much value, though? Here are some factors you can use to see if your stamp collection is worth anything.
Check the condition: First, examine the perforations. The neater the edging is, the more value stamps tend to hold. Perforations with torn edges or rips will lose value. Stamps that have a piece missing are also less valuable. Any crease or wrinkle to the stamp can decrease the value. Even the color can make a difference. More valuable stamps tend to have bright, original colors, while less valuable stamps are faded due to sun exposure or water.
Rarity: Valuable stamps tend to include those that had limited circulation. Rarely do you ever see valuable stamps that were mass produced.
Errors and unique marks: Like coins and bills, stamps can contain printing errors or other abnormal marks that make them more valuable. Some valuable stamps also have unique cancellation marks. Cancellation marks are applied to stamps to prevent people from reusing them. Cancellation marks tend to be worth more if they are light and are applied close to the center of the stamp.
Issue date: Typically, stamps issued before 1960 have more value.
Country of origin: In the early mail delivery days, some countries had less frequent deliveries and therefore those stamps are more valuable
Unhinged stamps: Stamp collectors usually apply what is called a stamp hinge, a transparent strip of paper to mount stamps on a page. Stamps that are unhinged – or not secured to a page – have more value because they retain the original adhesive.
Pairs or sets: A single stamp can have value, but a collection of stamps, whether that is pairs or sheets, can be worth more.
Stamp storage: Rare stamps can lose value if they aren’t stored properly. The most valuable stamp collections are those that are stored in a cool, dark place. Exposure to sunlight or moisture can damage stamps. Stacking stamps also causes them to stick together.
How to Sell a Stamp Collection
If you have a stamp collection to sell, here are a few tips to consider:
- Determine the issue date
- Locate the country of origin (if applicable)
- Find out design and material used to make the stamp
- Use a magnifying glass to examine the stamp’s gum and condition of perforations
- Use resources to find out the rarity
There are several resources you can use to find out if your stamp is rare or how valuable it may be. For example, the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog can help you look up your particular stamp. Stamps found in this catalog have a list price for used condition and mint condition. A mint stamp is unused, has never been mounted and has a full gum.
Where to Sell a Stamp Collection
After determining if your stamp collection has value and how to sell your stamps, the final step is finding a place to sell your collection.
Some options to choose from include stamp fairs, stamp magazines, stamp dealers, and auctions.
Stamp collections are typically found at auctions as a part of estate transactions. Collectibles and rare items are more likely to be found at estate auctions. For example, a loved one who has recently died may have had an unknown stamp collection that needs to be auctioned off.
At Dakil Auctioneers, we also auction off stamp collections every couple years as part of the Oklahoma State Treasurer unclaimed property auction. These auctions feature unclaimed items from vacant safety deposit boxes. Most often, the items found in the safety deposit boxes are jewelry, stamp collections, or other rare items.
In 2019, our unclaimed property auction featured American Revolution stamps, rare Oklahoma postage stamps, Elvis stamps, Black History stamps, and Desert Storm commemorative stamps.
Stay up to date with our upcoming auction schedule if you’re interested in buying or selling stamps. For buying stamps, you can either attend an auction live in person and bid online. To sell stamps, consider consigning them to us to sell them for you! Contact us at (405) 266-2709 for more questions.