If you want to learn how to sell a stamp collection, you’ve come to the right place. If you are a stamp collector, you most likely know what you have and what it’s worth. However, if you inherited a stamp collection, or perhaps found one at an estate sale, you’ll want to get a stamp appraisal before selling.
A Note About Modern Postage
Before we get started, an important fact must be revealed. Nearly all unused U.S. stamps issued after 1930 are worth face value. While 1930 is nearly 100 years ago, stamps issued after this date are considered to be modern in the stamp collecting and stamp dealing community.
There was a giant boom in postage production after this period of time. The Post Office started printing postage stamps by the millions in excess for stamp collectors.
Stamp collecting was the most popular hobby in the world. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector. It was a no-brainer for the government to print extra stamps to support the hobby, and at the same time increase revenue for the Post Office.
If your collection is mostly made up of modern postage (1935-Present), you can sell your stamp collection to a postage buying service. They will pay you for your collection based on it’s face value.
There are a few to tell if they were issued after 1930.
- First, if they are in a stamp album, the dates they were issued are often presented on the album pages.
- Second, if the stamps are full color (multi-colored), meaning that they have more than one color on them, they were likely issued after 1930. Prior to then, stamps were generally printed in one color only.
- Lastly, if you are the collector or if you knew the collector, you may be able to date the stamps. For example if you knew that your grandmother bought a lot of stamps from the Post Office, they would be modern.
How To Sell A Stamp Collection The Wrong Way
There is a right way and wrong way to sell a stamp collection. Many people believe that their stamps are worth what catalogue value says, or compare their stamps to what they see online. This starts the seller on the wrong foot from the start.
Over-Estimated Catalogue Value
Unfortunately, the values listed in pricing catalogues are nowhere near accurate to real market values. That is to say, the catalogue values are almost always inflated over what one could expect to sell the stamp for. For example, the United States stamp, Scott #113, has a catalogue value of $100. Yet these stamps sell every day on eBay for $10.
The reason for this is that the publishers of the industry-go-to stamp catalogues are using historic data over several decades as a baseline. They also do not have a pulse on what is selling online on websites like eBay and HipStamp, nor local stamp clubs, as these marketplaces do not publicize sales data.
Furthermore, the catalogue publishers harvest their data from the major auction houses, where pricing can be skewed due to buyer and seller premiums. It should also be mentioned that the values they list are for stamps in Very Fine condition, which is not the average condition found in most stamp collections.
Take a deeper dive into How Much Can You Sell A Stamp For?
Bogus Stamp Values Online
The old adage holds true when it comes to stamp values. “Don’t believe everything you read online”. The internet is flooded with false information. Several websites display what they call “rare and valuable” stamps. Their approach is misleading, and perhaps intentional.
The stamp in the photo below is not worth $85,000. It is worth $0. The author is referring to a very rare version of this stamp with the same design. However, they fail to mention or make clear that it is a rare version of an otherwise common design.
The Post Office printed millions upon millions of this stamp. While it is true that there is a rare example of this design, it has very specific measurements that require professional examination. Also, these stamps are often faked.
The vast majority of the rare variety are accounted for and are certified with legitimate certificates of authenticity. The odds that you have the rare one, and not one of the millions of common worthless copies in granny’s shoebox is near 0%.
Most Stamps Are Worthless
Another false pretense with pricing catalogues is what is called the “minimal value”. This is the lowest value assigned throughout the entire catalogue. When looking through a 2020 Scott Stamp Catalogue, you’ll notice that you won’t find a stamp value less than $0.45.
The most common stamps, which are the majority, will all have values of $0.45. This again, is a misrepresentation of market values portrayed by the catalogue publishers.
The fact is that all stamps listed at the “minimal value” are actually worth nothing. That’s right. The overwhelming majority of stamps are common and have no value whatsoever. So why does the catalogue say they are worth $0.45? According to the publisher, they must assign a “minimal value” to every stamp.
Nobody in their right mind would pay $0.45 for a Scott #3222. Nobody would likely pay a single cent for it. It’s beyond common and if someone wanted this stamp, they would likely obtain it through a bulk purchase of several hundred stamps at a time for a of couple dollars.
Many sellers will apply the $0.45 value to all of their common stamps, making their valuation of their collection astronomical, when in fact it may have little to no value.
Condition Is Everything
Like with all collectibles, the condition of a stamp changes everything. If the stamp’s design is off-center. If there is an area of the paper that is thin. An ugly cancellation, a small tear, the lack of original gummed backing, and so forth; all of these “faults” will lower the stamps market value.
Therefore, to gain a value closer to the listed catalogue pricing, one needs to have a stamp certified by a professional authoritative entity. Professional Stamp Experts or the Philatelic Foundation provide expertizing services that can rule out any imperfections in the stamp.
How To Sell A Stamp Collection The Right Way
The first step to take is to find out the true market value of your stamps. Even if it’s your own personal collection, the resale value and desirability of your stamps may have changed for better or worse throughout the years.
Get A Stamp Appraisal
If you are unsure, the first thing you’ll want to do is have a respectable stamp dealer appraise your collection. Try searching on the web for a “stamp dealer” in your location. If you can’t find any, you may need to work with a remote dealer by shipping your stamps to them.
Start With A Stamp Dealer
In order to avoid being duped by a stamp collector, consider selling to certified stamp dealer. A stamp dealer who is registered with the American Philatelic Society will likely be more trustworthy. They must adhere to best business practices in order to hold their membership.
You can also sell your collection to a stamp auction house. However, their fees are upward of 40-50% of the sale price. Comparatively, many stamp dealers will consider 20-30% profit of the sale price. Some may even go as low as 10%, depending on how fast they can resell the material.