So, you’ve decided to sell your stamp collection. Whether you recently inherited your stamps or you’ve been a collector for years, it’s incredibly beneficial to learn how to value a stamp collection properly. Below we’ll discuss some of the things you’ll need to know about the philatelic (stamp collecting) marketplace before you attempt to sell your stamps.
Know Your Stamp Collection’s Condition
When learning how to value a stamp collection, the first thing you’ll need to assess is the condition of your stamps. If there is any damage to any of your stamps, then that will lower the worth accordingly. Also, if you’ve mounted any mint stamps, you may have damaged the overall quality of your collection. Mint stamps that are mounted lose at least half of their value immediately due to the mounting process. So, if you haven’t mounted any of your mint stamps, it’s in your best interest to avoid doing so.
Check the gum on your stamps as well. If the glue is gone or damaged, then your stamp’s value is near worthless unless it’s an older, classic stamp. Any stamp that has perforation teeth damage, a poorly centered image, creases, dirt, scuffs, or that generally looks worn out will lose quite a bit of its value.
Also, if the stamp collection you are trying to sell is messy, unorganized, and out of order, then you’re doing the collection a disservice. Now would be the time to sit down and re-organize your collection to ensure a decent return (while maximizing the catalog value).
Now that you have an idea about how stamp damage can affect the overall value of your collection, we’ll move on to discuss the concept of a “perfect stamp.”
What is a Perfect Stamp?
While some of the stamps you own may likely have been damaged or stored improperly, chances are (if your collection is large enough and well-maintained), you probably have a few rare stamps mixed in. When it comes to stamps that have value, a “perfect” stamp will always have the most value. “Perfect” stamps are so desirable that they can even sell for more than their catalog value.
So, the question is, how do you know if you own a perfect stamp? First, take a look at the design on your stamp. It should be centered. The stamp should also have broad borders and crisp, fresh perforation teeth. The colors on this stamp should POP (just like they did the day they were printed). Perfect stamps also have flawless gum. If the stamp has been used, it shouldn’t have defaced the design.
If you inherited your stamp collection from somebody who spent time taking care of the stamps, preserving them, and organizing the collection, then you may have a collection of some value. However, if you inherited a collection that has no organization and seems thrown together carelessly, then you should have some concerns. Remember that somebody more likely to spend time organizing their stamp collection will typically have higher standards when it comes to purchasing and care.
Where Can I Sell My Stamp Collection?
Now that you understand what you should be looking for when you value your stamps, it’s time to start the stamp selling process. When you prepare to sell your stamps, you’ll need first to get a professional appraisal. After that, you’ll need to decide where to sell your stamps.
Get a Professional Appraisal
The first step in the process of selling your stamp collection is to obtain a professional appraisal. You’ll want to hire a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association because these are qualified individuals who adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. When they value your stamps, the value should hold across the market. When an ASDA gives you an estimated value on your stamps, they will consider the quality of your collection and the market price today.
You may want to get a few different appraisals based on the extent of your collection and the appraisers available for hire. If you decide to sell the collection or consign it (right after it has been appraised), most appraisers will waive their appraisal fees, and you’ll immediately come away with some cash in your pocket.
Create an Inventory
If you don’t sell your stamps to your appraiser, you may want to seek his or her assistance with creating an inventory for your stamp collection. If you already know a lot about stamps, then yes, you can always create the list of your stamps by yourself. When you prepare your inventory, pencil your catalog value in for each stamp, according to at least one updated stamp catalog.
Selling Your Stamps
Once you’ve gotten your appraisal and created an inventory, it’s time to sell your stamps. When you sell your stamps, you’ll have a few options, including selling directly to a dealer, cosigning with a dealer, consignment with an auction house, or outright sale to an auction house. We’ll cover each one of these options in more depth below.
- Direct Sale to a Stamp Dealer – Your first option would be a direct sale to a stamp dealer. If you decide to do this, you’ll get a specific amount of money right away for your stamps, and you won’t need to pay any appraisal fees.
- Consignment to a Stamp Dealer – If you’re trying to figure out where to sell your stamp collection, another option is to have a stamp dealer place your stamps on consignment. When this is done, you’ll set a minimum price with the stamp dealer, and agree to some payout terms. Since you’ll be leaving the stamps with your dealer, it’s good practice to take pictures of the stamps in your collection, especially those of significant value. You should include those pictures in your receipt and have an agreement made (in writing) that states the time limit and your payout amount.
- Consignment to an Auction House – If you’re willing to be a bit more patient as you sell your stamps (and you want to get the best price), then consider consigning them to an auction house. The fee you’ll pay to the auction house will include part of your sales price. You may need to wait around for several months, but you should be able to obtain the highest value for your collection. Also, if your collection is worth a significant amount and placed on consignment, the auction house may give you a cash advance.
- Outright Sale to an Auction House – If you decide to sell your stamp collection outright to an auction house, the process is the same as selling your collection outright to a dealer. However, you’ll have the auction house appraise the value, and then you’ll sell them your stamp collection and receive your appraisal for free.
- Go to a Stamp Show – You can also bring your collection to a nearby stamp show. At the show, you can advertise your stamp collection and try to generate offers directly.
What Sales Option is the Best?
While researching how to sell your stamp collection, you’re likely wondering if any of the sales options are significantly better than the others. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer here as it just depends on the situation. Depending on the amount of work you’re willing to put in, as well as the amount of time you’re ready to wait, those are the main factors worth considering. As always, we recommend that you check into the reputation and financial responsibility of any stamp dealer or auction house you choose.
Make sure you ask for references from either the auction house or the stamp dealer. As a further precaution, you should also call the American Stamp Dealers Association and question whether the dealer or auction house is a member with a solid reputation. Most ASDA members will feature the ASDA sign in their ads. Ensuring that the dealer or auction house you are working with is in good standing with the ASDA means you’re on your way to finding someone with a reliable reputation.