Stamp collecting has been a popular hobby for years. Whether you have been collecting postage stamps most of your life or you just inherited a large collection, it may be time to see what the value of those old postage stamps might be.
Using online price guides can help you to evaluate your own stamps. However, if you need the value for insurance or estate purposes, you will need a professional appraiser.
Basic Criteria Used for Valuing Stamps
When determining the value of old stamps, there are several specific factors that must be considered.
Where the stamp comes from originally can matter very much to collectors, and they tend to favor stamps from their own country over international stamps. A stamp that commemorates the Jubilee of Queen Victoria will be more sought after in the United Kingdom than in the United States or France.
As a general rule, the older a stamp is, the more difficult it is to find, and so it is worth more than newer stamps. This depends a lot on the condition of the stamp as well.
Has It Been Circulated?
Uncirculated stamps are those which have not taken a letter through the postal system. If they are in mint condition, these uncirculated stamps are worth more than the same stamp that has been used.
Some stamps are rare because of age or a small number of that particular stamp being issued.
Condition always matters. In fact, condition will determine the value of a stamp more than any other factor.
Factors Considered for Grading
The grading system applied to postal stamps ranges from superb to poor. The following factors are taken into consideration when grading an old postage stamp.
- How the image is centered on the stamp
- Whether or not the stamp has any rips or repairs
- Whether or not the stamp has been canceled or not
- The size and density of the cancelation mark on the stamp
- The degree of fading that has occurred over time
- Whether or not the stamp has hinge marks
- The condition of the stamp's gum
- The condition of the stamp's perforation
How to Find the Value of Old Postage Stamps
You can find price guides to help you identify and price your stamps at most libraries and bookstores. There are also a number of online resources to help you.
Professional Stamp Experts
Professional Stamp Experts is considered the industry leader in third party grading and authentication services for postage stamps. Their website also includes:
- Population reports of Professional Stamp Experts (PSE) certified stamps
- A stamp set registry service
- A quarterly online price guide of all United States important stamps
- A guide to understanding the stamp grading system
- A photographic grading guide of United States stamps
Find Your Stamp's Value
Although Find Your Stamp's Value charges a monthly membership fee, they do offer a free guest trial service. The company specializes in United States stamps and has helpful links to other stamp resources, as well as definitions, terms, and search tips.
Stamp Values provides an online stamp price guide and catalog that includes many popular stamps from all over the world. The website has one example for each category and is not as easy to navigate as some of the others. However, the images are very clear and there are values posted.
The Swedish Tiger
The Swedish Tiger provides updated market prices and images of all United States postal stamps up to 1952. The prices are updated twice a year with the values based on auction house sales. The website is easy to use and has hundreds of images and values for all kinds of stamps. They also have helpful articles and tips about stamp collecting, including how to spot forgeries.
The Stamp Catalogue
The Stamp Catalogue allows you to look for your stamp according to the year it was released, from before 1860 to the present. There are tips on useful tools to help the novice collector, mounting stamps, and other helpful information.
PSE (Professional Stamp Experts) has stamps from 1837 to the 1930s and include hunting permit (Duck stamps). In most cases the stamp will have several possible values and the values are given according to the condition of the stamp. They also offer a professional grading service.
If you are planning on selling your collection, evaluating it for an estate, or insuring it, you will need to get a professional appraisal. You should use an appraiser that is part of an appraiser's association; this will help ensure that you get an accurate evaluation for your money.
- Appraisers' Association of America allows you to search through the list of members to find a stamp appraiser near you.
- American Society of Appraisers also allows you to search for members by location, specialty, and other specific criteria.
Both of these associations require that their members be accredited and keep current on values and appraisal standards. Your appraiser should be experienced in stamp appraisal. Ask for credentials and a list of customers that you can contact for recommendations. It is usually not a good idea to get an appraisal from a person you plan on selling your stamps to. There is a conflict of interest there and most ethical appraisers won't offer to buy your collection.
It is important that you keep current with the values of your stamps. Values can change rapidly so you will want to re-evaluate your collection every couple of years and keep a copy of the most current price guide. If you get a professional appraisal be sure to ask the appraiser what he recommends.
Knowing how stamps are evaluated gives you the ability to assess the stamps you come across and determine whether or not they are priced fairly. Once you find the value of old postage stamps you have laying around the house, you may also find a new interest; the hobby of stamp collecting.