Once you've decided to sell your stamp collection, you'll need to figure out how to get the most for your stamps. Determine the value of old postage stamps and then sell the stamps in the right place to garner the best price.
Prepare Your Stamp Collection for Sale
Before you put your stamp collection up for sale, you should make sure they are ready for sale. These things can make the difference between getting an okay price and getting the best price when selling old stamps. Novice collectors and sellers should take special note that:
- Keep stamps attached to envelopes; removing them can cause damage.
- Storing stamps and collections in protective albums keeps them in best condition, although make sure you follow current best practices for stamp storage to maximize value.
- Organize stamps together for easier appraisal; ones from the same year or with the same theme may be worth more when sold together.
- Do not attempt to clean dirty stamps or separate stuck stamps. Take these to an expert.
Price guides and resources for stamp collectors often have helpful storage tips that while keep your collection in good condition and therefore help you obtain the best price.
Is a Professional Evaluation Necessary?
Many collectors have stamps that are worth little to anyone other than themselves; StampoRama collector Bob Ingraham writes, "Modern mint stamps are not even worth face value in the marketplace when sold at wholesale prices." The Southeastern Stamp Expo offers a few more things to consider when it comes to value; for example, unless the stamp or collection is perfect condition, unused, or issued prior to 1930, it is unlikely to be worth much.
Collections that are common or not in good condition may not need to be professionally evaluated or appraised before you sell them. You can visit with local chapters of various stamp collecting societies or at exhibitions or fairs to determine whether this would be worth the trouble for your particular collection.
Stamp Collection Expertizing and Appraisals
If you're not sure what stamp you have, you can start with The World Stamp Identifier tool and search the database before seeking out an expert opinion.
Expertizing a Stamp or Collection
Having a stamp collection expertized is a way to protect yourself from forgeries and prove to your buyers the stamp collection is authentic, along with noting its condition. Fees for an expertized certificate can range from $20 upwards of $800 through reputable places like the American Philatelic Society. It will depend on the stamp and collection itself and whether you are a member. This certificate is the first place to start for your appraisal and will cover things like:
- Faults such as tears
- Hinge mounting (or not)
- Cancelations, whether real, removed, or fake
You'll also be issued a grade on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the highest. A good grade can add more value to your stamp collection when selling it. If the stamp is included in the Scott Catalogue, you may be given a potential value range as well. The Scott Catalogue is the main reference for stamp identification and value estimation for collectors. However, some collectors like Ingraham feel the estimations routinely exceed potential values.
Appraisals and Valuations
If your collection was expertized and given a Scott Catalogue estimated value range, you will be set. If you haven't had your stamp collection expertized, you'll need to seek out an appraisal and pay the fee. Look for an appraiser through authoritative sources like official stamp collection societies. The American Philatelic Society notes you may pay anywhere from $75 to $250 an hour to have the stamps/collection appraised. Some local groups, like the Northern Philatelic Society, may offer free appraisal services.
Where to Sell Your Old Stamps
If your collection is not worth much money, you may have good luck selling your collection for a good price at local exhibitions, stamp shows, and online through places like eBay. Be aware that you may encounter more haggling and negotiation for a better price, so make sure you know what your lowest sale price will be before going into those situations. In addition to these options, you can also sell through these options:
- Philatelic auctioneers - Sell at auction or consign through dedicated stamp auctioneers like Cherrystone Philatelic Auctioneers.
- Philatelic specialists - Companies, like Apfelbaum, Inc., may buy your stamp collection outright. Look for ones who have been in business for a while with good reputations.
- Stamp society and organization dealers - Societies, like the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, may have members-only dealers that will buy and sell stamps.
- Organization and society classifieds and catalogs - Groups like the National Stamp Dealers Association often have connections not only to dealer directories, but offer magazines and classifieds to members as well.
To get an idea of what stamps and collections sell through various auctions and dealers, check out StampAuctionNetwork, which tracks larger auctions and bids with realized prices and information on the stamps that sold. This is especially helpful for sellers who have stamps that may be worth a little more but aren't sure where to begin their pricing.
Selling Rare Stamps
Rare stamps are hard to come by and to get the best price, they should be in the best condition with a certificate or appraisal. Rare stamps may be sold at world-famous auction houses, like Sotheby's, as well as through private estate auctions and reputable high-end dealers. Limited-run collections, stamps with mistakes on limited prints, and rare old international stamps may be some of those worth a lot of money sold at auction. Just a few rare stamp sales include:
- An Inverted Jenny stamp depicts the WWI biplane upside down and is extremely rare. One sold in 2016 for over $1,300,000.
- An 1856 British Guiana 1-Cent Black on Magenta stamp sold at auction in 2014 went for over $9,400,000.
- A set of rare 1851 Hawaiian Missionary stamps had a realized value of $1,950,000 in 2013.
Keep in mind that the chances of finding and then selling one of these rare stamps is unlikely, but in the event your stamp or collection is worth significant money, you should insure it after evaluation in case of damage or theft.
Stamp Estimated Values Versus Realized Sales
Always keep in mind that no matter what the appraised value of a stamp or collection is, the stamp is only worth what people will pay for it. The realized price may be far lower (or perhaps higher) depending on the market at the time of sale. Therefore, it truly pays to know what your stamps are worth in order to get the best price when selling them.