Philatelic

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"I've inherited a stamp collection. How much is it worth...?"

It’s a question we get asked all the time. A family inherits a stamp collection from a deceased estate and knows nothing about stamps. How do you go about getting a valuation? And who can give you the most accurate idea of value?

To give a precise valuation a collection needs to be evaluated by an individual who has knowledge of the stamps concerned. But to give you a head start, asking yourself the following questions will give you a broad idea as to whether you’ve got yourself a goldmine or whether you’ll be putting them on eBay next week without reserve.

Does the album cover the world with two or three pages per country?

This is a typical ‘schoolboy’ or starter album that will usually contain low value stamps that have been acquired with no thought to specialization. Unless the album is at least 60-70 years old then don’t start opening the champagne just yet.

Are most of the stamps multi-coloured?

In which case they will have been issued over the past 50 years and are highly likely to be worth very little, particularly if hinged in a worldwide album.

Have you inherited a collection of stamps on envelopes?

Again, the same rules apply as above. The stamps are likely to have been issued over the past 50 years and will probably be First Day Covers. Even in volume, don’t expect too much worth to be found amongst these envelopes.

Does the collection follow a topical theme, e.g. dogs, football, trains etc?

Not a great sign for investment value unfortunately. The likelihood is that the majority of stamps will be low value commemoratives with little resale worth.

Does the collection span the first 100 years of philately?

In other words, 1840 to 1940. This is getting more interesting. The stamps will be single or two colours only. The earlier the album, the higher the value is likely to be, particularly if the collection is pre 20th century.

Does the collection focus on just one country or is specialized in a particular area?

This could be good news. Specialized albums where the collector has focused on building up a comprehensive study of a particular country, era or reign are likely to have more value in them than most. Single country collections of more recent stamps may still hold value but it is the earlier ones where the most value is to be found.

Does the album have a space for each stamp to be placed?

If the number of spaces filled is sporadic then you’re probably looking at a low value collection. It’s always the easiest, least expensive stamps that get to the album first. If, on the other hand, the album is full of earlier stamps and is bulging with most spaces filled…well, you may have something of real value.

Now the caveat. All of the above are generalisations and there are plenty of exceptions. There are modern stamps that are worth five figures and there are plenty of nineteenth century stamps that are next to worthless. For example, certain Chinese stamps from the 1970’s can command huge prices. However, if you start by asking yourself the questions above you should be able to get a good idea as to whether you’ve got yourself something of value or not.

Valuing your stamps using a catalogue

Of course you could go down to your local library and borrow a copy of a Scott or Stanley Gibbons catalogue and try and value the collection yourself. However, bear in mind that there are three levels of pricing that you need to be aware of:

The Catalogue Price – this is the amount stated in the publication that the stamp is perceived to be worth. However, we say ‘perceived’ as nine times out of ten it will be worth nothing like that amount. Very confusing for the amateur but essentially it is a very high level indication of value and highly unlikely that you will find stamps for sale at the prices quoted, let alone expect to achieve those prices for your own collection.

The Buying Price – this is the price you would have to pay a dealer to buy the stamp yourself. Depending on scarcity and condition, this is likely to be between 40% and 80% of catalogue price with 50% being a fair average.

The Trade Price – this is the amount you would get if you were to sell your collection to a dealer who then needs to make a profit by selling on your stamps to other collectors. Again, scarcity and condition are important but expect an offer of between 10% and 30% of catalogue value, perhaps higher for a collection of rarer stamps. An alternative would be to sell your stamps at auction, potentially achieve a higher catalogue percentage price but then sacrifice some of those gains in vendor commission.

Need more help? Want an online valuation?

If you’ve read through the guidelines above and believe you may have a collection of value then we’d be pleased to give you an online valuation.

Take ten or so digital photographs of typical pages (as much detail as possible please) and email them to enquiries@philatelicinvestor.com. Provide as much information as possible as to the extent of the collection – the more detail you can provide, the more accurate we can be.

Now we can’t give you a precise valuation on the basis of a few photographs but can give you an idea of what you’ve got. And if you want to get a buying price or advice on where you should take your stamps to auction then we can put you in touch with our network of experts who can give you a more detailed valuation.

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