Bad news first - Chances are good that the collection you have acquired is worth nothing or very little. Sorry about the bluntness of that but it is most likely true. Tens of thousands of stamp collections were created simply for the fun of the hobby. And the vast majority of these collections are valuable for the hobby aspect but not valuable money wise. And this applies even if the collection is "old" looking.
I belong to a stamp club and every year we have a stamp show. That means that lots of dealers come together and have an event to sell stamps. At the show we also have expert stamp collectors from the club assess collections for free. We advertise that if you have a stamp collection you can bring it in and an expert will take a look at it to give you some advice on it's possible worth.
So, every year I see lots of people bringing in collections hoping to hear that it is worth big money! Or maybe even a little bit of money.
But in 99% of the cases the general advice is that the collection is worth very little (Less than 50 dollars). And this is very common.
I have only seen one collection that was worth several hundred dollars. And this collection was a specific case. It was owned by a person who inherited it from his father. And his father used to own and operate a stamp selling store. That pretty much explains it. His father was an expert stamp collector who bought and sold stamps for their value. So, understandably the collection was valuable.
There are tens of thousands of stamp collections out there that were created by people just having fun with stamps and enjoying them. And for the vast majority of them the collections have very little monetary value.
So, with all that being said let's launch into some guidelines that will help you get an initial assessment of the possible value of your stamp collection. And what to do next. Here are six things to look for:
1. - about the Person
Do you have any information about the person who created the stamp collection? This can be an important clue. Was this person a serious collector? Did he or she go to stamp shows? Was he a member of a stamp club? Was he involved in the business of stamps?
If any of these things apply then there is a better chance that the collector had a discerning eye when it came to stamps. He could have put together a collection that was valuable. Rather than a collection that was just a hobby for fun.
Let's look at your collection - There are some easy indicators that can show you the stamp collection may be valuable.
Indicators of Value:
2. Are there multiple stamp albums? Serious collectors typically don't have just one stamp album. If there are multiple albums it indicates a more serious collector. And potentially a more valuable collection.
3. Are the albums mostly full of stamps? The more stamps the better. This also indicates that a collector was thorough and more serious about the collection. The odds of having some stamps with value goes up with more stamps.
4. Flip through the first few pages of the album.
Most stamp albums are arranged chronologically. This means that the older (and more valuable) stamps are on the first few pages. Are these pages empty? Are there very few stamps? The more stamps there are in the first few pages the more potential value the collection has.
This picture shows one of the first pages in an album. It is sparsely filled. There are only two stamps on the page.
It is an indicator that the album is possibly not that valuable.
5. Are the stamps new or used? In other words, have the stamps been used as postage? This makes a significant difference in the value of most stamps.
This picture gives you a good look at what is meant. The stamp on the left is mint. It has never been used as postage. The stamp on the right has the black cancellation mark on it. That stamp was used as postage and is consequently less valuable. Even though they are the same stamp.
Is your collection primarily unused (mint) stamps or primarily used stamps?
If it is primarily unused stamps that is an indicator that the collection may have some value.
6. How are the stamps mounted in the album?
This is a stamp mounted in an album. And it uses something called a stamp hinge. It is a little piece of glue cellophane that is attached to the stamp and to the page of the album. With a hinge like this you can lift the stamp and look at the back.
But.... stamp hinges are generally an indicator of stamps that have little value. This is because the hinge does a small amount of damage to the stamp.
But take a look at this stamp that is mounted in an album. You can see that it is actually inside a plastic envelope of sorts. It has a clear plastic front and a black backing. This backing is attached to the page. But the stamp just sits safely inside the plastic envelope.
These mounts are more expensive than the hinges from the previous picture. Does your collection have a lot of these mounts? If yes, this is an indicator that the stamps are possibly of a higher value. Because more expense has been put into the care of them by placing them in mounts rather than hinges.
Full Page Mounts:
Here is another way that stamps are placed in an album. These are full page mounts. The stamps are slid into rows. The pages have black plastic behind the stamps and a clear plastic in front. This is a way to protect more valuable stamps. They are held in the rows without damage and without any gluing.
It is a more expensive option and it is generally used when the stamps have more value. So, if your collection has pages like this it is a clue that the collection might have some value.
7. Full Sheets
On this page of this stamp album you see something called a sheet. That is a whole series of stamps all as one complete piece. There are twenty five stamps on this sheet and they are not separated. This sheet is mounted in the book.
These full sheets of stamps can have some value. It is an indicator that the collection overall has some value.
You don't need to know much about stamps to get a sense of whether or not a collection has value. I have given you seven different indicators that can point to the possibility of value. But stamp collecting is a quirky thing. Sometimes a poor collection that was not cared for can have a few stamps in it that do have value -potentially hundreds of dollars.
So, even if your collection doesn't have any of my indicators of value you still might consider enlisting the help of an expert to assess your collection.
How do you get your collection assessed?
Well, there are a couple of things you can do. First I would start with a google search of stamp clubs in your area. There may be a stamp club in your city or a nearby city. Find them on google then send them an email or give them a call. They will be happy to have you bring your collection in and assess it for you.
Secondly you can go to a stamp show. These are events that happen on a regular basis all over the country. The easiest way to find a stamp show is with the APS show calender. The APS is the American Philatelic Society. They are the governing body for stamp clubs. And they have a search engine you can use to search for upcoming shows in your area. Give it a try. The APS search engine is right here.
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