Valuing your collection
"I've got a stamp collection - how much it is worth" - it’s a question we hear a lot. Someone has a stamp collection that they haven’t touched for decades or they inherit a stamp collection from a parent or grandparent and want to know how much it’s worth.
How do you go about getting a valuation?
Your first port of call could be to value the collection yourself. To do this you would need to acquire the right stamp catalogue (basically a price listing). Some are available at libraries, but you will probably need to purchase a catalogue specific to areas/countries covered by the collection.
Before you commit to purchasing a stamp catalogue though, you can ask yourself the following questions to ascertain whether you may be have something of real value or if the stamps aren’t worth even selling on eBay.
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 specialisation. Unless the album is at least 60-70 years old then you are unlikely to have anything of value.
Are most of the stamps multi-coloured?
If they are, 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.
Is it 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. cats, flowers, space, 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?
Stamps from 1840 to 1940 could be of interest. 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, but this is no guarantee of worth.
Does the collection focus on just one country or is specialised in a particular area?
This could be good news. Specialised 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 into the album first. If, on the other hand, the album is full of earlier stamps and is bulging with most spaces filled you may just have something of real value.
But, please be aware…
These are all generalisations and there are plenty of exceptions. There are some 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
Stanley Gibbons are always looking to purchase fine specialised and single country collections as well as large general collections, accumulations and dealers' stocks. We welcome offers of single rarities, early stamps and all aspects of postal history. If you feel that your collection might interest us for either sale via Stanley Gibbons Auctions or a direct cash offer, please send full details and if possible some sample scans to firstname.lastname@example.org.