Philately Fundamentals: How Do I Sell My Stamp Collection?

This comprehensive resource is your go-to guide to selling individual stamps as well as how to put an entire stamp collection on the market. Learn how to:

  • Keep and store stamps to preserve their value
  • Tell which stamps are most valuable
  • Sell rare postage stamps
  • Preliminarily assess a collection’s value, whether it’s your own or an inherited collection

Before selling your collection, you should understand how to:

  • Get a professional appraisal, which is often necessary to sell a collection for maximum value at an appropriate time.
  • Review the determinants of value: condition, maintenance, rarity and completeness.
  • Explain how the final worth of a stamp is determined through catalogues, collectors, condition and the market.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of different methods for selling a stamp collection.

Stamp Collecting: A Historical Hobby With an International Future

Stamp collecting in the U.S. began in the nineteenth century, soon after the first stamp was printed. Early stamps displayed prominent Americans, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The hobby was prized for its connection to significant events in history. For example, the first commemorative stamp recognized Columbus’s exploratory trips.

Stamp collectors come from all occupations and classes. Famous hobbyists include heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and American president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A diverse variety of entertainers have collected stamps, from The Beatles’ John Lennon to horror movie star Bella Lugosi. Great thinkers, such as Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, business leader Warren Buffet and Russian chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, have spent many hours with their collections.

As emails and automatic bill payments displace stamped letters, some observers worry that young people will be uninterested in stamp collecting. After all, they may grow up seldom using or even seeing stamps.

At Apfelbaum, Inc., we don’t think so. Stamp collecting may be a niche market, but many people fascinated by history, geography, foreign travel and art are drawn to such high value stamps versus lower value celebrity or vanity stamps. Stamps are inherently intriguing and will always attract a segment of the world. Stamp collecting is an international pastime, and this guide shows you which countries’ stamps are most valuable.

If you’re ready to evaluate, buy or sell, work with us. Place your trust in our experience and expertise.

Chapter 1: Selling a Stamp Collection: What Should I Do?

The purpose of this stamp-selling guide is straightforward. It’s that old aphorism: “Knowledge is power.” Though the American Philatelic Society doesn’t promote stamp collecting as an investment, keeping stamps in the best possible condition enhances your enjoyment of the hobby and keeps your options open. Whatever your status is as a collector, knowledge helps guide you through your next step:

  • New collector: Anyone starting out should learn the conditions under which stamps are kept at peak value. Proper temperature and humidity are critical to safe storage, as is the placement of stamps in albums. Taking good care of your collection helps you maintain and pursue your hobby. Your stamps stay at peak value in case you — or your heirs — consider selling.
  • Experienced collector: If you’ve been developing a stamp collection and are thinking about selling, you’ll need a lot of information. There are many markets and outlets. Once you distinguish among them, you’ll know which approach is best for you. Knowledge of how stamps are priced, including condition, age and history, helps keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Inheritance: You’re not a hobbyist but have had stamps passed down to you. If you inherited a collection, you might not be interested in selling immediately — you might find pleasure in collecting and adopt the pastime yourself. Learning about your stamps and their value enables you to better understand your collection.

Someone — either you or your benefactor — put a lot of time, effort and money into a stamp collection. Hobbies typically aren’t profitable, but stamps offer this possibility more than most. The more information you gather, the more likely it is that you’ll recognize rare, unusual and valuable stamps.

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