The following is a transcription of a video created by Northland Company. Northland International Trading, LLC are experts in stamp collecting. For more information on Northland, please visit them at: http://northstamp.com/.
Stamp Collecting Video
Hi. I’m Jerry. Here at Northland Company, we get hundreds of calls and emails every week from people wanting to sell their stamp, coin, and paper money collections. Today, I’m just going to talk about stamps. Everyone’s got the same three questions, “What is my collection worth?”, “How do I go about selling it?”, and “How do I know I’m not going to get ripped off?” These are good questions.
Having been in the business of selling and buying stamps for over 35 years, here’s my answers. Question number one, “How much are my stamps worth?” If you’re the person who builds a collection, you’re already ahead of the game because you have some idea of this value. If you’re unfamiliar with stamps, say you’re the executer of an estate, a window, an heir, or just a friend helping out an elderly neighbor, it’s going to be more difficult, because you’re going to have to communicate just what you have to a potential buyer, before he can say whether it has value or even if he’s interested in it.
Let’s start by trying to define what you have. Stamp collectors are usually great accumulators and organizers, and stamp collections come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. These are some of the types of collections we typically run across.
At the top of the list, you might have what we call a ‘Major collection‘. It could look something like this. Fifty to 300 albums would not be uncommon. This would be put together by a collector over a lifetime. There would be hundreds of thousands of stamps here. He would have bought them from dealers and auctioneers and he would have been able to afford scarcer stamps as well as common stamps. He might also have been an exhibitor in international competitions and won awards. A collection like this will have significant value.
Next, you might have what we call a ‘Specialized collection‘. This is very similar to a major collection, except that the collector was highly focused on what he was collecting. For example, he may have collected just a single country such as this Japan collection, or he may have focused on advertising covers and postal history such as those shown here.
Lastly, he may have concentrated on just a single stamp. Books are written on just a single stamp. Because of this specialized nature of this type of collection, they usually have significant value.
Now we come to the type of collection that the average collector might have, such as this one here. There are tens of thousands of stamps in this collection, and it probably took the collector a lifetime to put it together. He had a lot of fun, and there will be value here. Typically, the scarcer stamps won’t be found primarily because he didn’t have the funds to invest in them.
Next on the list, children’s collections. We see a lot of these. Usually, they contain just common stamps, and often the child loses interest in collecting after a while. Collections like this have little commercial value, and we rarely buy them.
Back in the 1950s, collecting complete sheets of stamps was very popular. Every time a stamp was issued, a person would go to the post office and buy a sheet. Over time, he collected a lot of sheets. They did this because they thought it was a good investment. It really wasn’t such a good investment and today, they’re probably worth less in the person paid for them.
The good news though is a lot of sheets were collected. Typically, there’s a lot of value there. Promotional collections can take many forms and are quite common. This one features a golden replica first day covers. The collector would buy these covers and put them into an album such as this. They’re very pretty, but they have little resale value.
Stamp investment portfolios were in vogue in the 1980s. Investors bought these as hedges against inflation. Generally speaking, they did not work out too well as an investment. However, the quality of the stamps was quite high, and these still have significant value.
Lastly, dealer stocks. Many collectors aspire to become dealers perhaps when they retire. Some do, some don’t. In the course of their collecting career, they accumulate large amounts of stamps and covers. We once took a collection weighing 17 tons. Because of the diversity of accumulations like this, they usually do have significant value.
Now you know what type of collection you might have. What does it worth? It comes down to three variables. One, what stamps are in the collection? Are they common? Are they scarce? Are they even genuine? Secondly, what’s the condition of the stamps? This is especially important for scarcer stamps. Third, what is the state of the overall economy and the stamp market in particular? Is it strong or is it weak?
Let’s start with the last question first. The overall economy is very weak as we all know, but the stamp market has been very resilient, and it’s good to be selling. The stamp market’s been trending upward slowly for many years, but it does consist of many segments, and they can run hot or cold in any particular point in time.
Right now, Asian countries are very strong. Traditionally strong areas like Europe are weak. Even within countries, different segments can vary. Classics might be strong, air mails might be weak. Ultimately, the mix of stamps you have in your collection will determine its value. Now let’s turn to the question of whether you have any scarcer stamps.
Keep in mind, hundreds of thousands of different stamps were issued and billions if not trillions of stamps were printed. Most of these are very common. Still, there are plenty of scarcer stamps out there.
Here is the scarce Graf Zeppelin stamp of the 1930s. This worth is about $1500. A similar set issued just a few years before is worth only 10. Next, you see two $0.50 stamps that look exactly the same but they’re not. One has a different proliferation. The stamps on the left have a value of $1500, on the right just $100.
This last stamp could actually be worth $0.20 or $150,000. This design appears on 28 different stamps all with different values. My suggestion is, don’t get too excited if you have a stamp that looks like this. You probably don’t have the rare one. On the other hand, you might get lucky. Even when a rare stamp is found, you have to beware of fakes and forgeries. You can probably see that these two finished stamps are slightly different, but it takes an expert to tell the real one. It’s the one on the left.
All of these stamps are listed in the Scott Catalogue, which can be found in any library. You can check Scott values yourself, but bare in mind that these do not reflect the prices that you can actually sell your stamps for. You can also explore our website to see what current prices are for thousands of stamps worldwide.
Lastly, if you’re fortunate enough to have scarce or rare stamps, their quality and condition will greatly affect their value. Centering is a very important element in valuing stamps. These two $0.05 stamps are exactly the same, except that one on the left is perfectly centered. It’s valued at $1900. The one on the right still looks pretty good, but the retail price on this is just $100.
The gum on the back of the stamp is also very important. The center stamp shows a hinge mark when it was put into a stamp album. The one on the left has no hinge mark, and the one on the right has no gum at all. If the center stamp was worth $50, the one on the left would be worth a hundred, and the one on the right only $25.
Stamps are fragile. They’re made of paper, and they often have faults, tears, thins, creases … All of which can greatly affect value. All three of these stamps look pretty good. The one on the left actually is. It has a nice cancel, no faults, and is worth about $250. The center stamp looks pretty good too, but it has small thins and a few short curves. It’s worth about $45. The stamp at the right, a major disaster. A cancel has been removed, a puncture hole has been repaired, there’s been a repair tear at the bottom, it’s been regummed and reperfed on the sides and a fake grill has been added. its value, zero.
Now, you should have a good idea of what type of collection you have, and you know some of the variables that go into assessing their value. Next step, contact a potential buyer.
In part two of this series which follows, I will explain the advantages and disadvantages of using an auctioneer or a dealer to sell your collection. I’ll also provide some tips to avoid getting ripped off. If you have any questions, call me. I’m Jerry.
Here’s part two of the video.