So you’ve inherited a stamp collection from Uncle Bob and you don’t know what to do with it? Well, don’t despair! This article will help you to decide the best way to go about selling the stamps (if you decide you don’t want to become a collector yourself, of course).
There are four primary ways of selling a stamp collection. First of all, you can try selling to another collector. However, very few people go this route. Why? Well, because it requires that you have a basic working knowledge of the value of your collection to begin with–if you’ve inherited a collection from a relative, you may have no idea what exactly it is you possess. Also, selling to a collector requires you to have a private collector ready and willing to buy exactly what you have, at that precise moment in time, and for the right price–you may have no idea where to find such a collector.
Secondly, you could try selling your collection on the internet, for example, on Ebay; once again though, be careful! You really have to know the value of what you have in order to make a successful sale and there are many fraudsters ready to take advantage of an inexperienced stamp seller.
So, what if you have no idea what the value of your collection is? In that case, the most viable options available to you are to either sell your collection to a stamp dealer or through an auction house. Let’s start with a stamp dealer.
A stamp dealer is someone who has a vast knowledge of stamps and who has built up a business in selling stamps to the public on a large scale. A dealer is always looking for ways to build up his inventory and is always ready and willing to deal with the public. However, because a dealer is buying your stamps in order to resell them to other customers, he will never be able to give you top dollar, or the catalogue value of your stamps (to be honest though, NO ONE is ever going to give you catalogue value for common stamps, so you might as well dispel that notion right now). On the plus side though, a dealer is ready to conduct a transaction with you immediately and can pay you immediate cash once a deal has been reached; there is no waiting involved.
Obviously, it is important to find an honest dealer to make sure that he gives you a fair evaluation. To do this, you can do a Google search on the company, or ask the dealer for references. Look for someone who has been in business a long time (for example, Arpin Philately has been conducting business since 1969, over 44 years!). You can also check and see if your dealer is a member of any stamp organizations such as the APS (American Philatelic Society), CSDA (Canadian Stamp Dealers Association) or the RPSC (Royal Philatelic Society of Canada). But the best test of a good stamp dealer is longevity in business, vast experience, and happy customers!
Stamp dealers are easy to find in your local phone book or buy searching on the internet and there is usually one close to you. In some cases, depending on your collection and how interested the dealer is, he may even travel to you to give you an evaluation. I would say that the best argument for going to a stamp dealer is this: a stamp dealer accepts diverse content. In other words, a dealer is not just looking for rare stamps. He also wants modern stuff and is willing to buy multiples of a popular item. These items are not usually worth as much, but if you have a large collection, with a lot of what the dealer is looking for, he will be willing to buy.
So, you found an honest dealer who has given you a realistic evaluation of your collection and…..it is no where near what you were hoping for–what now? People are often disappointed to find out that the stamp collection that Uncle Bob spent 50 years building up is not worth much. But remember one thing: no matter what you get, it’s money you didn’t have before!
The other option is to sell your collection through an auction house. Once again you can do a Google search to find the address of a reputable stamp auction house. Or, you can check the advertisement pages in the front of your Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps, where several auction houses are listed. What is the advantage of an auction house?
The biggest advantage is this: you most likely will get top dollar for your stamp(s) since you will have access to a larger buying audience. However, there obviously has to be a demand for what you have to offer. One major disadvantage with an auction house is this: many of them are looking for valuable, rare stamps. So, if it isn’t worth their time to sell what you have, they may turn you away. Auction houses don’t usually take in the common, modern stamps that many hobby collectors buy. They are looking for specialized content that will appeal to serious philatelists and collectors with the money to spend hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. But, if this is what you have to offer, they will be more than happy to help you out.
With an auction house you may have to wait for your money. Depending on when the next auction is scheduled, you could wait a few months to see any money at all, even if your stamps sell. One reputable auction house only pays you 45 days after the end of the auction.
Some things to note about auction house procedure: Some auction houses charge the buyer a commission on their purchase. Most traditional auction houses charge the consignor (you), a consignment fee (this is how they make their money after all). The consignment fee usually represents 20% of the hammer price, which includes a $25 «lot fee» if your lot sells (which is non-refundable even if your lot doesn’t sell). In other words, if your lot sells for $100, you will receive an amount of $75 = $100 hammer price – $20 (20% consignment) – $5 (the balance of the lot fee). If your lot doesn’t sell, you owe them $25 and they give you your stamps back. Also, if your stamps are valuable, you may have to pay to insure them.
So, in conclusion, it all depends on what you have. And, like any collectible, what you get also depends on buyer demand. Hopefully these few suggestions will get you on your way!