One of the questions that I get asked the most as a stamp dealer is «What is my stamp collection worth? ». Obviously, many collectors adopt this hobby simply because it is a passion, but others also hope that their collection may eventually have some re-sale value. How can you tell what your collection is worth?
It’s important to have a realistic view of your collection. You need to remember what made you start collecting stamps in the firstplace. Just as a collector of spoons, teapots or comic books, a stamp collector generally adopts this hobby because of the special appeal stamps have for him/her. Some people collect because they find stamps pretty, others for the historic appeal, and others still because they enjoy learning about other countries. You simply cannot put a monetary value on the hours of pleasure your stamp collection has provided you. You also cannot put a monetary value on all the time you have spent organizing and sorting your stamps.
However, if you really want to put a value on your collection, you might want start by learning the catalogue value of your stamps. To do this, you obviously need an up-to-date stamp catalogue for whatever countries you collect, for example, the 2010 Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. You can easily track down your stamps in a catalogue even if you don’t know the Scott number by referencing the denomination on the stamp. The denomination changes with the years, so that number can help you to know approximately in what year to look for your stamp.
The catalogue value theoretically represents the value of your stamp, in other words, it’s a price that most likely the stamp has recently been purchased for. Make sure you write down the correct value for your stamp if it’s mint or used. Keep in mind that catalogue values are for specimens that are in Very Fine condition. If your stamp is damaged or badly centered, you can hardly expect it to fetch the same amount as a stamp in excellent condition.
However, buyers are always looking for deals. Which is why when you initially buy a stamp, you have to be on the lookout for good deals, espacially if your goal is to increase your eventual profit margin. Please note that some stamp rarities or rare error varieties often command higher than catalogue values, it’s all a matter of offer and demand. So how much can you ask for your collection?
A good rule of thumb is, as much as you can! Keep in mind that if you are including a stamp album, stamp pages, stamp mounts or any other stamp collecting supplies and accessories in the sale you would want to clearly indicate that in your sale description. Be realistic though, in order to sell your collection, you need a buyer looking for what you have to offer. Your collection only has value if someone is in the market for it.
Where can you find a buyer? EBay it! This requires you have some knowledge of philately and the collection. Have it auctioned by an ordinary auction house. This is not likely to obtain a good price, as the audience is not typically going to be knowledgeable about the collection. If you think your collection is valuable, contact an auction house that specializes in stamp auctions. They have the contacts and ability to evaluate and price the collection. You can also contact a reputable stamp dealer or advertizing within your local stamp collecting community. You can find them by looking in your local phone book or by doing a Google search.
After all these considerations, is stamp collecting a viable investment strategy? A future article will address that question.