Selling and Valuing Stamps
Valuing and selling stamps can be a complicated business. The APF can only provide very general information and you will need to obtain advice specific to your own situation.
Valuing stamps requires considerable expertise and a knowledge of the current market for stamps. The following general comments may give you an initial idea of the value of your collection:
As a very general rule, “school boy/girl” collections almost always only contain low value stamps. Just because a stamp is old does not mean it has much value. Yes, rarities do crop up in old basic collections but this is very unusual. The condition of the stamp is of utmost importance and damaged, heavily postmarked, dirty or torn /thinned stamps are far less saleable. Note that postmarks and other postal markings can sometimes be more valuable than the stamps they are on.
Disorganised unsorted accumulations are usually of less interest than well organised annotated collections.
There was a collecting ‘bubble’ in the 1970s – 1990s which has now well and truly burst.
Large quantities of mint stamps from this period are on the market and often can only be sold as postage, below the original purchase price.
On the other hand,collections formed from auction or dealer purchases where the collector used specialised literature to identify the material and carefully organised and wrote up the collection may have considerable value.
The easiest way to have the collection valued is to have a valuation done by a stamp dealer. Members of the Australasian Philatelic Traders’ Association (APTA) agree to abide by a code of ethics and will provide you with a realistic idea of what your collection is worth. A list of dealers can be found at www.apta.com.au.
An appraisal of market value is different to a detailed valuation for insurance purposes. Many Dealers will give you a free appraisal of the market value of your stamps but for a comprehensive insurance valuation a fee may be charged.
It is also important to realise that stamp collecting goes well beyond stamps and other factors may influence the value of a stamp. This is particularly true of stamps on cover (envelopes). A stamp worth a few cents in catalogue value may be worth hundreds of dollars on cover because of the postmark, the postal rate, the destination or the route . Sometimes a postmark itself may be far more valuable than the stamp. NEVER remove stamps from the envelope unless you know what you are doing.
Using the web to value stamps
Researching the values of stamps through a Google search or the like can be very mis-leading. The vast majority of basic stamps are common with no real value and are unlikely to be found in an internet search.
Instead you may find errors or scarce variants that to the untrained eye look similar. These can give the false impression the stamps are valuable whereas only the stamp with a flaw, rare shade or other subtle difference is valuable.
There are no easy shortcuts. Only printed catalogues can assist with assesing basic stamps.
Stamp catalogues for all countries are available in various degrees of specialisation and may contain much useful information. See http://www.2-clicks-stamps.com/article/stamp-catalogue-guide.html for a list of some of the most useful general catalogues. There are many more specialised catalogues for specific Countries or types of material. Factors such as perforations, shades and flaws are not always listed in simplified catalogues and may make a substantial difference to the value but require detailed knowledge to interpret.
Catalogue value does not equate to market value and it can be quite misleading to assume the price in the catalogue is the price you may be offered by a dealer or other buyer.
The catalogue value is also based on a stamp in perfect condition – see below.
Low value stamps may be difficult to sell at any price due to limited demand and large supply. One $100 stamp may be saleable but 100 stamps at $1.00 each may not.
Realistically while a catalogue will give you some idea of value and help to organise your collection, you need a market appraisal from a dealer or someone who understands the current market.
The condition of a stamp is extremely important in terms of its value and its collectability. Factors such as tears, thins, stains, missing perforations, cut-into margins on imperforate stamps and heavy postmarks can easily greatly reduce the value of a rare stamp. Serious collectors will not usually be interested in a stamp in poor condition.
Stamps on cover, postmarks, documents
As mentioned above, stamps on cover ( envelope) may be more collectible than separate stamps, especially old material. It may also be that the postmark has value. There may be instructional markings made by the post office on the envelope, or the destination or postal rate may be of interest to some collectors. This is not always the case by any means but as a general rule do not remove stamps from covers unless you know exactly what you are doing.
Stamp duty on financial transactions was often paid by use of postage stamps or special duty stamps and affixed to documents such as receipts, cheques or mortgages. Some collectors are interested in such documents and again, do not remove stamps unless you know exactly what you are doing.
Generally catalogues will not provide information about stamps on cover or postmarks and specialist appraisal is required.
Stamps can be sold in various ways:
- Stamp dealers
- Specialist stamp auction houses
- Stamp fairs and markets
- Via Stamp clubs (usually only if you are a member)
As a general rule, the quicker and easier the sale the less you can hope to realise. There is a financial trade-off between the convenience of selling a large amount of stamps to a dealer and taking the time to sort, identify and break down a collection for sale yourself. For many people (who may not have the knowledge or time ), the most convenient option is to sell to a dealer but other methods are listed below for those who have the time and inclination to pursue them.
1 Stamp Dealers
Dealers make some or all of their living from buying stamps and selling at a profit. A big advantage of selling to a dealer is that it is usually a quick transaction and you are paid immediately. Most other methods of selling stamps take some time ( sometimes considerable time) and there may be delays between sales and receiving the proceeds. However, bear in mind the dealer needs to make money on the transaction.
The APF suggests dealing with traders who are members of the professional Philatelic Traders Association of Australasia- APTA. The website is at http://www.apta.com.au . The Member Search Tab will provide a list of dealers in your State and contact details once you select your Country.
Some dealers specialise in certain Countries or types of material and Philatelic Auction Houses are also included in the APTA listings
Specialist Philatelic Auction Houses may take lots on consignment and will charge a seller’s commission of up to 20% or more. One advantage of selling by auction is that you can expect the going market price. However, auction houses will only take material they believe is saleable and may require a minimum estimated value for the lots they list. They are unlikely to accept cheaper material and may need to form lots into small collections rather than sell individual stamps, unless these are quite valuable individually.
The better organised and annotated the collection is, the more attractive it will be for sale at auction .
Again, see the APTA website for details of Australasian auction houses. We do not recommend general auction houses for sale of stamps as considerable specialist knowledge is required to achieve the best outcome.
In some cases an overseas auction house may be the best option for your valuable material and if you have a valuable collection we suggest seeking advice from someone who understand the philatelic market.
A vast amount of stamps and covers are sold on Ebay these days and Ebay does represent a useful way to sell particularly more common material in small or individual lots. You will need both an Ebay account and a Paypal Account. Both will charge fees on transactions. Detailed suggestions for using Ebay are beyond the scope of this article but a google search will produce the information you need to get started.
While Ebay selling is labour-intensive, you can break your collection down to individual stamps or small lots, potentially maximising the returns.
You will need a way to make large high quality images and either a flat-bed scanner or a cheap digital camera will do the job.
As a general rule, top-end valuable material may do better at auction and more common material better on Ebay ( if indeed an auction House will sell it at all)
4 Stamp Club Market days and fairs
Local Stamp Markets are held all over Australia. Local stamp Clubs may offer dealers tables for a small fee and for some people this is another option when selling stamps. Approaching the stall holders at the local stamp market can also result in sale of your material. You may be well advised to seek more than one quote from potential buyers as part-time traders will vary in their knowledge and may not be not members of the Professional Asssociation (APTA)
For details of markets available in your area, contact your State Stamp Council. Details of State peak bodies are on the APF website under the States tab , and most State Stamp Councils have their own websites where markets and bourses are listed .
5. Stamp Clubs
Considerable buying and selling occurs at local stamp clubs though you may need to be a member to take advantage of some of their services. Many clubs offer an ‘exchange book’ system where members can place their stamps in books of material that are circulated through the membership for sale. Stamp clubs may also hold small auctions on club nights.
To find a stamp Club near you, check with your State Council – see details on the APF website State tab http://apf.org.au/ .