Chapter 23 Selling a collection [PREV] [NEXT] [HOME]

This chapter was last modified on [10-12-96 (Tue) at 07:48:22] . Please send all bug reports, additions etc. to the Editor, Gert Bultman.

Section 23.1 Book review of I Inherited a Stamp Collection, Now What?

See chapter 19 for this review.

Section 23.2 Collector's opinions & and experiences

Dave Retterer writes: If you go to a dealer, make sure he is a member of APS.

David Lee writes: If you want an appraisal for insurance purposes, you will have to find a dealer or a professional who will give you a written one..They will charge you a fee.. However, there is another way which posters have not mentioned.. If you just are interested in finding out what you have just out of curiousity or because you are thinking about selling, I would suggest that you find a local stamp club; perhaps an APS affiliated one. APS one's are easy to locate through the national office.. Then take your collection in to one of their meetings and see if the members will take a look at it and let you know what you have.. You will find that most collectors are very friendly and willing to help out..

If you want to sell, then the members will be the best way to get maximum value; unless you have some big $ items.. Either way, they can tell you..

Wolfgang Richter writes: Get hold of copies of the latest Scott's catalogs and look up the values. Scott's catalogs are often available in the reference chapter of your local library. Note: values indicated in Scott are for stamps that have no faults (ie: creases, perforations missing, tears, etc.). The values are also just a guideline. If the stamp has some significant value (eg: over $1), a collector interested in your stamp will likely offer at most 50 cents for it. If a dealer is interested in your stamps, he or she will offer you much less. Low value stamps (eg: those listed in the catalog at 25 cents or less) can generally at best be sold in bulk at say 100 for $1 or $2. A good place to get better-than-dealer prices for stamps is to put them up for auction.

Alan Simon writes: You have two ways of getting your stamps appraised. The first is to look in the yellow pages under Stamps for Collectors. Find a listing for a stamp dealer that does appraisals. You may have to pay for this service if done exhaustively, or you could have the dealer browse through the album and give you a ballpark figure.

The second, and more interesting way, is to go to the closest public library and check out the Scott Stamp Catalog. It comes in four volumes covering the world, with a fifth volume specializing in US. You will not only learn the value of your stamps, but will learn about the stamps themselves and perhaps discover a new hobby.

Rolf Nordhagen writes: To those seeking advice on how to sell stamp collections:

The way it is done here (in my little world, Norway) is as follows. We have several reputable dealers, who annually or bi annually arrange open auctions, usually advertised in local newspapers and certainly in any trade journals. They also in general advertise in catalogues and again in the trade press. The few I have been dealing with live off their reputation, and can be trusted. They accept either single stamps, collections or "lots", appraise them and if interesting, put them up for auction and add them to their catalogue sent out to their subscribers and previous customers. They will advise on the optimum way of doing things, for instance they may pick out especially rare objects and sell them separately and then the remains as a cheaper lot. Or they keep the valuables in to raise the general attractiveness of an otherwise reasonable collection. Usually they keep country collections as separate objects. If it is large lots of doubles and stock, they add it together as cheaper lots after seeking out occasional values. But they try to keep the image of auctioning off lots as `untouched' to attract people hunting for rarer varieties etc. The big items are old covers with stamps. What is not sold usually go at lower prices to retail dealers who chop the stuff up or again display the collections in their own shops.

All in all this fuctions reasonably here, and as I wrote, they usually give an honest appraisal. They earn their money from the auction attracting the highest possible price, not by bying underappraised material for themselves. And, of course only the most choice mnaterial come anywhere near the full catalogue value or higher. The ordinary stuff we pedestrians play with, may go at 20--30 % catalogue or even less if at all. I do not regard this as rip off, the stamp dealers in fact do us a considerable service keeping info flowing, give us chances to buy lots of interesting stamps (I have been reasonably lucky with some of the lots I have bought) etc. But they live of the trade, and can not afford to buy at anywhere near the price they sell for common material.

I think this system is the same in the other Nordic countries, and I have seen several German auction catalogs which show they use the same system.

So the method is to study the trade press and national catalogues to find an auction firm accessible to you, and ask them for an appraisal. Perhaps as a safeguard you should let a philatelic friend look through and mark any seemingly valuable items. If the auction firm(s) is not interested, the next chance is a reasonablu reputable stamp shop, if they want to give you an offer. If that seems unsatisfactory to you, you have to offer the collection by advertisement or at a stamp meet yourself, at a price you by then may have gleaned from appraisals etc.

Typical `boyhood' collections of say a few thousand of the more common stamps are definitely hard to sell. Also large mint collections of stamps from the last 40 years may in general be hard to get much out of, probably far below face value even (inflation etc.). Although they may still be allowed for postage, that does not change things. As an example, you find many traders using older stamps for postage, something they have gotten very cheaply as parts of lots.

This is my view of the world, which others may have quite different opinions of. Hope it may enlighten you. Regards from Rolf

Robert R. Wellman writes: From you description, they should not anticipate getting a lot for the collection. If the mint material is largely composed of recent emissions, say the past twenty years or so, and in quantity but not rare, nor errors, they can perhaps realize little more than face value. The exception to this might be plate blocks, if they have numbers, etc. But even these will not bring a lot beyond face on the market. The used material is a different story, but it is impossible to make an estimate without seeing the issues, their condition, postmarks, etc.

Probably the best course of action is to find a dealer who you know ABSOLUTELY to be honest and forthright. Most dealers are genuine business people who will give you a straightforward estimate of the worth of the collection--but your friend should be cautious. A second opinion may be in order. He and she should not expect the estimate to be anything near catalog value. The unhappy truth of stamp values, even with the US stamps and the new Scott's supposedly reflecting market prices, is that cat. value does not present an accurate picture of value.

Probably the best way to dispose of the collection is through a reputable auction house who is known to specialize the kind of material contained in the collection.

All the above is said in near ignorance of Dutch stamps. I know GB and the Commonwealth quite well, I know a little about US stamps--beyond that I know little or nothing of stamp collecting and values. I am confident, however, that the collection will not bring what the collector believes it to be worth--it never does. Valuable stamps are rarities, they are frequently, although not always, used, with a history, they are sometimes on cover, etc. Nevertheless, take the above advise with a grain of salt and check with experts locally.

Ed Voermans writes: You will never get near the cv of the collection when try to sell it. You will probably get the highest return if you sell the stamps at stamp swap meetings, 40 to 60 % of cv for the mint Dutch stamps depending on the period they are from. This percentage only applies to small quantities, it goes down if you want to sell a whole collection. This method of selling has as disadvantage that it takes a lot of time to sell everything, your customers are in general only interested in the better stamps and you will be left with something that is even more difficult to sell. The price for the transport stamps depends on the countrys that the the stamps are from but is in general lower than for mint Dutch stamps.

Stamp that are still valid for postage can best be used by yourself (with some exceptions for very rare stamps), since you will get less than the post-office price for them. At stamp auctions you can buy valid Dutch stamps at about 80% of the postage value, great idea if you have to mail alot.

The (next) best option for sale is going to a stamp auction. It is in the interest of the auctioneer to get a price that is as high as possible for your stamps. Auction costs (for the seller, the buyer pays seperately) are around 10% of the salesprice, usually with some small administration costs per lot. The auctioneer will advice you how to split the collection in lots, the transport collection will probably be sold as a whole and expensive series from the Dutch collection will be put in seperate lots. The auctioneer usually gives a free appraisal of your collection, giving you good estimate of what the auction-price will be. Going to an auction is a simple and relatively fast way of getting money for your stamps, and in this case probably the best choice.

Do not go to a dealer. His interest is in paying a price that is as low as possible, and he will always pay a lot less than you will get at an auction. The only advantage of a dealer is that he will pay cash now.

I hope that your friend can do something with this advice.

Francesco Cesarini writes: From my experience in buying and selling, less valuble stamps often aquire value if they are sorted and neatly placed in albums. What one often has to take in consideration is that one pays not for the stamp, but for the time it took to sort the lot. As for the catalog price, I am very doubtful. Here, in sweden, at the moment, canceled collections can be bought, if one keeps his eyes open, at 15% of the catalog value. Mint are at about 20% of the catalog value, if they are pre 1940, and they slowly rise to 50%-70% for more recent stamps. What often brings in lots of money is splitting the doubles into separate collections. I have a friend who did it. At first, he thought that he would barely get in the money he put out for the albums, but he was wrong. He made an amazing profit.

Caroline E. Bryan writes: This advice is culled from several articles over the years in the American Philatelic Society Journal. I haven't tried it myself (aside from earning ice cream money selling duplicates through the APS circuit books, as mentioned below).

Find a dealer who is familiar with the kinds of stamps you're trying to sell, and ask him/her to appraise your collection. S/he will do so for a fee. If you don't like his/her figure, or think s/he's being dishonest, find a second dealer and get a second opinion (for another fee). If both dealers are hon- est and equally knowlegeable, the two figures should be within 10% or so of each other; the better the collection, the closer to each other the two fig- ures should be. Then it's time to dicker with the dealer(s) about his/her buying your collection. Note: you will get considerably less than catalog value for the stamps. A reputable dealer might single out particularly val- uable stamps and suggest that they be put up for auction instead of being sold in the ordinary way. You can also take stamps to stamp club meetings; in the US they often include selling sessions or auctions. Or, if you're a member of an organization that circulates stamps for sale by members, you can get rid of your stamps that way, again for considerably less than catalog value.

Stamp dealers' advertisements harp on the investment value of stamps; the articles written by stamp collectors harp on the reality that stamps are not investments within one's own generation. Unless it was an error you bought at the post office, if you bought it, you will sell it at a loss. If you want the stamps to make someone rich, bequeath your childhood collection to your greatgrandchildren.

Paul A. Nelson writes: Consider yourself very lucky if you realize anything close to your investment in your stamps. Consider the therapy you've received for your investment of time and funds. If you don't have a ready buyer who is a collector of your specialty, then you probably will consult a dealer of some category. Here are some hints, when you're ready to sell:

Fastest method, least return: Sell to a dealer, who will add his expertise and lots of his time in addition to the investment of his capital into the procurement of the collection for resale. Know that the ordinary material, present in every collection, will never be sold by the dealer for anything even close to the catalog value, so don't expect to get rich from a collection of this type. The dealer will look for the better items for which he has a ready market, and will base his buying price on these items alone. That's usually fair to both parties, but it's a good idea to have some concept of what, if any, better material there is in your collection before you visit a potential buyer.

Not as fast method, better return: Consign to a dealer, who will add his expertise and time, but not his capital. Be sure of the honesty of the dealer, by asking for references from customers who have consigned material to him.

Slower method, best return, usually: Consign to an auction. This is the better way for the better material especially. Some auctions are run by mail only, some offer floor bidding in addition or exclusively. Again, ask for references from sellers through the auction. ASDA membership or APS membership is a guide, but not a perfect recommendation. Be sure that the auction house will do lotting in a careful manner, with small enough lots to break down the collection for the best return. Be sure the auction house will discuss bids on YOUR lots with you before awarding them to the mail bidders. This is especially important if the auction list does not have a PUBLISHED MINIMUM BID, which is the floor set to protect the seller. Auctions with "Estimated Value" or something similar usually will have in mind a reserve, below the EV, and below which they will not accept a bid. However, if the only bids received are below the reserve, they should discuss these bids with the seller to get approval to sell/not sell at the bid received.

Be sure the auction house publishes the prices realized for its sales, and understand the costs to the seller going in. Sometimes the lotting fees, insurance, and other costs can eat up the majority of the sale price, without even taking the sales commission into consideration. For larger collections, especially those which aren't well organized and therefore easily described and broken down into lots, the auction house will need to be compensated for its time and expertise. Well organized collections, especially larger ones, can negotiate a more favorable commission structure with the legitimate auction houses.

Similar to professional auction houses, but less costly for medium value material: Many specialty groups have similar services for their members or their estates:

The Southern California Chapter of the Scandinavian Collectors Club holds two mail/floor sales each year. Each sale has about 1000 lots or so. Published reserve bids, below which no bid will be accepted, in order to protect the seller and to give firm guidance to the buyer. 20 years of experience. About 500 lists distributed to potential and past bidders/buyers. No membership is required to buy but sellers should be members. 10% commission on lots sold, nothing on lots not sold. Auction committee reserves the right to accept or reject any material submitted for sale. Free info from SCC, POBox 310, Claremont, CA 91711.

Another slow method, good return: Participate in the Mart Book system run by APS or a specialized society like the Scandinavian Collectors Club. Here, the collector can mount his stamps in specially provided sales books which are circulated to interested collectors. The seller sets the price he wants for each stamp, the martbook system deducts a commission for its services. Books usually circulate for a maximum of 18 months before the account for each book is settled.

SCC Mart Books: Contact Eric Roberts, Mart Manager, Box 460201, Houston, TX 77056 for free information.

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