Are stamp collections worth anything in today’s market?

Published 4:31 pm Friday, August 16, 2019


Personal Effects

Question: Hi Jerry, I was wondering if you could help me with something. I have a whole bunch of stamps that my uncles left me. I must have three shoe boxes full, plus notebooks of paper that they’ve been glued into. Are they worth anything? What can I do with them? Thank you.

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Answer: I get asked this so many times, but I’ve never discussed it here before. Well, now is the time.

Sigh, I learned a long time ago, that stamps were either a world you were in or you were not.

Many dealers, collectors and appraisers can spread across several worlds. We can be knowledgeable in furniture, and know a great deal about silver or books, too. Stamps, much like other collecting fields, like coins, sports cards and comics, require so much time, devotion and study. Many generalists, or even specialty collectors, and appraisers just don’t focus much on these fields. I never appraise or consult on them.

You answered several important things for me. The words “shoebox and glued” are real triggers. It tells me that your uncles were not serious collectors, they just liked stamps. A serious collector would have had them in special folders, binders and boxes. Shoeboxes and loose leaf pages are not archival storage methods. So, you have an accumulation of stamps and not a true collection. However, are they

worth anything? Maybe.

A stamp collector, or a philatelist, will collect stamps one of two ways — either in mint condition or canceled. Many collectors prefer the canceled stamps, because they are easier to find and not as expensive. Unless the cancellation mark is very collectible, or rare. Bear in mind that condition will be a factor — even with canceled stamps.

You didn’t send me any photos, or tell me if they were old. If your stamps are newish, maybe from the 1960s or so, I’m going to wager that they are not going to be worth much.

But, hold on. You should reach out to the American Philatelic Society, the APS just to make sure you don’t have something truly rare and desirable. They are easy to Google and loaded with information.

I know the stamp world has been in a tailspin for some years. As the older collectors and serious investors pass away, the younger generations aren’t picking up the stamp torch. This has caused prices to fall.

I did a search on the APS site and was surprised that there were two places in Kentucky that you could call. Seek out an expert when in doubt. Steel yourself though, the market for stamps is often soft, unless it’s a rare or an outstanding piece. Thanks for a great question — that I get asked often.