Found or Inherited Stamps?
If you have inherited or found a stamp collection, our hope is you will decide to take up collecting because it’s such a fascinating hobby. However, your first question will probably be “I wonder what it's worth.” In rare instances there might be some value, but most such finds are beginner collections on which little money and time was spent. Such collections often were put away in a closet or up in the attic. Below are some descriptions of typical collections that might help you determine your odds of having something truly valuable, plus your options, whether it be taking up collecting yourself, or disposing of the stamps.
- cigar box, envelopes, or other containers with loose stamps, mostly used. If this is the entire collection, the value is probably negligible.
- sheets of 50 unused stamps, usually with a value of 3¢ to 32¢. Sheets of stamps that are not “forever” stamps typically can be sold to some stamp dealers for a percent of face value if there is a large quantity of them. The smaller the denomination, the lower the percentage of face value that will be offered.
- blocks of four or more stamps that have a number besides the stamps. These will go for even less than full sheets of stamps.
- collection with one stamp album with a few hundred stamps inside and perhaps some envelopes with unmounted stamps. These are beginner type collections that have album titles such as Ambassador Album, All-American Stamp Album, Patriot United States Stamp Album, Traveler Stamp Album, Modern Postage Stamp Album, Pony Express Stamp Album and hundreds more. Such albums tend to have a binder size of 1½” to 2” or smaller. Very seldom is there any value to such collections.
- accumulations of U.S. first day covers; these are envelopes that typically have a decoration on the left side of the envelope and a stamp in the right corner that is canceled "First Day of Issue." Very few of these from dating from the mid-1930s and later have much value, though there are exceptions if the decoration on the left side was not mass produced by first day cover makers such as Artmaster, Artcraft, Fleetwood, etc. Covers that have an addresses on them are worth even less.
- collections marketed by the Postal Commemorative Society, Franklin Philatelic Society, Westport Collectors Society and even the U.S. Postal Service (i.e. American Commemorative Collections). Such collections typically have one first day cover mounted on each page along with several paragraphs describing the stamp issue. These are marketed to non-collectors for far more than a knowledgeable collector would pay and have minimal value on the philatelic market.
- collection with two or three albums with binder sizes larger than 2”. Thousands of stamps are mounted in the albums. Some effort was made to organize unmounted stamps, such as in envelopes, boxes or even three-ring binders. There might be some value to such a collection.
- collection with a half dozen or more albums, with some albums covering a single country or worldwide stamps arranged in a series of albums. Some, but not all albums, may be almost completely full of stamps, except for older ones. Additional three-ring binders or storage boxes contain stamps that are clearly presented in an organized manner, but there is still unorganized material present. There is a somewhat better chance of the collection having some worth.
- As the prior item, but several dozen to perhaps hundreds of albums; even more binders and boxes containing stamps. The collection is so large, it takes may take up a half room, a whole room, or even more space. There may be boxes of unorganized material as the collection size increased so much, the collector could not keep up. A stamp dealer would want to take a look at such a collection, although the odds of finding such a vast collection still intact are almost nil as most collectors make provisions to dispose of large collections before passing.
Note that there are some collections that will defy any neat categorization as listed above.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do so many of the stamp collections described above have little value? The first four types of collections described above were either assembled by children or accumulators. They only bought the cheapest stamps, which are still cheap today [or even cheaper today considering inflation].
Is there a way I can look up the value of a collection on my own? The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, often available for loan at larger public libraries, provides pricing for stamps. Note that these are suggested dealer selling prices, not dealer buying prices. Dealers usually pay a small percentage of selling prices for stamps they are interested in buying for resale. Stamps with the catalogue’s minimum selling price of 25¢ have virtually no resale value whatsoever. Ebay, Hipstamp and Delcampe are popular websites for buying and selling stamps; look there to find collections similar to what you have.
Why are dealers not interested in buying my stamps? Dealers will only purchase stamps they can resale over a reasonable period of time. Some dealers only sell particular types of stamps, ones that may not be the type you are offering. If they spot items that might be of interest to another dealer, they will probably refer you to that dealer.
Some stamps I have look to be quite old. Why aren't they valuable? The value of stamps is determined by the demand for them. Many U.S. stamps, even a century old, were printed in quantities of a billion or more. So many were saved, the quantities available far exceed the number of collectors who need them.
Where can I get a collection evaluated? There are no longer any traditional store front stamp shops in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where one can walk in to have a dealer take a look at a collection. Some dealers operate in offices, and an appointment can be made to visit them. There are also stamp shows where dealers will be happy to look at your holdings. For upcoming shows, see the schedule of events on our home page. If you can’t wait until a show, go to our stamp dealer tab under “resources” above, for dealers that are willing to look at collections. Note that if you want an appraisal on the value of a collection, dealers will charge for doing the task.