Selling your stamp collection

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15 November 2019
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Have you inherited a stamp collection that you're interested in selling or are you curious to know the value of your collection? Find out what to do and who to speak to with our in-depth guide to selling a stamp collection and getting the best price.

How can I tell if the stamps are valuable?

Does your inheritance consist of dirty, clipped stamps randomly dumped in albums or boxes or is it a painstakingly assembled collection of good condition stamps, neatly mounted, catalogued and numbered? The neater the collection the more likely it is to be valuable.

The stamp collection may be valuable if:
  • The stamps date from before the Queen's reign (pre-1952) 
  • The albums are neatly arranged (and with notes), with clear care taken by the collector
  • The collection is focused on one country or theme, rather than a mixture
  • The collection includes higher face values (the denomination on the stamp itself)

If the stamp collection had value to your relative, then it's a fair bet it'll have value to someone else too.

Bear in mind, catalogue values are often inflated, with most stamps actually being worth around 40% of the value detailed in the price guides. Like anything else, it's a case of supply and demand affecting the final price.

Take an inventory of the stamps

  • Note how many albums/stamps you have and if there's an obvious theme which would appeal to a dealer. What dates does the collection cover?
  • Are stamps mounted (affixed to the stamp album page), unmounted, mint or used?
  • Keep letters or bills of sale which might provide clues on how much your relative spent
  • At this stage, do nothing else to the collection

NOTE: Save any stamp books or catalogues. Keep any philatelic literature too (such as stamp catalogues, old auction catalogues) as this can have a value of its own.

How to get the stamp collection valued

Even if you're not selling, you may want to know the value of your inheritance for insurance purposes. There are a range of people who will be able to help you.

  • Speak to collectors. Was the owner of the stamp collection a member of a philatelic society? If so, go along and ask the members for advice. 
  • Auction sites such as eBay and delcampe will give you a good idea of the value, especially for single stamps, but do bear in mind that some stamps have very subtle variations affecting their value. If you see a similar stamp sell for thousands on eBay keep calm, it may have a small difference to your example that makes it rare.
  • Some auction houses/dealers charge for valuations, while most will charge a commission for each sale
  • Search our 'Find a Dealer' Directory for a dealer in your area

Always try to get at least three valuations as different dealers sell to different markets.

Should I be selling the stamp collection?

Now you know a little more about what you're dealing with, you have some options:

  • Do nothing. Store the stamp collection safely and look at it again when you have more time.
  • Give the collection to someone who would appreciate it.
    This needn't be a friend. Charities like Oxfam employ specialists who will make the most of any donation
  • Keep it and add to the collection yourself - find more information on collecting stamps with our popular stamp guides.
  • Sell it… read on for how to sell the collection…

How to sell your stamp collection

If you've decided to sell, there are a number of options open to you:

  • If you want to convert your inheritance into cash quickly, selling directly to a dealer is probably your best route.
    Search our 'Find a Dealer' Directory for a dealer in your area
  • Selling at auction may ultimately generate more money, however, auction houses may sell your collection in separate lots over several months - and there's no guaranteed price.
  • Selling the stamp collection yourself may achieve the highest price. This is tempting to many, with eBay often being the first port of call. Do bear in mind that if you sell the stamps individually, the more valuable stamps will most likely sell, but the less rare stamps won't, leaving you with stamps that dealers may not be interested in.

Don't miss a good sale price by holding out for that unlikely better deal'. As a general guide, expect to make no more than 40% of the catalogue price.

NOTE: Avoid tax problems!
Inheritance Tax as is generally paid out of the estate before you get any inheritance. However, Capital Gains Tax may be payable when disposing of inherited assets. If in doubt, check before you do anything!

Further reading…

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