Selling a stamp collection - how to value your stamps


01 September 2018
Have you inherited a stamp collection that you're interested in selling? Our step-by-step guide will show you how to value your stamps and how to sell your collection.

Assess the stamp collection yourself

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 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

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

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 as this can have a value of its own.

Decide if you need to split the collection

Most dealers will split collections into more saleable lots based on theme, country, date or they may simply just separate out high-value stamps.

Unless you're very sure what you're doing, leave this to the professionals.

Have the stamps valued

Even if you're not selling, you may want to know the value of your inheritance for insurance purposes.

  • Auction sites such as eBay and delcampe will give you a good idea of the value
  • Some auction houses/dealers charge for valuations, while most will charge a commission for each sale
  • The Philatelic Traders Society (PTS) publishes a PTS Directory of trustworthy dealers
  • Search our Trade Directory for a dealer in your area

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

To sell or not to sell

Now you know what you're dealing with, you have four options.

  • Do nothing. Store the collection safely and look at it again when you have more time
  • Give it 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
  • Sell it
  • Keep it and add to the collection yourself - find more information on starting a stamp collection in every issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine.

How to sell your stamps

If you want to convert your inheritance into cash quickly, selling directly to a dealer is probably your best route.

Selling at auction may ultimately generate more money, but auction houses may sell your collection in separate lots over several months - and there's no guaranteed price.

What's a good deal?

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.

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!