”Penny Black” the world’s first postage stamp which became available for purchase on May 1, 1840. File photo.

What to do with an inherited stamp collection

Non-collectors who inherit a stamp collection often appear at one of our meetings asking for help and wondering if their collection is valuable. Stamp collections only rarely contain extremely rare and valuable stamps. However, if the original owner had high standards, he or she was probably a knowledgeable collector who made good investments.

Values assigned by stamp catalogues are very optimistic and seldom realized. In the real world, modern mint stamps are not worth their face value when sold at auction or to dealers unless there was a low print run or a printing error. The classic stamps of some countries continue to increase in value. For example, Canadian stamps of the 1930’s are highly regarded for their design and production quality. Generally, the value of stamps mainly depends upon rarity and condition. If the collection consists of bags stuffed with miscellaneous stamps, it is not likely to have any commercial value unless one has the knowledge to spot an error. If the stamps in the collection have been licked and stuck onto album pages, they will all have to be soaked off the pages, dried and pressed; they have now lost value because all of their original gum will be missing. If the stamps have been covered with Scotch tape, oh horrors, you might as well toss them in the garbage.

There are three choices:

Become a collector

Stamp collecting can open up a whole new world, but it takes time to learn a bit about basic stamp collecting. Most libraries carry leading stamp catalogues such as the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, listing world stamps, and The Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. The introductions to these catalogues contain excellent information. If you enjoy reading and research, stamp collecting can be an exciting hobby. Sharing the hobby with other collectors can lead to lifelong friendships.

Our club has no membership dues and our members enjoy helping new collectors.

Donate your collection

Bags of miscellaneous stamps can be donated to charities where they are sold in bulk as a Charity Mix, a Mission Mix, or Kiloware. One kilogram of Kiloware equals 2,000 to 4,000 stamps. Some stamp collectors purchase these bags of modern stamps to find low print runs and printing errors. Don’t forget your local stamp club who often use donated collections to support philatelic activities such as giving free packages of stamps to young people interested in collecting. Our club swaps stamps with a wheel-chair bound stamp collector in the Netherlands.

Sell your collection

Few collectors engage in their hobby in hopes of making a huge profit, but a collection built with care over the years can return a surprising amount of money. If you sell to a dealer, you should expect to receive 20 to 30 per cent of the catalogue value. Prices realized at stamp auction houses occasionally reach or exceed catalogue values. Auction houses usually charge a Seller’s Fee of $25.00, and it could take many months to sell a large collection as they must assess the collection and break it up into saleable lots based on market demand.

Most of our members use the following British Columbia online auctions: Weeda Stamp Auctions, F.V.H. Stamp Auctions, All Nations Stamp & Coin Auctions and Ocean Park Stamp Auctions. If you Google these, you will see how often their auctions occur. It is an excellent learning experience to follow a few of these auctions as selling price estimates are given prior to the auction, and prices realized are posted after the auction.

The Kamloops Stamp Club holds an annual sale and auction where you can either rent a table to sell your collection or place it in their auction. Several reputable dealers are in attendance at this sale. It’s a rare dealer who will turn down an opportunity to look over a collection or offer advice.

It’s always a good idea to talk to at least two dealers before selling. If you aren’t knowledgeable about stamps and don’t have a lot of spare time, don’t sell online. Being an eBay-type stamp seller requires good philatelic knowledge gained from years of collecting experience.

Our club members hope that you will consider joining our small but enthusiastic group. We meet twice a month on Wednesdays from September to May at the 100 Mile House Library. On the second Wednesday of the month, we meet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. On the fourth Wednesday of the month, we meet from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Please feel free to bring a sample of your collection to one of our meetings for more feedback.

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