Valuing and selling your Stamp collection

Barbados Stamps | Valuing your stamp collection

One of the most frequent requests I get is to help people value their collection, normally because it has been left to them by a relative and they have no idea of its true worth.

Let me start by saying that valuations are very much a subjective thing.

What I or another collector would value your stamps at will be a million miles away from a dealer’s valuation, which in turn could be completely different to what you could get by selling them yourself on the internet.

Barbados SG63
Barbados SG63 QV 3d stamp

To understand this you need to remember that a dealer buying your stamps will be looking to sell them on either in total of in part to collectors of Barbados stamps. In doing this he will need to make a profit as after all,  they are running a business.

A private collector may be able to offer you more as you are effectively cutting out the dealer so there is no additional margin to be paid, but at the end of the day no matter who you wish to sell them to, the fact remains that appraising stamps is entirely subjective.

There are a number of factors to consider when valuing your stamps and the first of them has to be condition.

Condition is everything to a collector otherwise it doesn’t matter how valuable your stamps may be according to a catalogue, to them it’s just a filler until something better comes along. And if you’re buying a filler you won’t want to be paying a lot for it.

Stamps generally are either mint or used, though even here there are nuances. Mint breaks into Unmounted Mint (often referred to as UMM or Mint Never Hinged MNH), Mounted Mint (MM) or just unused i.e. it has not been used but has no gum left on the back.

George V 1/- stamp Barbados SG178
George V 1/- stamp

As a general rule, UMM is better than MM which in turn is better than unused and therefore prices vary accordingly. Even within these broad definitions, you will also find variants such as very lightly mounted mint (VLMM), lightly mounted mint (LMM) and heavily mounted stamps.

On top of this basic grading there is then the state of the perforations around the stamp, or in the case of an imperforate stamp, how many clear margins it has.

Add to this the inevitable problem of collecting stamps from the Caribbean which is ‘foxing’ where the gum and/or perforations (and sometimes the whole stamp) turn brown due to the heat and humidity and you can very quickly find that a stamp which has a good catalogue value is worth next to nothing.

If the stamp is used then dealers and collectors may well be looking for good clear cancellations and any stamps with the ‘killer’ bootheel mark across it obscuring most of the stamp will immediately be worth a lot less.

In certain cases used stamps, particularly the more common varieties from George V and VI and Edward VII can be picked up for pennies. Even some of the Queen Victoria stamps are worth no more than a few pennies as they are so common.

For all these reasons it is almost impossible to value a collection based on a brief description or even some photographs, as so much can be hidden from immediate sight such as repairs and thins which can mean a potentially valuable stamp is worth virtually nothing.

Barbados SG114 QV 2/6 stamp
Barbados SG114 QV 2/6 stamp

So having said all that, what is the best way to value your collection? I generally advise people to use current catalogue values and then assume that they will get no more than 20% of that value by selling to a dealer.

A private collector may pay you a little more or you could try your hand at selling them on an auction site and see what sells. If you do this however be aware that you will probably sell the better items for less than they are worth and you will be left with a lot of stuff that just won’t sell.

So for all your time and effort in scanning and setting them up on the auction sites,  not to mention fees to the auction sites then you are likely to be as well selling them in one go to someone who understands them and will give you a fair price. You can always search online for your local philatelic society as they will often be able to help you with advice. Our local society regularly gets enquiries from members of the public who have small collections that need disposing of, and they take everything, knowing that they can redistribute stamps in school programmes or to charity. If your collection is one that has been built up diligently for many years, or you have inherited a collection that a relative spent time creating, then your first port of call might be the Philatelic Traders Society, who can put you in touch with a recommended local dealer.

I’m always happy to help with rough guideline valuations however please be aware that my valuation is only ever at best a guess as without studying the stock in detail it’s impossible to be accurate.

If you are selling however then please feel free to contact me as I often buy collections or part collections and I also know other Barbados collectors who may well wish to buy your collection at a fair price.