The Complete Guide to Buying Rare British Stamps

Views 1 Like Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful
The Complete Guide to Buying Rare British Stamps

Stamp collecting is among the oldest hobbies and it is enjoyed by people of all ages from many countries. Every serious stamp collector's dream is to find rare stamps, and rare British stamps are among the most sought after stamps since they are iconic and some date from the mid-nineteenth century. It is quite difficult to identify rare stamps, especially for beginner collectors, because it requires ample knowledge on stamp collecting. Collectors also need to know what are the criteria that make a piece of stamp rare and valuable. Knowledge like this is very important so collectors can avoid missing any valuable stamps and paying more than what a stamp is really worth. Stamp collectors can find rare British stamps at a number of places including at garage sales and also on online retailers such as eBay.. If buyers know what to look for in stamps and put in enough effort, they are likely to find extremely valuable British stamps.

Brief History of British Stamps

Postal services have been around for over 2000 years, with clay tablets instead of paper as letters. Modern adhesive postage stamps like present ones were only introduced in the year 1840 in Great Britain. The first ever stamp released was the Penny Black,, which was engraved with the profile of Queen Victoria. At that time each stamp had to be cut out of a big sheet, and it was only in 1854 that perforated stamps, which could be easily detached from one another, were introduced.

Great Britain was the pioneer in using adhesive postage stamps, and they are still used today by countries all over the world. Stamp collecting, or philately is very common among Britons that some charities in England even accept donations in the form of stamp collections. To a stamp collector, the history of British stamps is a very interesting one, and that makes British stamps very valuable among collectors.

How to Start Collecting Rare British Stamps

People planning to collect British stamps have their work cut out for them as there are countless rare British stamps that have been released over the years. To start collecting the stamps, one must be familiar with certain stamp terms, also called philatelic terms, as they often define the condition of a stamp and, thus, its value. Stamp terms are often used by sellers to describe their stamps. Therefore, by knowing common terms, collectors can easily identify the type and condition of a stamp especially when they buy online and cannot inspect it themselves.

Stamp Term



Ink on stamp is faded from natural causes

Imperforate stamps

Stamps originally sold without perforations


The glue on the back of a stamp

Important in determining a stamp's value


A piece of gummed paper that allows a stamp to be mounted in an album

Reduces the value of a stamp


Gum on the stamp has had a hinge applied on it

Hinged stamps have reduced values

Never Hinged

Stamp has never had a hinge applied to it

Gum is in new condition


Stamp has had new gum applied on it

Reperforated stamps

Stamps with added perforations

Often done to cheat collectors


Stamp in new condition

Has never been hinged

Among the most important terms a stamp collector should know are gum and hinged as these two terms greatly influence the value of a stamp. A stamp that has never been hinged is worth considerably more than a hinged stamp, whereas a rare stamp in mint condition is worth even more. Collectors should also be careful when checking the condition of a stamp as some sellers may regum or reperforate a stamp to bump up its price.

Tips to Identify Rare British Stamps

Besides knowing the terms used in stamp collecting, one must also know how to identify rare stamps and differentiate them from stamps of lower value. Since some sellers may tamper with their stamps to trick buyers, this is an important skill for a stamp collector to have. If one gives it enough practice, it should become easy to separate the rare stamps from common ones.

Refer to British Stamp Catalogues

First of all, stamp collectors need to be familiar with British stamps. They can do this by referring to British stamp catalogues.. A stamp catalogue is an important tool that every serious collector should have. Most stamp catalogues specialise in a certain country or time period and can be bought from stamp shops and even online from eBay. Once collectors have a few catalogues, they can research about the rare stamps that they would like to collect. Besides the Penny Black stamp, another rare British stamp is the One Shilling British Guiana 1856 stamp.

A good way to shop for rare stamps is to bring along a stamp catalogue when shopping. That way, collectors can check the catalogue and determine the rarity of the stamp they are looking at. Some stamps may have printing and content errors as every now and then a small batch of stamps are wrongly printed and distributed by mistake. Stamps with these errors are usually very few in number and can be very valuable. An example of very rare error stamps is a set of 1970 Great Britain Charles Dickens stamps. These stamps were supposed to have silver ink at the bottom, but a few blocks were printed without the silver ink.

Examine the Condition of the Stamp

When looking at a stamp one must examine it closely and first determine whether it is mint or not. A British stamp in mint or at least good condition is very rare and valuable. To identify a mint stamp, one must be certain that it has no defects, still has the original gum, and has no marks on it. Even if a seller claims to have a mint condition stamp, collectors should examine it properly to determine that it is authentic.

Examine the Stamp's Perforations

Some stamps may have different perforations, and these differently perforated stamps may be rare. Therefore, it is a good idea to not only look at the image and gum on a stamp, but to also look at its perforation. To do that, collectors can use a perforation gauge to measure the number of perforations on the stamp. Stamps without perforations, or imperforate stamps are usually very old or are error stamps, so they are very rare. However, collectors should be careful when buying an imperforate stamp and make sure that it is genuine.

Join Stamp Collecting Organisations

Joining a stamp collecting organisation or club is a great way to obtain information on various rare stamps. One might even come across an authentic 1840 Penny Black, Two Pence Half Penny Prussian Blue, or other great stamps. Plus, since members may have different preferences in collecting stamps, it is possible to trade stamps with one another. Besides joining a club, one can scout for stamps at stamp fairs, stamp shops, garage sales, and also online shops. eBay is a great place to look for rare British stamps as there are many stamp sellers on eBay.

How to Buy Rare British Stamps on eBay

If you have decided to look for a rare British stamp on eBay, you can start at the eBay home page. You can type simple keywords into the search bar such as 'rare British stamps&' or even type the name of the stamp you are looking for. To search for a Three Pence Queen Victoria stamp, you can use the keywords '3D Victoria stamps&'. Some stamps may be more valuable than others, so make sure you know at least an estimation of their value when you browse through the stamps.

After you have selected the stamp that you like, you are directed to the product page where you can view all the available information on the stamp. Make sure you read all information posted on the page since some details are crucial in determining the rarity of the stamp. Look at the full description of the stamp, especially its condition, and also view its image properly. Since you cannot examine the stamp yourself, you can contact the seller with any questions regarding the item. If you are satisfied with your item, you can proceed to purchase it.


Stamp collecting has been a popular hobby for over a hundred years, and for a serious collector of British stamps, finding a rare British stamp is a dream come true. If one plans to collect rare stamps, it is first important to become familiar with the various stamp collecting terms. Knowing terms such as gum, hinges, and perforations can not only help collectors identify rare and valuable stamps but also help them avoid paying too much for a stamp.

It is important for collectors to know as much as they can about rare British stamps. To do this, they can get British stamp catalogues to learn more about the various stamps produced in Great Britain. Examples of rare stamps are imperforate stamps and error stamps. Stamps with different perforations can also be very rare but are sometimes fake. Therefore, collectors must always thoroughly examine a stamp that they think may be rare. eBay has a wide selection of British stamps and some may be quite rare, so it is always worth it to take a look at all the stamps on eBay when looking for rare stamps.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides