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As a high volume stamp dealer this is the commonest question which I receive which is why I felt it would be useful to write this guide.
The main things to firstly realise is that for most people (dealers included) to properly value a stamp collection is very time-consuming as each individual stamp in that collection technically should be checked against a reputable and up-to-date guide (in the UK this is normally a Stanley Gibbons catalogue). The valuer will be looking for things such as:
- Is the stamp mint or used?
- Is the stamp hinged or unhinged?
- If unhinged is the gum clean shiney and unblemished?
- If hinged then what state is the back of the stamp?
- If a used stamp is franked how heavy or fine is the franking?
- If there are different watermark varieties - then which watermark is embedded?
- If there are different paper varieties used (eg : chalk, thin, shiny.......) then which variety?
- If there are phospher or non-phospher varieties of a stamp then which variety is the stamp?
- Are there known colour variations for a stamp if so which variation?
The above list is not exhaustive but it gives you an idea of what could be involved, which is why if you get someone else to do it, they could justifiably charge you a lot of money for their time and you run the risk that the collection is worth less than the valuers fee.
Another risk is that stamp collecting can be extremely specialist to such an extent that unscrupulous valuers may try to value your collection low then offer to buy at a low price knowing full well that the collection does contain valuable items which they can then sell on! This is why it is vitally important to always go to a reputed source!
The advice which I normally give is really a series of possible options which all work but are dependent on your time, how much you want to spend and how much you want to know.
Before I explain the various options you should also take note that it is never a good idea to get too excited about catalogue values because stamp dealers will normally sell at anything between 20% and 60% of catalogue value plus any stamp or stamps are always a subjective and immotive subject amongst collecters where different people will have very different figures in mind which they will pay. So much is dependent on just how much a collector wants that stamp or stamps to enhance their collection.
So if you want to continue with valuing and selling your collection then these are the best options:
1) STAMP MAGAZINE - go into your newsagent and purchase a reputable stamp magazine such as 'Stamp Magazine', then check out the classifieds section where dealers who offer a valuation service will advertise. Contact a couple for their prices and terms & conditions before making a decision as to which offers the best service.
2) STAMP FAIRS - Stamp Fairs are a regular occurence up and down the country - check out your local newspaper where they advertise. There will often be valuation experts at these gatherings - but beware and exert caution particularly with anyone who states that your collection is of low value or worthless but still would like to make you an offer.
3) STAMP AUCTIONS - like Stamp Fairs these are a regular occurence. Check either your local newspaper, yellow pages or the internet to see if there is one near you. Most of the time they will offer a free valuation service although they may tie you in to them selling your collection where they will most likely take anything up to about 30% of anything which they do manage to sell for you.
4) BONHAMS AUCTIONEERS - if you would like a nice trip to London for the day then visit premier auctioneers 'Bonhams' who are in Montpelier Street, Knightsbridge (just up past Harrods!). They offer a free walk-in (no appointment necessary) valuation service. But prepare to be disappointed as they will only ever take for sale extremely high value quality stamps. Their auctions do attract some of the worlds top collectors though who are not short of a bob or two!
5) STANLEY GIBBONS ONLINE - Stanley Gibbons have a free online catalogue (no pics - difficult to know what you are looking for!) and a paid for online catalogue which costs approximately £50 a year (same as free one but with some pics and more functions - slightly easier than the free one!). If you want to value your own collection then this is an ideal way of doing it.
6) IGNORANCE IS BLISS - if you just want to get shunted of what you have and some money would be nice and you will not lose sleep over what might have been then a great way of selling is to just photograph or scan what you have, set up as an eBay seller and sell on eBay. Start your auctions with a low start price and then what sometimes happens is that what your selling will find or exceed its market value if there is enough interest in what you are selling.
7) USE AN EBAY AGENCY SELLER - want to sell on eBay but do not have the time, energy or inclination? Then find an eBay Agency seller who will sell on your behalf and usually will take an upfront charge (to cover their eBay fees + their time listing) + commission if your item(s) sell.
I hope that you found this short guide of some use and its given you some ideas as it is sometimes difficult to know how to start-the-ball rolling with these things especially if you have been left a collection and just don't know what to do with it.