Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

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Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby cinghiale » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:10 am

Greetings,

We have just inherited a portfolio of stamps and are trying to gain some perspective on stamp collecting before wading into the arena of selling. We have gone online and have looked up the value of the stamps, so we have some idea of the range of value. However, the only calls that we have made to stamp dealers have resulted in conversations that sound more like negotiations with used car salesman than collectors with specialized knowledge. So, here we are, hoping that we can get some input from knowledgeable and informed members of the forum. Our hope is to sell the collection as whole, and not market it piecemeal via ebay or another online venue.

A brief description: We hold a single “book” of stamps of 50 pages. Around 36 of those pages are filled with sheets of stamps, with 50 to 100 stamps per sheet. Most are from the 1930s and 1940s, with 5 cent “Oppressed Nations” stamps from 1943 predominating. There are also quite a few foreign, mostly German Reich stamps in the mix.

Here are our main questions and concerns:
1) We have spent numerous hours collecting information, the Scott (US) and Michel (German) catalog numbers, and the approximate current selling prices on ebay. If we were to bring the collection to a stamp dealer, what might we expect in terms of an offer? Is there a standard percentage, where a dealer would likely offer half, or some other fraction, of the sale value?
2) Are we being realistic about the prospects of selling this collection as a whole? Or does the mix of stamps, and of foreign and US stamps, make such a possibility unlikely?
3) Is there a group or organization that serves as a clearinghouse for those who which to sell stamps? Or are we limited to stamp dealers and online sources such as ebay?
4) Anything else, anything important, that we are missing here?

Many thanks in advance for any guidance you can offer.
-- Cinghiale

"We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are." Anais Nin
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby john94549 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:56 am

I collected stamps (avidly) back in the 1950s - early 1960s. I assumed (wrongly) that the stamps would be a good investment. A couple of years back, I painstakingly listed all the stamps (singles, blocks, plate blocks, sheets, first-day-covers, you name it). I then assigned the "wholesale" value to each (from Scott's), and found out (to my chagrin) that the money would have earned much more in a garden-variety savings account over the years. My stamps were worth, on a good day, maybe twice face value.

That said, stamps from the 1930s and 1940s (of which I had a few) were "worth" more (at least according to Scott's), maybe three or four times face. Still, not a great "investment".

After reading up, I learned that I was not the only lad collecting in the 1950s. Indeed, it was a bit of a fad. The market for stamps was hot (sound familiar?). Fast-forward to today. All those stamp collections amassed in the 1950s are hitting the wholesale market as my age cohort retires/dies off. Trouble is, lots of supply and very little demand. Guess kids don't collect stamps any more.

So, I gave up dreaming about selling my "collection". I'll just give it to the grand-kids. They'll "ooh and ahh" for an hour or two, then the collection will wind up at the bottom of some sock drawer for the next thirty years or so.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby nisiprius » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:05 am

john94549 wrote:After reading up, I learned that I was not the only lad collecting in the 1950s.
H. E. Harris used to run those little ads in the back of every comic book, along with the ones showing how I could get my own pony by selling White Cloverine Brand Salve, and see through things with x-ray specs from Johnson Smith & Co. "'See' the bones in your fingers, lead in a pencil, etc."--with the word "see" in quotation marks--sounded cool, but I wasn't old enough to catch the full and misleading implication.

I'll bet I wasn't the only kid who didn't know what "approvals" were.

In retrospect, it was worth it just to see those German stamps with face values of '5 milliarden" and ask my folks what that meant.
Last edited by nisiprius on Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby Rob5TCP » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:11 am

Ebay might be a decent guide to what people are TRYING to sell similar stamps for. You might look to see what they actually sold for.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby Munir » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:13 am

I recently sold a German stamp collection (mostly mint NH) at auction that I had accumulated over decades. It sold at a very disappointing price. Stamps used to be valued at about 50% catalogue "value" in the past but I suspect they are now in the teens or twenties instead of the fifties. None of my grandchildren were interested which is not surprising because youth are so technology-oriented that stamp collecting is very esoteric to them. I hope others have more positve views on the subject than I do. Your best bet may be to place the collection for sale with an auction house that sells similar collections and one that is recommended by some dealers whom you trust, then hope for the best.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby nisiprius » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:18 am

Is this a case where selling individual things item by item (and throwing out the rest) might be better than selling "a collection?"
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby Munir » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:29 am

nisiprius wrote:Is this a case where selling individual things item by item (and throwing out the rest) might be better than selling "a collection?"


If one has the time, energy, and know-how, that could be a better option.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby indianaman » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:34 am

As an individual who deals in collectibles as a hobby I can safely say you will not realize anywhere close to the book value of stamps from a dealer. Your best avenue for sale is Ebay. You can easily do this yourself if you have the time and inclination. Otherwise, you can usually find third party consignors who will sell them on Ebay for you.

Ebay has been both a boon and a curse for collectibles generally, correcting severe market inefficiencies in some of these collectible markets. The downside to Ebay is that 90 percent of collectibles that were once believed to be "rare" are now considered common and their price has fallen dramatically.

On the other hand, certain items which are truly rare have soared in value to heights that would have been impossible without the Internet.

The trick is, of course, knowing the quality rare items from those items which are a dime-a-dozen. If you know a market very well, this can easily be done. Collectibles still contain market inefficiency that is not present in the stock market.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby webslinger » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:00 pm

Cinghiale,

In general, the US stamps most sought after are those issued prior to 1935. As others have mentioned, the period of time from then through the early 60's was the heyday of stamp collecting. Many, many people went to post offices and purchased mint sheets of stamps and put them away. The market is still "digesting" these stock piles. Many mint stamps are sold below face value, especially loose or single stamps. Dealers may pay as little as 50% of face for such stamps. Individuals can purchase these stamps from dealers at stamp show for 80 to 90% of face. Having said this, some of the issues have been significantly depleted from the market. Many sheets of stamps or individual stamps end up being used in promotions, mailings, souvenirs, framed, etc.

From your brief description, I think you have several sheets of what is called the overrun nations issues. I looked up one dealer and saw that he is buying complete sets of sheets (13 sheets with 50 3-cent stamps per sheet) at $42.50. The face value is $19.50.

My recommendations:
(1) keep in your family to enjoy as a memory of past generations or
(2) sell directly to a dealer and be done with it

Here are two sources for you to consider to locate dealers:
(1) American Philatelic Society
(2) American Stamp Dealers Association
Both organizations require dealers/members to adhere to a code of ethics.

You can also pm me and I will give you the link to the dealer that I referenced above. Caveat: I do not know this dealer, have never dealt with them, have no vested interest, I only did a quick search to provide you with an answer to your question.

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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby webslinger » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:00 pm

Cinghiale,

In general, the US stamps most sought after are those issued prior to 1935. As others have mentioned, the period of time from then through the early 60's was the heyday of stamp collecting. Many, many people went to post offices and purchased mint sheets of stamps and put them away. The market is still "digesting" these stock piles. Many mint stamps are sold below face value, especially loose or single stamps. Dealers may pay as little as 50% of face for such stamps. Individuals can purchase these stamps from dealers at stamp show for 80 to 90% of face. Having said this, some of the issues have been significantly depleted from the market. Many sheets of stamps or individual stamps end up being used in promotions, mailings, souvenirs, framed, etc.

From your brief description, I think you have several sheets of what is called the overrun nations issues. I looked up one dealer and saw that he is buying complete sets of sheets (13 sheets with 50 3-cent stamps per sheet) at $42.50. The face value is $19.50.

My recommendations:
(1) keep in your family to enjoy as a memory of past generations or
(2) sell directly to a dealer and be done with it

Here are two sources for you to consider to locate dealers:
(1) American Philatelic Society
(2) American Stamp Dealers Association
Both organizations require dealers/members to adhere to a code of ethics.

You can also pm me and I will give you the link to the dealer that I referenced above. Caveat: I do not know this dealer, have never dealt with them, have no vested interest, I only did a quick search to provide you with an answer to your question.

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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby kenschmidt » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:15 pm

I still have my stamp collection from the 70's that I started as a kid but I no longer actively collect. Based on my experience as a coin collector, I would expect a dealer would maybe give you 25-30% of the expected sales price. This is just a guess however.

One problem if you are dealer is that it is a huge amount of work to go through a collection to determine what it is worth. Many people come in with largely common collections expecting a windfall. A dealer is going to look quickly through the collection to see if there are valuable stamps. Everything else will get lumped into a bulk price and you will likely get a relatively low offer because the dealer is taking a risk based on a limited look at your collection. Any research you can present that may help the dealer in setting a price is to your benefit. While there are dealers looking to rip you off, for the most part, they just want to make a living by offering a fair price that still allows them to cover their expenses and make a profit.

The other route as mentioned is to sell yourself on eBay. If you go that route, I would separate out the more valuable stamps - say those worth maybe $10 and up - to sell separately. Others I would sell in small to medium lots by country or era. Good pictures are key. People need to be able to identify condition and the exact stamps or your prices will suffer.

If you want some free advice from experts, you could try:

http://www.stampcommunity.org/

I post on the sister forum for coins and it is a very well moderated high quality site where you might get some good advice.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby 22twain » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:51 pm

cinghiale wrote:A brief description: We hold a single “book” of stamps of 50 pages. Around 36 of those pages are filled with sheets of stamps, with 50 to 100 stamps per sheet. Most are from the 1930s and 1940s, with 5 cent “Oppressed Nations” stamps from 1943 predominating. There are also quite a few foreign, mostly German Reich stamps in the mix.


Are these "sheets of stamps" intact sheets (or at least large blocks) like you would buy at the post office? Most US stamps of that era, especially the 3c stamps for the first-class postage rate, are not worth much more than their postage value in bulk. I go to stamp shows a few times a year, and there is usually at least one dealer with a box or folder of mint sheets of common commemorative stamps from the 1930s up through the 1980s, at no more than a small premium over face value, or even at face value. There are outliers that sell at a significant premium, of course.

You've apparently checked stamp catalogs, in which case you've probably noticed that each catalog (Scott or Michel or whatever) has a certain minimum per-stamp price. This is supposed to reflect the minimum price that a dealer might sell a single stamp for, taking into account his costs of doing business. For quantities of stamps, as in mint sheets, or packets of mixed stamps, the price per stamp drops precipitously for that kind of stamp. A dealer would probably buy them at a significant discount from face value, if he's interested in them at all.

Of course, you can use the US stamps for postage, but it's kind of awkward using 3c stamps when the first-class rate is 46c (as of tomorrow). You'd pretty much have to use them in combination with fairly recent stamps, to make up the current rate.

Also, as you're looking at the values listed in standard catalogs like Scott or Michel, keep in mind that most stamps sell at retail for a discount from catalog value. The discount depends on which catalog you're using (some catalogs have more "inflated" values than others), who you're buying from (a part-time dealer at a stamp show is likely to offer bigger discounts than a full-time dealer who sends out pricelists by mail or maintains a web site), and on the condition of the stamp. Even at a decent auction, where a stamp probably has to catalog for at least $100 in order to be listed as a separate lot, it's somewhat unusual to see a stamp sell for full catalog value. These are usually older stamps in pristine condition, well-centered and with large margins, or (for used stamps) an unusual postmark.

And of course a dealer has to buy at "wholesale" prices in order to make enough money to stay in business. For "good" but still fairly common material, I wouldn't expect to get more than half of actual retail value if I were selling to a dealer.
Last edited by 22twain on Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby cinghiale » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:15 pm

Thanks to all for the informative and insightful responses. Neither Mrs. Cinghiale nor I have ever collected anything, and so we have no basis for comparison with other collectible items.

While I do not want to put a damper on any future responses, I do want to acknowledge all the thoughtful replies received thus far.
-- Cinghiale

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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby livesoft » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:38 pm

I used to collect unused US stamps. Every once in a while if I had duplicates or torn stamps, I would use it to mail a letter. My friend was upset when I used a stamp from 1890 on a letter I mailed to him. :)
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby 22twain » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:56 pm

I used to collect US new issues alongside the couple of European countries that I specialize in. I stopped doing that several years ago, and for the last couple of years my wife and I have been cannibalizing those US stamps for our mail. A 20c + 25c combination has been the perfect combination for a while, but now we'll have to get some 1c stamps to supplement it. Or we can overpay with 22c + 25c, or 18c + 29c.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby john94549 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:51 pm

22twain wrote:I used to collect US new issues alongside the couple of European countries that I specialize in. I stopped doing that several years ago, and for the last couple of years my wife and I have been cannibalizing those US stamps for our mail. A 20c + 25c combination has been the perfect combination for a while, but now we'll have to get some 1c stamps to supplement it. Or we can overpay with 22c + 25c, or 18c + 29c.


You could use some of Livesoft's penny Franklins from 1890.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby stlrick » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:58 pm

99% of collections of the type you describe are worth very little. If there is anything of real value, the best way to get a fair price is to sell it at a stamp auction rather than to a dealer for a net price. A legitimate auction house shares your motivation in getting the best price, since they get a % of the sales price. A dealer is trying to get it from you as cheaply as possible. Unless you are dealing with very rare stamps where price can vary much more than 10-fold based on tiny details of condition, you can get a good ballpark estimate by sending some photos from a smartphone. One upon a time, I disposed of a 50k collection through Regency-Superior in St. Louis, MO. and was very satisfied with their work. Check out their web page and contact them to see if they will look at photos.

Most medium to large cities have a local stamp club that sponsors an event at least once per year at which several dozen dealers come to town. You might find out about this event in your area and walk your collection around to 10-15 dealers. You will learn a lot in one hour.
Last edited by stlrick on Sat Jan 26, 2013 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby bertilak » Sat Jan 26, 2013 6:07 pm

My grandfather was born in Germany and lived in the USA during WWII. He felt there was no way the backward Americans could defeat the mighty Germans so had a Get Rich Quick scheme -- buy up US stamps because shortly there would be no more! Since he wanted as many as possible he bought low denominations.

These stamps are still in the family and a few years back I decided to have them appraised. I found stamp appraiser in the yellow pages and he said he would do the job for $100 per hour. I went to see him and after about 10 minutes when he saw what I had he said there would be no charge and they were worth less (way less) than face value.

They are worth less than face value because at today's postage rates enough of those low-denomination stamps would leave no room to write the address on the envelope! Plus, that's a lot of licking. As mentioned in earlier posts these things were collected in the millions. He said that the only way I might get something is if I happened to have a stamp a collector needed to fill out a series but such a customer would be hard to find and any profit I made would be less than the cost of advertising.

He did continue to look things over and found a few things he thought might sell in a show -- these were stamps on envelopes and postcards that were hand-written by the sender or had interesting pictures -- like one nice big one that had a picture of a pre-Hindenberg-disaster dirigible from Germany.

So look to the personalized, human-interest things for value. There needs to be a story.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby 22twain » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:27 am

bertilak wrote:He did continue to look things over and found a few things he thought might sell in a show -- these were stamps on envelopes and postcards that were hand-written by the sender or had interesting pictures -- like one nice big one that had a picture of a pre-Hindenberg-disaster dirigible from Germany.


If you go to a stamp show put on by a stamp club, one that has exhibits by collectors competing for prizes (in addition to the stamp dealers whose table-rental fees provide the money that makes the show possible), you'll find that most exhibits nowadays are of postal history: collections of covers (envelopes with stamps and postmarks) that illustrate some topic related to postal operations. Things like:

Postage rates from Germany to the USA, 1870-1930
Railway post offices in South Carolina
Mail from Allied forces in northern Russia, 1918-1919
Zeppelin mail service between Germany and South America in the 1930s
Mail salvaged from aircraft disasters (I've seen covers salvaged from the Hindenburg, a plane downed by the Unabomber, and the plane that was blown up by terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland)
etc. etc.

This applies especially to the national-level shows certified by the American Philatelic Society, whose winners advance to the "Tournament of Champions" at the APS annual convention in August.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby nydad » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:32 pm

I think this is one of the amazing things I learned in the past few years - some mint stamps, even 50 years old, are now sold for less than their face value.

I've used this knowledge to purchase old US mint stamps in bulk from dealers at ~80% face value. Fun way to save a few bucks on your outgoing postage, and people love getting those old stamps - so great for letters.
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Re: Stamp Collection - Need Guidance

Postby JamesSFO » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:44 pm

When my grandfather passed away we ended up selling his stamps, ultimately we found that we could cherry pick the 10% of his collection that was valuable and the rest were better used as postage.
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