Selling Your Stamp Collection
By D. J. McAdam
There is probably no question in the world I would rather avoid more than, “To whom should I sell my stamp collection?”
The basic facts of the matter are these:
It can be a great deal of fun to acquire stamps for a collection, more so when one believes that he or she is getting a great bargain.
It can be mildly (or wildly, depending upon one’s temperament) exciting to inherit a stamp collection, whether it be encased in twenty matching leather albums or in a shoebox filled with glassine envelopes.
It is rarely enjoyable to dispose of a stamp collection.
Why is this so? It is so because one rarely has any idea what a collection is worth, and so mistrust hangs over the proceedings from the get-go.
You (if you are the seller), who perhaps just the other day pronounced a love of capitalism, must now face capitalism in its most unadorned form: a stamp dealer who wants to buy your collection at the lowest possible price and sell it at the highest possible price. What do you do?
I have some advice, as well as a disclaimer. The disclaimer, as you may have guessed, is that nothing in this essay should be taken as financial advice, or philatelic advice, or as any advice whatsoever, meaning you need to do what you must do on your own, make your own decisions, and not give one bit of weight to what is written here. This means, among other things, that if you sell your collection and are unhappy about it afterwards, you can’t come crying back and try to sue us, or even complain bitterly. Be a man (or woman) about it, resolve to take your lumps like everyone else if that’s what comes, and refrain from whining. If you disagree with the terms of this disclaimer, now’s the time to leave this website.
Do Some Research
Still here? Then the first thing you want to think about is doing a spot of research. As I’ve said many times, knowledge is power, and nowhere is this more true than in the selling of collectibles. Everything intelligent that I could tell you (and much more) is, fortunately, contained in a reasonably-sized and reasonably-priced paperback by Stephen R. Datz, entitled, Top Dollar Paid!: The Complete Guide to Selling Your Stamps. It’s a wonderful book, one I’ve read through more than once, and well worth your time. In fact, let me be uncharacteristically blunt, and state that, if you do sell a stamp collection without reading this book first, you are doing yourself a disservice. Datz knows his stuff. He’s actually spent years buying stamp collections.
You might be thinking to yourself at this point, “I don’t want to buy, much less read, a book about selling stamps. All I want to do is get rid of my late Uncle Elwood’s probably worthless stamp collection, pocket the fifty dollars I’m hoping someone will give me, and take my spouse out to a reasonably-priced dinner.”
Now if that’s how you think – and you have every right to think in whatever manner you wish – then you can always take the stamps to every dealer in town, ask for fifty bucks, and turn it over to the first one who complies. But if you find out later that those silly little stamps with zeppelins on them were worth far more, you have no one to blame but yourself.
After the Research, Find a Dealer
Once you’ve read Datz’s book – and really, I’ve read far duller things in my life, so don’t think it’s going to be some Herculean task – you need to find a reputable dealer. Assuming you’re in the United States, there are two websites you will be interested in visiting.
The first is the American Stamp Dealers Association’s (ASDA’s) website, which has a link on it’s main page entitled, Find a Dealer. ASDA members abide by a Code of Conduct, and that’s something.
The second is the website for the American Philatelic Society (APS). This is a society of collectors and dealers, and there’s a link on the main page to dealers under the heading of “Philatelic Resources.” APS members also abide by a code of conduct, which they call a Code of Ethics. I myself am a member of this organization, and have the utmost respect for it.
Will You Get Rich?
When the time comes to actually complete the transaction, it’s good to have your expectations and emotions in line. I’ve heard more stories of people getting less than what they thought their collection was worth than of people getting more, but I have heard both types of stories. Be realistic, and be prepared, but also be hopeful. Maybe you’ll end up being one of those persons who actually does enjoy the experience of selling a stamp collection.
One Last Consideration
I’ve discussed selling a stamp collection because, given the title of this essay, I could scarcely do otherwise. But you, dear reader, have options, and as a stamp collector myself I hope that you will at least consider another one of them, which is, the option of not selling the collection and, instead, turning the collection over to someone in the family who will keep it going and find enjoyment in it. In fact, if you’ve inherited a collection, you yourself could become such a person, using what’s been handed down to you as the foundation of your own collection. This is, really, what every experienced stamp collector secretly prays for at night (we’re an odd bunch), and it makes me feel better to know I’ve at least raised the possibility.