How To Find Out The Value Of The Stamps In Your Stamp Collection

This article provides the reader with clues as to how to determine the value of a stamp or stamp collection. It advises the reader on points of grading, condition and rarity.

If you have been collecting stamps for many years, if you have just entered into the hobby, or if you have perhaps inherited a stamp album from a friend or relative, you may all come across the same question. Just how much is my stamp collection worth? How do I determine it's worth?

There are many ways to determine the value of a stamp collection. A stamp collection can be appraised by a stamp dealer. You can look up Stamp Dealers in your local Yellow Pages. You should be warned that the prices a dealer appraises a collection for is not the same that the dealer himself would pay for the collection. Usually a retailer will pay anywhere from twenty-five to seventy per cent of what the collection is worth "book value." If you are going to sell your collection, an online auction site might be the most profitable way to go.

It is possible to ascertain the value of an individual stamp in a collection on your own. To do so you must first take several factors into consideration: the stamp's country of origin, the condition of the stamp, whether the stamp has been used or not, the age of the stamp and the rarity of the stamp. All of these conditions are used in determining the value of a stamp.

In determining the value of a stamp, it is important to ascertain the country from which the stamp hails. All countries have their names on their stamps, with the exception of Great Britain, which uses the monarch's silhouette. Stamps from the United States will say either USA or U.S. Postage. Stamps from non-English speaking countries will have their country names printed in their original languages. For example, Germany is "Deutschland," Hungary has "Magyar Posta," and Japan is "Nippon." Most international stamp guides provide translations for country names. Do not despair, because with time you will recognize these foreign country names without having to consult the guides.

The condition of a stamp is very important in finding the value of a stamp. The difference between a stamp in Good condition versus Very Fine condition can mean the difference of ten to seventy per cent of the stamp's value. Things to look for in a stamp's condition are: centering of the image, size and intensity of the cancellation, rips in the stamp, repairs to the stamp, hinge marks, and color fading. A stamp in excellent condition will likely receive the top price from a dealer or buyer.

Whether a stamp is used or unused (mint) also determines the value of a stamp. As a general rule, an unused stamp will be more valuable than the same used stamp. However, if the stamp has an unusual or interesting cancellation, then it can be more valuable than the mint variant.

The age of a stamp can be determined quite easily, especially for US Postage stamps. Postage stamps of a higher face value are usually newer. Postage stamp rates can be used for dating a stamp. For example, a stamp with a face value of twenty-two cents are most likely from the brief period of the Nineteen Eighties when postage was twenty-two cents.

The rarity of a stamp is, however, harder to determine. Rarer stamps are those that were released for a limited time (commemorative stamps), or are of a higher or unusual face value (2 1/2 cents or five dollars, for example. Stamps that were released as a general all-purpose stamp of a common denomination (definitive stamps) are decidedly less rare.

Be on the lookout for stamps with noticeable flaws or mistakes. The rarest and most valuable stamp in the world is a US Airmail stamp from 1918 with a picture of a biplane printed upside down. Only one sheet of these stamps has been found in existence, with each individual stamp commanding almost two hundred thousand dollars.

In older stamps from the Nineteenth Century, some stamps were printed with slight variations in design and perforation. A magnifying glass and a perforation guide are valuable investments for the stamp collector.

Once the country of origin, general date and condition of a stamp is determined, a stamp guide can be consulted. Many companies print stamp price guides for every country in the world. A decent sized library will have a collection of stamp guides for your use. An illustrated stamp guide will provide a picture of the stamp with which to compare the actual stamp. The guides will list grading guidelines and provide a value for the stamps based on its condition.

Other types of stamp paraphernalia can have value to the collector. These include first day covers (envelopes which have a stamp canceled on its first day of issue), complete collections from a certain country or timeframe, thematic collections, special stamps (Postage Due, Air Mail, Duck Hunting Stamps, Special Delivery), complete sheets of stamps, and blocks of stamps.

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