Brief Notes on Stamp Value
by Mark Bailey FRPSL
A question that is often asked by people who have a collection of stamps, whether their own that they have built up over a period of time, or one they have acquired, perhaps through inheritance, is "Are these stamps valuable?"
This brief article provides some notes to help explain when stamps may be valuable or when they may have no significant value. These notes are intended to be helpful, but being no more than a brief overview are not intended to be, nor are they to be taken to be, an exhaustive guide.
In general, stamp collections may have value if:
- They were issued no later than about 1960.
- The stamps are in good condition, that is:
- they have fresh and true colours,
- they are not stuck to the page,
- no portion of the stamp is missing,
- they have no creases or other damage.
- They are of an individual country, a group of countries or form a comprehensive thematic collection.
- They include higher face values.
- They are arranged neatly on sheets or in albums, and look as though care and money has at one time been spent on them.
Typically, stamp collections are less likely (or are unlikely) to have value if:
- They are loose and/or unsorted in a bag.
- They are a general "all world" collection, with fewer than 100 stamps for each country.
- They comprise First Day Covers of the last 30-40 years.
- They commemorate a Royal Wedding/Birth/Anniversary or similar.
- They comprise any sort of manufactured "instant" collection.
- They are in poor condition and/or untidy and/or look in need of some "Tender Loving Care".
Other notes regarding value:
- British Penny Blacks (the 1d black first issued in 1840) are famous, but unfortunately are neither fabulously valuable, nor rare. 68 million were produced and sold. Depending on condition (and other factors) they are currently worth typically £50-£100 each (less for poor quality, much more for superb).
- Older stamps still on the original envelopes may be worth a premium (sometimes a considerable premium) over and above the value of the stamps used to frank the letter.
- Decimal currency British stamps (with face values in £p and not £sd) are legally widely traded at prices well below their nominal face value.
- Stamps with genuine errors of production (for example missing colours) are often worth considerably more than "normal" issues.
- Common stamps frequently have less common varieties, such as shades of colour. Any stamp is statistically much more likely to be the common and cheaper variety, than it is the rare and expensive one.
- Sale by auction will ensure that stamps fetch a competitive price. Selling directly to a dealer may achieve a better net result. Selling them yourself (such as on eBay) may achieve the highest possible price, but it is important to bear in mind that the best items always sell first and dealers are unlikely to want to buy a "remaindered" lot, when the best stamps are no longer there.
About the Author
A stamp collector since childhood, Mark Bailey is a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London, and a member of the Channel Islands Specialists' Society (CISS)
and the Wokingham & District Philatelic Society.
Copyright © 2015 Mark Bailey