Collectible Spotlight: Selling Inherited Stamps

According to FS Collectibles, stamp collecting is the third most common type of collection following baseball cards, and coins. Because they are so common especially among Baby Boomers, you will likely have to deal with selling inherited stamps at some point in your life.  However, selling inherited stamps can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming collections to disperse.  Here are some tips for selling an inherited stamp collection.

First, decide how committed you are to the collection.  Ask yourself:  Do I enjoy collecting stamps?  Why do I want to keep or sell this collection?  Will I appreciate these stamps or would I prefer to have the money?  Be honest with yourself!  Collecting stamps can be a rewarding and fascinating experience– for some.  For others, it can be one of the most frustrating endevours one has ever embarked upon.

Stamp Album PageFor example, I met with a lovely woman the other day at the auction house.  She had inherited her father-in-laws extensive stamp collection.  She had already gone through the majority of the albums and looked each stamp up in the Scott Catalog in order to determine its value.  She was interested in whether she could make more at auction or more selling each stamp on Ebay.  I was very honest with the woman: of course she would make more money on Ebay, but it was a matter of how much her time was worth.  She estimated that she had already spent over 100 hours devoted to the collection and saw that she had many many hours ahead of listing each stamp online as well as packing and shipping them off.  I would have been happy to sell her stamps for her, but she had already invested so much time into the process that I think she would have been disappointed at the auction results.

It really comes down to two options: Option 1: Put countless hours into looking up every stamp in the collection to see if it’s worth anything and attempt to sell it on your own or Option 2: Hand it over to an auction house who will do a bunch of that work for you. 

Of course there are exceptions to this.  The wonderful thing about serious collectors is that they will often segregate their best stamps so that they are easily noticeable as “special” i.e. a special binder or book.  This is the first thing that I look for when going through a collection.  If you have a top notch collection and know it, make sure you tell the auction house this so they go through it with extra care.  If there is one stamp that your aunt/uncle/grandpa told you was the star of his or her collection, seperate it out and show it to the auction house seperately so that it does not get lost in the shuffle. Also, as far as buyers go, stamp buyers are incredibly detail oriented.  They will know right off the bat the prices for each stamp and all the different variations.  They will spend the entire day of preview going through box lots of stamps.  Hours upon hours!

The real conclusion here is if you have no great attatchment to the collection, go with Option 2.  You will save an incredible amount of time even if you aren’t going to fetch the same kinds of retail prices.  If not, Option 1 looks a bit like this— a 27 part book written to help disperse a collection with everything from abbreviations to how to make an inventory to how to properly handle stamps.

But, as they point out here, since it is an inherited collection, you have nothing invested in it yet!  You have only money to make!

Have you inherited a collection recently?  How did you handle it?  What were your experiences with selling inherited stamps?


Collectible Spotlight is a series that features a variety of items that you may own, inherit, or collect with some easy tips to help you determine their value.  Want to see an item featured?  Feel free to message us with ideas!

About Rebecca McCormick
Rebecca H. McCormick is working on her MA in History of Decorative Arts. She is a Collector’s Series Auction cataloger at Quinn’s Auction Galleries. She has worked at the Texas Historical Commission and The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. She received her BA in History and Art History from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She lives in Vienna, Virginia with her husband and their two cats.

One thought on “Collectible Spotlight: Selling Inherited Stamps

  1. […] stamps and coins, Nazi memorabilia is not the most common collectible.  Some would argue that it is not a […]