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Post Office Mauritius, 1847
In 1847, the Governor of the Mauritius Island, a British colony located in the Indian Ocean, decided to issue the colony's first postal stamps. A local watchmaker from the capital city of Port Louis was awarded a contract to produce two stamps - a one penny stamp and a two pence stamp. In the course preparing to print the stamps, the watchmaker erroneously engraved the words "Post Office" instead of the correct words "Post Paid" on the stamps. By the time the error was discovered, over 200 copies of the stamps had already been printed and sold.
It is estimated that fewer than 30 individual copies of these stamps have survived and they are valued at between $600,000 or more depending on the condition of the particular stamp being sold. In 1993 a cover bearing 2 of these stamps sold for a whopping $3.8 million, the highest price ever paid any philatelic item.
This guide is intended for non-collectors who inherit or receive a stamp collection. You now want to sell it but you don't know what to do next.
First Step - Evaluate
The first step is for you to evaluate it before you proceed to selling the stamp collection. The more you do at this stage the more you will get for the stamps. Some of the points you should be looking for are as follows:
Indicators for high value:
1 - Do you know if a large amount of cash was put into gathering the stamps? (Many collector do not admit how much they spend and it has been known for a valuable collection to be thrown out because the spouse always said that little or no money was being spent on the stamps.)
2 - Does it appear that a large amount of effort went went into organising the collection? Are the stamps all neatly mounted and carefully written up on pages? The more effort that has been put into a collection the more likely it will have high value.
3 - Does the collection contain any "philatelic literature"? All serious collectors always have some literature as an aid to their collection. This literature can also be valuable and is best sold in the philatelic market.
4 - Does the collection contain covers (envelopes with stamps on them which have gone through the post) particularly of old stamps in good condition? Covers are invariably more valuable than the actual stamps on them. NEVER remove the stamps from these envelopes and do not remove the contents of these envelopes either.
5 - What is the condition of the stamps? Does it look as if only the best copies have been selected for the collection? The difference in value of a damaged stamp and a best quality can be a hundredfold or even more.
6 - Is the collection specialised or of a single country? A specialised single country collection will often have more valuable stamps than a whole world collection.
7 - What period are the stamps from? The majority of recent stamps have little or no value.
8 - What is the face value of the stamps? The collection needs to have the high face value stamps as well as the low ones. It is the high face value stamps which most often are the most valuable.
Indicators for low value
1 - The collection was accumulated with little or no money being spent.
2 - The collection contain many untidy, dog-eared, damaged, heavily postmarked stamps.
3 - The collection is an accumulation of stamps from the whole world.
4 - The collection lacks high face value stamps.
5 - Most of the stamps appear to be recent with pretty pictures.
6 - USA mint stamps since about 1935 - most of these have no real value, the majority can be used for postage - that is all they are worth.
7 - The collection contains quantities of the same stamp.
8 - Elvis stamps - if they are unused they are worth more being used for postage.
Next Step - Decide
The next step is to decide how to sell them - there are a number of options for selling a stamp collection:
SELLING ON THE INTERNET
If you search around the internet there are a number sites where you could do this, you could even do a site yourself. Perhaps the best known site for selling stamps is eBay. Another great site is Delcampe which is for collectibles only with a specialised site for stamps.
These site are great for selling stamps and can works well for someone who knows what they are selling, as it is important to identify items correctly and describe them correctly to get the best possible price.
SELLING TO A STAMP DEALER
There are numerous dealers around the world and the majority of them are prepared to do an appraisal and make an offer for any reasonable collection. You should be able to find a stamp dealer in your local yellow pages.
SELLING AT AN AUCTION
There are many auction houses around the world who will sell, on your behalf, any reasonable collection. See our lists of Stamp Auction Houses. Generally speaking it is best to sell in the country you are living in. For a very valuable collection it sometimes pays to go to a major auction house in London, New York or Zurich
Stamp Auctioneers in the GB
Stamp Auctioneers in the USA
Stamp Auctioneers Rest of the World
SELLING THROUGH A STAMP CLUB
If the person who you got the collection from had belonged to a stamp club or a philatelic society, (particularly if it was a specialist society), it may be worth contacting them. They may be able to help you to sell the collection amongst its members.
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Guide created: 08/04/10 (updated 27/03/14)