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Collection Evaluations

Many people today are inheriting collections from those who were passionately involved in collecting as children. Most collections such as these are generally not worth much; however, occasionally they are. If you are considering selling such a collection it is best to do your homework before visiting your local dealer and quite possibly getting ripped off. This link provides an excellent starting point in determining how to knowledgeably evaluate and eventually sell the collection.


Having said that, we at the Centennial Stamp Club can also help you get started.


What follows has been provided to our club courtesy of the Peace Arch Stamp Club and we adhere to the same standards.

Centennial Stamp Club Collection Acquisition and Evaluation Protocols

When any club member is approached regarding any stamp collection that may be donated, or requested advice wanted, this is the recommended direction that should be given. We must be recognized as completely ethical in any dealings with public. Any members not adhering to these protocols maybe asked to give up their membership.

1. Keep the collection safe until you decide


Storing the stamps in your attic or basement is not a good idea. Make sure that you keep the collection in a cool, dry place. Humidity or moisture can destroy the value of a collection. Albums should be stored upright, rather than lying on their side (pressure on an album will sometimes cause the stamps to stick to the page).


2. What is the collection worth?


The value of the collection probably has the greatest impact on how you should proceed, but how do you determine this?


Things to look for - instructions from the owner, an insurance policy, or an inventory list. These items would definitely help in determining the worth of the collection.


Owner Instructions - Some collectors plan their philatelic estate and leave specific instructions including an inventory, an appraisal, contact information and details on how to distribute this collection. Some collectors may even put notes or labels with the collection to guide their heirs for what to do. If instructions were not provided with the Will, take a look around the collection or in the boxes/albums you may find the details you are looking for.


Stamp Insurance Policy - This would frequently be under a special policy as most home owner’s policies have a maximum coverage of no more than $2,500 unless a special rider is obtained (check with their home owners policy!). If they do have special stamp coverage, contacting the insurance company and discussing the policy may give you some guidance on its worth or perhaps may even provide a listing of what was covered showing the more expensive items. The lack of insurance does not mean that the collection has no great value, but probably makes this more likely.


Did the owner leave an inventory? - You may have an inventory list and not even know it! These lists sometimes look like a bunch of numbers jotted down, but it may in fact be the inventory list of catalog numbers indicating quantities and condition. Typically, in the Canada, UNITRADE numbers would be used for identification. UNTRADE Catalogues are available at many public libraries and list and value nearly all postage stamps ever issued. Please note, however, that the values listed in the catalog are relative guides. Most dealers sell stamps at a small discount from these prices and obviously would not remain in business very long if they paid as much for the stamps as they charge. Additionally the condition of your stamps is very important. A poorly centered stamp or an unused stamp without gum sells for far less than a stamp in better condition.


3. Get some help


Stamp Dealers/Local Stamp Shows/Local Clubs Can Help - Another method of determining the value would be to simply take the stamps to a dealer and ask them what they would pay (you may want to clarify to the dealer that you are not requesting an official appraisal. NOTE - if you ask a dealer to come to your home to review the collection, the dealer may expect to be paid; be sure to discuss this in advance and agree upon an amount.


Many individuals with little knowledge about postage stamps worry that they will not be offered a fair price. The vast majority of dealers are trustworthy but it is a good idea to verify that a dealer is a member of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. Most Canadian Stamp Dealers (NOT ALL) have established codes of ethics. If you are still concerned about receiving a fair price for your stamps you might consider visiting a local stamp show. This would provide you with the opportunity to offer the material to several dealers and compare how much they will pay. You also may wish to contact a local stamp club, where you might find help.

Appraisals - A formal appraisal may not be needed unless required for legal purposes. A formal appraisal typically costs $50 to $100 an hour and provides no guarantee that the material can be sold for the valuation provided.  Before arranging for an appraisal, make sure you agree on the cost of the appraisal and the basis for valuation of the items (resale value or replacement value). Most appraisals do not require development of a complete inventory. The appraiser will focus on the more valuable items in determining the appraisal - so don't be surprised when you do not receive a full inventory or if little time is being paid to relatively common material. Most collections primarily consist of relatively common material and most of the value comes from a small portion of the collection.


4. What to do with the collection


Once you have determined an idea of the value, you have several options:


  • Keep it - First, you could keep the collection for yourself. If this is of interest we encourage you to become a member of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC). You can find out more about the RPSC and join online. They offer all sorts of help for beginners.

  • Pass it on to a family member - If you have determined the collection has relatively little value, you may wish to consider giving it to a child, grandchild, or other relative. While the monetary value may be small, the educational value and fun that may be derived may be large.


  • Donate it - Many organizations gladly accept donations and  non-profit organizations so that you may claim a tax deduction.


  • Sell it - Many people ask the best way to sell their collection. Unfortunately, there is no single best way for every collection. Key factors include the relative value of the items to be sold, the amount of time you wish to invest in selling the material, and how quickly payment is required.


If You Decide to Sell the Collection, there are several routes you can take:


  • Public auctions - For individual items valued in the hundreds or thousands of dollars many individuals find public auctions to be most appropriate. Assuming the auction is well publicized thousands of collectors and many stamp dealers should receive a catalog with a picture of the item and the opportunity to bid. Of course higher priced items may be sold to a dealer. And generally this brings immediate payment while selling at a public auction will likely require three months or more before payment is received.


  • Stamp dealers - Most mid-priced material, say from $1 to $100, is sold to stamp dealers to resell to their customers. Your collection could be sold as one unit, or if you have the time, you may wish to sell parts to different dealers. Of course if you choose to break the collection up this will require more time and effort on your part.

  • Internet - eBay and several competitors offer online auctions. This requires a computer, scanner, and Internet access. It offers quick turnaround and is best for mid-priced items.


NOTE: We recommend obtaining more than one offer before selling and we encourage you to take your time - do not let anyone pressure you into a sale. If a potential buyer requires you to make an immediate decision, you are probably better off passing. It is not unreasonable to expect an offer to be valid for 30 days. We have seen too many times where the heir of an estate makes a hasty decision and regrets selling soon after the sale. So take some time, discuss it with family members, and be sure. Sometimes these items have more of a sentimental value than you realize until they are gone.


5.  Donating to the Centennial Stamp Club


If a collection is to be donated to the Centennial Stamp Club, it is suggested that several executive members advise the donor and assess their decision. Once such a decision is made by the donor, the following document is to be completed and signed, with one copy given to donor and one retained by the Club.



 Centennial Stamp Club


 Collection Donation Approval Certificate


Collection Acquisition Certificate



Centennial Stamp Club

Coquitlam, BC



I________________________________hereby donate/sell my collection to the Centennial Stamp


Club, with proceeds to go to __________________________ or to the club to do so as they see fit. I


acknowledge that I have been advised about all the different methods of disposing of my collection.




Signature of donor                                                                          








Signature of Club Executive(s)                                                   






Questions/suggestions/alternatives to advise the donor:


1. Who is the owner of this collection?

2. Has the collection ever been bequeathed to any family member in a will or spousal agreement? If so, provide names and contact information.

3. Has the collection ever been apraised or insured? If so,is there any documentation,receipts,appraisal info.

4. Major collection (high value) or single high value items - care must be taken in the event that a Capital Gains situation may be triggered.

5. Join a club.

6. Pass on to family or friends.

7. Donate to a worthy cause of his or her choice.

9. Donate to a local philatelic club.

10. Sell to a local philatelic club.  

11. Sell to dealer.

12. Place on an auction site (e.g. Ebay).

13. Place on a dealer's auction site.

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