Everyone should read this chapter.
This book is intended primarily for people who have inherited a stamp collection and need options as to what to do with it now.
It will also be of interest to:
People who know that they will probably inherit a stamp collection one day. For example, your father or grandfather has said, “You’ll be getting my collection when I’m gone.”
People who collect stamps currently and wish to sell all or part of their collection.
People who collect stamps and plan to leave their collection to someone in the future. Yes, I know you don’t want to think about that! However, there are many things you can do which will make your collection much more enjoyable to the people who will inherit it and continue collecting; or, to realize the highest possible value should they decide to sell the collection.
First, let me tell you a little about stamp collecting and stamp collectors. Stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. Stamps involve geography, history, culture, politics, special events, art and more. Each stamp has a story to tell. Stamp collectors love stamp collecting, and they love stamps. They enjoy stories about stamps. They learn from the stamps, and they spend countless hours mounting their stamps in the little squares in their albums. It’s a never-ending challenge. As soon as they collect ten new stamps, twenty more are printed. A stamp collector can never collect one of every stamp. Nobody has that much time nor that much money! But that’s part of the fun! Always trying to get another stamp and knowing that there will still be another one to get later. And if you already have a stamp, knowing that there’s probably a stamp in better condition that you might be able to get to upgrade your collection.
You have inherited somebody’s hobby and someone’s love. They left it to you because they cared for you. In most cases, you will be a child or a grandchild of this person. In a way, you have just acquired 10,000 or 100,000 more brothers and sisters!
If you are a stamp collector yourself, you know all about these feelings. You will probably just continue collecting, and that’s great. Now you have a lot of material to play with.
But, some of you may not know the first thing about stamps. You may want to learn and become a stamp collector yourself. Or you may not! If you have other interests, that’s fine, too. Many stamp collectors know that their collection will eventually go to someone who is not interested in stamps perhaps. They probably wished you were interested in collecting, but if you’re not, they knew it. Most likely, you will sell the collection. Even though the collector would not like the concept of his/her collection being sold, he or she would want you to take whatever money you receive and make your own life or your children’s lives a little better.
If you are thinking of selling the collection you inherited, please keep a couple of things in mind:
It may be worth a fortune, or it may be worth nothing much at all. This is going to depend on several million factors that I’ll teach you in this book. If it’s worth a fortune, great. If it’s not, don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you now that, statistically, the collection is not going to be tremendously valuable. But statistics sometimes lie. You’ll need to keep reading to find out exactly what you’ve got.
Selling a stamp collection may be easy, or it can involve a lot of hard work. Only you can decide how much time and effort you can devote to the project or whether you may wish to utilize the services of a professional. Oh, it would have been so much easier had you just inherited a few bricks of gold! Easy to price, and easy to sell. Stamps aren’t really that easy to sell. But once again, keep in mind that you are selling someone’s hobby. Had their hobby been going to movies seven days a week, you wouldn’t have inherited a thing.
Besides becoming a stamp collector yourself or selling the collection, you also have several other alternatives which I’ll discuss in chapter 6.
Finally, don’t throw any stamps or stamp-related material away. Even if you find that a particular stamp has no actual value, there is always someone who would love to adopt it. In some ways, you should think of yourself as an adoption agency for a bunch of little rectangular children!
It is not necessary to read every chapter in this book in its entirety. Depending on your specific circumstances, certain chapters will be of more benefit to you than others. However, I urge you to quickly scan the chapters that do not at first seem applicable to you. You may discover a bit of information that turns out to be very relevant to your particular situation. Each chapter begins with a brief description of what is covered. The first 17 chapters cover stamp basics and go into the options you have in selling stamps, along with other possibilities. Chapters 18 to 29 provide reference information for those of you who need more details.
It is actually very difficult to advise you about what to do with your stamps in a logical orderly way. There are too many “ifs” and “it depends upon ... .” You will find several pointers to information in other chapters, and you may find yourself skipping around a lot. If you are already relatively familiar with stamps, this will probably not bother you too much. If stamps are completely new to you, I recommend that you quickly skim through the entire book just to see the kinds of things that are here. Then come back to chapter one and start over. At that point, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to read, and what is not applicable to your situation.
A few caveats are in order:
The words “probably,” “maybe,” “most of the time,” “usually” should appear before almost every sentence in this book. Stamps, as you will discover, are not a black-and-white thing. When dealing with stamps, there are shades of gray everywhere. This is especially true if you are selling stamps.
I am not recommending any person, organization or firm whose name appears in this book. I simply list the names for your convenience. People and companies change over the years, so you will have to exercise your own judgment with whom you deal and how you deal with them. Hopefully, this book should give you enough knowledge and tips so you will at least understand what you are doing and know what to ask.
If you are selling stamps, go slowly. The collection may have taken 50 years to put together. Don’t expect to sell it in an hour. The more time you take to understand what you have, the more money you will get for your stamps. (That’s an example of a sentence that should have “probably” in it!) Of course, if eighteen people are sharing an estate, and you’ve been charged with sending them money as soon as possible, you may not be able to take a lot of time. This book will also cover different options which will allow you to sell stamps quickly.
As politically incorrect as this may seem, this book is geared only to people who live in the USA. Because of differences in stamps, stamp catalogs, etc., users in other countries will not be able to glean as much information as a USA reader can. The book, however, is applicable to USA residents who have inherited USA and/or foreign stamps.
I am not an “expert” in stamps. I am actually an engineer who happened to have inherited six different stamp collections from six different people. (Ack!) What I am offering in this book is merely the lessons and insights I’ve learned from the real world. Some of it may work for you, and some of it may not. I have found there is a ton of advice available for the guy who has one $10,000 stamp and knows it’s a $10,000 stamp. Up until now, however, there hasn’t been a lot of advice for the person who ended up with an album and two shoe boxes full of stamps and has no idea if they are worth anything or what to do with them.
FYI: As a kid, I had a simple stamp collection which lasted for a couple of years. For 40 years, I did not collect stamps. On inheriting the collections, I was forced to learn a whole lot. It has taken many years, and I am still not finished learning. My first impulse was to sell everything. After getting back into stamps, I think I may change that direction a little. While I do not want to collect every type of stamp I inherited, I think I might like to keep some of them and have a small collection of my own. The stamps remind me of the people that loved them (and me). Plus I had forgotten some of the things I enjoyed about collecting stamps as a kid. This is a wonderful experience for me.