Stamp Valuation

How to Appraise your stamps

Stamp collecting continues to be among the most popular hobbies, keenly followed by collectors all over the world.


Its popularity may have waned since the 1950s and 90s, when almost half of youngsters had a collection of some sort, but the growth of internet sales platforms has resulted in a wide variety of rare stamps coming on to the market in recent years.


Whilst this is great news for stamp collectors, sites like eBay do present something of a dilemma for non-collectors who may have inherited a collection (or have one gathering dust in the loft!) because it can leave them confused about its true value.


This guide has been compiled to help novices with no philatelic knowledge learn how to appraise stamps so that they can decide on the best course of action for their collection.


Stamps are usually more valuable if…

In good condition: It may be stating the obvious, but a stamp which is in the same state as when issued by the Post Office (mint with full original gum) will be worth more than one which has been previously hinged or damaged.


They have bright, fresh and original colours: If a stamp’s colour has faded (because of water or sunlight) its value will be significantly reduced.


Issued before 1950: The best way to think of a stamp collector is as an archaeologist of postal history, who consider stamps and covers as valuable artefacts. The most valuable items tend to be rare with a good historical story.

From a country of interest: Extremely rare and early stamps from countries where postal deliveries were infrequent are known as ‘Classics’ and date from 1900 or earlier. In most cases, they are one of the earliest stamp issues from that particular country and, subsequently, they can command a higher price.


No piece of the stamp is missing: A stamp which has part of its design or a perforation missing will not command a premium price – even if it is extremely rare.


Creases and other damage are minimal: A ‘bend’ or ‘crease’ will significantly reduce a stamp’s value. Lighter ‘wrinkles’ will also devalue a stamp but much less significantly.


They are ‘unhinged’ and not stuck to a page:  A stamp which has never had a hinge applied to it is obviously worth more because it will still have its full original gum. When a hinge has been applied, this small, transparent piece of folded paper tends to remove the stamp’s original adhesive, making it much less valuable - even once it’s been removed. Never attempt to pull a hinge off a stamp as you could damage it.


It’s got a unique cancellation on it: Older stamps which are still on the original envelope can sometimes be worth considerably more if a special or rare cancellation mark has been applied. To preserve a stamp’s authenticity, never remove stamps from the original piece upon which it was sent.

This USA 1918 inverted 'Jenny' realised £184,000 at a UK Based auction house.

      It contains a rare error: When a mistake has been made on a stamp design, such as a missing colour or feature because of a printing or production error, these stamps becomes highly collectible and are often worth significantly more than a ‘normal’ issue.

          It has perfect perforations: Stamps with beautiful edging, or neat ‘perforations’ as it is known in philatelic circles, tend to be valued more highly. In most cases, the neater the perforations are, the more a stamp will be worth.

          It has a light and tidy cancellation mark: When a stamp has been ‘Socked on the Nose’ it means that a circular date stamp cancellation mark has been applied very close to its centre.  When carried out in a tidy and light manner - with either the date, place name or location within it, a stamp tends to be worth more.

     Stamps are unlikely to be valuable if…

       In poor or scruffy condition: If a stamp has fading, discoloration, marks or tone spots which disfigure its design, and usually occur as a result of poor storage, their worth is massively reduced.

           Part of an ‘instant’ or manufactured collection: Sheets of stamps which are themed or marked with a commemorative inscription, marking an anniversary or event, are sold in their thousands. They are hardly ever worth anything significant unless, of course, they contain a rare stamp error.

       Released to commemorate a Event (Birth, Wedding, Anniversary):  commemorative stamps and sheets are always issued to mark special events. Unfortunately, they are sold in their thousands and, even though they are only on sale for a limited period of time, they are worth little to collectors and dealers.

         They are ‘First Day Covers’ from 1960 onwards: Envelopes or cards which have been postmarked and used on the first day of issue (First Day Covers) are often highly-desirable to collectors and dealers, but only if they are rare.

         Sold loose or unsorted in a bag: Acquiring large numbers of stamps in this way is known as buying ‘kilo ware’ or ‘bundle ware’ and items like this are sold according to their weight or in bundle of 100. Unsorted stamps rarely appeal to dealers, who do not have the time to sort through them, but they are popular with beginners.

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