Hidden treasure: What is my stamp collection worth?

28 November 2016

Is your childhood collection worth anything?



Wondering how to get back into the hobby? Lucie Warren from the Philatelic Traders’ Society Limited answers your questions on stamps…

Did you know that stamp collecting is one of the world’s most popular and oldest hobbies?

Perhaps it’s no surprise: with an estimated 60 million collectors around the world and over one billion different stamps to collect, it’s fairly safe to presume that collectors will never run out of things to do.

Stamp collecting is a hobby suitable for all ages, from children through to grandparents – it’s actually a great way to connect with your grandkids. Many hobbyists re-engage after they find collections that they themselves have created in their childhood - generally found carefully filed away in the attic or in a wardrobe.

With respect to their worth, the value of stamps in general increases with time and, in growing your collection, you might fall upon some immensely valuable and rare stamps. In June 2014, the British Guiana 1-cent Black on magenta broke the world record price for stamps, selling at $9.48 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

But it’s not all big money. One of the great things about stamp collecting is that, given the wide variety available, there is something at every price point; furthermore, they can be bought online as well as over the phone, at auction and, naturally, in the mail. 

There is a substantial range of stamps to collect and different topics of interest appeal to different audiences. Some prefer thematics (for example transport, wildlife or architecture), others may choose to collect by country or by era and others may only collect mint (not cancelled) or used (with a postmark) items.

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What’s my collection worth?

Collections can be valued by a Philatelic Traders’ Society Member, if they fall into one or more of the below categories:

  • The stamps in the collections must be issued no later than about 1960. This is very important; stamps within the collection will be more collectible and therefore more sought-after if they are older.
  • The stamps are in good condition - they cannot be stuck or glued onto a page. Stamps need to be undamaged, without cuts or creases and no portion of the stamp can be missing. They should be arranged neatly in albums and look as though care and money has at one time been spent on them.
  • They include higher face values. In British ‘Old’ money, generally stamps above the 1/- (one shilling) will be worth the face value in ‘modern’ £.
  • Stamps are less likely and much harder to be valued if they are unsorted and in a bag. If there hasn’t been a focus around one country, or if there are fewer than 100 stamps per country in an all-world collection; then it is unlikely it can be valued.
  • New commemorative items are a lovely thing to have and collect; First Day Covers from the last 30 years, Royal Wedding, Birth and Anniversary memorabilia are wonderful to keep as part of your collections and should be enjoyed by the family. However, there is little re-sale value on these items as they are so modern.

Collecting rare edition Ian Fleming books

Things to watch out for

It can be exciting if you come across a stamp that stands out. However, what does that look like?

  • British Penny Blacks (1d black) are famous, but unfortunately they are neither fabulously valuable, nor rare. 68 million were produced and sold. Depending on condition (among other factors) they are currently worth typically £50-£100 each (less for poorer quality, much more for superb). But these are wonderful to have as a collector and you should be excited to own one, especially if you find it at the bottom of your collection box tucked away in the loft!
  • Older stamps - think a few hundred years and definitely not before 1960 - which are still on the original envelopes may be worth a premium (sometimes a considerable premium) over and above the value of the stamps used to frank the letter. The envelopes have to be in good condition as well and cannot be glued or stuck down to a book. Letters tell wonderful stories.
  • The other thing to look out for are stamps with genuine errors of production (for example missing colours); these are often worth considerably more than “normal” issues.

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Something for everyone

There is something for every interest: from the Royal Mail’s Doctor Who collection to celebrate the series’ 50th anniversary and the Rugby World Cup 2015 special issue commemorative stamps, to special issues for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

This vast array of collections means that stamps are more than just a piece of paper to collect. From geography to the monarchy, stamps have been used as a means to commemorate significant events around the world, making them a fantastic, hands-on way to learn about history. Going through your collections and browsing new stamps is also a very therapeutic experience.

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A social hobby that can be more active than it appears

Stamp collecting is a global hobby that you can take up at any place and at any time. And, for the real enthusiasts, it is a hobby that can see you travel the world, with international exhibitions taking place in the likes of Australia, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates to name a few. This also highlights the social nature of the hobby; with stamp collecting groups all over the world, it is an excellent way to meet new people and share your interest with like-minded international collectors.

These exhibitions are also a perfect opportunity to get started in the hobby. With the upcoming Spring Stampex show in February 2017, families and individuals are encouraged to attend for a personal experience of the hobby. Stampex will showcase some rare collections and this will be a unique opportunity to learn more about the hobby and meet fellow collecting enthusiasts. This is a great hobby to engage with as a family; a personal collection is wonderful to pass on to your family.

Connect with one of our Members!

If you think your stamp collection might be worth over £100, then contact one of the stamp traders from the Philatelic Traders’ website.

It’s useful to know that some traders charge to review collections and it is down to the individual trader – make sure you ask in advance.

We are happy to help people get their collection valued; however, we do enjoy when people are more intrigued and decide to start collecting again.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.