by Robert Taylor

Finding stamps in hidden places is quite common nowadays.  All of us like to rummage through old boxes stored in a garage or attic.  Sometimes we are trying to get an elderly relative moved to a different location which requires sorting through many years of packed away items.  More than likely, besides old photograph albums, you may come across stamps (both used and unused), old envelopes called “covers” in the philatelic community and just about anything else people like to store for any number of reasons.

On a monthly basis, I receive about 8-10 calls from people who have come across stamps that they have not seen before.  Before they get a chance to contact a stamp dealer, they already have dollar signs in their eyes!

Nowadays, I ask the inquiring person to take some phone photos of the stamps (or other material) and attach the photos in a text to me.  When I eventually call the person, this is how the conversation sometimes goes:

* “Mr. Taylor, I found these rare stamps.”

* Then I ask, “How do know they are rare?”

* They often respond with “Because they are old!”

Just because you have never seen stamps like the ones you have does not necessarily make them “rare” or “old”.  Often times, after I review the photos with the client, the stamps are from the 1940’s to the 1970’s.  “Old” in the stamp business is 1847 (first year stamps were produced in the United States) to 1898 with a few exceptions in later years.

After the dollar signs within their eyes suddenly vanish, I tell the client if the stamps are unused, they can be used as postage at any time.  If they are used (cancelled), generally just discard them.

Moving on, if the stamps are actually stamp albums or stamp stock books, now there a potential to have some value beyond the face value.  You need to describe what albums you have so the dealer has some understanding of your material.

Do the albums have value?  Only a qualified stamp dealer can ascertain that.  A good rule of thumb is, for the items to have value, the dealer will have to be able to market the items to someone.  If the dealer feels they do not have any resale value, chances are you may have to donate the material.  Coins always have at least a “face value”.  That is not the case with stamps.  One small stock book of actual rare stamps can be worth thousands of dollars.  On the other hand, I have seen a whole living room and dining room packed to the ceiling with stamp material and basically, had very low value if any. 

Why is that?

Years ago, and even today, bags of 1,000 all different stamps could be bought for $2.00.  Often, a second bag could be bought for $1.00.  Now, that’s 2,000 stamps for $3.00.  My father did it.  He did not have the financial capability to buy important stamps.  I now understand that.  What was almost no value in the 2,000 stamps back in the 1940’s is still no value today.  Signs that you look for in your stamp holdings are there see through glassine envelopes with the names such as Mystic, Kenmore, Littleton, Harris, etc. printed on the outside of the glassine envelope.  Chances are, your relative bought them from these large dealers who specialize in low value stamp bags for the collector.

Bottom line is, bags of stamps such as above are made for “collecting” and not for future resale.

Please email me at classicstamps@live.com if I can help you with your material.

Happy collecting!