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 " Condition, appearance, and scarcity are the keys to value." - Scott
What Are Dealer Buy Prices? - Robert B. Jenson
(An excerpt of a much larger article:
What Is This Collection Worth - aj.)
A dealer's retail price has to cover what he or she paid to purchase the material, as well cost of handling the item. Philatelic dealers, for example, are in business for the purpose of making a profit. If there is no money to be earned in dealing in stamps, there is no good reason to be in business, and they could spend the time working on their own collections instead of selling stamps.

A dealer can purchase stamps wholesale from a philatelic wholesaler. In some cases, the stamps will be ready for sale, in stock sheets or display books, marked with catalog numbers and prices, and ready for the dealer to use. In other cases, the dealer has to do some preparation of the material in order to get it ready for sale.

With collections (let's say it's YOUR collection that you've decided to sell - aj.), very often there are several nice pieces or sections that can command a good sales price by themselves, if they are separated and catalogued and described. The rest is probably not very interesting material (monetarily speaking - aj.) and can be broken up into sets, sold as one bargain lot, or perhaps simply scattered into a "3 cents per stamp mixture box". However, the act of taking a collection, picking through it for the items that make nice sales pieces, and then disposing of the rest, all takes time. When a dealer makes an offer for a collection, he/she has to factor in how much time it would take to get a price that is close to the catalog value of that set.  Therefore, even if you know the exact catalog value of all the material in a collection that you plan to sell, do not be surprised or dismayed if you are offered only 25% - 30% of your calculated catalog value.

That's just the way it is. Dealers buy low, sell high, and the difference in prices pays for their time, their rent, their supplies, and if they are very lucky ... even a bit of profit. I have spoken with many of the local dealers at shows and in stores ... it's a fun business if you enjoy working with stamps and with people, but it's extremely difficult to earn a good living as a stamp dealer. (One more reason to realize this is a HOBBY for most people. - aj)

Caveat Emptor (buyer/seller beware) - see also:

Is My Stamp Worth Anything?

Unfortunately, most stamps are not worth very much. Even stamps over 100 years old from many countries are so common that the Scott catalog value is the minimum price that Scott feels a dealer can afford to sell an individual stamp at and still cover expenses. This minimum is $0.25. (retail - as of 2000. - aj)

The traditional perspective: Outright sale, Auction House and Private Treaty sales.

What Is This Stamp Worth?  by Mike Mills @ About.com
"Most of the world's stamps catalog for well under a dollar and generally sell for less than the catalog value. And though many stamps look the same to the untrained eye, a small variation in perforation, paper, color or engraving can mean the difference between a .03 cent stamp and a $45.00 copy. ..."
Other issues of 'worth':
Stamp appraisals
: The American Philatelic Foundation - free & non-profit.
"The most valuable stamps were printed in the 19th Century and few have come down through this century in perfect condition. Many 19th Century gums were acidic, and have damaged the stamps over the years. And, what most non-collectors do not know is that most 19th Century valuable stamps were forged extensively. Classic Japan as an example has 1000 forgeries for every genuine stamp..." (note: forgeries are collectable too! aj.)

Selling Your Stamp Collection, by D.J. McAdam (c.2009)

There is probably no question in the world I would rather avoid more than, "To whom should I sell my stamp collection?"

...It is so because one rarely has any idea what a collection is worth, and so mistrust hangs over the proceedings from the get-go.

You (if you are the seller), who perhaps just the other day pronounced a love of capitalism, must now face capitalism in its most unadorned form: a stamp dealer who wants to buy your collection at the lowest possible price and sell it at the highest possible price. What do you do?

Do Some Research ...
After the Research, Find a Dealer ...
One Last Consideration:
I've discussed selling a stamp collection because, given the title of this essay, I could scarcely do otherwise. But you, dear reader, have options, and as a stamp collector myself I hope that you will at least consider another one of them, which is, the option of not selling the collection and, instead, turning the collection over to someone in the family who will keep it going and find enjoyment in it. In fact, if you've inherited a collection, you yourself could become such a person, using what's been handed down to you as the foundation of your own collection. This is, really, what every experienced stamp collector secretly prays for at night (we're an odd bunch), and it makes me feel better to know I've at least raised the possibility.

And there's Wayne Miller

"I wanted to make a place where collectors could ask questions about stamps, and hang out. So, I have made this site. Here you can ask questions about anything stamp related." waynemiller1@yahoo.com (new URL 4/23/01 featuring an excellent set of links for beginners ; including FREE stamps! and articles... etc. - A.J.)

Stamp insurance
: Wardrop's in the U.K.
: Stamp & Postal History Collections Insurance in the U.S.
: Hugh Wood official insurance manager of the APS and all others.

Stamp gifts (when you'd rather give than receive)
: Lion's Int'l "Philatherarapy" for the wounded.
: Scott Kitchen's Charity Page - a long list... mostly for education.
: For taxable reasons (U.S. IRS form 8283) ... (310) 275-3256

The Beginner's Guide to Online Auctions
... Using one of the major online general auction sites, such as Click her for your favorite eBay items , for the first time can be just as overwhelming, especially for folks who are new to the Internet. Rules and regulations, bidding and selling procedures, auction etiquette, confusing auction formats, and insider lingo -- it's enough to make you want to go back to bed.

But not to worry. You don't have to jump in without a net. We've put together a comprehensive beginner's guide to online auctions. This guide walks you through the entire process for both buying and selling. ...  (Bravo! aj)

Classifieds (all c.2001 and all but, perhaps, Gibbons seem to be 'dead' links c.2008)
Linn's (searchable) Classifieds
A List of classified ad sites - from CancelNations.com
Classified Ads page at Rainbow Online - long dead!
Welcome to Stamp One Classifieds
Krause (including Stamp Collector Magazine) Classifieds
Dupke's Stamps (now, c.2011, TradeOnlyStamps.Com - a traders heaven)
Gibbon's new Collector's Cafe has possibilities

New c.2008:

StampsFinder's Classifieds

(undated ads)

AdPost.com Stamp Classifieds

Paul Edney's Stamp Yellow Pages : Trading

Tip: One way to protect yourself in general is to deal with dealers and collectors who are members of a national organization, such as the American Philatelic Society, the American Stamp Dealers Association, or the dealers association in your country. Both the APS and the ASDA have a system for handling complaints against their members, so you have some recourse if a deal goes wrong. (keep records)

The All Seeing Internet! I have compiled a special list of dealers who are agents of national governmental postal authorities as another avenue. aj.

Tip - buy from coin dealers too!
The best 'net info on shows near you is from Linn's Stamp News, the APS, the ASDA (sign up for email notification) and StampShows.com. (or a good 'ol telephone call or letter to your local dealers)
Ask friends and relatives to save their old mail for you.
Look for free stamp offers on the internet. (like the JPA's Kids Offer)
DON'T go and spend a lot of money until you know you're really interested.   

Tips: One way to get a good assortment of stamps is buying 'kiloware', packets, lots or mixtures. Shop around and compare and you will find some good deals (no particularly link is endorsed by me). All over the world, new stamps can be had at the post office, of course, but it's good to know that several U.S. ones are designated as 'Philatelic Centers' and can provide other services.  Similar services are provided by most modern stamp issuing entities. And don't ignore 'approval services'.   Pen pals will get you interesting mail too.  Or try to win some...
Trading, once you have a few duplicates or decide to change your direction, is a good method and it puts you in contact with other collectors. Also consider charity.

Images impressed into the paper on which stamps are printed that are not easily visible to the naked eye.  They can create different varieties of the same apparent issue.
Stampguyz's ('404') 'FOUR KINDS OF WATERMARKS':

1. Unit Watermark: The designs on the dandy roll are so arranged that a single complete watermark is impressed into each stamp.

2. Multiple Watermark: The designs are small and worked so closely together that all, or parts, of several watermarks appear on each stamp.

3. Sheet Watermark: The watermark is spread over all or part of the sheet and only part of it shows on each stamp. Stamps of Hungary 1898-99 are examples of this type of watermark. (Watch a video from Kenmore Stamp Co. (c.2009)

Source: http://www.usstamps.org/clarity/figure2-tb.jpg

4. Continuous Watermark: This is a variation of the sheet watermark. The Mexican watermark "Papel Sellado" so arranged that a single letter is found on each stamp. Also the United States watermark "USPS" each letter (see above image), or part of each letter, will fall on a different stamp. There are also single line and double line watermarks. See your stamp catalog for details regarding these.
Additional References:

  • AskPhil - How to do it...
  • The 'wet vs. dry' methods (the cost and ease factors)
  • Stamp2 Watermark Database - formerly (
    - The Stampguyz Watermark directory (now '404' 12/1)

    See Also: Our Topical Index : Watermarks
    Note: there are also the 'Ultra Violet' & 'Optical' methods (see below)
    Q: Can you check a watermark with the stamp still on the cover?
    A: With a ' Morley-Bright' ...  [related story by Jerry Jensen]
    The APS notes: "..As an alternative (to watermark fluids etc. - aj), there are a number of electronic watermark detectors on the market that work fairly well. We prefer the Morley-Bright Roll-A-Tector. It will reveal the most difficult watermarks and will show the watermark of a stamp on cover, without having to remove the stamp. No fluids, batteries, or chemicals are needed.

    Glassine - A cellulose paper made from wood and water
    Often used in the baking/cooking industry, the photography (and other arts) arena for film sleeves and packaging and by collectors in general. It is used for its 'greaseproof' quality'.  Used philatelicly for stamp hinges, album and stock book interleaves and envelopes to temporarily store stamps, covers and ephemera.  See: 'Hinges' for more info..
    Signoscope = Watermark detector:  See one ...  Search for it...  See another supplier And yet another ... and always search  Click her for your favorite eBay items

    Stamp TongsSource of the image above. Comparison shop ... - Specialized tweezers for manipulating/holding stamps

    inscrit au Hit-Parade de www.philatelistes.net (2008.11.12.0745=4294)
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