Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Do I Do With An Inherited Stamp Collection?

Last week, I received the following e-mail, which I will paraphrase:

My Mom inherited thousands of stamps about a year ago. We spent months looking them up in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog. After a couple of months of research, we came to the conclusion that in this very, very, old collection of stamps are some very rare stamps.

Once I read about you and studied your web pages, I decided to take a chance in contacting you. None of us collect stamps. And although I have thoroughly enjoyed studying and learning about them, we would like for them to find a home where they can be enjoyed and not shut up in a bank vault.


After responding privately to the e-mail's author and receiving permission from her, I have decided to make portions on my reply public since this is the second request from a non-collector on what to do with inherited stamps in just the last few months. I've also been asked a similar question from one of my regular readers who has also taken the time and effort to send me an envelope full of duplicate stamps as a donation.

My paraphrased reply is recorded below. Hopefully, it can be used to help readers that find themselves in a situation where they want to dispose of a stamp collection, when they themselves have limited knowledge of the philately hobby.



There are a few things that a non-collector can do to dispose of a stamp collection. The one thing you have tried -- valuing your stamps using a stamp catalog -- is often the most frustrating and can lead to disappointment. Be forewarned that you almost never get anywhere near the catalog value of stamps when they sell. Here's why.

The value listed in most stamp catalogs represent what a dealer would charge you if you went to them to purchase that stamp. It is their selling price, not their buying price. It does not take into account volume discounts, past business dealings with the dealer, or any other thing that establishes you as a frequent customer. For example, most of the 20 cent catalog values that you see in Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, for example, are the minimum value and are simply for the dealer's time and effort to secure that one stamp. In reality, many of these minimum value stamps are worth much less, sometimes only a penny or two. But a dealer has to stock them, take up space with their inventory, pay the light bill with them, etc.

When it comes to stamps that have a higher catalog value, a dealer's offering price will be closer to the catalog value, simply because their catalog value is due more to their rarity than for recouping the dealer's overhead.

Extremely rare stamps in great condition can and do yield a premium value over the catalog value. However, these types of stamps are very rare.

By the way, I would not recommend selling just a few stamps here and there, as a "cherry-picked" collection drops in value rapidly, once the higher-valued stamps are gone.

It's helpful to remember that the dealer can only stay in business by selling stamps. He can have the rarest stamp of all, but if he can't put food on his table with his business, he's soon out of work. So the dealer naturally wants to buy as cheap as he possibly can and sell as high as he possibly can.

This is not to suggest that a dealer will automatically take advantage of your lack of knowledge of stamps and offer a ridiculously low price for your collection. Yes, a few unscrupulous dealers might lowball their offer, but I think most dealers, especially those that have been in business for a long time and are members of recognized philatelic organizations, will offer you a fair price. However, the name of the game is to buy low and sell high.

Another thing that works someone trying to sell a stamp collections is that stamp collecting as a hobby has been in retreat for a number of years. I wish it wasn't so, but there are fewer and fewer stamp collectors, so the market is over-saturated with stamp sellers and under-saturated with stamp buyers. This, of course, is the supply and demand cycle of economics; there are lots of sellers, but few buyers.

Still another thing that hurts a non-collector who tries to sell a collection is that they tend to over-estimate the condition of the stamps they are trying to sell. Many stamps have to be in perfect condition to be anywhere close to their catalog value. That would include things like how well-centered the stamp is, if there are any damaged perforations, if the cancellation mark on a used stamp is light, etc. A stamp can quickly lose half of its value, if there is the slightest disturbance of the gum on the back of the stamp. It's like the old saw about real estate ("location!, location!, location!") except that for stamp collecting it is condition!, condition!, condition!

Now that I've shared the "bad" news, let me give a few pointers on what you may be able to do..

  1. Consider using the collection as a starting point for your own collection. The stamp collecting hobby is not for everyone, but it does have its benefits. One of those is that it can fit anyone's budget. Another is that you can usually collect stamps well into your golden years because it is not as physically demanding as many other hobbies.


  2. If you are determined to sell the collection, you can always accept any amount of money that was offered by a dealer. If it was an inherited collection, you have zero invested in it, so any amount you get will be better than no amount. I'd try to get quotes from at least two sources before I would close the deal, since you might just happen upon one of the few unscrupulous dealers in the business.


  3. If you think the collection has one or more rare stamps .... for instance, one that catalog over $250 or so, you could send them off to be expertized. Expertizing is the process in which a philatelic expert will evaluate the stamp by determining if it is a genuine stamp. There are many forgeries in the history of stamp collecting, so this is an important step. Some services will also grade the stamp by evaluating key aspects of the stamp: is it centered on the paper, is the paper in good condition, are the colors bold, etc. Most will not give an estimate of its value, just its condition and whether it is a forgery or not.

    There are sometimes substantial fees for this process so you would have to determine which stamps you can afford to have expertized and graded. Typically, it is only justified for higher-valued stamps.

    Once you are armed with a grade and condition of a stamp, it would be a simple matter to e-mail some dealers, see if they are interested, and try to sell the entire collection to them.


  4. Sell the collection on a stamp auction site. It might be a good thing for you to do, or it might be something that you can consign someone to do for you. However, non-collectors have to be careful in this venue. Having a poor description or an improperly labeled stamp will just result in missed opportunities, frustrated buyers, and a generally negative experience.


  5. Did the deceased person have close friends that were stamp collectors? If so, maybe they will help you establish a value, or possibly offer to buy the collection from you. You might could even set up an installment plan with the deceased person's close friends where you receive more money than a dealer would offer, but over a period of months.


  6. Re-evaluate whether you really want to sell them. If the collection is of some sentimental value, such as a deceased parent's collection, maybe it would be worth more in sentimental value to see that a child or grandchild keep them in the family. A decision such as this would depend on tangible factors, such as what a dealer might pay, as well as intangible factors, such as their value as a sentimental object or the closeness of the recipient.


  7. Consider donating them to a charity. Many stamp magazines have a few ads from recognized charities that request donations of stamps. Other charities might be more local to you and your family, such as nearby veterans' hospitals, schools, or senior citizen centers.

    Be sure to check with a tax consultant as to tax implications of such a donation. Some donations are tax-deductible, some are not, and some may trigger additional taxes; it all depends on your individual tax situation.



Best wishes in finding a new home for your inherited collection!



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - New South Wales (Australian State)

This chart represents a detailed analysis of stamps issued by New South Wales (Australian State), as supported by the 2009 issue of Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog.






































































































































































































New South Wales (Australian State)
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1850
Date of last recognized stamp issue 1907
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") Australia
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 133 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $9500.00 $725.00
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $3.00

Scott #102

$0.40

Scott #98, #110, #111

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$9500.00

Scott #1

$2250.00

Scott #30

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $144,300 $21,500
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 2 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $62.50

Scott #B1

$62.50

Scott #B1

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$300.00

Scott #B2

$300.00

Scott #B2

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $362.50 $362.50
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Registration Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 5 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $225.00

Scott #F5

$40.00

Scott #F5

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$1,700.00

Scott #F1, #F2

$400.00

Scott #F1, #F2

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $4,950 $1,080
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 10 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $8.75

Scott #J1

$3.25

Scott #J2

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$600.00

Scott #J10

$275.00

Scott #J9, #J10

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $1,699 $740
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 40 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $5.50

Scott #O24

$1.25

Scott #O25

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$19,500.00

Scott #O22

$11,250.00

Scott #O22

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $40,925 $24,560
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None







Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.

Scott frequently uses a single catalog number for souvenir sheets or strips of stamps that were sold as a single unit. In these cases, the sheet is only counted as one unit and the component stamps are not counted individually.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Stamp Issuer - New South Wales (Australian States)

New South Wales, 1882 (Scott #65)
Image courtesy Jay Smith & Assoc.

New South Wales is the most populated state on the Australian continent. It is one of the six colonies that united to form the federation of Australia on January 1, 1901.

New South Wales, or NSW as it is commonly abbreviated, like all of the Australian continent, has been populated by native inhabitants called Aborigines for thousands of years. These aboriginal people lived in almost total isolation from the rest of the world until British colonizing efforts of the late 18th century.

Captain James Cook explored the east coast of the Australian continent in 1770. He claimed the land for Great Britain and originally named it New Wales, although he later began calling it New South Wales.

Following the American Revolution and its subsequent closure as an outlet for British prisoners, Great Britain began shipping convicted criminals to Australia. New South Wales was primarily used as a penal colony starting in the 1780s. The population explosion of Commonwealth convicts led to a serious demise in the health, safety, and opportunities for the Aborigines, seriously threatening their survival. Thankfully, public outcry and prison reforms led to Great Britain ending its policy of using New South Wales in this manner.

New South Wales is home to the city of Sydney, which is its capital and is the largest city in Australia. It is a prime international travel destination and is famous for its modern styled architecture, such as the iconic Sydney Opera House.

From a philatelic standpoint, New South Wales is a difficult country to collect. While postal service existed for many years, stamp issuance began in 1850 and ended in 1907, just a few years after the formation of Australia as a country in 1901. Many stamps, due to their age and scarcity, are difficult to find at an affordable cost.

Further complicating stamp collecting for this country is the fact that there are many variations of the stamps that were issued. Color variations, multiple printing plates, and differing perforations are just a few of the stamp varieties that exist.

New South Wales, 1897 (Scott #B1)
World's First Semi-Postal Stamp

New South Wales also had an interesting policy of printing stamps on paper that was watermarked with the intended denomination. This has led to many stamps of a specific denomination being printed on paper watermarked with a different denomination, resulting in yet many more variations. Many of these varieties are extremely rare and exist only in private collections, so it would be virtually impossible to collect these rarities.

New South Wales also has the philatelic distinction of being the first country in the world to issue a semi-postal stamp, which they did in 1897. The stamp was issued for the Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the the throne) of Queen Victoria and its charitable surcharge went to fight tuberculosis.



There are a few affordable stamps for New South Wales, so you can easily acquire a few representative stamps. But if you choose to collect this country, expect quite a few blank spots in your albums.

Good luck collecting this early British colony!



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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

U.S. Postal Service Issues 14-Striped Flag Stamp

United States, 2008
Flags 24/7

On April 18, 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a new set of definitive stamps featuring beautiful paintings of an American Flag flying in the breeze. The images, captured at different times of the day show the flag flying at sunrise, at midday, at sunset, and at night. The set is identified on the US Postal Service website as "Flags 24/7" and is available in coil form in either self-adhesive or water-activated ("lick 'em and stick 'em") variety.

The stamp series seems destined to become the workhorse patriotic stamp issue of the U.S. Postal Service, as the prior flag definitive American flag designs have yet to be re-released with the current postal rate of 42 cents (US). If this is the case, there will be millions of these stamps issued in the upcoming months and years. That is, unless the U.S. Postal Service corrects what appears to be an error on one of the stamps.

Close examination of the "evening" stamp, located in the lower-right quadrant of the official design featured on the U.S.P.S. website, reveals that the stamp apparently has one too many stripes.

"Evening" Flag Stamp

This stamp uses an image of an approximately half-full moon on a dark-blue sky as a way of denoting that the flag is visible in the evening.

A few collectors have pointed out that the flag does not appear to be illuminated, which is normal flag etiquette for nighttime display of the American flag. However, since the sky is dark blue and not black, others have argued that it is evening and not nighttime in the image. Regardless of this point of contention, a better point of discussion is whether the flag, as depicted, is an officially supported design.

Here is a little background for those who may be unfamiliar with the United States flag.

The American flag currently consists of a field of blue, called a canton, in which there are 50 white stars, each representing a state in the union. The remainder of the flag consists of 13 alternating red and white stripes, each representing the 13 original states ("colonies") that existed when the nation was born.

The design of the American flag is dynamic and its layout has changed several times since its introduction. Because the flag represents states in the union, every addition of a new state to the union required a new flag design. In the early days of the country, keeping the flag design up to date was not the top-most priority, so sometimes a few years elapsed before the flag was officially redesigned. However, in the last century, changes to the flag design are more in keeping with current events.

United States Flag Layout
per Executive Order 10834

Shortly after the addition of Hawaii as the nation's 50th and last state, the American flag design was changed from it's prior, and very short-lived, design with 49 stars, to include a 50th star. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10834 on Aug. 21, 1959 to prescribe the new design of the flag that was to be required in public use by July 4, 1960, the subsequent Independence Day holiday for the United States.

Because a flag can exist in various physical sizes, Executive Order 10834 published a detailed drawing of the design and included a table of proportional sizes that were to be used to create the official flag. By following the ratios prescribed by the Order, a very precise flag layout can be created.

One of the key elements of the American flag's design revolves around the use of the red and white stripes, representing the founding colonies. For the past 190 years, the flag has always consisted of 13 red and white stripes in a specific pattern. There are 7 red stripes and 6 white stripes. Because of the odd number of red stripes, and the interleaving of the colors, red stripes appear on the top and bottom of the flag.

Enlargement of Lower-Left Quadrant
Notice stripe colors below blue field

The size of the blue canton is such that exactly 7 alternating stripes run to the right of the canton. Because the top stripe is always red, the seventh stripe, the bottom of which lines up with the bottom of the blue field, is also red. The next stripe down would then have to be white. This stripe has the distinction of being the first stripe (from the top), that spans the full width of the flag.

It is this stripe which provides the vital clue as to the design error. The blue field rests above this long white stripe. If you counted from the top, this first long white stripe, is stripe number 8.

In the magnified view of the stamp image, there are 6 more stripes visible, before the image is clipped off. The small area located in the lower-left corner of the design is clearly white. By counting the stripes below the blue canton, starting with the white stripe (number 8) it is very evident that there is a 14th stripe and it is white.

This raises an even further design issue ... if the flag was bounded by red stripes as the top-most and bottom-most stripes, which every flag issued by the United States since the founding of the country in 1776 has been, it would leave one to think that the flag on the stamp, if it followed the usual red stripe convention, would actually have had 15 stripes!

Will the United States Postal Service clear up this design error? It is likely that they will be forced to change it, once the general public is more aware of this error.

If the stamp design is ultimately changed, the current design, issued in a much smaller quantity than originally planned, may possibly increase in value. Only time will tell.



Update: Thanks FoxNews.com for the major link! And special thanks to Gerard at The Presurfer for bringing it to their attention with his link.


Other Fun Posts







Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Ascension Island

This chart represents a detailed analysis of stamps issued by Ascension Island, as supported by the 2009 issue of Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog.

































































































































































Ascension Island
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1922
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 918 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $6.00 $25.00
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

few

$0.20

few

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$175.00

(Scott #8)

$200.00

(Scott #8)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $3370 $3670
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 6 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

Scott #J1-3

$0.25

Scott #J1-3

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$0.75

(Scott #J6)

$1.00

(Scott #J6)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $1.95 $2.65
War Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None







Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.

Scott frequently uses a single catalog number for souvenir sheets or strips of stamps that were sold as a single unit. In these cases, the sheet is only counted as one unit and the component stamps are not counted individually.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Ascension Island

Ascension, 1922 (Scott #3)
Image courtesy Jay Smith & Assoc.

Ascension Island is a small island located in the Atlantic Ocean, just seven degrees south of the Equator. Its approximate location is near the intersection of a line drawn due south of the westernmost part of Africa and a line drawn due east of the easternmost point of South America. Its placement between Africa and South America has made it a prime mid-point for historical sailing expeditions and for modern-day military exercises.

Ascension Island is part of the territory of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory. Besides the island of Saint Helena and Ascension Island, the island cluster of Tristan da Cunha is the third dependency of the territory.

Geographically, Ascension Island rose from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean through volcanic processes. The island was inhabited only by birds and turtles when first discovered by Portuguese explorers. When the Portuguese navigator Alfonso of Albuquerque sighted the land on the Roman Catholic holiday called Ascension Day, he named it after the day.

The early Portuguese started a trend in changing the barren island when they left goats on the island as a source of meat for future navigators. Later, mammal immigrants to the island included donkeys, sheeps, cats, and rats. The cat population became wild ("feral") with each passing generation and threatened the native birds of the island, who escaped to nearby Boatswain Bird Island. Following the eradication of the feral cats from Ascension Island, birds are beginning to return.

Ascension, 1938 (Scott #41)
Image courtesy Jay Smith & Assoc.

With the exception of a lone Dutch castaway, who is believed to have been purposely stranded on the island as punishment, and who probably only lived a few months, the island was uninhabited by humans until 1815. At that time, Great Britain set up a small base of operations as a buffer against potential hostile attempts to free the political prisoner Napolean I from exile on nearby St. Helena.

During World War II, the U.S. built an airfield on the island known as Wideawake Airfield. During the war, the airfield was primarily used as a staging point for transatlantic military flights. Immediately following the war, the airfield was abandoned.

With the Cold War and the concurrent Space Race between the West and the Soviet Union, Ascension Island once again became an important location for military and telecommunications exercises. It currently serves as an important tracking site and emergency landing point for the U.S. Space Shuttle program, as well as a key Global Positioning System (GPS) site.

Philatelically, Ascension Island is an intriguing stamp issuer to collect. There is only one post office on the island, located in Georgetown. Because the population of the island consists primarily of service workers for the air field, including the U.S. Air Force and the Great Britain's Royal Air Force, it would probably be difficult for collectors who are not connected to someone on the island to receive non-commercial covers.

The early stamps of the island are costly. While the most expensive stamp catalogs for $175 mint ($200 used), there are several stamps in the early years that catalog for $50 or more. Because of the relative scarcity of postal use through the islands single post office, many early stamps are even more expensive used.

The total catalog value for mint or used stamps is about $3700. Approximately half of this amount is comprised of the first 100 stamps. Most of the remaining 800+ stamps are easily affordable. The country only issues 5 or 6 stamp sets per year, making a modern collection within the budget of most collectors.

Flora and fauna are common themes for the Ascension Island stamps. Even though the island is small, its long history of being uninhabited has led it to be a safe shelter for many birds, sea life, and hardy plants.

Have fun collecting this unique island's stamps!



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