How to Identify the Value of US Postage Stamps

By Shelia Odak
Learn tips for finding the value of U.S. postage stamps.

Collectors of United States stamps love their collections for the stamps' connections to the past and the attractiveness of their illustrations. However, whether you are just starting your collection or are a veteran philatelist, you will want to know the value of your stamps. There are many resources available for finding stamp prices, including guidebooks, dealers and appraisers. Whichever method you choose, these research sources offer a way to place a monetary assessment on a collection that already offers you value in its beauty and history.

Examine your stamp for condition issues. As with most collectibles, value is related to condition. Use tongs, which work like tweezers, to pick up a stamp. Examine it with a magnifying glass. Look for any condition red flags that could adversely affect the value, such as tears, smudges, wrinkles, a design that is cut by the perforations, a design that is not centered or a design with faded colors.

Check a price guide. Visit your local library or bookstore to find value guides specifically geared toward collectors of U.S. stamps. Look up your stamp in these guides to find a fair market value. Get the most recent guidebooks you can find since prices can vary from year to year. Some examples of pricing guides are the “Scott 2010 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers” by James E. Kloetzel and William A. Jones, “Warman's U.S. Stamps Field Guide: Values & Identification” by Maurice D. Wozniak and “The Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Postage Stamps” by Thomas E. Hudgeons Jr. There are also Internet price guides that can be accessed at your convenience from the comfort of your own home.

Talk to a dealer. Find a dealer in your area and consult with him regarding the value of a particular stamp. Look for a dealer who is a member of the American Philatelic Society or the American Stamp Dealers Association. This affiliation lets you know the dealer adheres to an established standard of ethics.

Attend a stamp show. Go to a stamp show in order to see how various U.S. postage stamps are priced. This will give you an idea of what your stamp is worth. You can also talk to dealers and get their advice on the value of different stamps.

Get a professional appraisal. If you have a large collection of U.S. stamps you suspect may be valuable, it is worthwhile to pay for a professional appraisal. Furthermore, the written valuation you receive from an expert appraiser can be used for insurance purposes. Contact associations such as the American Society of Appraisers or the International Society of Appraisers to find a stamp appraiser in your area.

Tip

If you are looking to sell your stamp to a dealer, realize that you will not receive the same price as was listed in a value guide. The dealer is buying the stamp in order to resell it and make a profit.

About the Author

Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.