Whether you have a single old stamp to sell or an entire collection, there are several outlets you can consider, including private stamp collectors, a dealer in old stamps, a stamp collectors show, an auction house or an online auction site such as eBay.
The value of old stamps depends upon many conditions and will vary from year to year according to changes in the collectibles market. Before you put a collection up for sale, always obtain a professional appraisal from a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association. In addition to estimating the value of the collection, the appraiser will also advise you about the condition of the stamp market. If the market is weak, the appraiser will suggest that you store your collection someplace secure such as a bank vault and wait until the price for stamp collections rises again. A professional appraiser will charge you a fee, but if you agree to sell or consign your collection to the appraiser, he will probably waive the fee.
If you sell your old stamps to a dealer, you will walk out of the shop with money in your pocket. That said, a stamp dealer will pay you the wholesale price for your stamp collection, then sell it at a higher price to make a profit.
An Auction House
Assuming that your stamp collection is valuable, you are likely to get the highest price at an auction. If you choose an auction house, remember that several weeks or months may pass before your stamp collection is brought out for sale. Furthermore, the auction house will take a commission, usually 10 percent of the sale price.
A Stamp Show
Active collectors flock to stamp shows. Here you can sell your collection at the going retail price. Bear in mind that you must offset the profit you expect to make selling your stamps against the cost of renting a booth or table at the show.
If you are eager to sell off the collection quickly and at the best possible price, try an online auction site such as eBay. Typically, bidders have about a week to email questions to you regarding the collection and tender offers. To ensure that your collection does not sell below its actual value, you can set a reserve price that all bids must meet or exceed.
Thomas Craughwell is the author of more than 15 books, including "Stealing Lincoln's Body" (Harvard University Press, 2007) and "Saints Behaving Badly" (Doubleday, 2006). He has written articles for "The Wall Street Journal," "U.S. News & World Report" and "The American Spectator." He has been a guest on CNN and the BBC. Craughwell has an M.A. from New York University.