Dave's U.S. Stamp Evaluation Hints
I frequently receive email from those who have acquired individual U.S. stamps or a collection of U.S. stamps and are seeking advice on how to find the values for their stamps. So, I've put this together in an attempt to be of some help and hopefully speed up your research. If anyone knows of other ways to get U.S. stamps evaluated besides what I list out here or if there is any inaccurate information, please feel free to e-mail me and I will consider adding your suggestions to this page.
In my experience, the easiest and cheapest way to go about finding the values of your individual U.S. stamps is to go to your local post office and purchase the United States Postal Service (USPS) catalog entitled, "Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps." It contains color pictures of all the stamps that have been put out in the history of the USPS, including most, if not all, of the varieties of each stamp issue. It also lists the Scott catalog number and current U.S. market values for each stamp. Last time I checked it cost $19.95 (+ $1 s/h).
You can get this publication at your nearest post office or you can order it over the Internet (usps.com) using the following method (be sure to request item number 890500):
To order it by phone, dial:
- On the top, click on the "Buy Stamps & Shop" button
- On the left side, click on Stamp Products and then click on "Books"
- Click "Buy" on the "Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps" selection and follow the prompts.
To order it by mail, write to:
Stamp Fulfillment Services
PO BOX 7247
Philadelphia, PA 19101-9014
As of the writing of this, the Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps doesn't list values for complete sheets. If you're wanting to get a value for an entire sheet of stamps you will have to try one of the other methods. Another shortcoming is that this guide doesn't include last year's stamps. It only includes up to the previous year's stamps.
Other shortcomings of this method (and of Methods 2 and 3 as well) are: 1) the most valuable stamps take some expertise in order to be able to identify them properly; 2) the condition of the stamp is a big factor in evaluation of the stamp. Novices won't be able to easily evaluate stamps based on condition as an expert would.
Scott Publishing Company prints a yearly catalog entitled, "Scott Catalog U.S. Specialized." This catalog shows pictures and lists market values for all U.S. postal items that have a Scott number associated with them. It even lists individual values for the different plate numbers and positions. The last Scott's catalog I saw only showed pictures in black and white.
As of 2005 Scott will be including full-color stamp illustrations. The cost of this catalog is $55. If you are a member of Amos Advantage the cost is somewhat less (see note below). You can order the catalog online at Scott Online:
Note #1: You can become a member of Amos Advantage by subscribing to one of their three paid subscription services (including Linn's Stamp News, Scott Stamp Monthly, or Coin World), or you can register online by clicking on the Amos Advantage link on the left side of their initial web page.
- Scroll down and on the left side in the Browse Products section you will eventually see Scott catalogs. Ordering information can be found through this link.
Note #2: You might check with your local public library. Many libraries carry Scott's catalog in their reference section.
This is probably the best way to go if you want a precise market value of all of your stamps individually. The only shortcoming (if you'd call it a "shortcoming") is the cost of the catalog. It is comparably more expensive than the other catalogs you can use to do your own research.
The Brookman Stamp Company puts out an annual catalog entitled, "The Brookman Price Guide." This catalog shows black-and-white pictures and retail market values of most of the U.S. stamp varieties. You can order it by one of several methods shown below:
To order the price guide online, go to Brookman and do the following:
- Click on the "Brookman Price Guide" link
- Before you click on the "Order Form" link, decide which type of binding you want. The "perfect bound" (book bound) price guide is usually $4-5 less than the "spiral bound" price guide. I get the perfect bound version myself because there is more room in the margins for notes. There is also a charge of $4 s/h.
- Click on the "Order Form" link and fill out the necessary fields.
To order by mail, write to:
(360) 695-1391 (for local or international calls)
(360) 695-1616 (FAX)
firstname.lastname@example.org (email inquiries)
Brookman Stamp Company
PO BOX 90
Vancouver, WA 98666-0090
The first shortcoming in this method is that the price guide pictures are black-and-white, so it is harder to identify certain varieties. You have to make sense of some of their descriptions. The second is the fact that the values that Brookman lists are retail values. Since the Brookman Company is in the business of making a profit they list their stamps somewhat higher than actual market value. If you decide to use this method to evaluate any U.S. stamps you might want to subtract maybe 25-40% from their listed value.
See if you can find a local stamp club. There are usually very knowledgeable people in the club who can assist with what you want to do--maybe even offer to evaluate your stamps free of charge. Your local post office might have advertisements for the stamp club on their bulletin board. Alternately, you can go to the American Philatelic Society Web site and click on their "Local Clubs" link to find stamp clubs in your area.
The only real shortcoming here is that there might not be a stamp club in your area.
If you want to just get an evaluation of a complete collection maybe for insurance or selling purposes, you might consider hiring an expert. This could be a collectibles or antiques dealer, a certified stamp specialist, or, as mentioned in Method 4, could be someone in the local stamp club. It might be somewhat more expensive than the above methods and the evaluation won't be as complete and detailed. I would imagine that insurance companies would require an expert evaluation in order to determine premiums.
Like I stated above, this type of evaluation will probably be somewhat more expensive than doing your own research and the evaluation won't be as complete as if the stamps are individually evaluated.
Tip: If you choose this method of evaluation, one thing I've been told that you should never do is ask, "What is this collection worth?" and then immediately follow that question with, "And how much will you give me for it?" This can create an ethical dilemna for the evaluator. If you do pay an expert to evaluate the stamps, make sure that person is only doing it for the purpose of evaluating the worth. Don't mention beforehand that you are interested in selling the collection as well.