Cleaning out clutter: How to sell a stamp or coin collection

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A stamp expert can usually tell within minutes whether that old album filled with postage stamps has any great value. It often boils down to whether the collection was a childhood hobby, where someone bought packets of assorted stamps, or a lifetime passion reflected in a well-organized, well-cared-for assortment that a lot of time and money went into. "Most collections are worth under $100, but there are exceptions, and we've see things worth into the thousands," says David Most of Maryland Stamps & Coins in Bethesda (, which has been around for 35 years.

Dealers and independent collectors or appraisers will usually look at your album at no charge and roughly estimate its worth; they might offer to buy it. Consider getting several estimates if you're selling. "It's worth a shot," says Lance Munoz of Silver Spring's Maryland Coin Exchange (301-589-2278). He says meticulously kept collections will generally be worth more.

Most experts charge an hourly fee for a written appraisal. "It's a very specialized area," says Glenn Nozick (301-315-6257), a Maryland stamp appraiser and collector. He says people are often disappointed that first-day covers (envelopes with stamps canceled on their date of issue) and sheets of commemoratives, once touted as investments, usually don't increase in value.

One good thing about a stamp: If it hasn't been canceled, it can still be used as postage. Dealers usually know of organizations, veterans groups and schools that welcome donated stamps.

-- J.K.

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