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 (http://www.marylandstamps.com), 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.