Having recently experienced the loss of friends and family members, I found myself reviewing the state of my affairs and what I was leaving behind. While I have addressed estate planning issues for the traditional assets, one asset was left as a mystery, my stamp collection. I asked myself, what is it worth and how should it be disposed of in an orderly manner. I had to admit that my knowledge was sadly lacking.
If you don’t know what your collection is worth or have a plan for its eventual disposal, you are in the majority of collectors. Dealers and other collectors will tell you that’s OK, you don’t collect with the idea of making money and you shouldn’t expect to get back what you put into it. In short then, you should think of it as no different from what you spent on golf or vacations or at a casino. To me that’s total nonsense. Yes, my heirs are unaware of what I have invested in my collections, but I am not. I also know that if I don’t have a good feel for what it’s worth then my heirs stand a good chance of being fleeced. While this has been the usual outcome when a collector dies, there is no need for this today. The Internet has opened up a huge opportunity for collectors to position themselves so that their collection can be valued and sold by them or their heirs to a worldwide audience of dealers or collectors in a competitive manner. It just requires some planning.
On my StampFinder.com website we have made available the ability of collectors to display all the pages of their collection and also, prepare an inventory and valuations to accompany the images. This ® function allows me to prepare my collection with or without the need to offer it for sale today, but have it ready for when I do want to sell. Since there are many retired dealers and I foresee them valuing and then buying an imaged only on-line collections, value it and them reoffer it for resale. I can even see them offering their services for this on a fee basis to the collector. In any case, by imaging and putting the collection up now, the collector opens up the likelihood that it will receive a fairer price. He has also made it more valuable because it is now available in digital form for a dealer who sells on the Internet.
If you are still actively buying for your collection, here are some pointers on how you can best add value to what you already have. First, understand that when a dealer buys a collection, his focus is on what I term the money stamps in the collection. These are the 20% of stamps which have a high unit prices that typically makes up 80% of the value of the collection. They are roughly the stamps and sets cataloging $25 or more. The more of these you have, the more attractive and desirable the collection will be. This is because an astute dealer will strip out these items and sell the rest as a starter collection. Note that the inventorying feature of the ® function summarizes the valuation by price category thereby adding real value to the collection. Best of all, use of the application is free.
The main reason high priced stamps are desirable is because they are rare and therefor in high demand relative to supply. If you have been collecting a particular country or area for a decade or more, chances are you are missing mainly those items and others not so pricy, but still hard to find. The point is that most everyone else collecting the same country or area is missing these same stamps. Dealers know which stamps these are and look to buy collections with such items. If you want to make your collection more valuable, you should focus on buying them rather than focusing on new issues or cheaper items. The Internet has greatly increased your chances of finding the money stamps, especially because many sellers don’t realize what they have and price it accordingly. In this respect, we note that most collectors are reluctant to share their want lists with us for reasons which make no sense today. Such sharing allows for electronic searching and for dealers to search wants against their unlisted inventories. If you are an advanced collector, your chances of finding what you still need are slim enough without handicapping yourself by limiting your search to what you can find when you have time to look in the usual places. Remember, it is those few money stamps that will make your entire collection more desirable and more valuable.