Valuing and Selling Your Collection



As a non-profit collectors' organization, the American First Day Cover Society does not buy first day covers or publish publish catalogues that value first day covers, and does not have the resources to appraise collections. This article, however, can point you in the right direction to begin assessing a collection, and help you find a dealer who may appraise or purchase it.

There are some general rules about FDC values, but they are not universal. Most uncacheted FDCs — those without some sort of artwork on the envelope — are of minimal value, although not always. Most addressed FDCs from the 1960s to date are of low value, although not always. Most common issues since the 1950s are of low value, although not always. Some subjects are in demand, even if addressed or uncacheted. High-value stamps are more desirable than first-class stamps of that era. Good art in the cachet enhances the value of a cover, bad art detracts from it. There are surprisingly popular issues in every era, such as 1987's Certified Public Accountants stamp.

If the collection is housed in albums, especially the heavy special albums provided by a subscription service, chances are good dealers won't want the albums. If shipping a collection to a dealer, save postage and leave the albums home.

We recommend interacting only with dealers who are members of the American Philatelic Society or American Stamp Dealers Association, or both. The APS and ASDA insist their members obey a code of ethics.

If seeking a local dealer, we also recommend one who has an interest in FDCs, rather than one who will "wholesale" your collection to an FDC dealer. The APS has a list of dealers at www.stamps.org/dealers that can be searched by ZIP code or state as well as whether that dealer buys stamps (covers). The ASDA's search function at www.americanstampdealer.com/Dealer_Search.aspx can search by state and specialty. FDCs are listed as "Covers – First Day."

There are two types of appraisals: Replacement value, such as for insurance, and a selling appraisal: What a dealer will pay to buy a collection. Dealers buy collections for much less than the replacement value, or retail prices. Dealers who don't aren't dealers very long! If you take your collection to a dealer, let him or her know which type of appraisal you want, and don't ask for a replacement value appraisal and then expect the dealer to buy it for that amount.

Two other ways to find dealers who may buy a collection are to take it to a stamp collecting show and the dealers who have booths there, and to do an internet search for stamp stores near you. However, dealers at a show are often pressed for time and their attention is divided. Most will give you a low offer, in case they overlooked problems in the collection, such as condition. The owners of retail stores may not have an interest in first day covers, and will offer you less, so they can "wholesale" the collection to an FDC dealer. In fact, if the store is "Coins & Stamps" ("coins" before "stamps"), the owner is actually a coin dealer who dabbles in stamps.

You may be tempted to sell the collection yourself on eBay or another selling site, listing the covers individually. Chances are, the better FDCS will sell and you'll be left with the issues and covers no one wants.

If you have inherited a collection, and the collector was a member of the American Philatelic Society, the biggest stamp collecting organization in the U.S., the APS will try to find a volunteer to take a look at the collection. The volunteer does not offer a formal appraisal, and is not supposed to buy the collection, just give the heirs a quick assessment. For more information visit https://stamps.org/services/estate-advice.

One final word on the value of the FDC collection: It probably isn't in how much money you can sell it for. The value is in the enjoyment the collector had in assembling the collection, whether on subscription from a service or by going through dealer boxes at a stamp show or creating them. After all, you don't go to a movie and say as you leave, "Now how much can I resell this experience for?"

Most of us who collect, whether stamps, coins or bottlecaps, do so for the enjoyment, not the investment.

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