Value of stamps

Learn how to find the price and value of old stamps

So, you have found a box full of postage stamps but what should you do with these tiny items? Should you throw them away? Do not even think about it as the stamps may appear to be precious philatelic items that could worth a fortune. But how can you determine the price and value of postage stamps and get to know whether they are rare in the world of philately.


Before determining the value of stamps it should be mentioned that old ones are more expensive that the newer items. Also the price of a stamp depends on the availability of similar stamp specimens in the world of stamp collecting. In other words the rarer your old postage stamp is, the more valuable it will be.

How much is an old stamp worth?

There are many criteria that are used to determine the price of the philatelic items by stamp dealers. These criteria are condition, a stamp`s age, rarity or grade. Sometimes used postage stamps are more valuable than their mint editions.

So, let`s speak about the particular ways that can be used in determining the value of postage stamps.

Turn to a stamp dealer for help

There are many online services as well as professional stamp dealers that can define the value of a postage stamp in a short period of time. The best way to find such a professional is to ask other stamp collectors who have more experience in this issue. Take into the consideration the fact that there are many unreliable stamp dealers who can cheat on their clients, so be careful and contact only with those professionals that have special documents and licenses.

If you do not want to shell out a sum for a stamp dealer’s fee, you can try to find the value of your newly-acquired postage stamp collection by yourself. So, complete the following steps and you will likely succeed in the process of determining value of you philatelic items.

Identify a stamp

On the first stage you should identify a postage stamp itself. It is one of the most important steps in the process of determining the value of philatelic items. For this purpose take a look in a special stamp catalogue.

The most popular catalog that contains only reliable information concerning postage stamps and their value is the Scott Specialized stamp catalog. It is read by American philatelists while the Stanley Gibbons catalogue is used in Great Britain. There you will find photographs and postage stamp prices sorted by the date of stamp issue. You can also refer to an old stamp price guide that is usually sold at philatelic shops.

Determine the centering of a stamp

To determine the grade of philatelic items it is important to determine their centering. It is made in order to see if a stamp`s design is balanced in relation to the other parts of an item as the margin and the vignette. So, centering is the key factor in determining the grade of stamp.

Unfortunately, there is no special system for determining how balanced a stamp is. It can be done only through eyeballing – a technique in accordance to which a stamp is turned upside down in order to see if it is centered. If you look at an item in an inverted manner, your eyes will focus only on the stamp’s main design so that you will be able to determine the centering of a stamp easily.

Studying the condition of a stamp

The condition of a stamp is one of the key issues in determining the price of an old philatelic item. The values of even the rarest postage stamp decreases if it misses perforations, its colors are faded, the stamp paper contains some flacks etc.

Pay much attention to the condition of the gum (the glue found on the backside of a stamp). Mint stamps have perfect gum because they haven`t been used yet. Such items do not have gum skips or heavy natural gum creases. Although the old philatelic items can have perfect gum in case the stamps were not used from the moment of their issuing.

So, the philatelists classify the gum of old stamps as used, unused, and used, never hinged.

Pay attention to the degree of cancellation

What is a stamp cancellation? In simple words it is a method of applying a marking on a philatelic item to indicate it has been already used.

There are two kinds of cancellations: lightly and heavily cancelled. The first kind means that the overall design of a stamp is visible under the cancellation that is quiet light.

The other kind is heavy cancellation because of which the picture and inscriptions on a stamp are barely visible. The cancel is dark and lessens the value of old postage stamps compared to stamps with light cancel marks.

Condition of the perforation

Stamp perforations are circular holes punched onto a printed stamp to facilitate its separation from other items that the sheet contains. The perforations can be different in size, in its number etc. The valuable and good stamp should have full teeth and clean holes. To measure the stamp perforations you can use perforation gauge.

Determine the rarity of philatelic item

To determine the rarity of a stamp one can check the philatelic market on its availability. If there are no such items for sale it likely that this stamp is quiet rare. For some collectors rarity is the key issue in determining the postage stamp`s value. If an item is quiet old a philatelist may do not pay so much attention to its condition or grade. The stamp auctions are also reliable sources to determine whether this item worth something or not.

Moreover, some stamps that have flaws in design are considered to be rarer than old stamps in perfect condition. These stamps are called error stamps and their price is extremely high. The stamp collectors fight for these items so do not be upset if your stamp has some flaws, maybe you have turned your luck around and it is this rare error stamp that is quiet popular on the philatelic market.

The material and age of a postage stamp

Stamp collectors and dealers like stamps with rich and interesting history as the origin of some item can tell about the period during which it was issued, the place where it was manufactured, as well as the type of material that was used to create this tiny work of art.

Aside from an excellent stamp and grade, the value of old postage stamps will greatly increase if their history can be traced with the help of special philatelic literature. These factors make vintage stamps highly desirable to stamp collectors. That is why there are philatelists who specialize in sea mail collecting because most of these old stamps have exciting stories to tell.