Selling family heirlooms

I have boxes of stamps that my grandfather and mother collected from long ago. I have no idea of their value, and have no clue where I would go to determine their value.
I guess if I found out that they are valuable, I’d save a few of the more valuable ones and mount them for me and my sisters, but I’m expecting them to be pretty worthless. But for the GQ, what kind of shop would appraise stamps? How do I know if they are trustworthy? Do you know of such a place in the Los Angeles area?

Or should I be saving these for my nieces/nephew/potential children? (cause we all know how today’s kids are into philatelity.)

The best place to get a general idea of the value of collectables is EBay. Check out the finished auctions for the same items. Obviously value is highly dependent on condition but it will be a good start.

If the collection is very large, a stamp shop will probably want to charge you for the time it takes to assess your collection.


I second the eBay research.

Especially for boxes of unmounted stamps. That’s a lotta work, to go through stamp after stamp out of some boxes. I’m guessing: shoeboxes, or around that size?? still on covers (envelopes), or cut/peeled from them? If still on the covers, any valuable ones are probably worth more; if not, that means there are hundreds (thousands?) more stamps per box.

I think you’re talking about hours and hours of a professional’s time. I’d pick through for the prettiest and/or oldest, and try searching first for those on eBay. Um … mostly the oldest, I think.

I forgot to add one more thing. A friend of mine is an avid stamp collector. He told me that stores will buy huge blocks of stamps from estates. These are often thirty to forty year old complete sheets of 100 stamps that were made to be collectibles like for the Olympics.

They pay 50% of the face value of the stamps and then use them as postage to mail catalogs.


Thanks for the suggestion.
I didn’t take a long look at them, but they are all mounted in books in a very orderly fashion. There are only about 10 folios of them, but it’s possible there are thousands.
But what would a professional do? Look at them and know the value automatically, or would he consult a stamp book to look up the values? If the latter, can I get my hands on that book?

I’ll have to look at them again and see if any of them match up to the ones on ebay.

If the stamps are unsorted and just loose in boxes, then you would need an expert to go through them one by one to see if there is anything of any value there. Alternatively, you could get a stamp catalog, and ientify tyhe stamps one by one there. Either way, it’s a slow job.

(I have a collection of stamps, and know a little bit about them. To the best of my knowledge, the most vauable stamp that I have is not one of the 150 year old ones, but one from the UK about 40 years ago. It’s a used 3d definitive of the period – one of a design that they printed billions of, and that would be worth a small fraction of a cent in good used condition. It’s worth more than that, because it has displaced graphite lines on the back, making it quite rare. That’s an example of why you need to go through one by one, knowing what you’re looking for.)

Yes, yes, and yes. When a philatelist takes a look at a collection, out of the thousands of possible stamps they only need to check and see if a special few are present to know how much the collection is worth. But even the professionals might need to double check the catalog value for some stamps.

At least for US stamps. I have no idea how difficult this is for International Collections.

Scott regularly issues catalogs listing the value of all the US stamps, but for those older and rare stamps it all depends on the quality of the stamp itself. The listed value is just an estimate.