Over the years, Iíve had many sellers tell me, ďBut the catalog value is ÖĒ To combat this problem, I came up with a hypothetical situation to illustrate my point.

Take the Liberty Bell Forever stamp (Scott #4125 and others). Itís a common stamp that is still in use today. Suppose you managed to accumulate one million used copies of this stamp. According to the Scott catalog, you have $200,000 worth of stamps.

If you tried to sell those one million stamps to a dealer, what would you get for them? The reality is that most dealers would decline to buy them. You might find a dealer who will give you a couple of dollars for them. Why?

The stamps are common and most collectors already have copies in their collections. It may be five years or more before a customer buys one. This means the dealers money is tied up for an extended period of time.

No one knows the exact number of stamp collectors. Linnís Stamp News estimates there are about 4 million people in the US who save stamps. Not all of those people buy stamps and not all of those people collect US stamps. With one million Forever stamps, you have to sell a copy to almost every potential US stamp collector. Thatís an impossible feat. A dealer needs a few hundred, or perhaps a few thousand copies for a lifetime supply. Beyond that, the stamps are surplus and probably wonít sell.

In this extreme case, catalog value has absolutely no relation to retail value if you tried to sell your one million Forever stamps.

Yes, most people selling stamps donít have one million Forever stamps. Here are some general rules that factor into the value of a collection when it is time to sell (as with all rules, there are exceptions):

  • Demand is paramount. Stamps that are in demand and the available supply is small will bring more than stamps that are not in demand or have a large supply available.
  • The more duplicates there are, the lower the price. Duplicates may sit a while before they sell. This is the time value of money at work.. Collections with lots of variety may sell for a higher overall price.
  • Centering is important. Stamps that are well centered are worth more than stamps that are very off center.
  • Condition is also important. Stamps that are sound and attractive in appearance are worth more than stamps that are faulty.
  • A collection with no duplicates, with stamps that are in high demand, and all stamps are in gem condition may bring more than catalog value.

    A collection with many duplicates, with stamps that are in low demand, and all stamps are faulty to some degree may be worthless.

    Most collections fall somewhere between those two extrmemes. There may be some duplication, but not a lot. Some stamps may have minor faults, but many stamps are sound. Dealers consider all these factors when determining the value of a collection. Catalog value is only a reference price. You cannot say that youíll buy/sell at a percentage of catalog value.