A local attorney called me. He had a client who was in declining health. He needed to move to an assisted living facility. The attorney was helping him dispose of personal property and there was a stamp collection involved. The attorney wanted to know if I would appraise it and potentially buy it. I agreed to review the collection and determine a value.

The collection was in several boxes of material spread onto on a table in the attorneyís office. There were both US and worldwide stamps. Some of the material was in albums. Some was loose in a box. It was a real hodge-podge without a lot of organization.

It didnít take long to review it. There was no material of any significant value. Most of the material was common and inexpensive stamps. There were some moderately priced items, but many of them were so badly damaged, they just didnít have much value. After review, my offer stood at $250 for everything.

The attorney seemed shocked. I asked him what was wrong.

Then he hit me with the real story. Unfortunately, it was not going to end well for the collector.

His client was buying a lot of his material from eBay. Over the last few years, despite being on a small, fixed income, he managed to spend several thousand dollars on his stamp collection.

Oh no! Looking over what was there, it was obvious that most of the better material was moderately to severely damaged. Some of it was misidentified or perhaps an altered stamp. I donít pay top dollar when many of the stamps look questionable. No dealer will take on that risk.

The client told the attorney that he bought his stamps at ďvery good prices." He was hoping to break even since he bought material at bargain prices. If the client had bought quality material without damage, he may have been right. But the material in front of me was not worth even close to what he paid for it.

I showed the attorney my analysis and explained the condition factors and what looked to be altered copies of more valuable stamps. He understood what I was saying. He was going to have a tough story to relate to his client.

That was several months ago. I have not heard from the attorney since then. Even if they sold it directly to a collector, I think they would have had trouble cracking the $500 mark.

Unfortunately for this gentleman, he sunk a few thousands of dollars into eBay items that are worth a fraction of what he paid for them. Iím sure he thought he was building a tidy little investment by buying these items so cheap. But it did not turn out that way.