Many times Iím approached by a family member who has a collection from a deceased collector. No one in the family is interested in stamps. They want to sell the collection. Sometimes folks will ask if I know who the collection is going to and if it will stay together. I understand where they are coming from. This was Grandpa Joeís collection (whoever) and it has sentimental value to them in that if they can keep the collection intact, then Grandpa Joe will look down favorably upon them.

When confronted by this, I put it in a different light. I am honest with the family member. But I think I can put their mind at ease.

Will the collection stay together as a single unit? Probably not. But thatís not a bad thing, here is why.

Many times I will break a collection up into different components: early stamps are sold individually, plate blocks go into my plate block stock, and covers may go into my specials and someone else will buy them.

Itís very difficult to sell a collection intact for several reasons. First of all, if itís a sizable collection and itís worth a lot of money, finding someone with that much money to spend is not easy. Second, not everyone collects the same things. Which is the good part about philately Ė youíre free to collect whatever you want. But if Grandpa Joe had US stamps and (say) covers from the Philippines because he served in the military in the Philippines in World War II, those Philippine covers meant something to him. But they may not mean anything to the next collector that owns them.

Which of these situations is better overall? Sell the collection to a single person and they like the stamps, but the Philippine covers go in the garbage or they are stuffed in a shoebox and long forgotten? Or sell the collection to two people: one who appreciates the stamps and one who appreciates the Philippine covers?

When Grandpa Joe formed his collection, he bought stamps from many different sources and assembled his own collection. Chances are, he didnít buy a single collection and maintain it. He bought bits and pieces to assemble his own collection. Even though his collection may be broken up too, I think overall Grandpa Joe would be happy that all of his items were enjoyed by various collectors, versus just one collector owning his collection and only appreciating certain parts of it.

Yes, your loved ones collection will probably be broken up at some point. But thatís OK. My job as a dealer is to get those pieces of the collection into the hands of the next owner who will love those items just as much as Grandpa Joe did. Ultimately, I think that is what matters the most Ė that all parts of the collection are enjoyed by someone. I think Grandpa Joe would understand and be at peace with that and not demand that it go to a single collector.

We stamp collectors are but temporary custodians over the material we own. Someday, we will no longer own those items and they will be sold to others who will hopefully love them as much as we do. Collections are built and disassembled every day. Itís the philatelic circle of life.