The correct answer to this question is, ďWhatever someone is willing to pay for it.Ē

ďI sold my collection to the XYZ Stamp Company for next to nothing!Ē When I hear stories like that, I often think that the collector had an overly optimistic value of their collection that bears no resemblance to market value.

Yes, there are stamp dealers out there who will try to buy your collection for much less than itís worth. I had a personal experience with such a dealer in 1994, long before I became a stamp dealer. Fortunately, these crooks are few and far between and they generally donít last long before they are drummed out of the hobby.

But many times, I think people have an unrealistic value of their collection. I often see it in people with little or no philatelic background who inherit a collection and think they have a gold mine.

If you want to sell your collection, how do you know what itís really worth? Hereís my best advice.

First, take it to a dealer who deals in that kind of material. You donít want to take your specialized collection of US stamps to a dealer who doesnít heavily sell US material. A dealer in US stamps is going to give you the best price for your stamps because they have customers who collect US stamps.

Second, no one says you have to accept the first offer you receive. If you think itís too low, try another dealer. What do they offer?

If youíre happy with the first offer you get, great! Sell your collection. But in my experience, most people are not happy with the first offer.

Suppose you feel that your collection is worth $1000. You take it to a couple of dealers, and they all offer about $100 for your collection. Chances are, your collection is only worth $100, contrary to what you may think. If you still disagree, youíre free to go find that $1000 offer. I think youíll look in vain for that $1000 offer. But if you think itís out there, donít stop looking.

Yes, dealer offers will vary for many reasons. I may offer $100 for a collection and another dealer may offer $150 for the same collection. Maybe the collection has a lot of material that I already have in stock (my interest in it is low) while another dealer doesnít have those stamps in his stock yet (heís more eager to buy your stamps).

Another comment I hear all too often is, ďThis guy in the stamp club told me the collection is worth $5000.Ē Really? Will he write you a check for that amount?

If I make an offer on a collection, Iím prepared to write a check for that amount. Sometimes these well meaning collectors will look your collection over and give you that $5000 figure. But if you asked them if they would be willing to buy that collection for that price, they decline. If that $5000 figure doesnít have a check to back it up, then itís not a fair price. In my opinion, those collectors do the hobby a disservice. Not that they try to lie about the value of a collection, but their information is misleading or flat out wrong. Often times these figures from well meaning collectors are quoting catalog value only, which has no reflection on market value.

My parents used to tell me, ďWanting and getting are two different things.Ē Itís true. You may want $1000 for your collection, but if all the offers you get are around $100, that may be all your collection is worth. Ask yourself, do I want to sell it for $100 or keep on looking for that $1000 offer? The choice is entirely yours. And if someone isnít willing to back their figure up with a check, then itís not a valid figure.