How to Appraise Stamps

The world of stamp collecting is highly competitive, with high-priced "rare" stamps being auctioned off every day.
However, not all stamps are created equal, and some can actually be extremely valuable. This is when learning how to appraise your stamp collection can come in handy.

What To Look For When Appraising A Stamp Collection

A unique, individual stamp might have some value on its own. Yet, if you happen to have a block, which is a group of four or more un-separated stamps, that means you have a valuable asset.

Categories

We’ll start with categorizing the stamps first.

Blocks

Blocks are quite precious to collectors for several reasons. For the most part, it’s because they’re rarer than individual stamps.
They maintain the positions of stamps as they were printed originally. Plus, they contain important information that can help you understand how those stamps were manufactured.

Coils

On the other hand, coils are stamps printed in long, rolling strips with perforated edges on two opposing sides and perforated edges on the two other sides.
When they were first issued, many stamp collectors disregarded coil stamps and deemed them as not valuable. That’s why they’re now some of the more valuable stamps available.

Physical Condition

A stamp that’s still in the same condition as it was when first issued and hasn’t been damaged in any way is worth way more than one that’s been run-down.

Wrinkles

Give your stamp a lookover from every corner. Make sure it has no creases or bends. If a stamp has any wrinkles or folds here or there, this might lower its value significantly.

The Colors

Sometimes, the colors on a stamp might become duller due to exposure to light, air, or water. As a result, this might diminish its value.

Age of the Stamp

Was it distributed before the 1950s? The older your stamp, the more valuable it’ll be.
Alternatively, if your stamp was issued in the last 70 years, it probably wouldn't sell for much more than its original price.

Stamp Hinges

First, you need to know what stamp hinges are.
In short, stamp hinges are folded, transparent pieces of paper topped with mild gum. They’re usually used by collectors to glue the stamps into their stamp collection albums.
Now, if the stamp is unhinged and not stuck on a page, it has a higher value. Why? Because the authentic adhesive of the stamp is still intact and hasn’t been disturbed.
It’s worth noting that you should avoid pulling on a stamp hinge. You could end up damaging the integrity of the stamp for good.

The Gum

Another easy step to appraise your stamp is to check the gum on the stamp. The stamp gum is the glue on the back that helps it stick to the paper.

Printing Flaws

Does the stamp have any overprint errors? Missing colors? Or maybe an inversion? In the world of stamps, being flawed might not be such a bad thing.
The flaw in your stamp is usually caused by a problem in printing. Yet, it’s accidents like these that have created some of the rarest and most visually pleasing stamps out there.

Margins and Perforations

Let’s start by talking about what perforations are.
On a stamp, there’s usually more than one perforation, or small hole, even spaced out along the edges. However, bear in mind that the more valuable stamps have neat, clean-cut edges, even if they’re not perforated. An imperforate stamp is quite old, possibly issued before 1857. Hence it hasn’t been punched with holes but, rather, cut carefully by hand with a pair of scissors. This delicate process is what makes it remarkably valuable to a stamp collector.

Watermarks

Some stamps contain a watermark to prevent counterfeiting. Watermarks aren’t visible to the human eye, so you might need a specialist to point them out. Nevertheless, these kinds of stamps are worth substantially a lot of money.

Cancellation Marks

The post office uses cancellation marks to prevent the reusing of a stamp.
While it might not add significant value to a stamp, some collectors often go for stamps with a light cancellation mark which means your stamp could still be valuable.
The cancellation mark shouldn’t be too dark-set. Also, it shouldn’t obscure the design of the stamp itself; otherwise, it might devalue it entirely.
A stamp that has been lightly “socked on the nose” is ideal. In other words, it should have a cancellation mark right in the center.
Please note that if the used stamp is already on an envelope, don’t try to remove it to preserve its authenticity.

Stamp Origin

“Classics,” such as the US classic stamps, are exceptionally rare and old, dating back to the 1900s or even early. Moreover, they usually come from places where postal deliveries were relatively scarce.
Most times, these stamps were among the first to be issued in that region. For this reason, they have a higher market value.

Stamp Denomination

A stamp’s denomination is the inscribed value given to it.
Before the decimalization and the switch to the Sterling pound in February 1971, the United Kingdom used £sd units. This means that if you have a stamp with this denomination, it's highly valuable.

Conclusion

If you’re still not sure how to appraise stamps, you can always seek the help of a specialist.
Another option is to get them appraised online. You can find many stamp appraisal sites that will do the job for a small fee, while some even offer their services for free. All you have to do is upload a photo of the stamp to their site, and the experts will take a look and then send you their appraisal.
Once you've read the steps above, you'll realize it's quite easy to appraise your stamps with a quick look. You don't even need a large collection to get started.
Above anything else, remember to enjoy your stamp collection. There's nothing more appealing than holding a piece of history between your fingers.
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