It may have been the work of a lifetime, an ongoing and enduring passion. Yet the time has come to sell it. How do you go about it?

If you are determined to maximise the re-sale value, by selling the collection stamp by stamp (say on e-bay, or though club books) then this piece is of no interest to you at all (until and unless you have a residual – and usually very picked-over and unappealing – lot to dispose of).

If, on the other hand, you want to make a clean break, that is to say to sell the entire collection in one go, then your choice of outlets is a) privately b) to a dealer c) by auction. And these notes should help you.

A buyer – for the sake of simplicity, let us assume it is a man - needs to know what he is getting. A private buyer may have the time to go through a collection with a fine toothcomb. A dealer won't. And dealers buy the overwhelming majority of collections offered at auction.

Who will give you the best deal? On the face of it a reasonable question, but since there is not one answer, which is always the right one, it is an impossible question to answer. A private buyer ought to be able to pay more than a dealer, who in turn ought to be willing to pay more than any net figure you would get at auction. In theory at least. But in practise … … ? The fact is that there is always someone else out there who will pay more than the offer on the table. It's up to you to decide how much effort you want to put into chasing an extra five pounds here and there – and balancing that extra against the chance that existing offers may be withdrawn.

A buyer will only value what he sees. This is both literally true and metaphorically true.

Literally true … … auction buyers may dance around the room in ecstasy at finding all sorts of goodies they didn't spot, but this means that no one else spotted them either (or the lot would have fetched more). The buyer's gain is the seller's loss. If only there had been some simple signposting when the lot was prepared for sale.

… and metaphorically true … a potential buyer looking at an unkempt, jumbled up mish-mash in a box will have a jaundiced view of the content before he starts.

In essence, don't assume that any buyer will spot the goodies in your collection, unless it is obvious what they are and where they are. If your collection is neatly presented in an album, with even the minimum of writing up, a buyer can quickly verify everything he needs to. Contrast that same collection with the stamps all loose in a box - and how much less that is likely to fetch - and it should be obvious that the cash value in that collection is not just the total values of the stamps. In the best case there is a premium for ease of working with it and in the latter a discount for the difficulty in working with it.

No two collections are the same, so we will not attempt to give you a prescriptive listing of do's and don't's (though do read our notes on the subject elsewhere on this site, under Selling your Stamps) save to say that the easier you make it for a buyer to see what you have, verify the condition and (probably) break it all down later, the more you are likely to get.


Did you know you can download our complete archive of auction catalogues and exclusive price lists online?

Find our full archive here


British Antarctic Territory

Single, sets, m/s- on offer with Apex for less than Post Office prices.

Download Order Form here

Supplies limited. First come - first served.