Let's get philatelical
January 19, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

About ten years ago I picked up an amazing collection of 114 (mint condition, plastic-sleeved) vintage first day issue stamps/envelopes at a thrift store. Been simplifying my belongings and I'm thinking it's time to sell them. Hey you stamp collectors... what are your recommendations?

The person who put this collection together was METICULOUS. I mean, just absolutely anal retentive about their collection. This is why I bought it... even though I'm not a stamp collector I was impressed to my core by their effort and how much passion they clearly had for their hobby.

All of the envelopes are neatly typed to the same person in Colorado, all placed with love into slotted cardboard and sleeved in plastic. Each envelope is the customized first day of issue envelope, with the official stamp and first day of issue postmark. Most of the envelopes are United Nations, American history, government, or arts themed, dated from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. Here are a few examples of the envelopes and stamps, although my envelopes have a typed address. Many of the them seem to be pretty obscure, I couldn't find their topics online.

Any tips? How should I go about making sure these go to a good home and get a decent price? I know a dealer would offer me less and I should probably get them appraised by a professional, yes? Or should I just hold onto them until the economy gets better? Thoughts please!
posted by miss lynnster to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about stamp collecting, but I think it is safe to assume that since the economy sucks that you should probably hold on to them until things turn around. That's what I would do, anyway.
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2009

I am only a sometimes stamp collector, but it looks like you've got a pretty bog standard set of Art Craft covers, they were probably part of a subscription he had like the fruit of the month club.....

http://www.jamesmccusker.com/shopping/view.cfm?itemnum=30655 is one. You can search for the rest: http://www.jamesmccusker.com/shopping/index.cfm

You can toss them on eBay and see if someone bites
posted by legotech at 3:12 PM on January 19, 2009

Back in the early seventies I knew some people who had inherited a bunch of named artist pictures. Dozens of them. Could not give them away, though finally did interest a goofy dealer to sell them off the lot for pathetic prices. Fifteen years later they were turning up at auction for about 20k a pop.

Not that these are worth that much, but the trouble of storing a bunch of envelopes is lot less severe than those of oils.

Hold off, says I.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:20 PM on January 19, 2009

I have no idea if this is true, but somebody was telling me recently that the bottom has fallen right out of the stamp (and coin etc) collecting market, now that eBay and so on have allowed everybody in the world to offer the entire contents of their attics online in the hope of turning a quick buck.

Basic supply-and-demand, there. Sounds plausible to me.

That, and the related issue that previously you might have had boffins who were obsessed with collecting every stamp featuring, say, a steam locomotive, and would once have paid big bucks for that missing 1962 first-day-of-issue featuring good old loco #5162 that they found in the latest philatelic catalogue, but now they can find it with a quick google, and play the thirty-seven sellers off against each other.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:22 PM on January 19, 2009

miss lynnster: This is why I bought it... even though I'm not a stamp collector I was impressed to my core by their effort and how much passion they clearly had for their hobby.

Well, you probably have a notion then of how dead and cold the whole ebay route is. I wouldn't go there; maybe it's just sentimentalism, but there are other routes.

I'd take the collection down to your local library and ask for a copy of Scott's Stamp Catalogue; it's long been the industry standard on reporting market prices for stamps. A copy of the Catalogue, and you can pore through and look up the individual stamps and determine their worth. Plus, it's more fun that way, because you get to look at the stamps rather than a screen, and you get to read what experts say about them rather than what some doofus who lives in his mother's basement says about them.
posted by koeselitz at 12:09 AM on January 20, 2009

That looks like a reasonably nice lot of ArtCraft covers. Unfortunately, the market for FDCs isn't what it used to be: I found a fair number of auctions on ebay for lots of ArtCraft covers from the same period going for about $0.99.

I agree with keoselitz that some of the stamps might be worth something but I wouldn't hold my breath. It's been more than a few years since I've looked at Scotts (or Minkus) but when I did, the values therein were based on auction results, dealer listings in Linn's (and other places). Even so, nearly every place I ever bought stamps from (pre-1998) claimed to sell at a fraction of either catalog.

Really, the price guide today is ebay. If you want to learn a little about the stamps in particular, Scott's might help. The Post Office carries an abridged Scotts too.
posted by jdfan at 1:00 PM on January 20, 2009

It does seem like the value of coins, etc. is going down, and it seems like this was going on even before eBay.

I mean, granted, the values of older stamps or coins have increased over time and almost all are worth more than their face value. But with the exception of rare coins or stamps, probably not that much more than what would be indexed on inflation.

There's just a glut of collectibles, and the truth is back in the day stamps and coins were over-collected. And because they were over-collected, and had an appearance of value, they were valuable then. Forty years from now, people who have been planning their retirement around Pokemon cards or Beanie Babies are going to be really let down.

Yeah, ebay is going to give you a pretty bleak picture of what these covers are worth. It isn't pretty.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2009

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