How do I dispose of my stamp collection? This is a question that every collector must (ace eventually. Some know exactly how they want their collection handled and can make arrangements themselves to sell it or pass it on to a friend or heir. Many others, including those faced with disposing of a collection they didn't form and don't know much about, can be faced with a confusing array of options.

If you have a stamp collection that you are thinking of selling, your first step should be to get some idea of its worth. Generally, the most qualified person to provide this information is a stamp dealer. If you don't know a dealer, you can get names from the telephone book, a local stamp club, or stamp organizations such as the American Philatelic Society or the American Stamp Dealers Association. If possible, check the dealer's references with friends or collectors you know.

Before calling a dealer, take a quick inventory. What is the basis of the collection? Is it U.S. or foreign, stamps or covers, mounted, or in envelopes and boxes? Can it be easily carried, or will the dealer have to come to your home? Is it well organized, or jumbled? Is it mostly uncanceled or used stamps? If in albums, whose make, and what period of years is included? Were the stamps purchased mostly from the Post Office, dealers, or were they collected from mail? Was the box found in the attic, or kept in a bank vault? Many of these questions are likely to be asked by any dealer you contact. Understand that dealers are primarily looking for "better" material, which includes stamps worth considerably more than the catalog minimum, that are in good condition without thins, creases and tears, are well mounted or stored, and are sought by other collectors.

Used stamp' in beginner albums, or mixtures in plastic bags, are generally worth very little, as there is little demand for these items. Also, fancy first day covers in vinyl albums with pictorial writeups may have a resale value only a small fraction of their original cost. The more sorting you can do ahead of time, the easier it will be for the appraiser to form a value for the collection!

When you visit a dealer, ask first if they charge a fee for an appraisal. Most won't charge for a "quick and dirty" assessment. If you have a substantial holding, and you want an offer to purchase, expect the dealer to charge $30-40 per hour as an appraisal fee. The dealer's time is worth money, and you are paying for expertise. Most dealers, though, will waive the appraisal fee if they buy the collection.

Ask the dealer if your kind of material is of interest, and find out at what percentage of catalog value he or she normally sells. All stamps have catalog values for both used and unused, but most sell at prices considerably below those values. Tell the dealer you are getting several offers. Reputable dealers are used to making competitive offers; expect that if you get two or more offers, they most likely will be within 10% . Remember that while your collection may hold considerable sentimental value to you, to a dealer it is simply merchandise. The dealer is a businessman trying to make a profit, so by taking the few steps outlined here, you can be assured that his profit is fair to him and to you.

--- Eric Scott, The Stamp Shop

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