Disposing of a Stamp Collection

By George Leslie

This is a subject people are always asking members of the San Jose Stamp Club about.
So, I am starting this discussion with the expectation that members more knowledgeable than myself will contribute their insight.

When it comes to disposing of a stamp collection, questions open to lively debate are:

  • Try to sell your collection?…Or donate it to a worthy organization? (like SJSC )
  • If selling, sell to a dealer?…Or try to find individual collectors to buy at higher prices?

First, however, let’s start the discussion with a bit of perspective. We don’t often articulate this, but by perspective I mean “What is my emotional involvement with this collection?”

I can hear people saying, Huh?, but emotional attachment is a determining factor in how you dispose of your collection. Here is a simple ranking:

  1. High emotional attachment: You’ve collected for a long time and the hobby has brought you a lot of satisfaction. Unfortunately your kids and grandkids are not interested, so one day you’ll have to face liquidating the collection to bequeath to them something they can use—money.
  2. Medium emotional attachment: You enjoyed collecting as a kid, but then college, career, mortgages, family (maybe even grandkids) came along and, as pleasant as those memories of childhood collecting are, you recognize you’ll probably not go back to collecting.
  3. Zero emotional attachment: Uncle Bob died and left you his collection. You are a modern digitally-oriented guy or gal and have no interest in stamps, but you don’t want to get ripped off in disposing of it.

If you fall into category 1, you know the top auction houses and the dealers who seek your kind of collection. And that knowledge will enable you to do what is hard for everyone else.
You will be able to get top dollar for your collection without spending a lot of time. So I won’t presume to offer you advice.

If you are in category 3, stay tuned. In subsequent postings we will share info that will be valuable to you.

Today, I want to say a few words to those in category 2. I am quite attached to my childhood collection and not because it is worth anything. But rather because it provided me, as a kid in rural America in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, a window on the world. We didn’t have TV or subscribe to magazines, so I learned about the world through reading. Then once a week when the envelope of “stamps on approval” arrived in the mailbox, I’d spent hours studying those little pictures—so those are the animals that live in Angola…so that’s what Robespierre looked like…so that’s how coffee grows…and on and on. Of course I kept an atlas nearby to find out where Bessarabia, Brunei, Danzig, and other exotic countries were.

Today, if I know the answer to some obscure question on Jeopardy and my grandkids are impressed, I always say, “Well, I learned that collecting stamps.”

So before we get into the nuts and bolts of donation vs. sale, etc., here are some tips for sharing the pleasure of stamp collecting with your kids or grandkids who have shown little interest in the hobby. With that accomplished, you’ll feel better about letting your collection go.

Think of what each child/grandkid is interested in and make an attractive tiny album covering that subject. (Another topic for our blog should be “how to make your own custom stamp album”)

I have 3 granddaughters and this is what I did:
Alanna is interested in butterflies. So I bought a loose-leaf binder and found a lady on line who makes gorgeous handmade binder covers on various themes, and, yes, one of those was butterflies. So when Alanna, a modern kid who loves her I-phone aps, comes over to play I always have some butterfly stamps from a few specific countries ready. We get out globe, figure out where Guinea Bissau is, and hinge them on a page in her album. She stays interested for about 15 minutes. But I keep her album ready for the next visit.

Granddaughter Joyce likes locomotives, especially the earliest ones, and knows all their names, so she has a stock book of locomotives and we add to it whenever we meet. And little Mae likes wild animals.

So my point is, before you face the hard issue of disposing of your collection, trick those young ones who are important to you into at least an exposure to the hobby.

Among my grown kids, the running joke whenever I happen to know some arcane fact is, “Don’t even tell me, Dad, you learned that from your stamp collecting. Right?”

To be continued (in a serious vein).