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Longley Auctions Selling A Stamp Collection

Briefly, selling a stamp collection is not only a function of the collection’s inherent value but also the ability of the seller to recognize the value and have the customers for it. You have the collection, now you need a knowledgeable dealer or auctioneer who will take the time to help you sell it.

Before You Die: Make Advance Preparations.

Collectors should not burden their family with dealing with the complicated process of selling a collection as part of an estate.

- Advise your executor / executrix in advance of your intended means of disposal.
- Appoint a trusted collector friend or dealer to act as in an advisory capacity.
- Specify the dealer that you wish your collection to be sold to or through. Put it in writing. You could even include it in your will.
- Prepare a list of your philatelic holding and approximate value.

Tip: Many collectors do not tell their spouse how much they have spent on their collection or underestimate the amount spent when asked. The result? You are dead and the family thinks the collection is worth very little. They accept a very low offer from an unscrupulous buyer and your family is cheated. If you are not prepared to discuss your collection’s value while you are alive, at least prepare a detailed list of items and value that will be available to the family AFTER you have passed away.

I have seen plently of collections that were handed to well-meaning collector-friends of the deceased, only to be sold at small local club shows to a handful of collectors for a tiny fraction of their real value. You need a professional dealer advertising your material to an extensive, specialized list of serious buyers in order to maximize the value of your collection.

Beware the “Ebay” or “Vestpocket” Dealer
Quite often a collector will spend his limited budget advantageously to acquire “bargains” by underpaying for collections and stamps. He sells them at a profit to finance building his collection. Similarly, there has been a spate of “ebay dealers” who claim to know stamps (and every other collectible) simply because they can scan a picture and list an item on ebay. While ebay is a good venue for the general public, it misses a very large percentage of the serious and dedicated buyers who are unwilling to troll through thousands of listings of lesser quality material to find the one “gem”. Ebay is a PASSIVE sales venue which is fraught with concern about fakes, forgeries and unscrupulous sellers. Many serious collectors avoid ebay entirely, deciding rather to stick with the professional sellers that they have dealt with for years. A proper auction company is an ACTIVE seller, selling material to a trusted client base built over years and decades, advertising the sales in the philatelic press and contacting potential bidders proactively.

Questions to Ask Auctioneers

An auctioneer can help you realize the most for your stamp collection using established methods for describing stamps, producing detailed auction catalogues with excellent illustrations and tapping into his extensive client database.

Selling through auction is a process that very few people are familiar with. It is important to discuss the process with the auctioneer and feel confident in his ability to handle it and willingness to give the collection the attention it deserves.

Here are some questions to ask a dealer or auctioneer about the sale of your collection.

Are you a member of your national stamp dealers’ association (CSDA in Canada, ADSA in USA)?
What other philatelic organizations do you belong to?
What is your area of specialization?
Have you handled the type of material in this collection before?
Are you prepared to travel to view the collection (at my home, bank vault or lawyer’s office)?
What is the collection worth? (Wholesale, retail, anticipated auction realization?)
What single items or key valuable stamps are in the collection?
Do any items need certificates of authenticity?
Are there any fakes or forgeries in the collection?
How do you intend to break down the collection?
What is the minimum value per lot that the auctioneer will use?
What is the average value per lot per consignment?
What advertising will be undertaken and how will this collection be specially marketed?
Is it worthy of being a “name sale”, in its own catalogue?
Will the sale be available online, in a printed catalogue?
How long will it take to write up the collection for sale?
What is the commission rate charged to sell the collection?
Do you charge a buyer’s premium as well? (typically 15%)
When will the sale take place?
When will I receive a consignor’s listing of items in the sale?
When will I receive an auction catalogue?
When will I receive a consignor’s report of the items sold?
When will I receive a settlement cheque?

This article is intended to introduce collectors and estate managers to the process of selling a stamp collection. I would be pleased to discuss the auction process in greater detail. You can contact Bill Longley at (905) 690-3598 or email, or write to

Longley Auctions
PO Box 620
Waterdown, ON L0R 2H0