Selling Your Stamps - What Are Your Options?

There are generally five options available to you in selling a collection:

  • Consign them to an auction house for a commission of between 15% and 25%.
  • Sell them to a dealer for 5-10% of catalogue value.
  • Consign them to a dealer who accepts consignments and pay a 25-30% fee over time as the stamps sell.
  • Become an e-bay or Hipstamp seller and attempt to sell to collectors yourself.
  • Go to Facebook Marketplace or Facebook stamp groups, post about your collection and sell directly to interested collectors.

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each option:

  1. An auctioneer has the potential to get you the very best realization if you consign to an auctioneer that specializes in the stamps you have, and what you have is sufficiently valuable or scarce. However, auctions by their nature are risky because they are just one day and they can either go really well or not so well. You generally have a waiting period of up to a year between the time you drop the stamps off and the day you get paid. Finally, if the collection has a significant value any taxable capital gain all comes into your income in the year of sale.
  2. If you sell to a dealer you get paid right away, and you don't have to worry about the stamps anymore. Of course, because of this you will receive less in most instances than you would under any of the other options.
  3. Consignment gives you the best price for most standard material and allows you to spread any tax consequence of selling the collection out over time. But it requires you to deal with a trustworthy and ethical dealer, and to be very patient.
  4. Selling yourself is a TON of work. It is guaranteed to be a lot more work than you could possibly imagine if you are not used to working with the amount of detail that is inherent to stamps. Stamp collectors are also very particular about what they want, so you cannot sell on a marketplace like e-bay or Hipstamp unless you are familiar with proper grading terms and know how to identify perforations and watermarks properly. It is also not clear that you will make more in the long run after the work involved and the selling expenses. But it gives you complete control over the process and does not require you to trust anyone you do not know.
  5. Facebook deserves special mention because, while it seems ideal, due to the instant gratification it offers, it can result in you being stuck with a large amount of unsaleable material, and not getting the best price for what you do sell, not to mention potential returns from collectors who tell you that you didn't send them the right stamps. The main problem with Facebook is that the collectors there will want to cherry-pick your collection. That may seem ok, particularly as the money starts rolling in. But the main problem is this: most collections are 60-80% low value material, that is labour-intensive to sell and the remainder is higher value material that is in demand and easier to sell. If you sell off the better material first, you will find very few dealers who want to buy the balance. If you sell intact, then you have many more options open to you. So, going the Facebook route will almost certainly limit your options when all the better material is gone, and you have no way of knowing if you got the best price when you sold either. 

However, there are three important questions that you need to consider when deciding how you wish to sell the collection:

  1. How quickly do you or the estate need the money from the sale?
  2. Is obtaining the maximum price important?
  3. Are you willing to do any of the work to sell it?

These three questions are all part of the inherent time-value trade-off that is central to the stamp trade. Getting the best price requires time, effort and knowledge. You can sell quick and with no work, but the price will be low. You can sell with no work by consignment and get the maximum possible price, but it will take a long time to get all your money. Finally, you can sell all the stamps yourself on a marketplace like E-bay, which is a ton of work, can be done relatively quickly and will get you more than you would likely receive from either an auctioneer or dealer.

If you are not in a hurry to get your money out of the collection and just want to get if out of your hands and have a professional handle it, then consignment is a perfect option. At Brixton-Chrome, we will sell your stamps on consignment for commissions ranging from 15% to 40% of the selling price, and up, depending on the amount of work involved. Your material will be described and presented on our website here, as if it was our own. You can read more about how consignment selling works by visiting our page titled "Selling Your Stamps With Us and Consigning To Us."