Is my grandad's old stamp collection worth anything? (2023)

Stamp collecting has been one of the world's most popular hobbies since the late nineteenth century - just a few decades after the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the famous Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom in May 1840.

The pastime enjoyed a boom following the 1966 World Cup Final when the England Winners, a four-penny commemorative stamp, was issued to mark the victory.

People headed to their local post office to get their hands on the stamp, and stocks quickly fell short, creating something of a bubble - with copies selling for many times their original cost.

Stamp collecting has been one of the world's most popular hobbies since the late 19th century.

It was at this point, says Mark Bloxham, owner of Mark Bloxham Stamps, that many of today's stamp collectors first became interested and though the demographic has changed as they've grown older, their passion has remained.

After a weekend clearing out my parents' attic, I came across my grandad's old stamp collection which contained stamps as far back as... yes, the 1960s.

A quick internet search told me my stamps were probably worthless because they'd been glued into the book as opposed to kept in an album but I was amazed to see online that some single stamps are worth hundreds, thousands - and even millions.

I headed to Stampex International, the largestphilatelic event in Europe, to find out what makes a stamp so valuable, and whether or not my grandad's collection was worth anything.


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What makes a stamp valuable?

Newcastle-born expert Bloxham, who has been collecting stamps since he was 11 years old, says a primary consideration is the condition of the stamp.

While glued-in stamps can be removed, the process can be extremely pricey, and even then the paper's fibres will be altered and so the stamp would already lose some of its value, if it had any to begin with.

(Video) How to tell if your stamp collection is worth anything?

Stamps may also have value if they were issued no later than about 1960, though this doesn't mean the older the stamp, the more valuable they are.

While the Penny Black was the first stamp to be issued 68million were produced and sold meaning they are not rare. Depending on condition (and other factors) they are currently worth £50-£100 each (less for poor quality, much more for superb).

Interestingly, stamps with genuine errors of production (for example missing colours) are often worth considerably more than 'normal' issues. For example, the 2002 TeddyBear stamps (pictured below) in Bloxham's collection show a very small difference with a significant impact.

The first image shows the head and value on the right - this is the 'normal' stamp and is worth 70p. The second image shows the head and value on the left - an error - and is worth £250.

This stamp - Bear pulling Potted Topiary Tree (Moving Home) - issued in March 2002 is worth 70p

This stamp - Bear pulling Potted Topiary Tree (Moving Home) - has an error in that the Queen's head and value is on the left. It is worth £250

What about my grandad's collection?

As I had anticipated after reading that stamps stuck to a page are a big no-no, my collection was deemed worthless.

Bloxham also noted that most of the collection had come from packs which were sold especially for stamp collectors - which means they were made in bulk and so aren't rare or valuable.

Meanwhile, other stamps had come from envelopes which means they had been used and were therefore far from mint condition.

But it still holds a lot of sentimental value to me, as my grandad passed away a few months before I was born in 1991.

My collection: Bloxham said my grandad's collection was worthless because the stamps had been glued to the pages of this old book. However it does hold a lot of sentimental value

Stampex International 2019 at the Business Design Centre in London

(Video) Inherited stamp collection? - What to do!

How to get your stamps valued for free

To get your stamps valued for free, it's important to find a registered trader, who is obliged to follow a code of conduct.

Contact the Philatelic Traders' Society by visiting its website and find your local dealer. They will be able to give your collection an 'appraisal' for free and give you advice as to whether or not your collection may be worth something.

If you find yourself a hidden gem, it may be worth getting it 'expertised' to confirm what stamp it is and have a certificate issued. Your dealer will recommend whether or not this is the best step.

There is still time - well, a day or two - to get your stamp valued for free at Stampex International this weekend.

The exhibition, which is free to visit, is at the Business Design Centre in London and runs until Saturday 14 September. Take a look at the rare stamps on show, visit the £3million 'Inverted Jenny' stamp issued in 1918, and get an expert to look at your collection.

How to keep your stamps 'minted'

It's very easy to damage small pieces of paper with an adhesive backing. Insurer Hiscox shares its tips to minimise wear and tear and keep your collection in mint condition.

Hold 'em high

Storing your stamp collection in a high place rather than in a box on the floor has a couple of benefits. Firstly, it dramatically reduces the chance of water damage, which is a common way for collections to be damaged or destroyed.

Italso means children who don’t understand the value of your collection won’t be able to start browsing it.


Of course, it doesn’t take something as dramatic as a flood or a burst pipe to ruin your collection - natural humidity can also do the job, albeit at a much slower pace. Over time, air moisture will degrade the quality of your stamps, leading to discoloration and even mould.

When choosing which room to store your collection in, you should ensure that it’s a dry room which doesn’t get much condensation throughout the year. UV rays in the sun can also break down the ink in your stamps dramatically decreasing their quality, so ensure your storage space is dark.

No hands

No matter how delicately you handle your stamps, the natural oils in your hand will degrade quality. There is also a chance that stamps will accidentally stick to your finger or get creased or otherwise damaged . The easy way to negate this risk? Stamp tweezers.

Use plastic mounts

Stamp hinges or mounts are the typical go-to method of keeping stamps firmly affixed to your album. However, hinges can cause slight damage to the reverse of your stamps so plastic mounts are the best option.

The mount is fixed to your album with your stamp sliding into the mount like a picture into a picture frame. Although you will need to have a range of mounts to fit different stamp sizes, they are cheap and easy to get hold of and are the best way to keep your stamps safe in their album.

(Video) How to value 99.9% of stamp collections in under a minute

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(Video) Grandpa's US Stamp Album

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What can you do with Grandpas stamp collection? ›

If you can't afford to keep an inherited stamp collection but aren't willing to sell it, consider donating it to a worthy organization. If the collection is of value or historical interest, donating it is a great way to memorialize an avid philatelist. You may also qualify for a tax break!

How do I know if my stamp collection is valuable? ›

Other criteria that affect condition are color soundness, centering, gum, perforation and margins. Stamps are worth more if their colors have not faded due to sunlight, indoor lighting, dirt, pollution and human contact. The value is higher if a stamp's design is centered inside its perforations.

How do I value an old stamp collection? ›

There are a range of options of how to get stamps valued in this way such as; an in-person appointment with a specialist who works for the auction house, emailing scanned images of items, home visits or some auctioneers hold regional roadshows which you can attend.

Are older stamps worth anything? ›

The older your stamp, the happier other collectors will be and you could fetch a pretty good price for it. Anything marked before 1930 starts to gain value as they're no longer usable for actual postage. If you have a stamp from the 1800s, you could be in business in most collector circles.

Where can I sell my inherited stamp collection? ›

A stamp dealer who is registered with the American Philatelic Society will likely be more trustworthy. They must adhere to best business practices in order to hold their membership. You can also sell your collection to a stamp auction house. However, their fees are upward of 40-50% of the sale price.

Is there an app to scan stamps for value? ›

Stamp Identifier uses advanced image recognition technology to find that stamp and provide you more details about it, courtesy of, a social network for worldwide collectors which has the world's largest online stamp catalog.

What stamps are stamp collectors looking for? ›

12 Rare Stamps Worth Collecting in 2023
  • Mauritius Post Office Stamps.
  • British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta.
  • Benjamin Franklin Z Grill.
  • Swedish Treskilling Yellow.
  • Sicilian Error of Color.
  • Two Penny Blue.
  • Baden 9 Kreuzer Error Stamp.
  • Inverted Jenny.

Is there a market for collectible stamps? ›

Investing in stamps may sound like your Grandpa's hobby, but the right stamps can fetch you thousands of dollars. The 1856 British Guiana 1 cent Magenta (the rarest stamp in the world) fetched $9.5 million at a 2014 Sotheby's auction.

Does anyone buy old stamp collections? ›

Sell at auction

Selling your stamp collection through an auction house, in return for a percentage of the profits, can offer unrivalled exposure to philatelic specialists and valuations which are usually meticulously researched. They'll usually advise you whether to sell as a collection or split into individual lots.

How much are stamps from 1940 worth? ›

On January 1, 1940, a first class U.S. postage stamp cost $0.03. This is equivalent to $0.64 in 2023 dollars.

What should I do with old stamps? ›

The Stamp Swap Out Scheme will remain open after 31 January 2023 so you can continue to swap out any old non-barcoded stamps. To use Royal Mail's Swap Out Scheme you will need to fill out a form and return any unused stamps.

What can I do with old unused postage stamps? ›

Recycle your postage stamps

Postage stamps are recyclable and you don't even need to remove them from the envelope they're on — just throw the whole envelope in the recycling bin and you're done!

Who collects old postage stamps? ›

Omega is the National Association for End of Life Care. They are collecting stamps and also recycle other things including ink cartridges, currency and mobile phones.


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