How to Find The Value Of a Stamp

Two Methods:Factors Determining a Stamp's ValueWays to Find a Stamp's Value

Many people are first drawn to stamp collecting from seeing an unusual design of the stamp or stamps used to mail a letter or postcard. However, determining the value of a stamp involves more than just the design itself. The following steps tell you how to find the value of a stamp by looking at the factors that affect it and providing you resources to research its worth.

Method 1
Factors Determining a Stamp's Value

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    Note the age of the stamp. Unlike coins, stamps generally do not bear a date showing the year they were issued, making the stamp's age harder to determine.
    • In some cases, a stamp's approximate age can be determined from the design on it, if the stamp was issued to honor a historical event at the time of the event.
    • Older stamps were also made with different grades of paper than more modern stamps.
    • Stamps used for a particular purpose, such as sea mail, have a history that's easier to trace, making it easier to determine their age.
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    Know where the stamp was issued. How prominent a country was historically may have an impact on a stamp's value. The issuing country may display its name in an unfamiliar language or in an alphabet other than the Roman alphabet; if you can find the native country name rendered in the Roman alphabet, you can look it up at Nations Online to find the name it's known by in the English-speaking world.
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    Notice how well the design is centered. More important than the actual design is its centering on the stamp face. You can determine this by looking at the stamp upside down to see how well the design is positioned.
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    Note the stamp gum. Older postage stamps were backed with a gum that had to be licked to stick it onto the envelope or postcard surface. The gum material and its condition each have an impact on the stamp's value.
    • Mint gum is more prized by stamp collectors than a non-mint gum.
    • An evenly distributed, more complete gum makes a stamp more valuable than one where the gum has skips, creases, or has been partially or completely removed from the stamp. For this reason, a used stamp is generally more valuable still attached to an envelope or postcard than if it is removed from it.
    • Older stamp albums that held their contents in place with hinges also diminish the value of a stamp, as they damage the stamp's gum.
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    Look at the perforations. In addition to having gum on the backs to adhere them to the mail, older stamps were printed in sheets with tiny round holes at the edges of the stamp faces to allow them to be separated from each other. Their size can be measured with a perforation gauge, while the perforation holes themselves should be crisply and cleanly cut.
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    Note whether or not the stamp has been cancelled. Cancellation marks prevent a stamp from being used for postage; they also diminish the stamp's value if they are too prominent. No cancellation mark or a very light cancellation mark are preferable to a cancellation mark that grossly interferes with the stamp design.
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    Determine how rare the stamp is. The rarity of a stamp depends on how many copies of the stamp were produced to begin with. Stamps produced within the last 60 years are generally worth only their face value to mail postage because there are so many of them in existence. Likewise, the 1-cent Benjamin Franklin stamp of 1861 has less monetary value because it's been estimated that 150 million of them were produced.
    • Stamps with errors in the design, such as the famous "upside down" biplane stamp, are both rare and prized by stamp collectors. These stamps are among the few that have escaped the quality-control inspection to weed out such errors before distribution.
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    Evaluate the stamp's condition. The factors listed above all help to determine a stamp's condition, which can be expressed in two ways:
    • Stamp grade can be expressed in three broad terms: sound, faulty, or defective. A faulty stamp is one that has minor imperfections, such as a small crease in the corner. A defective stamp is one with major imperfections such as large creases, pinholes, abrasions, or stains. A sound stamp has no imperfections.
    • Stamp condition can be broken into seven smaller levels, similar to those used for coins: below average, fair, average, good, fine, very fine, and extremely fine.
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    Know the demand for the stamp. Even if a rare stamp is in excellent condition, it may not be sought after by stamp collectors. Connection to a major historical event or just general agreement on how prized a stamp is can affect how in demand a given stamp is.

Method 2
Ways to Find a Stamp's Value

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    Consult a printed reference. You can research both a stamp's history and its value by consulting a stamp encyclopedia or catalog. Good stamp references available at most U.S. libraries include Richard John Sutton's "Stamp Collector's Encyclopedia" and the "Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers" for U.S. stamps, and in the United Kingdom, the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Catalog and the British Empire Stamp Catalog.
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    Research stamp values online. A number of online resources exist for determining stamp values.
    • Auction websites such as eBay can give you an idea of the current market value for a given stamp. Be sure to compare your stamps as accurately with those depicted in the auctions, down to the specifics of their condition.
    • Stamp dealer websites such as Zillions of Stamps provide an online marketplace for stamp dealers to offer their wares and give you a basis to compare the value of your old stamps against theirs.
    • Stamp enthusiast websites such as may include discussion forums where you can post questions and learn from other philatelists (stamp collectors).
    • While the Scott and Gibbons catalogs are not accessible online, the Stanley Gibbons catalogs are available through the company's website, and the Scott catalogs can be ordered through stamp dealers' websites.
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    Visit stamp shows. Collector shows featuring stamps will give you another opportunity to see the market rates for various stamps and to talk with other stamp collectors, some of whom may offer you their opinions on your stamp's value.
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    Have the stamp appraised professionally. A professional stamp appraisal is the best way to find the book value of a stamp, which will typically be higher than the market value you can expect to receive when selling it. Some appraisers are also stamp dealers.
    • You can get recommendations from other philatelists for stamp dealers and appraisers, or you can consult the websites of stamp appraiser associations such as the American Stamp Dealers Association or non-profit organizations such as American Philatelic Society.


  • Regardless of the actual monetary value of the stamp, it is perfectly acceptable to collect stamps for their intrinsic value, particularly if the stamp's design has special meaning to you.


  • Past collector booms have driven down the monetary collector value of stamps produced during and after the collector booms. A collector boom in the 1930s led to hoarding stamps, which in turn led to overproduction that drove the collector values for such stamps down. A similar boom occurred during the early 1980s.
  • The change from postal mail to electronic communication has also driven down the collector value of stamps, even as it has raised their face value price.

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Categories: Stamp Collecting