Value of Stamps

“What is the value of these stamps?” I have asked this question on many forums and I see many people asking this question. When I was a kid, I didn’t bother about the “value” of the stamps, I just collected the ones I liked. Of course, as I grew older and (ahem!) wiser (worldy wiser perhaps) and restarted the hobby, I started to look for value, as though I would earn a fortune out of it. As I bought some stamps recently on eBay, from a dealer and then from the post office, it suddenly hit me: the “Value” of these stamps is really dependent on how badly I want them or how much I can afford to spend on them. Irrespective of what the catalogues might say about the value, I might still pay whatever if I want some specific stamps in my collection. And some stamps and albums have their own sentimental value. A completely torn and worn out stamp album that I still retain is of immense value to me because that is one of the first albums I bought from a philatelic exhibition way back in 1981. It is scrap paper for all practical purposes but I hold it dear to my heart. So unless I am going to become a stamp dealer, let me not worry about the value and collect stamps for the hobby that I hold close to my heart….. (till the next catalogue comes along and I try to find how much it is worth… LOL!!!)

Stamp Catalogues and Catalogue Values

Stamp catalogues are expensive books. When I was a young boy, I managed to lay my hands on a few from local kabadi shops (junk/paper scrap dealers). Catalogues provide useful information about the stamps, their variations, errors etc. and also provide a value for each stamp, typically for mint and used condition and for full sets.

Recently in my discussions on online groups I discovered that stamps actually sell only at a fraction of catalogue value costs. So if a catalogue value is $10, then the stamp is likely to be available for $1-$2 or so. It got me wondering, why do catalogues exist if no one pays catalogue prices?  Why will nobody pay the catalogue prices and real price is only 10-15% or maybe 20% of the catalogue value?

And while browsing for stamps online, I saw that stamp of catalogue value GBP 125 are sold on eBay for Rs. 300, and catalogue value of GBP 60-70 are being sold for Rs. 750/1500/2500 each. I found ways of cataloging and eBay dynamics quite strange.

Someone explained that “90% of all stamps have no value, how to sell something that has no value? you make a fixed value, that make you forced to make fixed value for all stamps, cat values can be used to trade stamps for stamps, not stamps for something that has actual value.”

That led me to wonder why would catalogues provide a monetary value if stamps had no value? Stamps are bought and sold at auctions with money, so there is a monetary value to a stamp. I am just wondering that if a catalogue says the stamp is worth say $400, why would we say that it is worth only 10-20% of that in the market? Why do catalogues exist in such case?

Well, basically catalogues list indicative prices of “genuine” stamps that can be certified. It is assumed that most of forgeries and so by default every one values them at 10-20% of the catalogue value. What an interesting concept I must say.