Stamp Auctions

When deciding how to sell, stamp auctions are an important option to consider.

We'll get to online auctions (such as ebay) elsewhere but, here, we're talking about attending in person, though these are usually open to online bidders as well.

For an example of a high quality stamp auction, check out Alan Blair Stamps and Auctions in Richmond, VA by clicking on the highlighted link (will open in a new window) and below is an example of a crop of the cover of one of their mail catalogs).


There are many dozens of companies that hold sales on a regular basis located all over the country. There are high-end, rare stamp auction houses offering some of the rarest and highest value stamps ever produced.

Some of these companies have been around for nearly a hundred years and their names are synonymous with some of the great rarities and named sales of the past century. Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries is probably the most well known but there are a handful of others that also specialize in the rarest of stamps.

If you are trying to sell extremely valuable stamps in the $5,000 with total stamp collection values into the millions of dollars then using a top auction house is an absolute must. They have unique access to the high net worth collectors that can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars without a second thought...not a bad position to be in, right?

Now, there are many smaller scale auction houses throughout the country that can make sense for stamp collections in the $50 to few thousand dollar range. These auction houses are scattered throughout the country and it may take some research to find the closest one. With a phone call you can find out if they travel to view collections and can talk to the proprietor about their terms and conditions and see if selling your stamps or collection through an auction house is right for you.


Stamp Auction Pros and Cons

1. There is little effort or time required of you. The big benefit of any auction house is that they will take your collection, identify it's contents, determine the best way to sell it (in pieces or as a single unit), market the sale, sell your stamps and then later send you a check. That means little work on your part though you do pay for that service - both with selling fees and a delay in receiving your money after the sale.

2. Both the buyer and seller pay auction fees. The industry standard is 15% on both sides of the purchase goes to the auction house. Here's an example that should help show exactly what this means for you.

  • A buyer wins your auction lot with a bid of $100
  • The buyer actually pays $115 after a 15% commission
  • The seller receives $85 after the 15% commission
  • The net result is $85 for you, $30 for the auction house, and the buyer pays $115

3. You won't receive your money immediately. Once you send your stamps to an auction house they have to identify and describe the collection which takes time and is in line with all the other collections to be sold.

Assuming there aren't any delay, it will still take 1+ months on average until the sale occurs. After the sale most auction houses send out payments 45 to 90 days after the sale depending on their terms and conditions. You'll usually receive your money at least a few months after delivering your items to the auction house.

A worst case scenario is having items not sell or some other issue that delays you to the next auction. As most auction houses hold auctions only every few months, this sort of delay can mean you won't receive your money for 6 to 12 months after providing them with your stamps. This is not the norm but you should understand the worst case scenario.

4. Stamp Auctions depend on bidders to drive the price higher so there is a lot of variance in realized prices. Similar to online auctions, in-person auctions can result in items being sold for much more or less than it's 'true' value. In the long run this averages out but if you're only selling a few items this can be very good or very bad for you.

Best case, your sales are very high because a bidding war breaks out between 2 potential buyers. Worst case, your items don't sell at all or sell for much less than expected because, for whatever reason, the bidders just weren't there.

5. The English method of auctioning (aka Open Sale) is the norm. Most companies sell using this format which basically means a minimum opening price starts the bidding and the sale price is the last bid offered.

This simple format can result in bidding wars if buyers get emotional about the items or winning. The emotional allure of winning is why it makes a lot of sense to use auctions for the rare and scarce stamps that may not come up for sale again for years or decades.

The downside of this method is that an English auction won't, on average, result in bidders making their maximum bid as you would get in Second-Highest-Price-Sealed-Bid Auction (commonly referred to as a Vickrey Auction). I won't go into the Vickrey method but a modern example is most Google advertising which is priced using this method.

There are really companies that only auction stamps?

One interesting thing about the philatelic auction community is that there aren't many 'generalist' companies that also run stamp sales. The vast majority of stamp auctions are run by companies that only sell stamps.

Collectors have reinforced this setup with their bidding behavior. About 5 years ago the largest and most successful auction company in the world, Heritage Auctions, entered the stamp market. Even with their scale and expertise in selling and marketing collectibles, Heritage was unable to make inroads into the market. They shut down their stamp division within 2 years.

Stamp auctions can be a great resource for selling your stamps but it is important to understand the pros and cons in order to make the decision that is best for you.

In summary, if you have valuable stamps or just want to sell your stamps with minimal effort a stamp auction may be right for you. If you care more about receiving the absolute highest price, receiving your money quickly or just want to be more involved in the sale of your stamps then stamp auctions are probably not the best option for you.

Return to the Stamp Collecting Values page, from this Stamp Auctions page by clicking the links.

Stamp Values for a Stamp Collection, Old Stamps and Current Rate Stamps
Stamp Values for a Stamp Collection, Old Stamps and Current Rate Stamps
Stamp Auctions - When should you sell your stamp collection through an auction?
Stamp Auctions - When should you use an auction house to sell your stamp collection?
Custom Postage Stamps - Design your own Stamp and Personalize your Mail
Custom Postage Stamps - Design your own Stamp and Personalize your Mail
Postage Stamp Picture Gallery - Photos of Early US and Worldwide Stamps
Postage Stamp Picture Gallery. Photos of Early US and Worldwide Stamps
How to Sell Stamps : Stamp Auctions, Stamp Dealers, Online Auctions, and more!
How to Sell Stamps - From selling an inherited stamp collection to becoming a stamp dealer.
US Stamps - a philatelic history of famous and rare stamps
US Stamps - a philatelic history of the famous and rare stamps of the United States.
Stamp Collecting Blog
This Stamp Collecting Blog keeps you up to date on additions to the stamp-collecting-resource.com Web site. Subscribe here!
Stamp Collecting Albums - The final destination for many stamps
Stamp Collecting Albums : The Final Destination for many Stamps.
Stamp Collecting Supplies - Albums, Pages, Tongs, etc.
Stamp Collecting Supplies - Albums, Pages, Tongs and all the supplies of the hobby
Forever Stamp Pictures
Forever Stamp Pictures - Recent Commemorative Stamp Designs
Stamp Clubs and Societies - What are they all about?
Stamp Clubs and Societies - What are they all about?
Stamp Collecting Resource SiteSearch
Stamp Collecting Resource SiteSearch - Google this site or the entire web
Stamp Collecting Links
Stamp Collecting Links
First Day Covers
First Day Covers. Collecting stamps used the first day it is released is what FDCs are all about.
US Postage Stamps : A Primer on Stamps, old and new.
US Postage Stamps - Rare stamps to modern US Postal Service issues.
Buy Stamps : A How-To Guide for Collectors and Investors
Buy Stamps - How to Purchase Stamps as a Hobby or Investment
Topical Stamp Collecting
Topical Stamp Collecting is booming and with good reason!
Contact Me!
Contact Me! Enter a private message here.
Stamp Stories - Rare and Unusual with Pictures and History
Stamp Stories - Rare and Unusual with Pictures and History

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