Why are old postage stamps so valuable?

Selling stamps: valuation + 11 tips for the best prices

Selling stamps: valuation & tips

If you want to sell stamps, there are a few things to consider. Really valuable treasures can often still be found in estates, in the basement or in the attic. Stamp collecting has many fans around the world who are always on the lookout for new rarities. We'll show you how you can find out whether your stamps are really valuable and on which portals you can make a high profit with them.

Philately: The World of Postage Stamps

Why do so many people collect postage stamps? For passionate collectors, the postal stamps are a piece of unadulterated history in the form of a small work of art on paper. The first official postage stamp existed as early as 1840. Philately, or postage stamp science, refers to the systematic collection of postage stamps and their receipts. Many collectors now see them as a smart investment with great potential for appreciation. Selling stamps can therefore be profitable. The nostalgic following is large and constantly on the lookout for new stamps.

What can I do before I sell my stamps?

Get started selling stamps

If you've inherited or accidentally found a confusing stamp collection and want to sell the stamps, there are a few important tips to keep in mind. The judgment of a connoisseur differs significantly from the judgment of a layperson. For one it seems like an unstoppable accumulation of paper, for another like a profitable treasure trove. The goal is certainly not to compromise the value of the brands and to sell them intact at full price. For this reason, you should definitely pay attention to the following tips. It is not only difficult for laypeople to estimate the value of the stamps, many things can also be done wrong when storing them. If you keep these points in mind, you have nothing to worry about:

  • Do not take the stamps out of the album, this could cause damage that significantly affects the sales value.
  • Don't sort the stamps yourself. If you've inherited stamps from someone, that person is likely to have been more knowledgeable and had a meaningful system in place.
  • Don't throw anything away. The smallest and seemingly insignificant postage stamps can be worth more than it initially appears.
  • Store the stamp collection in a dry place. Moisture destroys their texture and there is a risk of mold growth.
  • Protect the stamps from light, otherwise they threaten to fade.
  • Don't take any steps that could somehow invalidate the stamps. That means: no cutting out and no peeling off of letters. Stamps that are still stuck on entire pieces of letter are often worth more than individual stamps.
  • Blocks with multiple stamps can add value, so do not dismantle these blocks.

11 criteria: How do I recognize valuable stamps?

Selling stamps is of course only worthwhile once a certain value has been reached. This is determined by many different influencing factors. They range from a certain toothing to the stamping, the age and whether the stamp is still on a piece of mail or not. Use whatever information the stamps give you and find out if they could be valuable. You can use the following criteria to determine whether your stamps are worth selling:

Age and quality

The value of a stamp is determined by how rare, how popular and of what quality it is. Age also plays a very important role, because the rule of thumb is: the older, the rarer. Over the years, more and more of these rarities and gains in value disappear, especially if they are still in good condition.

Trends in the stamp market

The popularity and trends of the stamp market are major factors influencing the sale of stamps. Depending on which stamp is currently experiencing the most general demand or which copies are particularly rare, values ​​can skyrocket. As a result, there is now even an investment in postage stamps. In Germany, for example, complete letters with postage stamps that have covered a distance from Germany to China or Africa are currently popular.

Pre-printed albums

If the stamps are in so-called pre-printed albums, you can be sure that it is a slightly higher quality collection. Pre-printed albums are certain scrapbooks with markings. You can also tell from them whether the collection is complete. The more complete it is, the higher its value.

Certificates of Authenticity

Look for certificates of authenticity in your stamp collection. This includes photo certificates, findings, certificates or auction invoices. These certificates are often verified by the Bund Philatelistischer Prüfer (BPP) and indicate a higher value.

Sell ​​stamps in large quantities

Selling stamps in large quantities can also be profitable. Count or estimate the number of stamps before you sell them and compare them to collections from other retailers. So you can roughly estimate your profit. Instead of specifying the number of stamps, you can also specify the number of full scrapbooks. Once you've found a box full of loose stamps, it's common practice to include the weight to attract buyers.

The collection area

The collecting area also plays an important role in the sale of postage stamps. The amounts vary greatly depending on which country your stamps come from. German specimens between 1955 and today are often almost worthless. On the other hand, stamps from overseas (e.g. Asia or Africa) achieve higher profits in Europe. It is always advisable to use international online auction houses in order to find as many potential buyers as possible.


Misprints are in great demand: if you suspect that a spelling mistake, rotated number or wrong color may have been used on a stamp, compare the stamp with its contemporaries. For example, it brought a nine-kreuzer stamp from Baden from 1850 to the German record price of one million euros in the 1980s because it was printed in green instead of pink.

Investigation for damage

Even the smallest damage can make the stamp unusable for the collector. Do you suspect that one of your stamps could be valuable? Take a magnifying glass and examine it for any damage before putting it up for sale. Passionate collectors are very critical here. Especially when letters or numbers can no longer be recognized, this can completely cancel out the original value of the stamp.

Order by country

If the stamp album is sorted by country, there is also an increased chance of a valuable find. Especially if it only contains brands from a single country. If the edges of these stamps are smooth and not serrated, they could be even more valuable.


If you have canceled stamps in your collection, make sure that both the location and the date are legible. This increases the value of both originally expensive and cheap brands. If your stamp is of a type that is even rarer when canceled than it is not, you have a particularly good chance of generating high sales. Whole letters with rare stamps and postmarks are the most popular in the postage market.

Appraisal by elimination process

If you have looked at all the criteria for assessing the value of your stamps, you can certainly rule out some and put them aside. But better not to throw them away, depending on how the trends develop in the stamp market, they too could one day be more valuable. If many people throw away the “worthless” postage stamps, they could one day be rare and coveted.

The so-called first day covers or first day sheets are usually hardly worth anything. They are only a souvenir of the first day of validity of the postage stamp. Put them aside for now and concentrate on the more promising pieces. The only exception that promises a chance of a higher profit is a very old or special first day cover. For example, Conrad Röntgen's first day cover on the 50th anniversary of 1951 is worth a few hundred euros. Such a stroke of luck, however, is rather unlikely.

Sell ​​stamps at online auction houses

Stamp auction at Catawiki

Not only are there a few local auction houses where you can sell your historical antiques such as books, coins and stamps, there are also numerous online platforms offering the option to buy and sell. Probably the best known online auction house is ebay. Here the user can sell his private treasures without any problems. With its high market share, ebay also offers a high potential for buyers, but real collectors are more likely to stay on online expert portals such as Catawiki. The users there are generally willing to spend a higher sum on high-quality postage stamps.

Catawiki is a new international auction channel for antiques that has great potential with around 14 million monthly visitors and 300 weekly auctions. On ebay, where laypeople sell their stamps for free online, one or the other collector will surely smell a bargain to the detriment of the seller. At Catawiki, on the other hand, there are around 200 antiquarian experts who can guarantee a successful purchase among connoisseurs.

Registering and selling stamps on the Catawiki portal is free of charge. In the case of actual sales, as in normal auction houses, there is a commission fee. After you have selected an auction in which you want to auction your stamps, your photos will be checked by the experts and you will be allocated a lot. Rare stamps are often sold here for several hundred euros. Compared to the local auction houses, there is the advantage of a significantly higher number of buyers. With online auction houses such as Catawiki or ebay, this is not restricted to a certain area and international enthusiasts from all over the world increase the chances of a worthwhile sale.

To Catawiki

Tip: If you suspect that one of your stamps could be particularly valuable, just keep an eye on some of the auctions on Catawiki. This will give you a feel for selling stamps and improve your chances of success.

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