This is a question that a lot of people have when they run into a small collection of stamps. The general rule of thumb is that if money were put into a collection then there might be value. It is very rare, if not impossible, to find a collection of value with no significant amount of money being spent to build it. This means that the person who built the collection would most likely let the beneficiary of the collection know this.
If you have not been told that there is value in the collection, there is another quick check that will give you an idea if the collection has merit. If your collection has the $3, $4 and $5 stamps on this page, and the $1 and $2 stamps on this page, and the stamps are in good condition, the collection is worth a closer look. If these stamps are missing and most of the other stamps on the pages are present, it probably doesn’t have any significant value.
You should use a Scott catalogue to get a general idea of stamp values, but keep in mind that the values listed in Scott are for the very finest stamps and most stamps fall far short of that. If you look on eBay for similar stamps, in general you will see them sell for a fraction of the price listed in Scott. This is because the condition is lacking. The stamp may have faults, have lost its freshness or be poorly centered, among other things.
Try to remember that it is not uncommon for those unaccustomed to using the Scott catalog to mistakenly “find” a rarity or two in their assortment. A general rule that experienced catalog users follow is to automatically assume their stamp can not be rare and to exhaustively search the catalog in an attempt to find the more common variety. This happens more often than you might think, we often receive emails regarding the rare Scott 613 and other sheet waste rarities. It is an easy trap to fall into, but keep in mind that in this case the stamp must be rotary press and perf 11 to be the rare 613. So far, every example we have been asked about was the flat plate stamp, Scott 610.
On the other hand, if you have been made aware that there is some value in the collection, by all means take it to a local stamp dealer and let them make an offer. Keep in mind that they are a business and that their knowledge is the result of thousands of hours of experience.
If you are willing to put in those hours yourself and sell the stamps individually, you will most likely do better, but that assumes you have a lot of free time on your hands. Further, building a library to educate yourself could easily run into the many thousands of dollars, something most dealers have already done.
At the end of the day, 1847USA will help you identify your stamp and from there you must determine the value. Often simply knowing the Scott number will allow you to go to eBay and look for a similar stamp in similar condition and get an idea of its worth.
We hope this helps a little and that even if your stamp doesn’t hold a lot of value to other collectors, it does to you. A price can not be placed on sentiment. Enjoy stamp collecting and get to know your U.S. stamps.
The Scott Specialized Catalogue of U.S. Stamps and Covers
Visit your local library. Most libraries have relatively recent copies of the catalog on the shelf. You may have to take your stamps with you if the catalog is in the reference only section. Recent copies are always available on eBay as well. Try a search using “Scott Specialized” or “Scott Catalog” and you will be surprised at the nominal prices these catalogs bring at auction. For practical purposes, the information in a three year old Scott catalog can be nearly as helpful as the information in a current one.