When someone close to you passes and you’re sorting through all their old things, or you’re in an antique store, you may come across old correspondence, often with stamps still attached.
The most natural thing in the world would be to wonder if there is any monetary value contained in those old, yellowed envelopes, in the form of the vintage postage. Are old stamps on envelopes worth anything? Well, here’s what you need to know!
Are Old Stamps on Envelopes Worth Anything In 2023?
Old stamps on envelopes may have some value if they meet certain criteria concerning age, condition, and rarity, but for the most part, it is not likely that they are worth much, especially if they’re from after 1960. If you find old stamps and want to know their worth, consider taking them to an expert appraiser in 2023.
To learn more about having stamps appraised, what some of the most valuable stamps to look out for include, and what to do with old stamps (can they be reused?), keep reading below!
How Do You Find the Value of Old Postage Stamps?
So you have found some old postage stamps and you’re wondering: “What are these worth?”
Before you head to the appraiser, there are a few things that stamp collectors – i.e., the people willing to pay the big bucks for old stamps – look for. These are as follows:
- A centered design (unless the stamp derives its value from a printing error, of course)
- Good, if not excellent or superb, condition (a condition less than good isn’t going to be worth any collector’s time)
- Original stamp gum (the glue on the back of the stamp being still intact – meaning the stamp was never used – helps drive up value)
- Rarity (the fewer people who have one particular stamp, the more valuable it can be)
You can begin by doing some of your own detective work, using a site like the World Stamp Identifier website.
Once you have ascertained that you possibly have some stamps with value, you should reach out to an expert appraiser.
They should be qualified by USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) and have up-to-date certification.
You can try www.appraisersassociation.org to find someone in your area (or whose location you can work with).
You will have to pay for the appraisal, and the price can vary.
There is also the option to get your collection assessed by a professional; that could range from the low end of $20 all the way up to the higher end, around $800 or more.
Shop around for appraisers, just the same as you would for any service, to find a price that suits your budget.
The appraiser may, in addition to expertizing your collection, give you a grade, somewhere between 1 and 100.
As you might have guessed, 100 is the best grade. The closer you are to 100, the more you could possibly charge for your collection.
How Do You Know If Your Stamps Are Valuable?
You can’t really know if the stamps you have are valuable unless you do a little research into them and then have them appraised.
Try looking them up on a site like this. If you find that your stamps appear to have potential, consider reaching out to an appraiser.
What Are the Most Valuable Old Stamps?
Would you believe that some stamps are valued at millions of dollars?
Here are some of the most famously valuable old stamps:
- British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta – First sold in 1873, the original price to obtain this stamp was $1.44 (or six shillings).
The stamp was actually printed in 1856, as part of a set of three. However, there is only one extant, and it sold for $9.8 million in 2014.
- Treskilling Yellow – The stamp was supposed to be green, but an error in printing made it yellow in 1855.
The mistake created a rare stamp whose last sale price – $2.3 million – is no longer valid.
That’s because in the two times it has changed hands since that 1996 sale, the price remained undisclosed.
- Mauritius Post Office Stamps – When Britain began its occupation in India in the 1800s, new postage was needed to send mail back to England.
Enter the Mauritius Post Office stamps in 1847, the very first stamps of the British Empire, made outside of Britain.
There are currently just 27 extant; a pair of them sold for $3.83 million in the early 1990s.
Do these sound like anything you might have seen in your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ old shoe boxes?
If so, run – don’t walk – to an appraiser!
What Do You Do With Old Used Stamps?
There isn’t much you can do with old used stamps, especially if they’re not old enough to be of interest to collectors.
Your best bet is to simply toss them with the envelopes they’re stuck to.
But if you’re particularly charitable, you might also consider saving them and donating them to Stamps for the Wounded.
This organization sends stamps and other miscellaneous items associated with stamp collecting to wounded or isolated veterans.
It gets them stamp collecting and engages them in a hobby in order to keep their spirits up.
Can You Go to Jail for Reusing Stamps?
Attempting to reuse stamps that have already gone through the mail system and been delivered to the recipient is technically an attempt of fraud against the Postal Service.
Also, USPS is a federally affiliated agency – so you’d be committing a crime against the federal government.
If you were to attempt it and get caught, you would very likely see jail time, along with a fine.
Old stamps on envelopes are cool to find, but they do not often yield much in terms of value. If you have found some old stamps, though, and you would like to see if they are worth anything, consider researching on your own.
Then, if anything looks promising, consider investing in an expert appraisal to see if your research skills were on the money.