I finally got around to disposing of my father’s stamps. After several years of organizing and inventorying off and on, I went to the directory of auction houses on the Stamp Auction Network and sent emails to all of the auctioneers that listed email addresses. (Click here to see the email I sent.) I sent about 40 emails and within a week I got responses back from about twelve of them. In the end I heard from about twenty places which I thought was pretty good.
There weren’t any auction places listed in Seattle (except for Aurora Stamps which is a little storefront in a strip mall in Shoreline on Highway 99 where I got a catalogue once – not a place I was impressed with and besides it didn’t have an email address or functioning web site) so I was dealing with people all across the country. Most of the places that responded said that they would love to sell my stamps and that all I had to do was ship them off. Several places were honest and said that they weren’t interested or that my stuff wasn’t a good fit with their business. I called a few places and traded emails with a couple of others and figured out that:
- The most important thing was to deal with somebody I trusted and could work with because they were all telling me pretty much the same thing
- Some auction places specialize in small expensive lots – others seem to have sales that more closely resemble the stamps I was selling
- Some auction places are a lot bigger and have a lot more sales each year than others – but there isn’t an correlation between size and interest in my “accumulation.”
- The alternatives to auction were private sales arranged by a dealer for a commission or outright sale to a dealer or collector
- My batch of stamps wasn’t particularly attractive for a private or outright sale – although if I was willing to settle for less money that would have been a quicker way to go
- Auction commissions vary from 10% to 20% depending on the size of the auction house and the amount of work they do in preparing the lot and promoting the sale
- A lot of auction houses also charge a 10% buyers commission which would effectively reduce the available proceeds
Here is a link to an email I got from one of the places I didn’t go with that was pretty representative of the response I got to the collection.
I ended up choosing Aldrich Stamps in Phoenix. I transferred the stamps to bankers’ boxes lined with garbage bags, encased them in duct tape, and sent them UPS (all of the auction places I talked to provide insurance for stamps in transit – some of them will pay for inbound shipping.)