Setting Used Stamp Values

It has been asked many times – “How do the wholesale dealers handling used new issues arrive at their wholesale valuations, which are passed on to the collectors via the retailers?”

Many factors are given consideration in arriving at these values. Some of these factors are: number of stamps issued, popularity of the stamp-issuing country, face value of the stamps, usage, appearance and appeal. There also may be special factors that must be given consideration but basically it all simmers down to supply and potential demand.

The number of stamps issued is important in conjunction with the popularity of the stamp-issuing country. If a country such as Nicaragua, Salvador, Honduras were to issue a stamp with a quantity of 10 million (which they never have) the stamp would sell for 10 cents a hundred within six months after the emission and stay at this level, whereas if a U.S. stamp is issued in such a quantity it would sell between $2.50 and $3 a hundred and have an excellent future for enhancement in value (such as the 10-cent Famous Americans). Recent commemoratives issued by Dominican Republic which are attractive and fairly popular, which have an issue of 1 million, seem to settle to a level of 75 cents to $1 per 100. On the other hand the recent Argentine single value commemoratives have an issue of 20 million and seem to eventually sell between 50 cents and 60 cents per 100. Compare this latter with our 5-cent Famous Americans, with the same quantity issued. Each country requires separate study and experience.

Face value has considerable bearing on the value set on stamps. Naturally, low face value stamps have greater usage than high face value stamps. In considering the market value of the small British Colonies, face value receives important consideration. These stamps are worth about the same used or mint and the face is the yardstick. Actually, postally used stamps from some of these colonies should be worth more than the unused because the mint can be bought from the Crown Agencies whereas postally used stamps are elusive, due to the small populations and limited commerce. High face value stamps of the Latin American countries are scarcer in the country of origin because nearly all of them are sent out of the country. When just issued (unless of limited issue) these stamps usually bring their highest prices. As the use is extended these stamps accumulate in the stocks of wholesalers but just as soon as the issue becomes obsolete, the stocks evaporate through distribution. (Witness - Venezuela C62, C63, C77, C113; Peru C34, C36, C38, C39 and many others). The Scott catalogue prices some of these ridiculously low. (Curious to know how Mr. Hugh Clark arrived at his valuation for the current 20-peso Argentine stamp, face $5.60.)

Another point to be considered in valuing stamps is the odd face values. Many countries issue stamps for short distances or for particular purposes. These have a limited use and hardly come to this country. The catalogue is very deficient in this respect and nearly any net price list issued by the specialist firms who study these things and actually deal in stamps is more accurate. The catalogue has a tendency to value these on a face basis. This would be comparable to the hypothetical situation where the 20-cent U.S. Presidential would be priced higher than the 19-cent value because the face is higher. It seems ridiculous yet such is the case with many foreign stamps. It is not unusual to receive orders from the countries of origin, offering to pay full catalogue and more for certain stamps. The dealer who prices new issues must be cognizant of these odd-values.

The factor of usage of a stamp issue is important when it has a bearing on demand. Used airmails enjoy a steady demand. These stamps appeal to all general collectors and especially to the air-post specialists and dealers who carry comprehensive stocks. Nearly all used airs are persistently in demand. On the other hand, even if they are rare, Latin American dues and parcel post stamps are slow and the same applies to nearly all semi-postals.

Appearance is a very important factor in relation to demand. Good-looking cheap and medium grade stamps are always in demand. Stamps bearing ships, animals, sport figures, religious effigies, maps, etc., appeal to special groups. Appearance diminishes in importance the more a stamp is worth. Higher priced stamps are bought to complete sets, stock or for their rareness. Most of the rare stamps are ugly!!

Temporarily, normal values may be disturbed by speculators but where this has occurred the values have a tendency to correct themselves in time. Sometimes unusual circumstances may disrupt normal values - such as a successful political upheaval which may cause the withdrawal of certain issues because the portraits or scenes may be offensive to the new powers. Issues may be demonetized or canceled to order. Stamps may be reissued or reprinted with mercenary motives in the background. Another factor that may change values is war. Due to the war, normal postal service has ceased with Hong Kong, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and the Straits Settlements. Concurrent with the cessation of supplies a terrific demand has set in. There has been a great demand for other war-torn and stamp-issuing identities [sic]. This has not affected the Western Hemisphere.

All the factors mentioned here should be also borne in mind by the retail dealer in making his purchases and pricing his stock.