Stamp Catalogue Prices
Hardly a stamp collector, dealer, or auctioneer in
the world can
go far in their pursuits without coming across and
Collectors quote them at each other. Dealers use
them in price lists.
use them as part of their auction lot descriptions.
could truly explain what "catalogue price" actually
One Saturday I did a very rough calculation based on all stamps sold in our shop during the course of a fairly typical day. As each customer left, I noted the price they had paid for stamps, and estimated the catalogue price of the items they had bought. Over the whole day, it worked out that we had sold stamps at approximately 10% of the catalogue price. However, this included a couple of items for which we had charged virtually the full quoted price, and others which had been sold at less than 1%.
One of the useful aspects of doing business in a retail shop is that it is very easy to demonstrate to visitors how much market prices vary in comparison to catalogue prices.
Why do some stamps cost such a high percentage to buy, yet fetch such a small price when I try to sell ? The most likely reason for this would be the uncertainties of supply and demand. If a dealer is offered a scarce stamp with a high catalogue price, but is not aware of ever having been asked for such a thing, and can't think of any customer who might buy it, it would be unreasonable to expect that dealer to pay much for it; he might take months or years to sell it, or in fact has the risk of never selling it at all. Would he be willing to buy an item, hold it in stock for perhaps several months and then make only a small percentage mark-up on it ? Generally, a low supply/low demand stamp will have a large margin between buying and selling prices; if the dealer sells it quickly, he's scored, but he has to factor in the possibility of a very slow sale.
Prices are always based on the balance between supply and demand, but high supply with high demand, or low supply with low demand, can often come up with the same price.
Prices in auction for some material can also be fickle. High-throughput, standard popular material will not vary too much in price. If it goes a bit low, many people will be willing to bid for it. But if it goes a bit high, everybody knows that they can skip this opportunity, as they will surely get another chance quite soon.
A very unusual yet esoteric item turning up in an auction however could easily go very high or very low. If there are only two people who might want it, the price could still be high, as both know they might never get another chance. Yet the same item turning up with only one serious bidder will probably be cheap.
Catalogue publishers have to take all these factors into account when deciding prices, and it is clearly not always an easy job.
Cost of handling is another
If a stamp is catalogued at 25p, and a dealer has stocks
country and date, they might easily charge 15p or 20p for it.
initial sorting of the stamp, correct filing, and then the
the customer, might eat up 10p to 20p in time and costs, so the
dealer needs to buy such items for next to nothing in order to
profit. The handling costs are virtually the same on a stamp
50p, or £1, or £20, so the profit margins can be
smaller. So, generally, very cheap stamps might cost a high
of catalogue, but can be resold for only a very small
When buying and selling through auction, the selling price as a catalogue percentage should, you would think, be the same, the only difference between one side and the other being the auctioneers charges.
How much difference
make to a stamp ?
The condition of a philatelic item is crucial. A stamp in a lower quality will always sell for a lower price. Generally, commoner/cheaper stamps with faults can be written off as having no value. Why would any collector pay for an item in poor condition, where a nice example can be had for a very low price ? Scarcer stamps can often be sold even if faulty, but the damage will reduce the price - maybe just by 20% or 30%, or maybe by as much as 98% or 99%. All faults will have an effect; tears, thins, creases, stains, short or damaged perforations, cuts, pinholes, scratches, and so on.
But remember this; some of the most valuable stamps in the world are damaged, and yet get tens of thousands of pounds or more - while the very cheapest stamps, even in A1 quality are worth next to nothing. Condition is a very important factor, but not everything hangs on it.
Can I use a formula
calculate the value of my stamp collection ?
Whatever formula you can come up with, even though it might be right in one instance, can be shown to be wrong with many other examples. If ever another collector tells you their method of calculation, ignore it. Professional philatelists, when carrying out valuations (whether for market values, insurance values, or whatever reason), never use a standard formula.
So what use are
catalogue prices ?
They set a point from which discussions can follow. They usually get things right when making simple comparisons to show what is common and what is scarce.
"It doesn't refer to what people have got. It relates to what they want !"
TO BE CONTINUED .......
Murray Stamp Shop
5 & 6 Inverleith Gardens
Scotland EH3 5PU
Tel. 0131 552 1220
Fax. 0131 478 7021
is open five days each week, and customers are always, of course, welcome.
We carry very wide stocks of the whole world - much, much more than is listed on our website.
Full shop information at this link.
Last updated Sunday 22 October 2006. Copyright Robert Murray