Robert Murray Stamp Shop, Edinburgh
Established 1977
Retail shop, auctioneers, mail order

Stamps for Dummies
Advice on . . .
Making Email Enquiries about Stamp Values

Most stamp dealers must regularly receive emails from members of the public who are looking for some help in valuing stamps they have. I can only speak for myself, but in many cases we are unable to give an answer that is in any way helpful, without spending so much time explaining things that it becomes a commercial drain to answer such queries.
There is a difficult choice to make, assuming that the dealer would like to be helpful; do they
{a} ignore and delete the message,
{b} answer the enquiry fully, or
{c} give a perfunctory response ?
In many cases, none of these is likely to be a good business proposition.

If you are the enquirer, here are some tips, hints and comments.
1. Never send your enquiry to multiple addresses. It will reduce your chances of getting an answer, and, really, it is quite unfair of you to expect all of these people to give you their time for nothing.
2. Don't attach scanned images that take up lots of file space. Even with an ADSL connection, we've had people send us emails with attachments taking several minutes to view. Very basic scans might be ok, but really you should try to do without them.
3. If your enquiry is about a general mix of stamps, such as a world collection, it is simply not practicable to do this by email. Whenever possible, you should make the effort to find somebody who can look at it for you. Try to find a stamp dealer or auctioneer, or a stamp club, or a collector (this should be an experienced and active philatelist with a grasp of market values). Bear in mind that the vast majority of general collections are of little value.
4. Lists are of little use. An experienced dealer or auctioneer will be able to properly view a general collection almost as fast as they can turn the pages of an album. Lists are much more time-consuming to read through. Also remember that the experienced eye will often pick up useful items such as unusual postmarks or scarce shades, which the owner would probably not list. On the other hand, obvious reprints and forgeries can be dealt with in a moment, rather than finding the stamps on a list but having to comment about the possibility of not being genuine.
5. Be polite !  We get some emails (although thankfully most are civilised and polite) which are blunt and demanding. You can guess what most dealers will do with these !  I would consider "politeness" to include giving your name, and your location.
6. Be honest !  We sometimes get enquiries asking if we have a particular stamp in stock, when in fact the enquirer has one themselves they want to know the value of. They clearly have a preconception that we are not going to tell them the truth otherwise. Just remember that honest questions normally get honest answers.
7. Remember that emails are a great way of having a correspondence made up of a succession of short messages, so it is sometimes worthwhile just making a brief enquiry in the first place, before spending time writing long and detailed messages.

Although the information and advice contained in this article is based on many years' experience as a professional philatelist and collector, no liability can be accepted for any loss or damage, however caused.
  Copyright Robert Murray, 2004.
Robert Murray Stamp Shop
5 & 6 Inverleith Gardens
Scotland EH3 5PU
Tel. 0131 552 1220
Fax. 0131 478 7021
Our Shop
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.