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

Stamps for Dummies
The Commonest
Misconceptions about Stamp Values

1. That the age of a stamp has a bearing on its value. (= That old stamps are valuable.)  Not true.

2. That stamps of countries "that don't exist anymore" will be of value. Not true.

OK. In a little more detail;

1. That the age of a stamp has a bearing on its value.
Just because a stamp is old doesn't mean that it is of value. The only things (repeat - the only things) that have any bearing on the value of a stamp are supply and demand, as with any commodity. Age only makes a difference when the age has an effect of the supply or on the demand. There have been very many stamps issued since the first in 1840 which have been produced in massive quantities. For example, the famous British Queen Victoria "penny red" was produced in quantities of thousands of millions, and many millions are still in existence.
Age can decrease the supply in that each year a small percentage of the stamps in collections throughout the world are destroyed in fires and floods, or accidentally damaged or thrown away. This means that the number available is very slowly diminishing. On the other hand, every year there are fresh discoveries of old archives and correspondences, or of old hoards of stamps, and these finds although not increasing the number of stamps in existence, do increase the numbers available. (But all of this paragraph applies equally to stamps of whatever age.)
Age can increase the demand for stamps only if there is a popular desire for old things. There is a public liking for old things, but there is also a liking for new and trendy things. On the demand side of the balance, age does make a difference, but it is tiny.

2. That stamps of countries "that don't exist anymore" will be of value.
On the day that the Rhodesian flag came down, and that of Zimbabwe was hoisted, what happened to all the Rhodesian stamps already in existence ?  Did they self-combust ?  No.  Did people go out and dump them ?  No.   .  .  .  The number available after the change was just the same as the number before.  Just because a country has changed its name, or its status, or it has subdivided - or become part of a larger state, the supply of the stamps does not change.
There can be a change in the demand, but this can be for various reasons ("closure" of a country can encourage collectors to seek completion - - - news coverage can raise interest - - - a "new country" might issue stamps which are not attractive to collectors, and hence does not create new collectors looking for the older stamps - - - and so on).

Through my many years of meeting people looking for advice on stamps, these two misconceptions continue to appear. One strange thing is that although people may start with these misplaced ideas, they generally accept very quickly that they are unfounded. There must be some inbuilt human belief (as it doesn't just apply to stamps) that age equals value.


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
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