Your Valuation Questions…

We are often asked the same questions about collections for sale. We’ve put together a list of the most commonly asked questions and Andrew’s expert advice.

If you don’t feel that we have answered your question sufficiently, send us an email ( with full details of your collection.

Does how I store my stamps affect the potential value and condition?


My collection is stored in Hawid mounts on self-designed and printed album pages, within clear plastic sleeves in a four hole binder. I have had no problems at all, but when a dealer looked at my collection, he was horrified at the album. He said that I should only use paper that is acid free (I’ve never seen acid-free printer paper), and the plastic sleeves could create mould as there is no airflow. What is your opinion, and has anyone you know experienced any problems with pages in sleeves? Due to my budget, I am reluctant to buy special pages.

Andrew’s advice…

I have indeed heard of this potential issue (and you may not be able to buy acid-free printer paper), but you can definitely buy top-end stamp albums with acid-free paper leaves.

Based upon what you say in terms of budget, it is my belief that acid-free leaves may be an over-reaction. Obviously if you are going to collect high value stamps then it makes sense to want to protect them and house them in the best possible conditions/environment.

To give you an idea, within the past 5 months UPA has purchased a good number of stamp collections from our clients. Two of these collections in particular were purchased for £150,000 and £105,000. These had both been collected over a sustained period of 30-60 years and were not on acid-free paper, neither were they damaged by not being so. In defence of your dealer, these collections include stamps in real value of up to £1,000 each (but not stamps worth say £3,000+ each).

Regarding plastic sleeves… Again, I have seen and experienced the issue of sweating inside the leaves, leading to brown rust/fungal toning on the stamps. In practice, this is rare and usually compounded by the collection being stored in an inhospitable area such as a loft or in the garage (or in extremity, against the outside wall of a house). Of course, if you soak stamps off and re-mount them on leaves without them being 100% dry then that may be asking for trouble…

Finally, Hawid/Prinz mounts do protect, but may not in the most adverse circumstance. Similarly, those incredibly thick stock leaves from the Chinese stockbooks imported in the late 1970’s have something in the glue holding the acetate strips that does succumb to damp and spreads fungal/toning into the paper of stamps housed therein.

How to become more informed about my stamps without paying for a valuation...

One of the most useful tools is the internet, and eBay holds a wealth of information which can be accessed for free! We’ve put together our guidelines for how best to search eBay for information about the stamps you may have collected (or inherited).

How to search eBay…

These guidelines are best suited to Presentation Packs, Year Books and First Day Covers.

1) Click the advanced search link:

2) Enter keywords such as:
• GB + year book
• GB + year pack
• GB + first day cover
• GB + presentation pack
• GB + prestige booklets
• GB + post & go
• GB + PHQ cards

3) From the category drop-down, select Stamps

4) Next, tick the box Complete listings

5) Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Search

6) When presented with the results, you can then refine your search by selecting ‘lowest price first’. In this way you can drill down to see how the worst possible scenario may apply to what you own. It allows you to discover what items actually sell and for how much, so you can deduce how good a market it is.


TIP: If you have a collection of GB Postage, use Google to search for “buy mint stamps for postage”. There is a sub-market for this GB postage material – we pay up to 50% of the face value printed on the stamps (provided total shipments are in excess of £200 face value), and we use such stamps on our commercial mail. It is possible to usually purchase similar material online for up to 25% to 30% below face value.

British Post Office / Royal Mail First Day Covers

Although classic stamps continue to sell well, modern (1960s onwards) First Day Covers do not. Typically you can find collections and/or individual covers offered on eBay selling for as little as 1p each if prices are unreserved but often not selling at all if reserve prices have been set.

We do offer to buy collections of First Day Covers but only if you have sufficient quantity. If you have 400+ First Day Covers and you are in the UK, we can arrange to have your collection picked up (free of charge) from your home or office by courier. Please contact us for details.

Presentation Packs / Mint Postage

If you have MINT DECIMAL stamps, these are still valid for postage. We currently pay up to 50% of the face value of the prices printed on the stamps – as long as the total face value of your stamps exceeds £100.

Some sets/presentation packs sell for more but the problem is that the majority hardly sell at all at good prices because there are so many on the market. However, the mint stamps are still valid for postage.

If you are in the UK, we can arrange to have your collection picked up (free of charge) from your home or office by courier. Please contact us for details. We will ask you to confirm the total face value – please use the current prices for any stamps marked 1st, 2nd or E (visit to see the latest prices).

Old / Childhood Stamp Collection


I have an old/childhood stamp album inherited from a relative, containing hundreds of stamps that I have added to over the years. What do you advise?

Andrew’s advice…

Before a physical assessment, it is fundamental to the process that you take preliminary photos/scans and email them to us for assessment. We will review and advise – not specific value at this stage, but the calibre of what we see and if there is potential.

I have worked full-time in Philately for the past 49 years. My journey into stamps started when I inherited my father’s stamp collection at the age of 10 years. I added stamps to the collection, but with little access to money, my additions failed to add value. Similarly, my father’s childhood collection did not create value either, so the value today of both stamp collections is virtually nothing.

Through the past 49 years of evaluation childhood collections, it has become apparent that (sadly) money goes to money in Philately. If you have spent significant money well at times of purchase, you may have created real value. But if little or no money has been expended over the years, the chance for value will be low.

Therefore, it is necessary for responsible Stamp Dealers and Auctioneers to establish potential for value without incurring cost to the client.

On this basis – I would be grateful if you could:
• Give us a good idea (if possible) of how much money was spent over a period of time to acquire the stamps (and importantly with whom the money was spent)?
• Email up to 5 representative images of what may appear to be the oldest stamps within the collection. Each image should be a well-filled page of stamps, or loose stamps presented neatly (face-up, facing the same way, up to 30 stamps per group image) into an A4 size arrangement.

Please bear in mind that postage stamps fuelled communication for over 150 years before the internet came into existence, so that stamps more than 100 years old were printed and produced in literally hundreds of millions of many designs and denominations. Even the world’s 1st stamp (the famous 1d black, of which 66 million were produced) is possible to purchase online for less than £20 (albeit for a poor quality example – really nice ones sell for hundreds of pounds).

Are my stamps missing colours or faded from sunlight?


During the lockdowns and subsequently I have been busy sorting my stamps out in Albums and from shoe boxes and accommodating them by country and then date order, included within one of the shoe boxes were the 2 stamps attached that had been cut from envelopes that I had acquired.

The two stamps are from South Africa and depict a double collared sunbird. I have scanned them and a copy is attached. Last night our philatelic society held our fortnightly meeting and I showed members these two stamps and they were unable to tell me if one had colours missing or if the “pale” stamp had been left on a window sill and had been bleached by the sun.

I don’t want to go up to the Strand and visit Stanley Gibbons office to make a complete idiot of myself if the stamp has been damaged in some way and is not a rarity.

What do you think from the scan I have sent you? If it is not damage, how should I proceed?

Andrew’s advice…

Thank you. A pleasure to be asked.

I’m afraid I would put money on these two stamps that the paler example has been faded by strong sunlight.

Consider – not one, but at least 3 colours have all changed. Even the brown is paler. The yellow has gone and the vibrant green is a ‘washed’ out blue.

That all colours could have so markedly changed – usually the ‘over-riding’ clue is whether the stamp is MINT or USED (and used is usually the problem).

The ‘integrity’ of mint stamps is protected to an extent, by the gum, which ‘locks’ the stamp in a theoretically more ‘tamper-proof’ form.

The paler stamp is certainly wrong, and the good stamp could effectively be converted to similar status by leaving it exposed directly to strong sunlight over a period of time.

No need for Gibbons this time, I’m confident in this opinion.

One final thought – have you noticed that virtually ALL ‘missing colours’ in the SG catalogues are only catalogued as mint? The above is the reason why (basically the gum of a mint stamp protects against tampering).

I hope this helps in some way.

How often would you see Specimens in the surface printed issue?


It occurs to me that GB Queen Victoria stamps overprinted ‘Specimen’ offer a great option for near mint-like quality at a fraction of the cost. As I consult my recently purchased GB Specialized Catalogue for Queen Victoria, I see that many of the surface printed issues have Specimen overprints like SG152 and SG153.

How often would you see Specimens in the surface printed issue. They would strike me as something I should keep on my radar screen. Your thoughts?

Andrew’s answer…

Yes – SPECIMEN overprint stamps – particularly for Great Britain (and British Empire) Queen Victoria and Kings have long been a wonderful alternative way to collect. ALL the benefit of the original stamp, simply overprinted ‘SPECIMEN’ (or sometimes ‘Cancelled’) for the purpose of distributing advance samples of the original stamp to Post Offices or Postmasters in Overseas Territories / countries so that they recognise the stamps when incoming mail bearing them arrives.

Sometimes, from as little as 10% of catalogue value of the ordinary stamps – and, perversely, equally as scarce as ‘normal’ mint, with many being probably rarer still. These are often (the only affordable) a way also to acquire higher quality / untampered with stamps.

I would definitely keep on your radar …

Sometimes SPECIMEN overprint examples are all that one ever sees of the scarcest stamps … it all depends upon what it is … because SPECIMEN overprints were produced in far smaller amounts than their normal counterparts.

Why are 'SPECIMEN' overprinted stamps often substantially cheaper?


Why are ‘SPECIMEN’ overprinted stamps often substantially cheaper?

Andrew’s answer…

Because most collectors do not consider them. Sometimes these are far rarer than normal unoverprinted issues. Sometimes they do command almost equivalent prices to normal issues: this is generally the case with British Empire stamps overprinted SPECIMEN, because the SPECIMEN overprints were restricted to just 400 sets being distributed internationally.

What are the best reference books for plating GB QV stamps?


I have started to accumulate a collection of GB Victorian and I would like to teach myself how to plate stamps. I recently purchased a collection of 1d imperfs from your auction, some of which are 4 margin, and my intent is create a collection of 4 margin good quality. Being able to plate these would be helpful otherwise I am relying on others (dealers, other auctions) to accurately plate for me.

Would you be able to advise the best reference books for doing so please?

Andrew’s answer…

I would suggest that you try to acquire the Stanley Gibbons ‘Nissen’ Plating the Penny Black volume. It is out of print to my knowledge, but still likely to be located on the internet. Plating 1d blacks with the Nissen book is easy, but you still need a good magnifier (x10 is best for this, and with a light in it).

(You may be tempted to look for/find a copy of Litchfield Plating the 1d. Black – I would suggest that this is now superseded by the above publication – so, for me, this is one to avoid).

Plating 1d red imperfs is something to consider far more carefully, because plates 1 – 11 of 1d red imperfs were produced from the plates used for the 1d black. These can also be plated by using the Nissen book, but plating the other 166 different plates (imperf plates go up to plate 177 from memory) x240 = approximately 40,000 different imperforate 1d red plates including all of the corner letters, is a monumental task – though much/many can be plated if in fine condition.

There are specialist plating books for this purpose – BUT – you need sustained good eyesight for this task and the magnifier. From memory, the specialist plating books cost about £500. This is a task of dedication, because some 1d red imperfs will not be plateable, and not just down to their being too poor quality or postmarks obscuring characteristics…

My advice would be to take the interim step – which you really cannot avoid if you are interested in line engraved (a wonderful study subject) – and that is to buy the (relatively) NEW SG QUEEN VICTORIA Specialised Volume 1 Part 1 – GB Line Engraved. Price New £54.95 – you could probably still order this direct from SG.