Buying and Selling Stamps
I don't have much experience with traditional auctions, so I can't comment too exactly here.
There are basically two types of "traditional" auction - those that are essentially held at a place, at a time, where most people are present in order to participate, and those that are done by mail.
Auctions by mail have evolved into auctions over the internet as well, in situations where the internet is used to communicate rather than mail or fax. This type of auction - arranged by an auction house or stamp dealer, and where buyers and sellers deal through the auction house rather than directly with each other, and where the auctions occur at specific times, rather than nonstop, is very different to the new type of internet auction which I consider separately.
Some general comments are applicable to both forms of auction. The first is that generally these auctions tend to be for high value stamps only. If you have stamps or sets that are worth less that, say, $10 a piece, then the auction houses are unlikely to be interested in selling them for you.
The next comment is that while pricing is very unpredictable in any sort of auction, good quality stamps seem to generally command good pricing. The flip side to the fact that auctions are only really interested in expensive stamps is that their buyers are also only really interested in expensive stamps, and such buyers tend to be discerning and want only VF or EF grade stamps in excellent condition and with no faults, but if you have such stamps, then the buyers are also often prepared to ignore the Scott values and pay appreciably over the Scott price for material they wish to add to their "high end" collections.
The better auction houses spend a lot of money in promoting their auctions so as to maximise the chance of the material selling at best price, and indeed their success at this is almost taken for granted because selling prices at auction houses are often used as a very important factor in determining the value of a stamp.
One more comment about auctions. It is common for many auctions to charge a fee both to the seller of the stamp and also to the buyer of the stamp. Make sure you understand exactly what will happen to you in either role - if a stamp is sold for, say, $100, make sure you understand exactly how much you will receive if you are the seller and exactly how much you will pay if you are the buyer. The chances are that neither of you will see anything close to $100!
Don't expect bargains at auction houses, but do expect to sell (or buy) at "fair market price" and the main thing that you can expect at auction houses are high quality high value stamps that are often not sold in any other way.
This page last modified on May 15, 2010