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Coin Dealer (me) needs a little help with stamps, FDC's & postcards

UtahCoinUtahCoin Posts: 5,341 ✭✭✭✭✭

Hello from the U.S. Coin Forum!
You guys have probably heard this a thousand times.... My Dad died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 92. Yep, you guessed it, I inherited his stamp collection. Thousands of U.S. stamps, cancelled and un-canceled from as far back as the 1870's. Hundreds of FDC's, both with and without cachets. Hundreds of Plate Blocks (4 & 6 stamps), Postal Stationary, and Postcards. Most of the stuff is from the 1930's and 40's, with a lot of the postcards from about 1905 to the 1940's. I realize that a lot of these stamps are only worth face value and that's ok. I just want to make sure there isn't something in there that I can retire on.

I've found several stamp websites, but I'm looking for suggestions as to the better websites for identification.
I've attached some images (just a random sampling) to give an idea of what I've got.
Thanks for any guidance!


I used to be somebody, now I'm just a coin collector.
Recipient of the coveted "You Suck" award, April 2009 for cherrypicking a 1833 CBHD LM-5, and April 2022 for a 1835 LM-12, and again in Aug 2012 for picking off a 1952 FS-902.


  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 23,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My understanding is that both plate block collecting and first day cover collecting have cratered in recent years. Hand painted/drawn cachets are an exception - they still have a market. The first flight material I never became involved with so I don't know if anyone cares about them anymore (they were once quite popular.)

    Pictorial post cards are a different hobby. Some of those could have value but you will have to be willing to spend some time learning the hobby if you really want to do well with what you have. Subject matter is critical.

    So far as the postage stamps go, check with your local library and see if the have a copy of Scott's US Specialized Catalog.
    This will give you at least an idea of what may have value. Condition will be critical. Stamps with faults of any kind will be very heavily discounted.

    Check any 19th century material closely. High grade stamps from that period should be an easy sell.

    Good luck!

    All glory is fleeting.
  • WoodenJeffersonWoodenJefferson Posts: 6,491 ✭✭✭✭

    All neat items, but nothing of any real value jumped out at me. The 1939 FDC have a few dollars in value as do the Special Delivery/Certified back of the book plate blocks.

    Chat Board Lingo

    "Keep your malarkey filter in good operating order" -Walter Breen
  • DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 3,416 ✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for sharing the pics - - some really cool ones!! Especially the one from SF-1915 & the Army/Christmas ones.

    I'd think the picture from Nazi Germany with the Hindenberg would have at least additional historical significance, if not monetary value as well. It sure caught my eye!

    Good luck sorting thru & valuing everything!

  • Was your father employed by Pan Am?

  • hatchethatchet Posts: 54 ✭✭✭
    edited December 13, 2018 8:37PM

    First let me point out that when I say postal card, I mean cards printed by/for postal authorities with pre-printed postage on the card, and post card means a card made without postage, to which a person would apply a stamp.

    Knowing which are worth more (sometimes much more) than others may require more deeper knowledge and examination. The items that are worth more are often that way because of minor plate flaw or other quirks of their making that set them apart from the bulk of the same issue. Errors during manufacture are collected, and often significantly more valuable than the regular item. It's not unlike coins in that respect. For example, I have two copies of the first US airmail postal card. One has a catalog value of 60 cents. The other has a catalog value of $250 because the imprinted stamp is a darker shade of red. For envelopes and postal cards with pre-printed stamps, there are catalogs available from the United Postal Stationery Society that list the different variants of each item along with a catalog value. They are much more detailed than the Scott catalogs. Generally, prices on the street are often 50-75% of catalog value. Postal stationery is actively collected.

    The Lincoln postal card you show has a catalog value of 65 cents. The McKinley card has a CV of $2.25 (because it's unused and not mint), and $6.00 if it were mint. If you have the McKinley card where he is looking towards you instead of in profile, those are worth thousands of dollars. The 2cent mint envelope is complex, with many variants, with the CV ranging from 75 cents to $150 depending on which variant it is (involving printing plate details, paper watermark, color, etc.). Each item needs to be inspected individually, and sometimes quite closely to determine true value if hoping to find the valuable pieces.

    In general, items such as first day covers, first flight covers, i.e. items made for collectors (philatelic covers) are often worth less than genuinely postally used items, when you're talking about used cards, envelopes, and covers. Depending on the item, sometimes mint condition is the most valuable, and sometimes it's the complete reverse, where mint is worth little, but used is worth much more. Old pre-territory/state Hawaiian postal cards, and US Canal Zone cards for instance are often worth several times more used, rather than mint, with an additional premium if the destination was an unusual place. But for USA postal cards, it's the reverse, with mint cards usually worth much more than used. However, for old used USA postal cards there can be a very significant premium if the postmarked date is the earliest known date, and just being near the early date can add a premium. Early USA postal cards for international use (they'll have "Universal Postal Union" on the card) are usually worth more than the regular postal card from that period. For covers with stamps, unusual destinations can add a premium, and enclosures (letter inside) can add value, especially if historically interesting.

    Some of the things you pictured are interesting, and I suspect it would be worth having someone knowledgeable have a closer look at the collection if you want to avoid letting go something valuable for far less than it's worth. But don't be surprised if many of the items have very small values.

    I don't know much about picture post cards, as it's a different sort of collectible, although they seem to have their own following.

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