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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Your Stamp Collection Documented?

Recently, we moved to a new house. Then, last week, we took a trip to California to visit family.

These are normal acts people engage in on a regular basis. Moving, and being away made me stop and think about how well (or not) my stamp collections are "documented." What would other people, processing my things, know if something were to happen to me?

If you read philatelic publications-- such as the APS' monthly "American Philatelist"-- it's commonly written that it's important that we collectors remember to insure our stamp collections. There are even companies that specialize in insuring stamp collections. If you have even a moderately "serious" stamp collection, I highly recommend this. Most likely, your homeowner's insurance (unless you have a special rider) will NOT cover the full value of your collection.

But that's not my reason for writing, today.

Both my parents died, a couple of years ago. But even though their "papers" were in immaculate order, they left almost no documentation to actually identify the things of value they left behind. Finding myself "wondering" about some of their artwork made me realize that THIS is exactly how people find "a Picasso painting at a garage sale."

Odds are that unless they happen to be stamp collectors, themselves, you children (or spouse) have no real idea of what your collection is about. They may have the most general idea that your collection is "valuable" to some extent, but what will they do when you die? Will they have the information to sell your stamps for fair market value? In the event you have assembled a specialized collection... would a "general" stamp dealer-- assuming your heirs had the knowledge to contact one-- understand what they were looking at? Will the collection-- which could have paid for a grandchild's college education-- end up with some unknowing dealer who'll offer $5,000 for it? Would anyone (for example) realize that this non-descript Swedish stamp pictured at right carries the only known example of the postmark on it... and would sell for a considerable sum, if properly auctioned, in Sweden?

And so, I have started the process of "documenting" my collections, creating a file of descriptions and information that can serve as an "addendum" to my will.

It doesn't have to be complicated.

A couple of paragraphs to describe your collection, or each of your collections (if you have several). A brief listing of any "highlights" a potential auctioneer or other buyer should be aware of, along with the location of any expert certificates for better items, should you have some. A short list of dealers or stamp auctioneers YOU would entrust your collection to... were you to sell it today... along with their contact information.

Doing this will not only offer you some peace of mind, it will also offer peace of mind to those who-- at some point in the future-- will have to "deal with dad's stamp collection."

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