Are Old Stamps Worth Money? (Types, Features, Worth & More)

Ever wondered why exactly people collect old stamps? What exactly do they love about these printed small papers with faded prints? Well, such old stamps have historical art, cultural designs & government-authorized marks! But are they worth your money?

In Jan 2023, the Smyth County News quoted that a simple Marion stamp, bought for 5 cents, was sold for $10,500 at a New York auction. So, yes! Old stamps can be worth a lot!

But finding out the value of old stamps is tricky! People often fail to appraise them rightly and sometimes even tear them mindlessly. I bet you don’t want to do that, do you? So use this value guide to spot & value all such unique, worth-investing stamps!

Key Takeaways

  • Original, unused, or mint-condition stamps are 10 – 12 times more valuable than used, hinged ones, often priced between $300 – 9,000.
  • Among the five main types of old stamps, the official, revenue & airmail ones cost more due to their national emblems, receipts & tax marks.
  • Besides the national & leadership stamps, even the natural, cultural & historical stamps are worth $9,000 in mint condition.
  • Old stamps with perforated or straight edges are old & worth $4,000 – 12,000 more than the new, die-cut ones.

What Features Make Old Stamps Collectible & Worth Your Money?

Vintage stamps with aged & faded colors, hinged marks, and cuts are worth $1,000 – 6,000. But your stamps might be rare & more valuable if they have the following features:

  • Perforations and hidden or light-sensitive watermarks along the edges
  • Hand-beaten linen or rag-paper surfaces
  • Average or eccentric centering
  • Original, intact gum and space fillers
  • Maker errors – inverted colors, double impressions & blunt edges
  • Printed monarch, anniversary, national, presidential, or charity designs

Who Made the First Postage Stamps & When?

Sir Rowland Hill made the first postage stamp, the ‘Penny Hill,’ in 1840 Britain. But before that, there were crude Henry Bishop’s seals in the London Post Office. It’s just that they used ink or a stamp pad that wasn’t portable. So, people stopped using them by the 1800s.

Then, in the 1850s, Sir Rowland switched to perforations and added self-adhesive or cased stamps as per the national postage. These stamps also had colored borders, portraits, and historical scenes, such as the Mauritius stamp, worth $12,790,600.

During the 1900s, the makers focused on newer holographic, flexographic & digital stamp prints. These have better colors, textures, themes & watermarks, but they won’t be worth more than $300 due to their standard, tourism-like designs.

5 Types of Old Stamps Based on Their Use & Worth

Apart from regular postal stamps, makers issued some valuable anniversary, birthday, or national stamps leading to the five types below:

Vintage Stamp TypesCollectible FeaturesPopular ExamplesEstimated Value (Mint Condition)Estimated Value (Used Stamp)
Commemorative StampsSmall circular, triangular, or rectangular stamps with sketched portraits or landscapes to honor any specific person, place, or objectPenny Black, Apollo 11 & Beijing Winter Olympics stamp$5 – 1,000 (an entire set might cost up to $4,000)$0.6 – 500 (a complete set might cost up to $2,000)
Official StampsSimple, silk paper stamps with perforated edges, national emblems, and leader, president, or monarch portraits3-cent George Washington Stamp, Red Lion stamp & Gandhi 10-rupee stamp$300 – 8,500$5 – 2,500
Postage StampsPerforated or grooved letter stamps having illustrated cultural, monument, or national holiday designsBritish Guiana stamp, Inverted Jenny & the 1893 transcontinental railroad stamp$150 – 1,000Worth their face value from $1 – 300
Airmail StampsPrinted paper, silk, or linen stamps with letterpressed planes or aviation designs & stamped ‘AIR POST’ or ‘POSTA AEREA’ symbolsUS 24-cent Airmail Stamp, Graf Zeppelin & British Comet$400 – 1,400 $50 – 600 (a 3-stamp set might value up to $1,700)
Revenue StampsSimple yet denominated stamps with original fee, tax, or service receipts and a cancellation mark to avoid reuseBlack Eagle Revenue stamp, 1868 5-cent stamp & the Inverted Jenny$300 – 4,800$1 – 400

5 Easy Vintage Stamp Identification & Valuation Factors

Now, let’s see how different factors like age, marks & grades help you identify if your old stamp is worth the money or not:

1. Antique Stamp’s Age & Minting Location

Old post stamps might not have dates, but they do have printed or embossed minting marks hinting at their printing era. For instance, the 1840s stamps are mainly from Britain & America, while the 1850s ones trace back to India & Canada.

And, of course, they all used a different paper & pattern that affects their worth even today! Let’s see how!

Antique Stamp YearsAgeOld & Collectible FeaturesLocationAverage Value(Mint Stamps)Average Value(Used Stamps)
1840s174 – 183 yearsEmbossed or hand-marked stamps with original portraits of Queen Victoria, Benjamin Franklin or George WashingtonUnited Kingdom & United States of America$2,500 – 17,000$10 – 750
1850s164 – 173 yearsBrass-cased or linen-printed stamps with local postmaster, national or regional emblems, and natural or landscape designsCanada, Australia, Russia & India$500 – 9,000$5 – 500
1870s144 – 153 yearsSimple, penny-post stamps with embossed grills (embossed patterns for cancellation ink), historical scenes & artistic printsJapan & China$300 – 7,000$5 – 450
1880s134 – 143 yearsPerforated 0.8 – 1” stamps with colored American culture & natural designs like the landing of Columbus, Boston Tea Party, etc.Worldwide$250 – 4,500$1 – 300
1900s100 – 123 yearsHolographic or digital stamps with standard pan-American designs, grooved edges, woven or laid paper surfaces & electronic bar codesWorldwide$200 – 3,500$0.5 – 150

Try to get unhinged stamps, i.e the ones without any back sticker or label, as those cost more due to their aged gum & print.

2. Vintage Stamp Prints

Old Stamps with Different Prints & Patterns

If your old stamp has simple natural motifs, it might be an old & hand-pressed stamp from the early 1840s. But if it highlights any leader or national portraits, emblems, or flags, it might be a rare stamp worth 2,000 – 11,000. And if it has cars & ships, it might be a new, post-1850s stamp!

Let’s check how such different stamp patterns affect its worth below:

Vintage Stamp PrintsEstimated Price of Mint StampsEstimated Price of Used Stamps
Portraits – Kings, Queens, Leaders & Monarchs$2,000 – 11,000$5 – 5,500
Historical Events & Treaties$500 – 3,500$0.5 – 400
Cultural dances, emblems & Symbols$1,000 – 3,000$80 – 2,500
Natural Flora & Fauna$2,000 – 17,500$50 – 3,500
Trains, Ships & Cars$600 – 7,000$10 – 2,000
Architectural Buildings & Palaces$500 – 9,000$50 – 4,500
Olympic Games & Sports$200 – 3,000$1 – 1,000

3. Old Stamp Grades

An old stamp’s grade or condition tells you if your old stamp is still collectible or not. So, observe the surfaces of your stamp and note all the defects – warping, sticky gum, mold, or fading prints on its surfaces. Once done, refer to the comparison chart below to know its grade & value.

Antique Stamp GradesVisual TraitsAverage Cost
Gem Uncirculated (GU)Unused, no defects – warping, fading, discoloration, or ruffled edges & intact, non-sticky gum$500 – 11,000
Superb Uncirculated (SU)Unused, slight discoloration & faded or chipped gum$10 – 6,000
Extremely Fine (XF)Used, slightly torn or discolored stamps with hinges, back labels, or double-exposed lettering$10 – 2,450
Very Fine (VF)Intact prints, but might have large tears & faded colors$5 – 1,500
Good (G)Used stamps with missing pieces and ruffled edges but intact prints, visible letters & marks$0.5 – 500

If your used collectible stamp is attached to an old common envelope, remove it by soaking it in warm water & mild soap solution. But if the envelope has official stamps or leader signs, avoid removing the stamp as it might devalue it.

4. Vintage Stamp Edges

Antique One-cent Stamp with a Perforated Edge

You all might associate old post stamps with the typical straight or plain edges. But old post stamps weren’t this simple; they had many edge designs like die-cut, perforated, etc.

Let’s analyze different stamp edges to know your stamp’s worth:

Vintage Stamp EdgesHow to Identify Them? Estimated Cost (Mint Stamps)
Perforated EdgesSmall, circular & punched holes along the outer edge$2,000 – 15,000
Imperforated EdgesStraight, simple & ruffled edges$1,000 – 7,000
Rouletted EdgesStraight & boxed cuts, more like c-shaped channels next to each other$200 – 3,000
Die-cut EdgesCurved, s-shaped edges with a tapering point at the corners$100 – 1,500

5. Old Stamp Colors

Did you know that old stamps from different eras have different colors? For instance, the earliest 1840s stamps used plain white or black papers. But, by the 1850s, post offices were using red, blue, gold & green stamps!

So, let’s check the worth of all such colored stamps!

Old Stamp ColorsAverage Cost (Mint Condition)Average Cost (Used)
White, Black, Gray$300 – 12,000 as per the patterns$20 – 450, official presidential stamps might cost up to $6,000
Orange & Brown$500 – 10,000$10 – 300, stamped George Washington stamps value up to $2,500
Blue, Green & Purple$300 – 7,500$1 – 200, official stamps might cost up to $1,000
Red & Golden$150 – 3,000$0.5 – 200

Top 6 Rarest & Most Expensive Stamps for Every Stamp Collector

Now that you know the worth of common, easy-to-collect stamps, it’s time to check out the rare or celebrity-owned stamps that fetched millions because of their history & labels:

Rare & Expensive Post StampsUnique FeaturesFace ValueLast Resale Value
Inverted Jenny StampHistorical world-war motifs with a rare, inverted plane error and original ink marks24 cents$1,631,700
Mauritius Post Office StampsOne of the first foreign-made stamps with British designs & a limited make of 27 stamps1 penny$12,790,600
British Guiana 1-cent MagentaA single-piece hexagonal stamp from Britain’s Royal Philatelic Collection1 cent$11,628,700
Benjamin Franklin Z-grillRare, perforated stamp with horizontal, z-shaped grooves & a limited make of 2 pieces worldwide1 cent$4,451,000
Swedish Treskilling YellowYellow & misprinted stamps with superior perforated edges & royal crown designs3 skilling$4,248,000
Red Revenue StampSmall, bright red stamps with a limited make of 32 pieces, small and illegible text & perforated edges1 dollar$1,107,300

How Do You Handle Old Stamps?

Avoid handling or peeling old stamps with your hands directly. Instead, use a pair of pointed tweezers to reduce tearing & oil stains. Also, keep your stamps in an enclosed plastic album to keep them safe from mold & discoloration.

Does a Post Office Buy Back Stamps?

No, a post office doesn’t buy back old stamps but allows you to exchange them for new & trendy stamps of the same worth. However, you can sell your stamps on online platforms like eBay, Etsy & Sotheby’s in exchange for money.

Which is the Rarest Stamp in the World?

A hexagonal British Guiana 1c magenta stamp, with only one recorded copy worldwide, is the rarest stamp to date, valued at over 11 million dollars!

Apart from the rare designs and portraits, the early 1840s minting, errors, and limited edition catalogs make old stamps worth the money today! And it’s not the case with stamps alone; these 23 rare old coins are worth collecting for their unique mint marks and historical significance!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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