Chapter 11
Breaking Up an Album

If you are considering selling individual stamps from an album or individual countries from a world-wide album set, you should read this chapter.


Remember the nineteen categories from the inventory you did in chapter 5? You can treat any of those nineteen categories as individual collections, and you can sell each separately if you like. For example, you might start with the MNH USA sheets, booklets, and coils and experiment with selling just those. This will give you practice, introduce you to Scott numbers, and perhaps let you attend a stamp show or meet a few dealers.

If you are selling your collection, your goal should be to sell it in the most profitable manner in the most reasonable amount of time. Don’t be afraid to split the collection into small homogeneous units and sell each unit in a different way.

Suppose one of the items in those nineteen categories is an album set of some sort. You can sell the album set, as an album set, with everything that happens to be inside. You also can sell individual stamps and/or countries from within the album set. This is what I mean by breaking up the album. You may or may not want to consider this.

Here are some guidelines you need to know:

1. This is going to take time, probably a lot of time. It may take several hours a day for weeks, months, even years. Are you willing to donate that much time? Do you have that much time? What is your family going to think of your spending a lot of time stamp decollecting (a term of my own design!)?

2. If you remove the valuable items from an album, you will leave low-value items. People will often buy the low-value items if they are in the same album with higher-value items, but may not buy the low-value items by themselves. However, if you do remove the high value items, you may still be able to sell the low value items to a different kind of buyer, perhaps someone at a stamp club who is looking for a starter collection.

3. As I have found, there are only a few ways to break up an album: a) become an APS member, and put stamps in circuit books, or b) use the Internet. Choice a) requires you to establish credit worthiness and wait around two months before being able to access their services. Choice b) pretty much requires that you already have a computer and use a service such as eBay.

4. If you pick choice 3a, you will leave a lot of low-value stamps. Unless you want to give them away, you really also need choice 3b.

5. You will generate income if you price your stamps reasonably, but it will take a great deal of time. APS circuit books circulate for 18 months. If it takes you a month to prepare one, that’s 19 months to get your money from it assuming what you put in the circuit book sold. If it didn’t sell, you may have to try again at a lower price.

6. Learning to prepare APS circuit books takes a lot of time in itself. You will need to learn about using a stamp catalog, watermarks, perforations, prices, etc. And then actually putting the stamps into the books takes a lot of time.

7. If you sell an entire album, you gain the advantage of averages. Some stamps are better than others, but you are selling the entire thing for one price so individual stamp differences don’t matter much. If you are selling individual stamps, individual differences do matter. Unless you price each stamp very carefully, people will buy the better stamps and leave you with the less desirable stamps. This means you cannot price easily such as asking 60% SCV for every stamp. Some you may want 100%, and some you may only want 10%. It means you have to spend a lot more time.

(Of course, you can do anything you want. If you want to price everything at 50% of SCV and hope most of it sells, that’s fine too. Just have a strategy for what to do with the remnants.)

8. Keep costs in mind. APS circuit books cost money. So do stamp mounts to put the stamps into the books. Plus there is postage and insurance costs to mail the books to APS. APS charges 2% of the value for insurance, then 30% of what sells as their commission. (They earn every penny of it, too!) If you are dealing with the Internet, you have listing fees and final-value fees.

9. Chapter 16 discusses additional information on APS circuit books. Chapter 15 presents information on selling stamps via the Internet for those of you who might be interested in considering that topic.

10. Other possibilities you might consider are:

Allowing members at a local stamp club to purchase right out of the album at, say, 75% for mint and 60% for used (with stamps in poor condition discounted appropriately).

Taking the higher value material out of the albums for sale to a dealer or at auction. Then sell the rest to a collector.

11. Once you get started on this path of breaking up an album, you are more or less committed to following through. If you sell ten countries out of a world-wide album, that may decrease the salability of the rest of the album set through other means discussed in this book.

Let me relate my personal experiences in breaking up album sets. When I started doing it several years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. (I would have liked to have had a copy of this book back then!) I used a combination of APS circuit books and the Internet.

By my (now educated!) estimates, I could have gotten $x months ago by selling the whole collection at an auction or to a dealer. By breaking up the album sets, I’ll probably get $2x. On the surface, that looks good, twice as much money. However, that is assuming the time I put in on the project is worth nothing. If you count my time, I have been working for well less than the minimum wage.

You are probably not going to pull off breaking up albums if you have a full-time job and/or a family, or if you do not enjoy the detail work of working with stamps. (And if you do enjoy the detail work of working with stamps, perhaps you should keep some of the collection and become an active collector yourself!)