Bequeathing A Stamp Collection


There comes a time when all of us, even stamp collectors, must shuffle off this mortal coil.  When this occurs, what happens to our beloved stamp collections will depend, to a great extent, upon what preparations we have made beforehand.

I cannot advise you as to whom should inherit your collection; that is your personal decision.  Nor can I offer any advice on tax considerations or the like; that is something you’ll need to discuss with your accountant, or tax professional.  Finally, I know nothing about drawing up wills and last testaments; you’ll need a qualified attorney for that.

German postage stamp

What I can offer is advice on how you might go about preparing the person or persons inheriting your collection for its continued maintenance or sale.

In an ideal world, you would undoubtedly possess at least one deserving heir or heiress who loves philately as much as you do, who understands and appreciates your collection, and who will lovingly maintain it and add to it until the time comes to pass it on to yet another generation.  If this is your case, then there really isn’t much for you to do at all from a philatelic viewpoint.  Be sure that you have a will drawn up by an attorney that explicitly states who is to get what, and be sure to consult your accountant on tax issues. 

Many of us, though, will leave behind loved ones with little or no interest in stamp collecting.  In this case, it is imperative that we leave some written record of the collection, it’s potential value, and directions on how the collection should be sold.  This may not sound like a great deal of fun, but comes under the heading of, “duty.”


A Written Record

When I say “written record,” what I mean is some sort of inventory, generally describing the collection as a whole and then noting any items of exceptional value.  You should have this for insurance purposes, anyway, so it’s a good thing to do and well worth your time.  Be sure to keep it up to date, and be sure your heirs know where the written record is.  A good idea is to keep one copy in one’s computer, one printed copy with the collection itself, and one printed copy with one’s important papers.

Potential Value

The cruelest thing one can do, even unintentionally, is to mislead one’s loved ones as to the probable value of a stamp collection.  Continually telling your wife that your collection has a “catalog value of ten thousand dollars” will inevitably lead your wife to believe that your collection will sell for ten thousand dollars; something that both you and I know is not the case.  Be brutally honest with yourself and with those around you.  Find out what a stamp dealer would legitimately pay for your collection; share this information with your family; and keep this information with the written records discussed above, amending it as necessary. 

Directions on Selling

As a collector, you may or may not have much experience in selling a stamp collection.  Still, you presumably know more about stamp collecting than your heirs.  In order for them to avoid making a costly mistake, it’s imperative that you leave some information with the collection as to how the collection should be sold.  Have you had a long and happy relationship with a particular stamp dealer whom you trust?  Then write down that dealer’s name and contact information, and keep it with the collection, with a note saying something like, “If this collection should be sold, please consider contacting…”  

If this is not the case, then please review our information on Selling a Stamp Collection.  Determine how your collection might best be sold, and leave a note to that effect.

I hope the information contained herein is useful to you, and that you act upon it.  Your heirs will thank you for your wisdom.