1. I just inherited a collection. What do I do with it?
For those that have just inherited a collection there are a few options that you can pursue. The first of course is to decide if you want to start collecting stamps. If you are not interested in collecting you should first determine the value of the collection to see if it is worth anything. Collections vary widely depending on the the collector. Some people collect stamps for fun, while for others it is a serious hobby or a way to invest money. This of course means that collections can be worth anything from a few dollars to tens of thousands. Once you have a general idea of the collections worth you should then determine if any of the items in the collection need certification. Stamps that justify certification are items that are extremely rare, or are in a condition that that renders them more valuable with with a certificate. If you are uncertain if a particular stamp needs a certificae you can scan the stamp and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with an initial consultation as to whether it should be submitted.
2. How do I know how much my stamp is worth?
The best way to get a stamp or a collection of stamps valued is to take them to a stamp show. Why a stamp show? Because this is the best place to find a wide array of stamp dealers in one location. You can search the online for local stamp shows in your area. Our suggestion would be to start with the American Philatelic Society website and check out their show schedule. If you do not find a show there you can always try a search engine which may provide you with smaller local shows. If you can not find a show near you the next best thing is to find a local stamp dealer. If you are looking for a dealer start with the American Stamp Dealers Association website and again if you can not find one there try searching either online or your local phone book. You can also scan the item and e-mail the picture to us at email@example.com where we will help identify the stamp.
3. Do you buy stamps?
Professional Stamp Experts does not buy or sell stamps. We are a third party authentication and grading service. We do however provide services for several dealers throughout the country and if you are having trouble we can provide you with some recommendations.
4. How do I sell my stamps?
Once you have found a value for your stamp or collection and have certified all the stamps that would benefit from the service you can again look for shows or local dealers that may be interested in buying them. Do not be offended when a dealer offers you a price lower than the stamps catalog or graded value. These prices are meant to be general retail prices and if you are selling to a dealer they are paying a wholesale price for the items since they have to turn around and try and sell them. The other options you can go with is either contacting an auction house to see if they are interested in putting your items in an auction or becoming the dealer yourself and listing the stamps for sale on a site such as Ebay.
5. How do I know if I need a certificate?
You want to get items certified that will either help their saleability or increase their value. Some items are hard to identify as often the same design was used multiple times and one variety of the design may be rare or expensive. Usually a certificate is required for these items to ensure proper identification. On the other hand if you have a less expensive stamp that is in very good condition its value may benefit from a graded certificate. As a general rule PSE feels that most stamps with a catalog value over $300.00 may benefit from a certificate, and items under that could benefit from being graded if they are in good enough condition.
There are a couple of ways to get a submission form. The first and easiest way is to download a submission form from our website. You can download one HERE. The other way to get a submission form is to call our office or send us an e-mail to request one. Submission forms are provided to you at no cost and are mailed the next business day.
2. How do I fill out the submission form?
Though the submission form may seem daunting at first it is pretty easy once you get used to it. You need to fill out your mailing address and contact information, The type of service you are requesting, the information on the stamps that you are sending, method of payment, return shipping information, and finally sign the form. More detailed instructions can be found on our submissions page HERE.
3. How do I get my items to you?
There are four ways to get your stamps to PSE. The most common method is through the USPS to our P.O. box. We also accept Fedex at our local Fedex location. These addresses are located on our contact page HERE. We also accept drop offs at our office or at any shows that we may be attending. Please see our show schedule for a list of shows that PSE will be attending.
4. How much does it cost?
The cost of services are dependent on the era of the stamps that you are submitting and the current Scott catalog value. PSE has three service levels Regular, Economy, and Modern starting at $30.00, $20.00, and $10.00 respectively. The fees are calculated at 5% of the Scott catalog value to a maximum fee of $600.00 dollars. Specialized items have a starting cost of $40.00. A complete breakdown of our fees can be found on our Services page HERE. Prices are not grade dependent. A lower or higher grade on a certificate does not affect the price of the service.
5. How long does it take?
We strive to keep our turn around time at 30 days or less, however there are certain items that can take more time. All of our services, except specialized, have the availability of priority service. Priority service has an additional cost of $20.00 per item submitted and has a guaranteed turn around of 15 days.
PSE offers three types of service for authentication. Items can be submitted for ungraded or graded certificates as well as encapsulation. The only exception being modern stamps which can be submitted for grading or encapsulation only. Ungraded and graded items will receive a certificate of authenticity with a color picture of the stamp. Encapsulated items will have the items encapsulated in a tamper evident plastic holder with a paper insert that contains the same information as the certificate.
2. What is a graded vs. ungraded certificate?
Ungraded items are submitted for authentication only and will receive a certificate of authenticity that contains a positive identification with the Scott catalog number, year of issue, color and denomination along with a a description of the stamps condition and color photo of the stamp. Graded certificates contain the same information as the ungraded certificate with the addition of a grade bar that states the numeric grade the stamp received and the gum condition if the stamp is unused.
3. What is encapsulation?
Encapsulation consists of inserting the item into a plastic tamper evident holder that protects the stamps from future damage. PSE offers both hard and soft types of encapsulation. Most single items will be placed in the hard plastic holders that are sealed for protection with the paper insert inside the the holder. Large items such as souvenir sheets and covers can be placed in soft plastic holders that are sealed with a sticker that is applied that contains all the certificate information.
4. What is a minimum grade?
All submissions may be submitted with a minimum grade request. A minimum grade is the lowest grade the submitter would like to appear on the stamp. If the grade is equal to or higher than the minimum you will receive a graded certificate. If for any reason the grade is below the minimum requested you will receive an ungraded certificate. The only exception to this is modern stamps that will receive no certificate if it falls below the minimum. As a standard PSE uses a minimum grade of 50 for all items submitted for grading so no item will recieve a grade lower than 50 unless the submitter requests a lower minimum.
PSE recommends that all items shipped use a tracking number. You can then use the shippers website to verify that the package has been received. You can also contact our offices and we can verify receipt of your order, or sign up and track your order status online. Please note that first time submitters can not use the online status until we enter the first order.
2. What is the status of my order?
You can contact our office to request a status of your order at any time. Please have your invoice number, customer number, or order number ready to expedite your request. You may also request a login be set up so that you can track the status of your order online. Once your order is received and entered in our system it will go to the various experts and while an order is in this process we can only provide an estimated time to completion. Once we receive your order please allow two weeks before requesting status.
3. Can I check my status online?
Yes. You can contact PSE and request that a login be setup so that you can track your status online. First time customers can call ahead to request a customer number be setup for them or wait until we receive your first order.
4. How do I pay for my order?
PSE accepts checks credit cards, or Paypal in order to pay for service fees. All orders are billed at the completion of the order as PSE bases fees on the stamps final identification as opposed to what a stamp was submitted as. This means that order totals may change either up or down based on the final results.
If you received an ungraded certificate there are a few possible reasons. Ungraded certificates are issued under the following circumstances:
A. Ungraded was requested on the submission form.
B. The items did not meet the minimum grade requested.
C. The item was damaged or altered in some way that rendered in ungradeable (e.g. Reperforated, Removed cancel, etc.)
D. The item did not qualify for grading (e.g. stamps on cover or on piece)
2. What does the sticker mean?
When your order is received an order number is created so that the experts do not know who the submitter is. Stickers are placed on the card and experts worksheet to keep the items together during the authentication process. This sticker contains the order number, and certificate number assigned to the stamp as well as the stamp information, gum condition, and other notes such as previous certificates and the minimum grade that the submitter provided at the time of submission. The sticker is strictly an aid to help the PSE staff track an order and provide the experts with a starting point as to what the submitter thinks that stamp is and helps the submitter know which stamp goes with which certificate when they receive the order back. The sticker is in no way an indicator of the authenticity of the stamp or its condition. That information is contained on certificate itself.
3. Why did my stamp get that grade?
The grading of a stamp starts with the centering of the stamp. The better centered the stamp is reflects to a higher starting grade. After the starting grade is established the stamp is checked for faults and eye appeal. Faults can only reduce the grade of a stamps while eye appeal can either add or subtract from the grade. extremely minor faults will reduce the grade of the stamp, but will not be mentioned on the certificate. very minor faults or greater will be mentioned on the certificate. Eye appeal can apply to things such as quality of the cancel, condition of the perforations, or the quality of the impression and color of the ink. All of these factors are taken into account to produce the final grade the stamp received. You read more about the grading process on our website HERE, or you can order a copy of The philatelic Book of Secrets HERE which contains the PSE grading guide.
4. I don't agree with the opinion. What can I do?
If you receive an item back and you do not agree with the opinion that was rendered by PSE you can contact us and ask for clarification of the opinion by phone or e-mail. If after contacting PSE you are still not satisfied with the opinion you may resubmit the item for reconsideration. The fee for reconsideration is based upon the original service requested and the original submitter must return the stamp and original certificate to PSE within 45 days of receipt. If the experts at PSE change the opinion then the service fee for the reconsideration is waived.