Investing in Collectible Stamps with Dan Walker (Part 2 of 5)

Dan Walker started collecting during his childhood but gave it up for a time and then returned to it as an adult. His years of knowledge and diligent stamp collecting have won him some prestigious awards. Philatelic activities take up most of his time, as he is the treasurer of a stamp organization and often travels to appear as a judge in international shows.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Dan to gather his expertise on the subject of stamp collecting and whether or not it is a suitable investment.

Why did you choose to invest in stamps?

I haven’t really invested in stamps. It’s a hobby; I enjoy it. I like history, and I have a tendency to like mysteries. There’s a lot you can determine from collecting stamps and envelopes that have stamps on them. It’s not so much of an investment as it is a hobby. I’ve sold some of my stamps, but I sell them to buy new stamps.

How did you become knowledgeable about stamps?

I was a collector as a child, but I gave it up in high school and college/graduate school. Then one day, I went on a vacation to Jamaica. I went to the post office and bought some stamps for my postcards to send back to friends. In the hotel room, I noticed how pretty the stamps were, so I went back and bought all the stamps they had.

When I got back to New York City, I remember walking around one evening looking for a magazine called Stamp Collector Magazine, which I remembered from childhood. Around midnight in Grand Central Station, I finally found a copy of this magazine. I joined a group called the British Empire Study Group and they got me involved with the Collectors Club of New York. So, I decided to start collecting as an adult.

I exhibited in 1979 at a stamp show in New Jersey, where I received a Large Silver Award. At the banquet where they announced the awards, there was a Miss Stilwell who also received a Large Silver Award. I ended up marrying her. My wife is also a stamp collector.

[Over the years,] I built up a major Grenada collection. About ten years ago I decided I had accumulated enough Grenada stamps, and won the largest award I could in collecting. So I sold that collection in an auction for $546,000 and focused on other collections. I now concentrate on two areas: all the Indian states and the first US revenue stamps that helped finance the Civil War.

How do you ensure that your collection retains its value?

At one time, I had most of my collection in bank vaults, but now I keep my collection at my home in albums, sorted out. Stamps and the envelopes they are on are pretty sturdy after the 1890s. My house is air-conditioned, so there’s no humidity to bother the stamps. I keep track of the value as I always look at auction catalogs. I study the stamps and write articles about them, and the value is enhanced if I discover new things about the stamps.

When do/will you sell your collectibles? How do you determine the best time to sell?

There’s really not an objective good time to sell. Most advanced collectors sell when they cannot buy new material to enhance their collection easily. You can always buy something, but sooner or later, you’ll end up stuck. Collectors want something to play with all the time. [When they sell], they usually use the money to go out and buy something else.

Do you have any advice for someone who is ready to sell their collection?

Talk to people that are not in the dealer or auction business and get some advice on how to go about it. During the pandemic, many people call and ask how to get their stamps appraised. I can normally tell from getting a small sample of the stamps if people have a collection with real value. In only one case during the last ten years, I felt that the person had a great deal of value. If someone has been collecting for a long time, I’m available to give advice. I have a good feel for which auctions and dealers are trustworthy. You have to be careful about picking an auction or dealer.

In your opinion, can investing in stamps be relied upon as a primary source of investment income, or do you recommend that collectors have other investments in their portfolio?

I recommended having other investments. Unless you are really dedicated and knowledgeable about the market, it’s not a good place to invest. For example, 30 or 40 years ago, stamps were a reasonable investment. In the 1980s, there was a time when the values climbed, and people made a lot of money. But now, for most stamps, except those that are difficult to find and in reasonable condition, values have declined. You have to be highly knowledgeable now to make a decent living.

Attention, Stamp Collectors!

If you have any questions about buying or selling stamps, Dan Walker can probably answer them! Please reach out to Dan at danforthwalker@comcast.net if you have a stamp collection and are interested in asking a question. If Dan is not familiar with your particular area of stamps, he knows who is and will direct you to that source.