Why do people collect stamps? That is just a small piece of colorful paper said no one ever, well at least no one who reads the news. We have witnessed in the past few years that a massive amount of money is spent on these small colorful paper items. So what’s the deal with that?
How something so simple and small can be worth a seven-figure price? Well if you are eager to learn more about that you are at the right place. In this article, we will focus on the most valuable US stamps, their prices, errors, and factors that can help you determine if they are real or fake.
Potential stamp holders and collectors will also benefit from the comprehensive guide for buyers and sellers we’ve attached to the article.
If You Are In A Hurry Read This
No matter the type of collectible that you are looking for, the reality is that the market constantly changes. Prices fluctuate a lot, some prices go up and some go down. Considering how expensive stamps can be, any fluctuation must be taken seriously. This is why we recommend you follow the market trends regularly.
However, if you don’t have the time to scroll down and read our price guide here is the short list of the US stamps we recommend you to invest in now.
- 4c Inverted Center, Specimen Overprint (296a-S) – $10,157
- 1869 (1875 Re-issue), 90¢ carmine & black (132) – $12,075
- 1869, 24¢ green & violet, center inverted (120b) – $23,000
- 1909, 4¢ orange-brown, bluish paper (360) – $34,500
- 1901, 2¢ Pan-American, center inverted (295a) – $52,250
Why Should You Consider Collecting Stamps?
From the late 19th century, stamp collecting established itself as one of the most popular hobbies across the globe. This is no surprise due to the fact that at the same time, an evolution of the postal service occurred.
A Father of American Philately, John Walter Scott was the one who oversaw the first postage stamp auction ever, and he is the one who takes all the credit for promoting this hobby among Americans. Not only that he promote philately as a fun hobby, but he also taught people that this can be a reasonable investment.
If you Google keywords like most expensive stamps you’ll quickly find out why so many people are into it! Read some of these sources and you’ll understand how lucrative collecting and selling valuable stamps can be.
No matter if they are historically significant, rare, beautiful, or flawed stamps, they are all worth your time, effort, and money.
Price Guide For Most Valuable US Stamps Worth Collecting
The United States has issued over 5,000 different types of stamps since 1847. However, not all of them are valuable. Some will bring you a lot of money while others will get you only a few bucks.
Several factors influence the price range and among them are condition, rarity, age, historical significance, peculiarity, and the holder’s desire and perspective. If you are interested to learn which US stamps are the most valuable ever read on!
1. Block of four Inverted Jenny 1918 airmail error 24c stamp
- Year: 1918
- Price: $5,000,000 – $7,000,000
The Inverted Jenny stamp is one of the rarest and most valuable US stamps. In fact, there is no philatelist that hasn’t at least heard about it. This stamp was printed in May 1918 and it was immediately named Inverted Jenny due to the recognizable upside-down image of the Curtiss JN-4 biplane.
Most of these stamps were destroyed, the exception is a single sheet of 100 stamps that was sold by a postal clerk in Washington. However, no one proved this mythical theory so we still don’t know the exact number.
All we can tell you is that a block of four stamps was sold in June of 2023 for an amount between $5 and $7 million, while in 2016 a single stam was sold for almost $1.6 million.
2. Benjamin Franklin Z Grill 1868 1c stamp
- Year: 1868
- Price: $2,970,000
Throughout the 19th century, the US printed various stamps with Benjamin Franklin’s face on them, yet these aren’t worth much today. However, the tables have turned with the collection of Benjamin Franklin’s “Z Grills”.
These stamps were created with a “Z” punch which has the purpose of keeping the ink in indentations to make reuse impossible. Unfortunately, these weren’t very effective, so they were recalled in 1870.
A great thing is that only a very few pieces survived, to be more precise only two! One example is at the New York City Public Library, and the other is in a private collection. The owner bought it in 2005 for almost $3 million.
3. Abraham Lincoln Z Grill 1867 15c stamp
- Year: 1867
- Price: $1,610,000
This United States 1867 15¢ black Abraham Lincoln stamp with Z grill (Scott 85F) was released just two years after Lincoln’s assassination. It features his portrait and a denomination value of 15 cents. The common belief is that there are only two stamps like this.
It is one of the most valued US stamps since it was one of the first ones printed with a new post-Civil War America design. The last time it was seen on the market was in 1975 before it was sold in 2019 for $1.6 million!
4. Inverted Declaration of Independence 1869 24c stamps
- Year: 1869
- Price: $1,200,000
The inverted Declaration of Independence is a historically significant, widely regarded, and one of the finest examples of engraving on the stamp. If you take a good look you’ll notice that the center of the stamp consists of a miniature masterpiece, where a creator was able to engrave 42 persons! Also, the six principal figures can be recognized under a magnifying glass!
This two-colored independence stamp features a face value of 24 cents and comes in three different variations – split, double grill, or G grill. However, what makes this stamp super valuable is the fact it comes with a major error, the center image of the stamp was inverted! It is believed that only four stamps like this exist nowadays.
5. Alexandria Blue Boy 1847 postmaster’s provisional 5c stamp
- Year: 1847
- Price: $1,180,000
The Alexandria “Blue Boy” is one of the rarest stamps ever made. It was named after its blue color. This rare issue of the Postmaster’s Provisionals that was produced in Alexandria D.C. in 1846 counts only a few specimens.
Currently, we know about seven of which this particular Blue Boy is the only example printed on blue paper, all others were printed on buff-colored paper. This Blue Boy remains fixed to its original envelope and it was sold in auction in 2019.
6. George Washington 1886 3c B-Grill stamp
- Year: 1847
- Price: $1,035,000
In 1847 the first government-released stamps were available for purchase for the general public. George Washington’s portrait was the perfect choice for paintings and stamps. This particular stamp originates from 1868 features a B-Grill stamp, which has a characteristic waffle-like grill on its posterior aspect. The Washington stamp was the first one to feature this kind of design.
Like the Z-Grill it has a purpose to prevent fraudulent reuse of stamps. It is known that only four stamps like this exist so the rarity enhanced its value significantly.
7. Hawaiian Missionary 1851 2c stamp
- Year: 1851
- Price: $525,000
Until 1893 Hawaii was an independent kingdom. Their stamps were colorful and quite valuable. However, logically the value of the first four Hawaiian stamps issued in 1851/1852 is groundbreaking.
An interesting fact is that these stamps were primarily used by island missionaries to send their mail. This particular example features King Kamehameha III and the words “Hawaiian Postage” on the upper side of the stamp. It was issued in 1851 and it had a value of 2 cents.
What is characteristic of this stamp is the distinct printing on blue, thin paper. This stamp is considered one of the rarest stamps in the world since this is one out of two that exist.
8. Shield, Eagle, and Flags 1869 30c stamp
- Year: 1869
- Price: $310,500
This stamp was part of the edition of 1869 pictorial stamps. These were also the first stamps to feature something other than portraits of famed personalities which adds to the value. The 1869 30c stamp features a red shield and blue flags. Due to the hard process of printing these stamps were dropped after a year.
This particular stamp also featured an error – inverted flags. Only seven examples of this error exist. Just one out of seven has original gum, while the other six, including this one, are without gum.
Current prices of some of the most valuable stamps you can find on the market
There are a lot more valuable stamps in the US as well as worldwide, besides the stamps we mentioned above. This is why we decided to make a list of stamps that are leading in prices on the global stamp market and not just in the US.
How To Determine The Value Of The US Stamps
This can be hard if you don’t know any basic information, but if you are willing to learn determining the value can be relatively easy to do. Here is what you need to pay attention to:
- Do the research – Find as many printed books or guides as you can and use them as a reference. Make sure you figure out the age and the material it was used this will significantly help you form a final price. Also, observing the centering of the design is very important, any error in this part can raise the value.
- Assess the condition – Try to figure out which grade your stamp has. Remember there are three grade levels for stamps – sound (in perfect condition), faulty (with small damages), or defective (if it has stains, abrasions if it misses a corner, and so on).
- Look for watermarks – Look for watermarks like quarterfoil, lozenges, or network. These are made to prevent counterfeiting. Remember, the lozenge watermark looks like small diamonds, and only a very few have it, while most have network watermarks.
- Check if the stamp is labeled as rare or if it has some valuable error – Rare errors, or rare designs in the philately world are a big money maker. We talk about millions of dollars! Research the internet, books, and forums, and consult an appraiser before selling. We recommend to look at Stamp World.
What error US stamps are valuable?
The unique imperfections create extreme value, but to be able to recognize an error stamp you need to learn how to spot those flaws. The main reason why stamps with printing errors are so attractive to collectors is their uniqueness.
Did you know that some errors can result in increased value by thousands of times more than normal?! Here is a list of some of the most common eros that can occur on US stamps:
- Design error – Occurs when during the design phase of production the design gets messed up in range from a minor mistake (missing letter in the name) to more serious errors (wrong picture of a subject, out of date maps, misspelled text).
- Denomination error – Occurs when during the printing process a stamp gets a wrong denomination printed.
- Omission error – If a part of the design is missing that is called omission error. The reason why it occurs is a fault in the design stage of production.
- Overprint error – When a text, denomination, or image gets printed twice or more times on the same stamp an overprint occurs. Overprint errors can significantly raise the value of a stamp.
- Inverted overprint – When the overprint is placed upside down compared to a regular design scheme.
- Wrong overprint – When an overprint intended for another stamp is used incorrectly.
- Double impression – When a stamp or overprint of the same design is printed twice, and one impression ends up slightly offset from the other.
- Invert errors – Invert errors are an end result when one or more elements of a postage stamp’s design are printed upside down. There are two basic types of this error an inverted frame and an inverted center.
- Color error – This occurs when a stamp ends up printed in the wrong color or when one or more of the intended colors are missing.
- Color shift error – A color shift error occurs when one (or more) of the printing cylinders are out of function and end up causing overlapping of the colors.
- Missing color error – Logically, when one or more colors are missing, it is usually because something during the multi-run printing process went wrong.
- Watermark errors – Watermarks are used to prevent counterfeiting. The watermark process can often result in errors like inverted, sideways, or missing watermarks. These are very sought-after among collectors.
- Paper error – When a stamp is printed on the wrong type of paper that may have a different watermark, color, or thickness.
- Imperforate errors – Perforations are small holes you see on a block of stamps. They enable an easier separation. Sometimes a rare error occurs when perforations are missing from one or several sides.
- Offset error – This is a minor mistake, and it can be identified easily. You’ll notice a regular impression on the stamp’s front yet an offset reversed impression on the reverse side.
- Inking errors – This one is pretty obvious and occurs when too much ink is applied or too little ink is applied. These mistakes can make the design look unrecognizable
- Albino error – Sometimes a complete inking stage is missed, and we get a stamp with a blank impression or printed image with no color only borderlines.
- Miscuts – These errors happen when a stamp sheet is misaligned with the blades. Miscuts can result in just a few millimeters being clipped off or a complete design. This is most common in coil stamps.
How to recognize an authentic US stamp?
It’s useful to know what to look for in stamps to be able to determine if they are real or fake. Pay attention to the following and you’ll be able to recognize a replica with ease.
- Watermarks – Every stamp has a watermark that is difficult to reproduce. They differ by country and act as a “stamp” of approval. If there is no watermark or it looks different the stamp is fake.
- False postmarks – Look for the cancel mark carefully, most canceled stamps are fake.
- Regumming – Forgers will try to “regum” stamps to make them look as real as possible.
- Perforation – The perforation around a stamp can help you a lot to recognize replica. If it is modified or removed something might be off. Most stamps are first gummed and then perforated. If they are first perforated and then gummed then they are fake.
- Quality – Look for the quality of paper used, and attention to fine details.
Tips For Collecting Valuable Stamps
Stamp collecting is a hobby that became worldwide popular very quickly. At the same time, this is one of the most lucrative hobbies since as you may noticed their prices are usually around four to five figures.
Here are some tips that can help you if you are new to stamp collecting:
- Always look to purchase flawless and well-centered stamps, or at least those that are in the condition closest to the original.
- Focus on finding the rarest stamps, those with rare errors, or those that are historically valuable.
- Look and buy only those with COA. Demand a Certificate of Authenticity! If they don’t have it, we advise you to skip the purchase.
- Be patient and regular. You need to watch for deals at prominent auction houses and stamp dealers religiously! Don’t skip this part since you can miss out on a great deal.
- Don’t purchase error stamps without first learning about them. Many “Error Stamps” are intentionally made. Only errors that occurred during production are the real ones!
- Take care of your stamps properly by protecting them from water and sunlight exposure
- Lastly, if you invested money in them make sure you insure them!
Where Can You Trade Valuable US Stamps?
You should choose how you trade stamps depending on which type of stamp you are looking for. You will logically find rare, authentic, and very valuable US stamps in reputable auction houses and dealers that specialize in selling or buying these items.
High-profile stamps are very popular and sought-after which means they are largely replivated. Avoid being scammed and buying something that isn’t real by working with professionals
You can also visit antique shops, specialized shows, thrift shops, and flea markets. Most importantly a lot of people trade on eBay, Etsy, LiveAuctioneers, Craigslist, etc. If you tend to do that, make sure you check each seller thoroughly since replicas are common here.
What country has the most valuable stamps?
This one will be shocking for a lot of you, but no the US does not hold this record. In fact, currently, the most valuable single stamp is $9,480,000 worth of British Guiana 1c magenta.
Does vintage US stamps expire?
No! Vintage US stamps never expire and if you have an unused one that isn’t worth much you can use it freely if you want to make your letter special. All postage stamps issued by the United States from 1860 and up are valid.
What is the best way to store old stamps?
The best way is to keep them sorted out in appropriate albums. Make sure the place where you put the album is dark and away from direct light! A lot of collectors use a wine cooler, with temperatures at 12° paired with relative humidity between 50-55%.
A Smart Way To Invest
If you think stamp collecting is just for hobbyists and enthusiasts you are so wrong. Did you know that collecting stamps can be a lucrative business or a safe way to invest your money in something other than precious materials, stock, fine wine, art, and real estate?
A mint condition specimens have risen in value by around 45.5% over the past decade! As we already said the rarest philatelic items can sell for millions.
If you are new to this but you start thinking about starting your own collection you can join several philatelic organizations that will help you understand stamp collecting. If you want to focus solely on US stamps, then the logical step is to join the American Philatelic Society (APS).