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Plan ahead

Planning is essential to ensure the value of the collection is not lost to beneficiaries. The planning requires preparation of a detailed inventory, an honest valuation and clear instructions or guidance for the distribution, retention or liquidation of the material. These will help the estate administrator determine the correct and best options.

Help the estate administrator

A collector’s stamps are likely to be the most unusual and difficult part of an estate to administer. The stamp collector’s surviving partner, family member, personal friend or a professional will administer the estate and most likely they will not be experienced philatelists. The collector, with some advance planning, can help them get maximum value.

Honest valuation

A common mistake is the collector has not shared an honest valuation with anyone else. For any number of reasons the material may be over-valued or under-valued. This could lead to either unrealistic expectations or very poor realisations for the estate.

Make sure the collection has a realistic valuation and record it. This should be updated at regular intervals. This information should be kept with a relative, friend or trustee of the will. If wanted, keep the information in a sealed envelope with clear instructions when it is to be opened.

Make sure whoever is going to administer the estate knows where the information is.


The most important document can be a simple listing of major parts of a collection. This should include any mounted exhibits, number of albums and title of their contents and the nature of loose material. The list should also identify the location of each segment.

Stay organised

Keep your collection in good order. This helps the administrator identify the material. It will also help when the time comes to sell the material.

Time is money. A dealer will charge more to value a badly organised collection or provide only cursory inspection and possibly overlook items of value. An auction house may not lot auctions for best return to the vendor if this requires a disproportionate amount of time.

Record special bequests

If material has been promised to another collector or organisation this should be in writing along with the inventory. Heirs may be swamped with alleged promises of this type and can be protected only if there is a written record.

Instructions for the administrator

The collector should advise the estate administrator whether the collection is insured, for what amount, and the renewal date of the policy.

It is advisable to have written instructions on friends or dealers whose advice should be sought in the dispersal of the collection. The name of a specific person, rather than a company, should be stated.

Options for disposal

For options on disposal check the N Z Philatelic Federation’s brochure ‘I’ve inherited a collection‘.

Make sure a copy of the brochure (or any other similar document) is available to guide the administrator.