While a stamp’s catalog value represents a theoretical approach to the worth of a stamp, the market value is the true reality of a stamp’s “real” value. Market value is the amount that you pay a dealer for a stamp, set, lot, collection, etc.
Unlike the catalog value, which is respected wherever the specific catalog is used, the market value is more localized. If you are at a local stamp show, and one of six dealers has an item for sale that you desire, what you pay for the stamp is the stamp’s market value.
The price you pay may be more or less than the current stamp catalog value. That fact may be relevant to how the stamp is doing in the marketplace relative to the catalog value. If you see several dealers selling the same type of stamp for around the catalog value, you can be assured that the stamp is slowly appreciating in value. Most common stamps are generally sold below a catalog price.
A specific stamp may have a different price from one dealer to another, or even from the same dealer from the one that you see sitting next to him. The flux in pricing can occur for many reasons. But the most basic reason for the difference is the lack of a formal stamp market. Each dealer buys stamps at the best possible prices and sets a sale price to accommodate his local market, while not losing sight of the stamp’s catalog value.
You as the collector, may find the same type of stamp for sale at a local stamp show for $35, advertised in a stamp publication for $28, offered for sale online for $26.59. So why the range of sale prices?
• The local price of $35 is from a local dealer, who takes the time to talk to you, answer your questions, provide advice, etc. You are paying for the stamp and for his services.
• The $28 price is through a media ad, from a mail order dealer who sells behind a PO Box. He is known for his low prices and quality items. The dealer offers no real service or advice.
• The $26.50 price, through the Internet, is from a dealer similar to the mail order dealer. The Internet ad wasn’t as expensive. He also offers no real service or advice.
Each of these prices can be considered a market value. The market value then is what you pay for an item. That price can be above or below a catalog value, especially if the grade is higher than what is called for in the catalog. How much is purely up to the market. If a dealer has a plentiful stock of the same item, then holding out for a higher price doesn’t make much business sense. Some dealers pride themselves for selling at a percentage of catalog value, while other dealers restrict their inventory to better items. All sorts of reason come into play.