Question: What can I expect to find in a "mixture" of stamps? I see mixtures of U.S. and foreign issues for sale. How many different varieties are in these, and is it possible to find something rare?--P.W.
Answer: Mixtures are fun to look through, and there is always a possibility of making a discovery of a great rarity. But chances are that your reward will be many hours of fun and learning. I wouldn't expect to get rich going through a mixture, in spite of the fabulous claims of some dealers who sell them.
You must realize that a mixture means that there will be duplicates, maybe many copies of the same common stamp, as well as scarcer items. I suggest that you buy a small, sample mixture packet from a dealer as a test purchase. If you like what you get, then you can order a larger mixture.
Mixtures are usually sold by the pound, with the seller estimating how many stamps per pound. You can buy them by mail or at some stamp shops, with only U.S. or some other single country represented. Or you can buy a mixture with stamps from around the world. The batches are available with stamps on original envelopes, on "piece" (meaning the stamp is still stuck to a small corner of the envelope's paper) or soaked entirely off of the envelopes.
Q: What is an average U.S. first-day cover worth? I have about 200 of them, saved from various collections over the years. Most date from the 1950s and 1960s.--R.C.
A: It depends on the cachet (the design on the left side of the envelope), the condition of the stamp and cover, and the desirability of the particular issue.
For example, a common U.S. commemorative first-day cover of the last 30 years typically sells for 50 cents at stamp shows, sometimes 25 cents, sometimes $1 or more if the cachet is rare.
I've never made money on first-day covers. There are so many of them, except for earlier issues. And most people who sell them know when they have a rarer variety, so few bargains exist in buying most first-days.
On the other hand, many collectors start the hobby of philately with first-day-cover collecting, and some Early-20th-Century U.S. first-days auction off at hundreds of dollars each.
Q: I have a few 16-cent stamped envelopes and wonder if they have any value. They were printed in error.--L.C.
A: What do you mean by "error"? Are there missing or inverted colors? Are the envelopes without any printed ink at all (an "albino" in postal stationery talk)? Are the envelopes mis-cut or glued together in a wrong way?
The United States has never had a 16-cent postage rate in the 20th Century. I'm not sure what these envelopes are. I need more descriptive information about the stamp.
Q: I recently inherited a stamp collection and would like to liquidate it. Who do I contact to receive a fair market value?--J.W.W.
A: Any stamp dealer listed in the Yellow Pages under "Stamps for Collectors." I recommend getting a quick appraisal from two or more dealers. Auctions usually bring the best prices, but you may have to wait six months for your money to be processed. Most dealers will offer you cash if they are interested in your stamps.
Q: Is it against the law to own Russian stamps?--T.H.
A: No. For as long as I can remember, the buying and selling of Soviet stamps, as well as their possession, has been legal in the United States. In fact, I used to trade stamps by mail with a gentleman in the Ukraine, obviously with his government's approval. Our exchange packets were sent by registered mail, with "postage stamps for collector" clearly written on the outside of the envelope.
Q: I have a dark blue stamp showing the signing of the Mayflower Compact by the Pilgrims. The denomination is 5 cents, and the stamp bears these dates imprinted: 1620-1920. What is it worth?--B.D.
A: Current catalogue value is $55 mint, $18.50 canceled for this issue, first sold Dec. 21, 1920, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass.
Q: My Canal Zone stamp is printed in black ink on white paper, $1 denomination, and pictures an airplane flying over a ship in the Panama Canal. It is in fine mint condition. Please evaluate.--P.A.
A: The present catalogue value is $10. This Canal Zone stamp was issued in 1931 and is not especially scarce today. There were 406,000 issued, according to official government postal records.
The collection of Canal Zone stamps is popular both in America among U.S.-possessions specialists and in Panama among affluent collectors.
Q: I am interested in collecting the current new issues of Iceland. Does this country have its own philatelic service? Also, how do they accept payment?--R.K.
A: The rules on sending payment (money order, checks, foreign exchange or other forms) to foreign philatelic bureaus change all the time, so I'm not sure how they want you to send your payments, but write to them at Frimerkjasalan, Postboks 1445, Reykjavik, Iceland.
Q: What are U.S. commemorative sheets worth from the last 15 years?--E.L.