Evaluation of Stamps
Postage stamps, particularly rare and valuable ones, have to be checked carefully, and preferably, by a stamp specialist. In today’s world with all the forgeries and fakes, and alteration to stamps, a serious collector must be particularly aware when acquiring stamps of value.
The condition of a stamp is the most important factor, especially considering that it is made of paper, and therefore fragile by nature. Many classic stamps are over one hundred and fifty years old.
Indeed a serious situation has developed where expensive and valuable stamps are being sold over the Internet with a Proper expert’s certificate, stating that the item is Genuine and Sound, whereas instead, the stamp in question has faults or defects, acquired After the stamp was issued with a Genuine and Sound Expert’s Certificate. This is mostly due to mishandling of the stamps by people that do not use proper caution and care when handling stamps, i.e. using your fingers!! Tweezers should always be used.
A well meaning stamp collector can use good common sense and his acquired know-how in checking for the stamp’s colour, if it is faded, toned, or has little spots of rust etc. One can also examine the gum and see if it is even, uneven, or “looks” touched-up. In addition examination is done for blemishes or missing “teeth” (perforations). Often to distinguish stamps, perforations should be checked with a perforation gauge.
For used or cancelled stamps, one would look to the postmark, check for holes (caused by the cancellation hammer) and look at the overall aspects of the stamp. If the items are expensive or deemed valuable, the conditions of the paper is very important as we very often have stamps being rebacked (new back, glued precisely on the old one !!!). Attention should also be given to other factors such as hinges covering up defects (thins) etc. The way stamps, (mint and used) are hinged should also be considered. Remember the best stamps in the world – mint or used are hinged, and the way the hinges are attached to the stamp play a major role in how much it affects the price of the stamp to which it is affixed.
Therefore there is a whole bunch of terms describing the hinging factor in the various ways, form “lightly hinged” to the ominous .. hinge remnant.
Stamps with overprints should come under scrutiny as many Rare and Valuable overprints are fake but the stamp is genuine.
Volumes could be written on “How to Evaluate Stamps” but in a nutshell, if a collector wants to be safe, he should request to have the stamps or philatelic items – expertized by someone who is reputable and reliable. To this effect the American Philatelic Society and the Royal Canadian Philatelic Society are philatelic institutions that have superb reputation with their respective Expertizing Committees. Just send the stamps to them. The sellers should not object to this action. If they object then go somewhere else to buy your stamps. Also there are many outstanding Expertizing Committees around the world, I f one wants a more specialized certificate, for instance a Swiss Expert for Swiss stamps or the B.P.A. ( British Philatelic Association) for a British Empire item.
When applying for a Certificate of genuineness, one should expect more or less, on the average, a wait of six to eight months. Costs are generally reasonable, sometimes related to the value of the stamp.
Now that you are reassured, dear collector, go and enjoy your hobby and your stamps, the best Hobby in the World !!!