Stamp Grades And Stamp Grading
Much like coins, stamps also have grades assigned to them. The grade of a stamp refers to the stamp’s condition. Before we get into the subject of grading stamps, a few words of advice are needed here.
Do not develop an emotional attachment to all of your stamps, the way investors stick to their stocks like glue. Not all stamps, like stocks, are worth keeping. Only rarity and a stamp’s condition will determine its real value.
If you have ever wondered how stamp dealers and collectors grade stamps, this article will provide an overview:
Superb—This means the stamp is in new condition with a clean and fresh color. There are no creases or tears to mark the stamp. The stamp is perfectly centered with even margins on all sides. The perforation is perfect and complete.
Very Fine—This is a physically perfect stamp, like a sort of beauty queen. The stamp’s color might be slightly off and the margins are slightly uneven. It does not equal the beauty and perfection of a superb stamp.
Fine—This is a stamp that is free from defects or stains or imperfections, but is not up to the grade of very fine or superb standards.
Good—A stamp graded “good” does not have any tears or wrinkles. The stamp’s color may be faded, or may be heavily postmarked. The stamp could also be somewhat off-center.
Poor—This is a very low quality or poor stamp. A stamp in poor condition could have a tear or may be creased, and even have some thin spots. Keep a stamp in this condition only if it is irreplaceable.
Now that you know a few things about a stamp’s grade, it is time to open your stamp album and mount your stamps. Make sure you have your magnifier, tongs and stamp catalogs ready. Always remember that a good quality stamp album will provide plenty of room for you to manipulate your stamps with ease.
Each place for a stamp should be clearly marked. In some stamp albums, images of the stamps are printed so all you have to do is mount the stamp over where the image is.
As previously mentioned in a different article, one of the first steps in stamp collecting is buying some stamps. Follow these tips when you spend some money to acquire some stamps: You should especially be careful when you intend to buy rare or very expensive stamps.
Always check out the seller or stamp dealer. Was he recommended by a fellow collector? Has your club included his name on the list of authorized dealers?
It is generally safe to assume that if a stamp dealer has been selling stamps for a long time, he should be reliable and therefore safe to deal with. The stamp dealer should also be a member of a philatelic society or a major stamp dealer’s association.
When you go to the stamp dealer’s premises, make sure his collection is properly identified in terms of color, paper, watermarks, perforations, etc.
These features play a role in determining the market value of any stamp. Stamp catalogs are great references to have handy when trying to identify a stamp.
Assess the stamp’s condition. Always check for tears, creases, marks, perforations. Stamps in poor condition are never worth spending the money on, no matter how dirt cheap the price is.
Try to determine whether the stamp is being sold at a fair price. You can do this by referring to the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog. Note, that the Scott Catalog lists a minimum value for stamps no matter what their real value is. Stamp catalog prices are only mere estimates, as most stamps will sell below a listed catalog value.
Do your best to develop a keen sense of detecting forgeries or counterfeits. To the average collector, it may be a little tricky to tell a genuine stamp from a repaired one. Unless you truly believe your stamp collection is very expensive, it is generally not worth the time or money to use the expert services of professional evaluators or appraisers.
Some Additional Tips
Do you have some dirty or stained stamps in your collection? Try soaking them carefully in a small amount of undiluted liquid dishwashing detergent, NOT DISHWASHER detergent—there is a big difference! Rinse the stamps in clean, cool water.
If your stamps are badly stained, try washing them in a mild solution of water and a bit of an enzyme laundry detergent, but be very, very careful. This could prove too efficient and remove the printing inks as well.
A quick note on self-adhesive stamps. These were produced in the U.S. at the beginning of the 90’s. These are the ones you can soak in water, but you can’t do the same for self-adhesive stamps produced from an earlier period.
Some self-adhesive stamps are made with a special water-soluble backing, and while you can soak them in water, they just take a bit longer, like maybe an hour or so.
If you don’t want to soak your stamps, just cut the paper as close as possible, making sure you don’t touch the perforations and then mount them on your album.
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