Stamp Appraisal Guide

Published

May 07, 2015 Europe/London
How to Appraise your Stamps

Aside from denominations and design, the condition and stamp grade of the postage stamps are critical factors to consider in appraising the value of a stamp. The grade and condition can affect the overall valuation of the stamps, and help you build a world-class collection. In philately, the postage grade refers to the presence and quality of centering, the presence of cancellations, and the condition on the other hand focuses on the ‘actual damages’ including color fading, stains and alterations.

Determining the Condition of a Postage Stamp

One can easily check the condition of the postage stamp by visually checking the stamps. The same is true when it comes to faults - you need to physically examine the postage stamps to know what the damages are. Faults on stamps can come in many forms, and some of the popular stamp faults that you should watch out for include changes in coloration, holes, tears and thins which can be verified by checking the stamps under a light.
 
The gum, or the adhesive material that allows the stamp to be attached to the envelope or mail parcel, is also a required component to check. And when it comes to checking the gum, remember a few terms that can prove helpful when checking the postage stamps. Stamps in mint condition often include the original gum. The stamp is re-gummed, if the adhesive has been re-applied. You will also encounter unhinged or hinged stamp. Unhinged means re-gummed stamp was not attached to a hinge, and hinged means it has been attached. You will also encounter unused gum, thinned gum or stamps with no gum.
Look at the condition of the stamp perforations. Imperforated stamps mean that the postage stamps were produced without perforations, and can be separated from the sheet using a scissor. There are stamps that feature straight edges where these are cut at all sides without perforations and blunt perforations, which means that the perforation is shorter than average.

On the Different Postage Stamp Grades

All stamps are graded, and it’s important for stamp collectors and enthusiasts to know the different grades, and what each grade means. All postage stamps included in stamp auction and sale are graded from poor to superb. A poor grade (P) for stamp means that the perforations are cut too far, and the design is not centered. There are obvious damages on the stamps including thins and creases.
The postage stamp can be graded Average (A) if there are cancellation marks, and the condition is somewhat similar to a poorly graded stamp, the only difference is that you will not find faults and creases on this stamp. The next few grades are the fine grade (F), fine to very fine grade (F-VF), very fine grade (VF) and extremely fine grade (XF). A fine graded postage stamp means that the design just barely misses the perforations, the margins on the sides are unbalanced but the margins at the bottom and top are balanced. The XF-graded stamp is near perfect, without cancellations and margins are usually even and neat. Design is also centered, compared to other poorly graded stamps. And if you want to hit the jackpot, you need to know the superb grade (S) postage stamps.  This stamp contains the perfect elements- design is centered, and in mint condition. This is your rare stamp, a postage stamp that can command a premium price.

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