News-Antique.com - Dec 15,2010 - We visit Stanley Gibbons Specialist Stamp Department to
find out what exactly, ‘fine’ means and how slight defects may affect
To quote in full the relevant paragraph in the introduction to the
current Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps
‘The prices quoted in this catalogue are the estimated selling prices of
Stanley Gibbons Ltd at the time of publication. They are, unless it is
specifically stated otherwise, for examples in fine condition for the
issue concerned. Superb examples are worth more, those of a lower
quality, considerably less This single paragraph is probably the most significant piece of
information in the entire catalogue – but one that is frequently ignored
or forgotten. The big question, of course, is just how much more is
‘more’ and how much less is ‘less’? Not surprisingly, the ability to
answer that question depends on experience.
A knowledgeable philatelist will be able to assess fairly quickly what
the price of a particular stamp should be in relation to that quoted in
the catalogue. Many sellers, however, both professional and collector,
find it simpler to price items for sale by a standard percentage of
‘catalogue’; probably only marking down those that are actually damaged.
This can mean that stamps in better than ‘fine’ condition are
underpriced, while poorer ones are too expensive; something which buyers
need to bear in mind.
Talking to the experts, it quickly becomes obvious that every single
feature of a stamp needs to be considered separately before a judgement
on its overall condition can be passed. So this article will look at
each of those features individually, before drawing them all together
and attempting to assess how much more than catalogue price a superb
example might be worth and, conversely, how low a price should be put on
one of lower quality.
This would seem to be a relatively easy one – after all it says in the catalogue;
‘The prices for unused stamps of Queen Victoria to King George V are for
lightly hinged examples. Unused prices for King Edward VIII to Queen
Elizabeth issues are for unmounted mint.’
Well, at least the definition of unmounted is pretty clear, while
lightly hinged means, in theory, a single hinge mark, although,
apparently, two or three might be acceptable if the hinges have been
lightly applied and carefully removed.
The stamps printed by De La Rue for the majority of Colonial postal
administrations during the first three decades of the twentieth century
have stood up reasonably well to stamp hinges, so finding lightly
mounted examples of such stamps should not be too difficult. However,
Canadian stamps, for example, which were printed on softer paper and had
thicker gum, are more difficult to find in fine mounted condition and
should be valued accordingly.
Heavier hinging is acceptable for stamps issued before around 1890 but
the majority of the gum should be clear and ‘unblemished’. If the stamp
has been mounted on a number of occasions or if there is