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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Most Valuable Stamp in the World

Ever want to know what the most valuable stamp in the world is? Well, it is the “Treskilling” Yellow. If this stamp was a steak and its value was based on how much it costs per pound, as of 2004 the Treskilling Yellow would have cost you about 35 billion dollars per pound!

The Treskilling Yellow is a stamp that was one of Sweden’s first stamps. It was printed in 1855 as part of a set of a five stamp series that depicted the Swedish coat of arms. These stamps had values from 3 to 24 skillings (a denomination of Swedish money similar to the British shilling). What is unusual about this stamp is that most other 3-skilling stamps of this age were blue-green in color. The 8-skilling stamp was the one that was yellowish orange.

No one is sure what happened, but people suspect that the 8-skilling printing plate either was broken or got damaged and the 3-skilling plate was used in its place, resulting in 3-skilling stamps that were yellowish-orange instead of blue-green. No one knows how many of these “mistake” color stamps were printed. In fact no one even noticed the 3-sikilling stamps had a strange color. In 1858 the stamp design was changed and plates retired.

It was not until 1886 that a stamp collector going through his grandmother’s attic found one and sold it to a dealer for 7 Kronor (which is like the British coin called the Crown). In1894 another collector bought it for almost 1,000 times that amount because by that time, although people had looked for more, no others were ever found and this was the only surviving stamp of its kind.

The last time the stamp was sold, if it went up for sale today, it would probably fetch $2.5 million dollars!! Talk about a good investment!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The ABC’s of Displaying Your Stamps: Paper, Plastic, or Glassine

Until the 1960’s glassine was one of the mainstays of stamp collection display materials. It, however, is not acid-free and has very small amounts of sulfuric acid in it that can damage your stamps. These days there are specialty acid-free papers that can be bought that will not hurt them. Japanese rice paper can also be used, but this can be expensive.

Collectors, for the most part only put stamps on one side of a page. This is because it provides the best protection, though it does mean you need more pages and binders to keep your stamp collection in. The reason for putting stamps on one page only is because you get more tearing and scratching of the surface of a stamp when you have stamps facing each other, as opposed to just touching a blank sheet of paper.

To display individual stamps, because of cost, people will sometimes use plastic sleeves as an alternative to glassine, but with time and humidity, these can stick together and sometimes will stick to your stamp, so plastic is not a very good choice. Other materials like Mylar are good, but they are expensive and so not many people use them.

The best of all mediums for preserving your stamps is glass or some special types of plastic, but as we note above, this is too expensive and takes up too much room for people with more than just a few really precious stamps that they want to preserve.

Like any work of art, you must keep your stamps out of direct sunlight where UV will fade them. The same can be said of some types of strong house lighting.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Stamp Condition: The Second Important Attribute

Just like a stamp’s grade, the condition of a stamp can vastly affect its value. The condition of a stamp is different from its grade. The condition refers to the physical characteristics of the materials used to make the stamp, rather than how it is printed or presented on the paper. Even stamps in bad condition can be worth a lot of money if they are really hard to get or if really pristine samples are extremely expensive.

Stamps in positive condition generally are crisply printed and have strong, pristine, off-the-press colors. There are also nice wide margins between the design and the separations and clear printing impressions. For older stamps there usually a selvage attached to the stamp.

Faults are anything that detracts from the stamp in terms of anything that has been altered, damaged or changed since the stamp was printed. This, however, does not apply to any cancellations or other postal marks. Common faults are dirt or fingerprints in the gum on the back of the stamp; tears, folds, creases, holes, or stains. Any attempt to remove the cancellation and thinning of the paper due to peeling a stamp off whatever it was stuck on.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stamp Grade: The Importance to Value

If you are getting serious about stamp collecting in terms of making this a serious investment then you have to know that the most important thing to other collectors is a stamp’s grade and condition.

The grade of a stamp is all about the actual stamp. How it is centered between the perforations or between margins of the sheet for items that don’t have perforations. This not only means horizontal centering, but vertical centering as well. It also refers to the condition of the gum on the back of the stamp for mint stamps, or the effect of the cancellation on the stamp for ones that have been used.

Evaluating a stamp's grade is something that takes a little experience and a lot of looking at stamps. With enough looking at the same stamp, but of various grades, it starts to become apparent when a stamp is of a high grade and another of the same type of stamp is not.

Stamp grades are fairly standardized across the industry and range from superb to poor and if you are going to become a serious collector it is important when buying a stamp to know what grade of a stamp you are getting. The better the grade, the better your collection. To see this, all you have to do is go to any stamp catalog and look at the difference between the price of a superb-grade stamp and the price of a lesser grade one.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The ABC’s of Displaying Your Stamps: Hinges and Mounts

If you are a serious or novice stamp collector, looking at the details of a stamp, both front and back, is a lot of fun. Handling stamps repeatedly, however, can damage them, so you have to be careful how you store and display your stamps to you can look at them over and over without harming them.

Although people have been collecting stamps ever since the first ones were minted, there is still a debate on the best way to secure your stamps so you can look at them. Traditionally something called a “hinge” has been used. These are small folded pieces of gummed paper. One of the flanges of the hinge is generally wetted and then stuck to a piece of paper and the other is stuck to the stamp. This holds the stamp in place, but still allows you to look at both sides of the stamp by flipping the stamp over on the hinge.

Hinge marks on stamps are not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes they can add to the value of a stamp, but other times they can detract from its value. Most old stamps that have come from old collections have hinge marks on them. In the last few decades, collectors have moved away from hinges and now many are using mounts instead.

Mounts were initially used in the 1930’s. These are pockets that have a gummed back that you stick on a piece of paper and have a clear or semi-clear sleeve into which you can slip your stamp. Like hinges, mounts also need to be used with care because depending on the materials and how they are used, they can also produce marks or other damage.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stamp Champions: Famous Costly Stamps - Part II

In addition to those we talked about in the last blog, there are other famous stamps that are rare and wonderful. Some of these are:

1855 Treskilling Banco Yellow – Probably the most famous of all stamps. This one was a printing mistake. The stamp was first noticed by a 14-year old kid who was looking at his grandfather’s stamp collection. There is only one known to exist, making it the rarest stamp in the world!

1856 British Guiana One Cent Black on Magenta – Like the Treskilling Yellow, this stamp from the British colony of Guiana is extremely rare. There were so few stamps in Guiana at that time that they were hand-initiated by the post-office employee. The stamp itself is unusual in that it is a rectangle with clipped corners. One of these stamps sold 25 years ago for $935,000!

1867 Z-Grills – These stamps are from the US and have a picture of Benjamin Franklin the first US postmaster on an ornately imprinted “grill” of what looks like “Z’s”. The pattern was to stop people from counterfeiting the stamps, like the fancy filigree printing found on US paper currency. Only two of these stamps are known.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Stamp Champions: Famous Costly Stamps - Part I

Just like Hollywood and the movies, the stamp world has its set of superstars. These are stamps that are super rare, those that have interesting stories associated with them, and those that bring the highest price when auctioned off. Below we list some of the most famous of the famous.

The 1840 One Penny Black – This is the real first stamp ever issued. Although they are not super rare, they hold a place in history and so they command a high price. Fifteen years ago one sold for $2.4 million dollars.

The 1847 Post Office Mauritius – This is a rare stamp from a British Colony on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Because it is flawed as well, it is very valuable. The flaw is that, Instead of putting the words "post paid" on the stamp, the person who designed it used the word "post office". Only 200 of these stamps were printed and only a few dozen are known to exist. A cover that had two of these stamps on it sold for $3.8 million dollars about 10 years ago.

1851 Hawaiian Missionaries – Missionaries on the Island of Hawaii used stamps to pay postage. The most valuable are 2-cent stamps and only 16 are known to be in existence. If you have one, you could probably sell it for $200,000 to $800,000. The 5-cent and 13-cent stamps from the same time period can fetch a good amount as well.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finding the Value of a Stamp Without Using a Catalog – Part II

From our previous blog we gave you tips on how to start figuring out how to describe your stamp so you can search online stamp auctions to see how much people might be willing to pay for what you have. Once you have determined the relative age of the stamp, next, you need to know if it is a definitive stamp, which is your generally run-of-the-mill, day-to-day, workhorse stamp. These are printed in big repetitive sheets that repeat the stamp over and over again. Is it a commemorative stamp? Commemorative stamps are generally more than twice the size of ordinary stamps and usually printed to commemorate special events.

Now you need to decide if it is used or unused (also sometimes called "mint". For the most part these will have different values. Used stamps generally have a cancellation on them or were at one time stuck on a letter, card, or package. Mint stamps will still have some of the original gum on the back.

Even with all this information, you still need other information to narrow down your search. The denomination of the stamp is important as is what is depicted on the stamp. Many stamps from the 19th Century have either George Washington or Benjamin Franklin on them.
OK, with this information you are ready to search and see what some people are willing to pay for your stamp. You might want to search for "19th Century, unused, George Washington" or maybe "Elvis, 29 cent, commemorative stamp". In the matter of minutes, you can then easily see what some people are willing to pay for your stamp!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Finding the Value of a Stamp Without Using a Catalog – Part I

Regardless of how important catalogs are in getting an idea of what the value of some stamp is in your collection, let's face it. Finding the stamp in a catalog can be a challenge, especially if you haven't used them a lot or are just a casual stamp collector who can't be bothered with pawing through pages and pages of seemingly similar looking stamps. Catalogs, also only present the potential value, not what its actual value might be in the market place.

One easy way to find a stamp's potential value is to look at some online auctions and see what real people are buying your stamp for. To do this, you should know a few things about your stamp and then use that information to find it on an auction website like eBay under its recently completed stamp auctions.

There are thousands of stamps for sale every day on these online auction sites, so you have to know a few things about your stamp before you begin. First, is it engraved? If so, this means it is probably from the 19th century. Engraved stamps generally have a series of lines and dots of solid color like you see on a dollar bill. Is it non-engraved? If so, that means it looks more like a picture in a magazine and is often is in full color. This means it is a 20th century stamp.

In our next blog, we will give you more tips on how to set up a good search to see what your stamp is worth.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Stamp Catalogs: Which Ones to Use for Which Stamps

Ever want to know where to find certain stamps and how much they cost in case you want to buy some new ones to complete your collection of Elvis, airplane, French, Japanese, or early American stamps? Well, there is probably a catalog just for you. Unless you are a major stamp buff, you may not know that not all stamp catalogs are created equal. Depending on the type of stamps you are collecting one particular catalog might be better than any of the others.

Here are some stamp catalogs and what they are best used for.
For French stamps, the best source is “Yvert et Tellier”. This is a century old French concern which lists stamps that French philatelists collect the most. It is an excellent source of stamps for France, Andorra, Monaco, and any of the former French colonies.
The Sakura Catalog is the best source for Japanese stamps.
The Hibernian Catalog specializes in stamps from Ireland.
The OCB Catalog specializes in Belgian stamps.
For German stamps go to the Michel Catalog. It also covers the rest of the world, but is best for Germany.
The Stanley Gibbons Catalog also covers the world, but is particularly good for stamps from Great Britain.
And similarly, the Scott Catalog has stamps from around the world, but specializes in US stamps.
One of the best sources of information, however, can be found on the Glassine Surfer website: http://www.glassinesurfer.com/webdirectory.shtml. This site connects you to a myriad of collecting sites where you can research your collection and connect with people with the same stamp collecting interests as you.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Stamps for All Pocketbooks

What is great about stamp collecting is that it is very inexpensive to get going and new stamps are fairly inexpensive to buy. We have many stamps that cost just a dollar or two and some as expensive as several hundreds of dollars. There is a wide enough range that just about anyone can participate in stamp collecting.

If you have more discriminating needs or are a more sophisticated collector we have items for you too. Periodically we have new collections, stamp groupings, and special offerings that can run up to $30,000 to $50,000 in value. We are more than a resource for inexpensive new issues, we are a world class sophisticated stamp dealer for the professional collector.

To check out our stamps on our website, here are a few tips to help you search and to stay abreast of our new collections. We list our new collection is categories. Look for the drop down box on the top left of every web page. This will give you an easy link to deep inside our store to the sorted collection page showing all the stamp selections in a special collection. We add new items all the time, so this is a great place to check each time you come to our site to see if we have added something new to our drop down list.

If you know what you are looking for by name or country, use our search box in the top right of our website. Also checkout the images and feature content on the home page. We keep this section updated at least once a month. On the home page we feature our newest issues. Speaking of new issues, make sure every month that you check out our links on the left side bar for new issues. We publish a PDF file every month listing all of our new issues with the country, item, and price. You can even print the PDF mark your selections and fax your order to us for fast processing.

We try to make finding new issues and quality stamps easy with our website, but if there is something that you do not see, let us know, our staff will contact you and provide responsive personal service to either search for your item within our dealer network or to help you find it on our own website. We are knowledgeable, friendly, eager to earn your business and your trust.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

How Much Are My Stamps Worth?: Where to Start

People who collect stamps for fun eventually want to know how much their collection is worth. Most people just assume that stamp catalogs will tell them what their collection’s value is, but in reality what you see there is probably not the real answer. Sure, catalogs are a good place to start, but just like anything else, the real value of a collection is what someone is willing to pay for it at the end of the day.

Two popular stamp catalogs are the Scott Standardized Catalog of Stamps and the Stanley Gibbons Stamp catalog. Both can be purchased as books. But for hobby collectors who don't want to invest any money in this, sometimes their local libraries will have them or can get them through interlibrary loans. That way, you can check them out for free and see what the current value is, at least at the printing time of the catalog.

If you are a little more ambitious or your curiosity gets the best of you and you are willing to spend a small amount of money, the Stanley Gibbons Catalog can also be accessed on line at www.allworldstamps.com. To look here, you need to be a subscriber and although it is not as complete as the print volumes for some reason, it is a lot easier to find your stamps and see what they are worth. If you are a real collector or just want to oogle cool stamps but don’t want to invest too much, many good stamp catalogs can be bought on eBay for a nominal price as well.