Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buying Collections at Auction

Before Christmas there was an interesting thread within a thread on the Virtual Stamp Club concerning collections and large lots at public auctions (as opposed to eBay). The thread began with VSC member jkoshel noting a trend of such items "going for rather high amounts as of late" and wondering if it was because "the market of breaking down such lots and then reselling on eBay is becoming more lucrative." (Message #*41975.174) There was no consensus on this issue, but Weiss111 posted that [some percentage] of auction houses purposely underestimate the value of large lots because they want to sell them to individuals who have examined them personally. He goes on to say that the primary purpose of underestimating lots is so that mail bidders will underbid persons actually in attendance who can physically examine the lots and come up with a more accurate (and higher) value. This helps prevent complaints from bidders who otherwise would buy unseen and makes the auction house look good to sellers when their holdings realize more than was estimated.

Another poster, gsquared2k, who is a regular buyer of lots, wrote that in his experience different auction houses have different practices (including some firms who try to accurately estimate their value) and that these practices can be divined with enough patience.

Another set of comments in the discussion had to do with whether valuable (i.e., $500+ retail) stamps were automatically removed by auction houses from large lots and sold separately. According to gsquared2, and I'm quoting here as my paraphrase would just be more wordy and less clear than the original: "There are some firms that will leave in better items that do not meet their individual lot criteria or are just instructed by a consignor to leave the collection intact and sell it as-consigned. Then there are other firms that have lower requirements for per-lot values and will remove the slightly higher priced items that are in better condition and lot them individually. Then you have other firms that will completely strip out all of the better material and leave collections as beginner lots." (Message *41975.191)

For what it is worth, it is my anecdotal experience that better Blue Volume 1 collections are bringing more on eBay than they did in 2008 when I started my album. A few weeks ago a collection of 16,000 stamps sold for $2300 and there have been a number of smaller Volume Ones that sold for over $1000 earlier in the year. Whether this is true for Volume 1 collections offered through public auctions I cannot say.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Importance of Condition"

A few days ago the website posted an article from the firm of Stanley Gibbons concerning "what exactly does ‘fine’ mean, and what effect might a slight defect have upon the price?" My understanding is that the piece is from the Stanley Gibbons’ 2011 Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps 1840-1970 catalogue.

In spite of what might appear to be a narrow focus, this 7000+ word article is a mine of information about Commonwealth stamp collecting. Making it even better, most of the comments could apply to many countries. Topics covered include Gum; Margins; Perforations; Nibbled, Short or Pulled?; Wing Margins, Marginal Premium; What's the Damage?; Perfins; Fading; Cancellation Quality; Circular Datestamps; Manuscript Cancellations; Telegraphic Postmarks; Forged Cancellations; and Cancelled to Order.

Here are just some sample quotes that hopefully will send you to read the main article:

"Just as in the case of wing margins and perfins...fashions are changing in relation to cancellations. In the past, the aim was to find stamps on which the cancellation fell across just one corner of the design, leaving the major part of it clear. Today, interest in exactly where and when the stamp was cancelled, not to mention the possibility that such partial cancellations may have been forged, have made clear, centrally applied or ‘socked-on-the-nose’ cancellations much more desirable – although, again, they do need to be lightly applied."

"Fiscally used stamps are normally much cheaper than postally used examples, even with the significant increase in interest in revenue stamps which has taken place in the last decade. However, individual post offices in a number of countries have resorted to this form of cancellation from time to time and examples are sometimes even more desirable than the same stamp with a clear dated postmark."

"While on the subject of ‘drawn in by hand’, collectors in the past – including some very eminent ones – were in the habit of ‘enhancing’ slightly unclear postal markings by drawing over them in Indian ink."

"Many businesses in Asian countries, especially forwarding agents, were in the habit of cancelling their stamps with ‘chops’, while individuals frequently wrote across them in manuscript in order to discourage theft."

"As the volume of worldwide stamp issues has escalated in the last 30 years and the cost of having postally used stamps removed from envelopes, soaked, dried and sorted has risen, it is no longer practicable for the stamp trade to supply fine postally used examples of most modern issues. They are therefore supplied cancelled by the postal administration concerned at the same price as mint examples...."

You can find the entire article on the website.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Overview of Stamps Missing from Later Editions of the Blue

Consider the following scenario. You've purchased a used Blue Volume 1 on eBay. As you thumb through your new purchase looking for items to add to your collection, you keep coming across rows and sometimes pages for stamps that are nowhere to be found in your Blue. Do you ignore these stamps and leave them for another collector? What if you decide in the future that you want these stamps. After all, if they were once good enough for Scott, aren't they probably still of interest to you? But there aren't any spaces to mount the stamps so what are you to do with them in the interim.

As remarked on in many of my posts, Scott regularly dropped stamps that had been in earlier versions of the Blue when preparing a new edition (and, less often, vice-versa). In a few cases this was a conscious decision by Scott--for example, removing all of the US Revenue pages. But most of the time the dropping of a row or two of stamps most likely was to cut corners on costs. This leaves the Blue collector in a quandary when transferring stamps from an album bought on say eBay to their permanent collection when the editions differ. For example, the 1947 and earlier editions of the Blue have spaces for Austria Military stamps from 1915-1918 but these are missing entirely from my 1969 edition. In most cases, there are too many missing stamps to add if Scott hasn't provided a blank page at the appropriate point.

What I decided to do was to temporarily house stamps like the Austrian Military issues in a stockbook. Now when I come across "deleted" stamps in an older International I can put them in the stock book until I make a decision in the future about what to do. (I envision adding them on blank pages to my album or perhaps using Scott's stockpages that are pre-punched for the International.)

Here are the categories that Scott provides spaces for in the 1943/47 edition but are not my 1969. Your milage may vary but in general many of these are missing from all later editions. At some point I need to recheck and refine, but hopefully even in this form the list may be of some use to other collectors.

(Note that I'm not talking about the tens of thousands of stamps missing from all editions of the Blue. This is just to highlight stamps that were once in the album but are now MIA.)

∗ United States. Envelope cut squares 1925, 1925-34, 1926, 1932
∗ United States. Letter sheet 1896
∗ United States. Official Envelopes. Post Office 1873-76, 1877. Postal Savings 1911. War Department 1875.
∗ United States. Revenues 1862-1936, including Documentary, Proprietary, Future Delivery, and Stock Transfer.
∗ Algeria. Newspaper 1924-26
∗ Andorra. Postage Dues 1935
∗ Austria. Military 1915, 1916-17, 1917, 1918
∗ Austria. Military Newspaper 1916
∗ Baden (entire country)
∗ Bergedorf (entire country)
∗ Bremen (entire country)
∗ Brunswick (entire country)
∗ Basutoland. Postage Dues 1933
∗ Bechuanaland Protectorate. Postage Dues 1932
∗ Canada. Registration 1875-79
∗ Carinthia (entire country)
∗ Cayman Islands. War Tax 1917, 1918-20
∗ Central Lithuania 1920 (missing 6 imperfs)
∗ Central Lithuania 1920 (missing 6 additional imperfs)
∗ Central Lithuania 1921 (missing 6 imperfs)
∗ Central Lithuania 1921 (missing 6 additional imperfs)
∗ Central Lithuania 1921-22 (missing 6 imperfs)
∗ Central Lithuania. Semi-Postal 1921(missing "same perf")
∗ Central Lithuania 1920 Surcharges (imperf)
∗ Central Lithuania 1920 (same with inset imperf?)
∗ Ceylon. Official Stamps 1895-1904
∗ Ceylon. War Tax 1918
∗ China. Offices Abroad 1911 (Tibet)
∗ China. Offices Abroad 1929 (SinKiang)
∗ China. Offices Award 1925 (Yunnan)
∗ China. Offices Abroad 1929 (Manchuria)
∗ Colombia. Registration Stamps 1889-1917
∗ Colombia. City of Bogota 1889-1903 [more?]
∗ Colombia. Antioquia. Acknowledgment of Receipt 1902-03
∗ Colombia. Antioquia. Too Late 1899-1902
∗ Colombia. Cundinamarca 1904
∗ Colombia. Registration 1904
∗ Colombia. Bolivar 1879, 1880, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1891, 1903, 1904
∗ Colombia. Boyacca 1903, 1904
∗ Cuba. Newspaper 1888, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1896
∗ Cuba. Special Delivery 1936
∗ Cuba. Airpost S.D. 1936
∗ Curacao (Netherlands Antilles). Postage dues 1892-1915
∗ Czechoslovakia. Newspaper 1918-20, 1925, 1926
∗ Czechoslovakia. Special Delivery 1918-21
∗ Czechoslovakia. Bohemia & Moravia. Newspaper 1939
∗ Czechoslovakia. Bohemia & Moravia. Personal Delivery 1939
∗ Czechoslovakia. Slovakia. Semi-Postals 1939
∗ Czechoslovakia. Slovakia. Newspaper 1939
∗ Dalmatia (entire country)
∗ Eastern Rumelia (entire country)
∗ Eastern Silesia (entire country)
∗ Ecuador. Offical Stamps 1886-1887 (various issues)
∗ Falkland Islands. War Tax 1918
∗ Gabon. Surcharges 1933
∗ Germany. Newspaper 1939
∗ Gibraltar. War Tax 1918
∗ Gilbert & Elice Islands. War Tax 1918
∗ Greece. Postage Dues (extra spaces)
∗ Greece. Occupied Turkey. Postage Dues
∗ Hatay. Regular issues 1939
∗ Hatay. Postage Dues 1939
∗ Hamburg (entire country)
∗ Hanover (entire country)
∗ Heligoland (entire country)
∗ Hejaz. Regular issues 1916-18
∗ Hejaz 1917, 1925
∗ Hejaz. Postage dues 1925
∗ Honduras. Offical Stamps 1890, 1921, 1924
∗ India. Feudatory States
∗ Ireland. Postage Dues 1925
∗ Iraq. Official Stamps
∗ Iraq. On State Service 1932, 1934
∗ Italy. Official Stamps 1875
∗ Italy. Pneumatic Post 1913-28
∗ Italy. Offices in Turkish Empire 1901-20 (Albania, etc.)
∗ Italy. Occupation Stamps 1930
∗ Italy. Occupation Stamps. Aegean Islands 1932
∗ Yugoslavia. Newspaper Stamps 1919
∗ Yugoslavia. Semi-Postals 1933 (XI International Kongress 6 values)
∗ Liberia. Postage Due 1893
∗ Liberia. Registration Stamps 1903
∗ Liberia. Offical Stamps (2 pages!)
∗ Lithuania. Semi-Postal 1939
∗ Lourenço Marques. Newspaper 1895
∗ Lourenço Marques. Surcharges 1920-21
∗ Lourenço Marques. Semi-postals 1917
∗ Lubeck (entire country)
∗ Madeira. Newspaper stamps 1876
∗ Madeira. Postal Tax, Postagal Tax Due 1925
∗ Malta. War Tax 1917-18
∗ Malta. Air Mail 1928
∗ Manchuko. Regular issues 1939-40
∗ Manchuko. Air Mails 1936-37
∗ Martinique. Postage Dues 1927, 1933
∗ Martinique. Semi-postals
∗ Mauritania. Semi-Postals 1915-18, 1938
∗ Mauritania. Airpost 1940
∗ Mauritania. Postage Dues 1914
∗ Mecklenburg Schwerin (entire country)
∗ Mecklenburg Strelitz (entire country)
∗ Mexico. Porte de Mar 1875, 1879
∗ Modena (entire country)
∗ Middle Congo. Surcharges 1936
∗ Montserrat. War Tax 1917
∗ Mozambique. Postal Tax Stamps 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930
∗ New Caldonia. Semi-Postal 1915, 1917-1938
∗ New Caldonia. Postage Dues 1906, 1928
∗ Nicaragua. Official Stamps 1896-97 (red)
∗ Nicaragua. Offical Stamps 1900, 1905, 1909
∗ Nicaragua. Official Airmail Stamps 1939
∗ Nicaragua. Postal Tax 1921, 1922, 1928-29, 1928-35, 1937
∗ Nicaragua. Postage Due 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899
∗ Nicaragua. Province of Zelaya 1904-08, 1908, 1909, 1912
∗ Nicaragua. Cabo Gracias a Dios 1907, 1909
∗ Oltre Giuba. Parcel Post 1925
∗ Oltre Giuba. Postage Dues 1925
∗ Oltre Giuba. Special Delivery 1926
∗ Oldenburg (entire country)
∗ Parma (entire country)
∗ Prussia. Regular Issues 1850-60
∗ Persia. Parcel Post 1915
∗ Persia. Officials 1881
∗ Romagna (entire country)
∗ Saseno (entire country)
∗ Siberia (entire country)
∗ Straits Settlements. Postage Dues 1924-26, 1936-38
∗ Syria. Surcharges 1920
∗ Syria. Postage dues 1925, 1931
∗ Trinidad & Tobago. War Tax 1917-18
∗ Trinidad & Tobago. Semi-postals 1915-16
∗ Trinidad & Tobago. Officials 1913-16
∗ Trinidad & Tobago. Postage Dues 1923-29
∗ Turks & Caicos Islands. War Tax 1916-18
∗ Tripolitania. Regular issues 1933-34 (14 spaces)
∗ Tripolitania. Semi-postals (various years)
∗ Tripolitania. Air Special Delivery 1934
∗ Tripolitania. Semi-Postal Airs 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934-35
∗ Tunisia. Parcel Post (various)
∗ Turkey in Asia. Postage Dues 1922
∗ Turkey. Newspaper stamps (full page)
∗ Turkey. Offices in Thessaly 1898
∗ Tuscany (entire country)
∗ Two Sicilies (entire country)
∗ White Russia (entire country deliberately removed from the Scott catalog and later editions of the album)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Want a Penny Black? Try China.

If that space for Great Britain Scott #1 is still unfilled in your Blue International album, you may want to add it to your Holiday wishlist. Don Schilling's The Stamp Collectors Round-Up brought to our attention a recent press release from Stanley Gibbons. SG sold all of the Penny Blacks they took to a Beijing stamp expo in November and have an order for 10,000 more. SG says that "We normally sell no more than a hundred penny blacks in any given year so this trade order creates a demand 100 times the normal market size...We might end up with most of the penny blacks in the world going to China. The Chinese are already paying twice our catalogue price to get their hands on them."

While a non-collector might assume that the world's first stamp issued 170 years ago would be rare, the reality is that more than 68 million were printed. A textbook example of supply and demand, even though the Penny Black is readily available today (at least in China!), the demand keeps the price up. Something that Stanley Gibbons, a firm that actively promotes stamps as an investment, is no doubt happy to see.