The Importance of Condition – A guide to Stanley Gibbons’ definition of ‘fine’ The prices in the Stanley Gibbons Catalogues are for stamps in ‘fine condition’ – but what exactly does ‘fine’ mean, and what effect might a slight defect have upon the price?
and any stamp cancelled in this way would fall well short of ‘fine’. The rectangular parcel cancellations which replaced the old parcel labels in the twentieth century are also shunned by all, other than postal historians seeking particular markings.
We have briefly touched upon this issue already, but it is worth pursuing in greater depth. The reason why many collectors eschew stamps cancelled by pen marks is that they very often suggest fiscal, rather than postal, use.
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.
On the other hand, Australian postage due stamps are often found correctly cancelled in manuscript, rather than by a dated postmark. Although these are perfectly collectable, they are certainly nowhere near as desirable as similar examples with a ‘proper’ postmark and would probably rate no more than 20 per cent of catalogue, if that.
Returning to fiscal cancellations, these take a number of forms and, since the stamps concerned are often of high face value, some are more desirable than others. The early ‘Arms’ high values of Rhodesia are relatively common fiscally used, cancelled by rubber handstamps in a variety of colours and often perfined as well. Such examples would rate barely 5 per cent of the catalogue price of postally used examples. The New Zealand ‘long’ Queen Victoria and ‘Arms’ high values were designed for both postal and fiscal use and the prices given for them in the catalogue are for examples with clear postal cancellations.
However, some revenue cancels are similar in form to postal ones, so it is important that sufficient of the cancel falls on the stamp to guarantee postal use. Again, fiscally used examples would generally rate only 5 per cent or so of the price of postally used ones, while, among stamps which have seen revenue use, clear black ‘Stamp Office’ and other similar types are much more desirable than purple rubber handstamps, embossed cancels, manuscript markings and stamps which have been perforated through.
Generally speaking, just as stamp collectors prefer stamps which have not been fiscally used, they are also not keen on those which have identifiable telegraphic cancellations.
Often, the same canceller was used for both purposes, in which case a stamp, once removed from a telegraph form would be indistinguishable from a postally used example and would therefore be equally acceptable.
However, Indian high values that have been used telegraphically can often be identified by their cancellations which have three concentric arcs in the segments of the postmark immediately above and below the band across the centre of the cancellation which contains the date of sending.