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?
a heavy hinge still attached, the price would drop to about half catalogue and from there on would decline fairly rapidly.
For a twentieth century stamp without gum a price of about one tenth of catalogue would be more or less the order of the day (unless it was normally issued that way, of course!). However, many early issues are extremely rare with gum and in these cases anything up to full catalogue price would be appropriate.
Prices for early Western Australia and Sarawak are, for example, without gum; gummed stamps being worth a premium. The first perforated issues of British Guiana are also rarely found with gum, so ungummed examples would be worth a higher proportion of catalogue price than usual – about one third, or more – while Turks Islands provisionals and early New Zealand Chalon heads without gum might rate half catalogue or above.
As for the premium that should be put on earlier stamps in unmounted condition, that will vary from issue to issue and from country to country. Clearly, the older the stamp the less likely it is that it will be easy to find by those seeking ‘unmounted’ perfection.
The Great Britain Concise catalogue gives both mounted and unmounted prices for all stamps issued between 1887 and 1935 and the premium ranges from zero, up to 100 per cent, or even more, depending on the relative scarcity of the stamp in unmounted condition.
As for post-1935 stamps in lightly mounted condition, the story is just as complicated. As it says in the catalogue;
‘Some stamps from the King George VI period are often difficult to find in unmounted mint condition. In such instances we would expect that collectors would need to pay a high proportion of the price quoted to obtain mounted mint examples. Generally speaking, lightly mounted mint stamps from this reign, issued before 1945, are in considerable demand.’
This may hold good for Commonwealth stamps, but on the continent the demand for unmounted has severely affected the market for even lightly mounted specimens. The current Part 7, Germany, Catalogue provides some clear examples of this. This catalogue gives unmounted and mounted mint prices for all Third Reich issues, from 1933 to 1945, with unmounted prices only for later issues. The differences are quite dramatic, with the 1936 Local Government Congress set (SG 614/7) rated at £16.00 unmounted, but only £2.75 lightly hinged, and the 1942 Hamburg Derby stamp (SG 804) is priced at £19.00 and £5.25, respectively. Thus, for most mounted mint post-war European stamps, one should probably be thinking in terms of deducting 75 or 80 per cent from the catalogue price.
As suggested earlier, Commonwealth collectors are fortunate in that the price differential is not nearly so dramatic. On average, mounted mint prices for post-war King George VI sets are approximately ‘half catalogue’. Again, there are exceptions: to take three examples; the first King George VI 3d. of Ascension, the black and ultramarine stamp (42), would only rate around 25