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?
wing margins are now no longer despised, indeed, because of their slightly larger size, they frequently compare well with a ‘normal’ and they certainly show a postmark to better advantage. Thus, there is no longer a discount for a wing margined stamp, although we have not yet reached a situation where one has to pay a premium for their relative scarcity!
Sadly, however, those stamps which were ‘doctored’ in order to appeal to earlier fashions are now considered to be considerably devalued, except in the case of a good basic stamp such as the 2s. brown, or perhaps where the stamp has some other redeeming feature such as an attractive cancellation.
For more run-of-the-mill stamps a price of one tenth of catalogue would usually be appropriate. With this in mind, of course, it pays to be aware of the corner letters of British surface printed stamps which should have wing margins, in order to spot ones which have had fake perforations added. This information is given in both ‘Part 1’ and the GB Specialised Catalogue.
De La Rue printed stamps by the same technique for many British colonies; stamps which do not have corner letters to allow today’s collectors to identify those with ‘dodgy perfs’. The early stamps of Hong Kong are an obvious example and, bearing in mind the prices which these can fetch in fine condition, it behoves us all to be aware of stamps which may have had wing margins removed and to check them carefully before purchase.
For modern stamps, an intact sheet margin should not add to the value, although one might expect to pay a small premium for a plate block or imprint block over the price for a plain block of four.
For most of the earlier twentieth century stamps, also, a plain margin will do little for a stamp’s value, but if that piece of margin includes a control number, plate number or printer’s imprint then the difference can be very significant indeed!
Great Britain control numbers were widely collected at the time they were current and are widely available to this day.
Reference to volume 2 of the Great Britain Specialised Catalogue demonstrates that, in spite of the fact that there was only one control single in a sheet of 240 stamps, apart from a few rare examples, they generally only merit a premium of between 50 and 100 per cent over the price of a normal mounted mint example.
Plate number singles of colonial stamps occurred once or twice a sheet but, judging from the infrequency with which one encounters them, they were not sought after at the time of issue and are still undervalued today – again a small premium over the price of a fine mint basic stamp is all one should expect.
However, perhaps the Australian market indicates that this may not always be the case. In Australia huge premiums are now being paid for imprint strips and singles at auction. At a recent sale