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?
in Australia a 5s. Kangaroo, third watermark, mounted mint ‘CA’ monogram single, catalogue price for a single stamp £225, sold for A$21,000 – getting on for £9000 pounds after tax and premium were added!
The first stamps of Great Britain bore an inscription in the sheet margins, advising the public as to the price of the stamps, where they should be placed on the letter and warning against the removal of ‘the cement’. The early surface-printed stamps also bore inscriptions in the sheet margins. The latter are not currently considered to impact significantly on the value of the stamp to which they are attached, but a partial marginal inscription can make a great difference to the price of a Penny Black or Penny Red, and a complete corner, with plate number attached, will be very desirable indeed.
What’s the damage?
We have looked at some aspects of damage in this article, notably in relation to perforations, so let us conclude by reviewing other aspects of damage.
All young collectors are advised from the outset to avoid torn stamps, and the advice obviously holds good throughout one’s philatelic life. However, that is not to say that all torn stamps are worthless, because even a torn example of a desirable stamp is still collectable and can therefore command a price.
In a GB context, a fine used £5 orange or 2s. brown with a 3mm tear, but otherwise superb, would probably rate about one third of catalogue price; A more common stamp, such as a 2s.6d. or 5s. value, would be worth much less and, naturally, the larger or more obvious the tear, the greater its impact on the price.
A ‘bend’ will generally not be evident on the face of a stamp, only on the back, and will result in a 10 or 15 per cent reduction in price; a gum crease is the natural result of gum ageing and its effect on value will depend upon the damage caused to the face of the stamp. A crease is clearly evident on the surface of the stamp and will result in a more common stamp being worth between one fifth and one tenth of catalogue, depending on the harshness of the crease and where it is – a crease across a corner will be less significant than one right across the middle, for example.
A ‘wrinkle’ gives the appearance of a series of light creases, whose effect on value will depend on its extent and clarity. Once again, a crease or wrinkle on a valuable stamp will be less significant in percentage terms than one on a more common one – all other factors being equal.
The impact a thin will have will similarly depend upon its extent and the effect it may have on the surface of the stamp; a surface abrasion having a greater impact than a hinge thin. Some of the chalksurfaced key types of the early twentieth century are particularly prone to ‘rubbing’ and, again, this will