will vary from stamp to stamp. Any stamp less than 100 years old should really be perfect in every way, but one can be more forgiving with older issues.
Briefly, here are a few of the things to consider.
For unused stamps issued after 1936 prices are for unmounted mint – stamps never previously hinged. Modern stamps with hinge marks should be substantially discounted. For earlier stamps, heavy mounts and multiple hinges will also detract from the value, while unused stamps with the gum removed are worth considerably less.
For imperforate stamps these should be clear on all sides – the design should not be cut into or even touching the edge of the stamp.
Check that these are complete, that none are missing or short, especially at the stamp corners. Ideally the margin between the stamp design and the perforations should be even and well balanced – known as ‘well centred’.
Check that there are no tears or thins to the paper – on the front as well as the back – and that there are no bends or creases. Again, the greater the damage the further away from ‘full catalogue’ the stamp is worth.
These should be clear, clean and should not disfigure the stamp. The prices for all British stamps issued after 1880 assume used stamps to be cancelled with a clean, clear circular datestamp. Heavy parcel, wavy line or slogan cancellations reduce stamp values significantly. On the other hand, very lightly cancelled stamps should sometimes be viewed with suspicion. There needs to be enough of the postmark showing to prove that the stamp has really been used!
If the above notes seem complicated, don’t worry. You will soon become adept at viewing every stamp in the light of its condition and deciding what proportion of catalogue you are prepared to pay. If you are not certain, ask the dealer for a guarantee that he will refund your money if you’re not happy with your purchase. All good dealers will be happy to provide this.
So, buy carefully – but, above all, have fun!
For a more in-depth guide to condition and how Stanley Gibbons define, ‘fine’, visit http://bit.ly/hmWodb