The Philatelic Foundation Manual of Grading
Introduction to Grading
Since 1945 the Philatelic Foundation, chartered by the State University of New York, has stood at the forefront of serving the philatelic community. Initially our certificates only addressed authenticity since that is all that concerned collectors.
As the price of sound stamps versus faulty stamps widened, the PF paid closer attention to condition, explicitly stating on our certificates any faults discovered in the examination of items submitted.
When the disparity in prices of hinged versus never hinged stamps became dramatic, the PF recognized the necessity of issuing certificates for mint stamps that explicitly stated if an item was previously hinged or never hinged.
The disparity in prices of what many in the hobby refer to as top quality stamps versus lower quality stamps has now become so significant that a need has developed in the philatelic community to evaluate a stamp’s grade.
In issuing graded certificates the PF continues its 60 year history of providing those expertizing services most desired by the philatelic community.
What Items Will Be Graded?
- As a general rule of thumb only those items listed in the Scott Valuing Supplement
- Coil singles, pairs and line pairs
- Exceptions that will also be eligible are Newspaper stamps without gum, Revenue stamps, Savings stamps, Confederate States of America, United States Possessions and other items that the Expert Committee will decide on a case by case basis
If you are not sure if your item is eligible to be graded please contact us.
What Items Will Not Be Graded?
- Items that have serious faults
- Items that have been repaired
- Fakes, such as coil stamps that have been made from imperforate Scott numbers; for example Scott #351 being made from #347
- Altered items such as a line being scraped off of a #492 to have it resemble a #491 or a guide line being drawn in on a coil pair to make it appear as a line pair
- Non-coil multiples
Will Grading Be Optional or Mandatory?
Grading will be optional. It will be up to each submitter to request either a graded or standard (non-graded) certificate. Furthermore, each submitter may request that an item not be graded unless it achieves a minimum grade. If that minimum grade is not achieved, the item will receive a non-graded certificate.
How Will the Certificate Fee Be Determined?
The certificate fee for graded items will be based on the value listed in the most current edition of the Scott Catalogue (the United States Specialized Catalogue or Volume 1) or Fair Market Value whichever is higher. Please review the application form for the exact fee for your item.
How Is an Item Graded?
Each item will receive a preliminary grade from 50 (Very Good) to 98 (Superb) points. A perforated stamp will be judged upon the centering of its design within its perforations. Imperforate stamps will be judged upon its centering within its margins and the size of those margins. (See the illustrations below for a guide to centering.)
Point Deductions from the Preliminary Grade
Deductions up to 5 points will be made depending on the number, severity and significance for any of the following problems:
- Blind perforation(s)
- Natural gum bend(s)
- Natural gum wrinkle(s)
- Natural gum skip(s)
- Tiny natural inclusion(s)
- Short perforation(s)
- Minor perforation crease(s)
- Minor toned spot(s)
- Tiny thin spot(s)
- Tiny tear(s)
- Pale or faded color
- Paper that is not fresh
- Perforated stamps with margins that are smaller than one usually sees
- Perforation disc indentations
- In the case of used stamps a heavy run-of-the-mill cancel may lower the grade
Exceptionally Large Margined Items
Those items whose margins are exceptionally large will not have points added to the preliminary grade but will instead have the word “Jumbo” added to its grade; i.e. 95 Jumbo.
The Final Grade
Following an item’s evaluation against these objective criteria, the submission will have achieved a score determined by its centering with any deductions factored in. Finally, the stamp’s overall appeal is considered. This is accomplished by factoring in certain other criteria not readily quantifiable. These criteria include outstanding color, a well defined impression, full perforations on the 1875 Bank Note Hard Paper Special Printings and, in the case of used stamps, a particularly attractive cancel. This final step is based on the experience that our Expert Committee has gained from years of examining stamps and supported by the PF’s photographic archives containing over 425,000 certified items along with an unsurpassed reference collection. This appeal factor will help to determine the item’s final grade. See the table below for a list of the final grades.
|Traditional Grade||Point Score|
|Extremely Fine (XF)||
|Very Fine (VF)||
|Very Good (VG)||