I. What can you expect on a certificate?
II. Protecting your Investment
III. Examples of Challenging Areas
What can you expect on a certificate?
1) Correct identification of your item. This includes the proper Scott catalogue number.
2) Whether your item is used, unused or on cover.
3) Condition of your item, such as the following faults:
- Added perforations
- Added margins
- Tone spots
- Design repainting
- Perforations trimmed off
4) For unused stamps, the following gum conditions:
- Never hinged
- Original gum
- Redistributed gum
- Cancel removed
5) For covers, the certificate will address the stamps on the cover, the indicia, the frank, the cancellations and the markings:
- Genuine usage
- Cover tear
- Cover shortened
- Stamp missing
- Counterfeit cancel
- Toned spots
- Back flap missing
- Cover repaired
- Stamp(s) did not originate on this cover
- No opinion on the stamp having originated on this cover
The Foundation has become renowned for their expertise, especially in the field of United States philately, with access to the foremost in technological advances and one of the best reference collections in the industry. That’s why beginner and advanced collectors, leading experts and dealers place trust in our certificates. The expertization process provides confidence in the identification, condition, quality, and genuineness of a philatelic item based on it being “reviewed” by a leading team of philatelic experts. This can have a significant impact on the potential value of an item. Some examples have been provided below.
Please note that the Philatelic Foundations does not sell items. The following are merely examples of real-life differences in prices paid for similar appearing examples – one sound and one with a condition issue to highlight the importance of a certificate.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #293, it is genuine, previously hinged||Opinion rendered: Scott #293, it is genuine, previously hinged, with a gum covered thin spot|
|Price realized in 2013 at a major auction: $2,990.00||Price realized in 2006 at a major auction: $1,093.00|
Faults can include a range of condition issues such as thins, creases, tone spots and tears. These are generally collector-caused issues from improper handling over time. Value of stamps can change significantly depending on severity of the fault(s) and other factors.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #262, it is genuine, previously hinged||Opinion rendered: Scott #262, it is genuine, previously hinged, reperforated at left|
|Price realized in 2013 at a major auction: $2,760.00||Price realized in 2009 at a major auction: $1,265.00|
Reperforation of stamps is an easy way to “improve” a stamp’s appearance or to try to change it into something better than it was originally. This is done by either altering or creating perforations on each side of a stamp. This is often done to create a better-centered stamp, remove a natural straight-edge or remove an edge fault. More information can be found in this article on reperforation.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #1, it is genuine, unused||Opinion rendered: Scott #1, it is genuine, cancellation removed and with faults|
|Price realized in 2006 at a major auction: $3,220.00||Price realized in 2007 at a major auction: $316.00|
Removing a cancellation on a stamp is done to increase the value associated with that stamp. These stamps are altered in an attempt to pass-off a used stamp as unused or to remove a manuscript cancel and replace it with a handstamp. Removal of manuscript cancels are more often seen as handstamp inks are far more indelible.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #67, it is genuine, used||Opinion rendered: Scott #67, it is genuine, used but rebacked, margins added on all sides and portions of the cancel drawn in|
|Price realized in 2012 at a major auction: $4,888.00||The value would be less than $100.00 as a spacefiller|
Rebacking is a major repair to a stamp. This is often done in the event of a major fault such as a large thin. An additional piece of paper is attached and hardened on the back of a stamp and then, generally, reperforated on all sides to add margins. This is to try hiding the damage and pass off the stamp as sound and with no faults.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #68L2, it is genuine, used||Opinion rendered: Scott #68L2, it is forgery, Lyons Type A|
|Price realized in 2013 at a major auction: $2,645.00||The value would be less than $100.00 to a specialist as reference|
Forgeries occur in any collectible area when there is a potential for reselling to an unsuspecting collector. These are created to mimic the original and created after issuance of the original item. Some forgeries can be very tricky as forgers, with some issues, have been able to use the original plates from printing. Only seasoned specialists can differentiate. Forgeries should not be confused with counterfeits but can be equally as dangerous to a collector. Counterfeits were created to defraud the postal system and not the collector. Some counterfeits can have value to a collector or specialist as reference.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #31, it is a genuine usage, stamp with tiny tear and cover reduced at left||Opinion rendered: Scott #31, it is a genuine stamp, with small nick that did not originate on this cover|
|Price realized in 2010 at a major auction: $633.00||The value of this item would be based on a stamp rather than on cover|
In an attempt to increase the value of an item, forgers sometimes add stamps to low-value covers. This could include forging cancellations too. Many covers are easily suspicious as the rates do not match the correct rate needed for the covers. Also, postmarks already on the cover may not correspond to the correct time period of the stamp. Others, such as the item above, can easily deceive even seasoned collectors.
All areas of philately have numerous challenging issues, rates, types, and shades as well as attempts by forgers to alter stamps. Below is a just a small sampling of “tricky” areas that often fool even the most seasoned collectors and experts to reinforce the important of a certificate.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #5, it is genuine||Opinion rendered: Scott #7, it is genuine|
|Price realized in 2007 at a major auction: $431,250.00||Price realized in 2013 at a major auction: $288.00|
These stamps show the striking resemblance between the 1851 1c Blue stamps – a Classic U.S. stamp. The first one is Scott #5 which is Type I and the second is Scott #7 which is type II. The difference is in the design is the bottom corner scrolls and their “completeness”. There are other types which are very similar. A certificate will help distinguish these types.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #351, it is a genuine pair, used||Opinion rendered: Scott #351, it is not a genuine coil, the perforations have been added|
|Price realized in 2012 at a major auction: $518.00||This would have minimal value as a reference item|
Coil stamps are strips of stamps – one stamp wide – that are rolled into “coils”. These were first used by vending machine companies to dispense stamps. The Washington-Franklin issue is rife with forgeries created by taking cheaper stamps and “making” them into scarcer varieties. The example above is a Scott #347 (imperforate) which is more common. Perforations were added to simulate a coil in an attempt to make it a Scott #351.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #C84a, it is genuine, blue and green omitted||Opinion rendered: Scott #1757, it is genuine, with colors chemically altered|
|Opinion rendered: Scott #2365a, it is genuine, red omitted||Opinion rendered: Scott #2365, it is genuine, with traces of red in the wheels|
Above are examples of modern errors. The first two show examples of a genuine color omitted error where the colors blue and green were mistakenly omitted during the printing process of this air post stamp. The other example is a victim of a forger trying to alter the stamp. Through a chemical process, forgers are able to remove colors in an attempt to replicate a scarce error.
The second two examples are not victims of forgers. Instead, the first example is a true error with the color red omitted. The second example is a variety in which most of the red color is omitted. In order to be a “true” error, there must be no trace of the omitted color.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #U270, it is genuine on white paper||Opinion rendered: Scott #U271, it is genuine on amber paper||Opinion rendered: Scott #U272, it is genuine on fawn paper|
|Scott 2014 Catalogue value $130.00||Scott 2014 Catalogue value $450.00||Scott 2014 Catalogue value $7,500.00|
Postal Stationery is pre-printed stamps on covers which are collected as both cut squares and entires. There are major distinguishable characteristics of identical indicias. This includes paper color as seen able above but also include different cuts of entires and minor design differences. As you can see from the catalogue value, slight shades in paper color can correspond to large differences in value.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #R96a, it is genuine||Opinion rendered: Scott #R96c, it is genuine, with perforations trimmed away|
|Opinion rendered: Scott #R107a, it is genuine, center inverted||Opinion rendered: Scott #R107, it is genuine, center image chemically removed and replaced with an inverted fraudulent vignette|
Revenues are stamps that were used as proof of a tax payment on a number of different instances. Early in production, some stamps were either not perforated or perforated on two sides and distributed as such. As production continued, most stamps were distributed with perforations. Imperforate stamps are scarcer, and therefore, more valuable. Perforated stamps are easy targets to be trimmed to increase their value.
The second pair consists of an error in printing the central vignette upside down. Unfortunately, at some point in time, the original dies of the vignette were obtained by crafty forgers. These forgers took normal examples, chemically removed the central vignette and reprinted the vignette upside down. Some of these examples are still on the marketplace and can fools an unsuspecting collector.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #15L13 and #2, it is a genuine usage, #2 with fault||Opinion rendered: Scott #15L13 and #2, it is not a genuine usage, the #2 with manuscript cancel removed and not originating on this cover|
Carriers and Locals is a large and fascinating area of U.S. philately. Although, it can be a very challenging area too. There are a number of fakes and forgeries made to deceive collectors. The two examples above show the additional of a Scott #2 being added which increases the value of the cover drastically. Although, one is a fake with the #2 being added. Carriers and Locals are often not tied to covers which make them susceptible to forgers to “create” them. Many items are not recommended to be bought without a certificate.
|Opinion rendered: Daniel Webster (U.S. Senate) Free Frank, it is a genuine usage, addressed in his hand||Opinion rendered: Daniel Webster (U.S. Senate) Free Frank, it is a genuine usage, addressed in another hand|
Free franks were used by the likes of U.S. Senators, Presidents, the First-Lady, among others. This provided them the ability to use the mails without charge. At times, free franks were provided and addressed by another individual. This can change the value of the item. In more recent history, autopens and secretary signatures have been used to sign documents. These sell for significantly less than those signed by the individual themselves.
Grading is a numerical grade which is assigned to a stamp based on it’s condition. The scale ranges to a maximum grade of 100. Often times, grading can add significant value to a stamp dependent on factors including the market of that specific stamp and how many are graded in a similar fashion. The numerical value is heavily dependent on the centering of the stamp. Deductions are factored in, dependent on the severity, on a number of faults. More in-depth information on grading can be found here. The importance of grading should not be overlooked when it comes time to sell your stamps. Please see the differences below.
|Opinion rendered: Scott #292, it is genuine, never hinged, Graded 85||Opinion rendered: Scott #292, it is genuine, never hinged, Graded 90||Opinion rendered: Scott #292, it is genuine, never hinged, Graded 95|
|Price realized in 2010 at a major auction: $3,738.00||Price realized in 2007 at a major auction: $8,625.00||Price realized in 2006 at a major auction: $16,675.00|