This Week's Revenues. Let's Talk About Condition/Grade

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December 20, 2012

I received these three stamps in the mail this week, one from eBay and the other two from an auction house. Each is unique in its own way. Two of the three are fairly common, at least according to the Scott catalog, but as is all too frequently the case, either the catalog is wrong (in my opinion) or there's more to the story than just the catalog value.

First is a lovely unused example of RB1c, the imperforate version of RB1a, with PF cert. This stamp only catalogs $80, but just try finding a nice one without faults. They are frequently found creased or thinned. They are also far less common than other early revenue stamps cataloging $200-400. In my opinion, this stamp is considerably undervalued in Scott.

Next is a stamp you see every day.... R77c. However it is in uncommon condition. Four large margins and bright color. A hint to others collecting early U.S. revenues: if you ever come across examples of R77c, R78c, R79c, or R80c, that are (1) sound, and (2) have margins fully clear of the design on all 4 sides, throw the catalog out the window and just buy it!

Seriously, these 4 stamps were positioned so tightly on the sheet and the perforation quality control was so awful that they are found almost universally either poorly centered or with the perfs hitting the design on at least one side.

For the type, this one would be considered to have jumbo, although uneven, margins. In numismatic circles, we would call this a "condition rarity", i.e., the stamp itself is not rare, but its condition makes it so.

Lastly, a stamp that, while flawed, makes for a very nice aesthetic presentation, and was thus (IMO) a bargain.

R96a is a tough stamp, cataloging $3,500. There are lots of trimmed examples out there on the market. This one has very nice balanced margins, and a nice contrasting magenta manuscript cancel. The raggedness of the edges is indicative of having been torn against a steel straight-edge, frequently found on the $5 and $10 types. It has a small tear at bottom right which does not detract from the overall presentation, but dropped the price to below 10% of Scott (it also helped that the seller only listed it as "revenue stamp" with no mention of the catalog number anywhere...). I could probably double to triple my money right away if I chose to flip it, but I consider it a good long-term hold.

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