US Stamps

Even the finest collections offer affordable stamps

Dec 31, 2014, 5 AM

Beginning in November 2013, Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries began dispersing the remarkable collection of the late Dan Curtis.

Of all of his impressive collections, he gave pride of place to his revenue stamps. On Dec. 16, 2014, Siegel sold the first part of Curtis’ United States revenue stamp holdings.

Among the more than 350 lots were many attractive multiples that sold for handsome prices.

For example, a lovely used block of four of the imperforate $20 Conveyance (Scott R98a) in extremely fine condition was hammered down for $7,500. Tacking on the 15 percent buyer’s premium brought the final price to $8,625.

As I scanned through the auction catalog and checked the prices realized, it occurred to me that superb collections such as Curtis’ also are replete with attractive stamps that collectors of modest means can afford. These affordable gems all too often get overlooked by our well-intentioned desire to showcase the rare and scarce that are accessible only to a small number of collectors.

In the opening sale of the Curtis revenue collection, dozens of stamps were gaveled down to happy buyers for less than $400 each.

And more than a few sold for under $200.

An attractive block of four of the imperforate 2¢ blue Bank Check (Scott R5a) that once graced the collections of Morton Dean Joyce (the dean of U.S. revenue specialists) and Robert Zoellner sold for $115, including the buyer’s premium.

I highlight this item to make a point: It pays to do your homework ahead of time, by studying the lots prior to the sale and identifying those items that likely will fit into your budget.

Let your eyes guide you regarding the overall grade, condition and general appearance of items illustrated in the catalog.

Carefully read the lot descriptions, taking note of unusual features, faults (if any) and provenance.

When determining your bids, figure the buyer’s premium into your calculations.

If you use an auction agent, the agent fee also should be weighed in the balance.

Say you are willing to spend no more than $500 to acquire an item, and the buyer’s premium is 20 percent. You would thus bid no more than $400 (assuming a bidding increment of $25 at this level of bidding), because your cost would be $480.

A successful bid of $425 would raise your cost to $510 — above your $500 limit.

My scenario does not include associated postage or insurance costs to have the item delivered to you.

To return to the theme of this column, I’ve no doubt that Mr. Curtis treasured all the stamps in his collection, even the inexpensive ones.

Indeed, isn’t that the case for all of us?