US Stamps

Classic United States can be minefield online: Stamp Market Tips

May 3, 2021, 8 PM
A genuine 1893 $4 Isabella and Columbus stamp has a 2016 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers value of $7,000 in mint never-hinged condition.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

We sometimes look at online auctions and results while researching tips. We are truly shocked by how much misrepresented and misdescribed U.S. material is offered.

Almost all of the early high-value U.S. stamps described as being in mint never-hinged condition that do not have certificates are either obviously not mint never-hinged or are clearly reperforated.

We have seen an army of fake flat plate coils. We saw a stamp offered as the 1875 10¢ green George Washington reprint of the 1857-1860 issue (Scott 43) that was clearly a shaved proof with fake perforations on four sides. The fakery was so obvious that it could be clearly seen from the scans.

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There are more purported mint never-hinged high-value Columbian and Trans-Mississippi stamps offered at online auctions in a week than are offered in months of more established auctions and sales.

We warn collectors that they should not buy early and expensive U.S. stamps in mint never-hinged condition online without expertizing certificates.

We all like bargains. But the reperforated $1 Cattle in Storm (Scott 292) that we recently saw sell for $1,600 was no bargain.

Buying stamps from online auctions has a host of advantages. But the prime directive in doing so must be caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). The free-for-all, unregulated nature of such transactions means that you must protect yourself because no one else is going to.

If you aren’t expert enough to determine the genuineness of what you are buying, you must rely on expertization from one of the recognized services. Finding out years later that you have been duped is tragic.

This also applies to high-priced foreign stamps. Some years ago, we were asked to look at a valuable Germany collection. The owner proudly told us that his mint never-hinged stamps and used stamps for each issue were purchased from online auctions.

He was defiantly incredulous when informed that most of his mint never-hinged stamps had been regummed or had the gum brushed to remove hinge marks and that most of his used stamps had forged cancels.

Understanding when expertization is needed will save you heartbreak when it comes time to dispose of your collection.