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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Value Provided By Stamp Dealers Part Two and "Market Value"

Before I get into writing about the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary Issue, I wanted to share some thoughts about dealers, market values and some problem areas in Canadian philately that I am noticing these days.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the many ways that I feel stamp dealers provide value to the hobby. Since I wrote that post, I have encountered quite a lot of anti-dealer sentiment on Facebook groups and Facebook itself. The general tone of this sentiment is that the collectors feel that we are nothing more than greedy middlemen who drive the price of stamps up beyond what they are really worth. Their evidence to support this is threefold:

1. The latest deal they made with Mr. Fellowcollector half way around the world for the following stamp:

The stamp of course is the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary Issue and has a catalogue price of $100 for fine. Well the collector has just purchased this one from Mr. Fellowcollector for $30, which shows that us dealers who are selling this same stamp for $65 are just a bunch of greedy people.

2. Their experience in purchasing collections from auction houses, in which they can buy collections of Canada or any country they want at 25-30% of Scott.

3. Their experience in trying to sell their collections to dealers who often offer between 10-15% of catalogue value for their "collection".

In many collectors minds, all of this is evidence that dealers are unscrupulous and take people's collections for a song and then turn around and charge two to three times what the stamps are really worth.

My take on all this is the subject of this post and is decidedly different from this. My response addresses the following assertions:
  1. Wholesale and retail markets are completely different.
  2. "Good" deals are often not what they seem. 
  3. Not all collections are created equal and when you sell to a dealer you are operating in a wholesale rather than a retail market. 
Wholesale Versus Retail Markets

An auction house is a wholesale market. Yes, these businesses do sell high quality, valuable single stamps. But what makes them a wholesale market is the fact that their relationship with the customer is largely transactional in nature and there is little to no ongoing service provided with the product. 

To illustrate this: when was the last time you got a call from an employee of an auction house saying "Hey Mr. X, we just got a consignment of Large Queens and I happen to know that there are several pieces in this sale that are right up your alley."? Or say you purchase a collection of Canada for several thousand dollars and as you are going through it you notice that the Bluenose stamp that you thought was VFNH has a corner crease. What then? You see the disclaimer in the auction catalogue that says "lots with more than 10 stamps cannot be returned under any circumstances". Or what if there were no damaged stamps, but the catalogue value was actually quite a bit lower than what they "estimated" it at? Can you call them up and say "Hi Mr. Soandso, I'm calling about the Canadian collection I bought in your latest sale. Yeah, it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and I'm wondering if there is anything you can do?". 

Now, I'm sure that these businesses will make the odd exception to their own rules for their largest and most valued customers. But for the average collector who bids once a year? Not much chance. 

What about service to the hobby and promotion of the hobby? Have you ever seen major auction houses promoting philately in the community at large? How many blogs are there written by auction houses that aim to educate the customers about the product? Very few that I know of. Most wholesalers assume that you know all about the product and that you do not need them to educate you. This is a large part of the reason why they have such strict return policies. Caveat Emptor is the rule of the day when dealing in a wholesale market. 

Another aspect to wholesale markets like auctions is that you cannot choose what they sell you. They will have an accumulation of merchandise and it is up to you to search for the item you want with the very real possibility of not finding the item you are looking for. For example, if you really want the 10c Quebec Tercentenary above and you only have $60 to spend on one, you can look in the auction catalogues, but at that price point:

1. You will likely not find an individual 10c stamp for sale that has $60 as a suggested bid. Instead, most of the 10c stamps will be the much more expensive grades with suggested bids over $100, as auctions tend to shy away from offering individual items that they expect to sell for less than $100 each. 


2. You will find an wholesale accumulation of 10c stamps, but to buy it you will need to spend several times more than you had budgeted. Then you have to find a way to sell the stamps from the lot that you don't want or need. This can be done with e-bay and the like, but takes a considerable amount of time, and there is always the risk of not recovering your cost. 


3. You will not find any 10c stamps, but rather just whole Canadian collections that contain a 10c Quebec Tercentenary, and you have to buy the entire collection. 


4. You don't find any Quebec Tercentenaries at all. 

The wholesale auction market works well for collectors who are highly knowledgeable about the stamps they are buying, who are not particularly concerned with obtaining a particular stamp at a particular time and who are happy to buy in much larger quantities than their immediate needs. These collectors are also comfortable with the whole concept of competing with other bidders and taking the risk of ultimately losing the item they have set their sights on.  

In contrast, the retail stamp market is completely service oriented toward the individual customer. A good stamp dealer builds a relationship with you and gets to know your collecting interests, your condition preferences and your budget. A dedicated stamp dealer will call you when something comes his or her way that he or she thinks will be of interest to you and is within your price range. Stamp dealers often promote the hobby within the community at large, by giving away stamps and collecting supplies to youngsters. Many dealers are happy to share their knowledge with you - sometimes for hours on end. 

A good stamp dealer also devotes his or her entire days to acquiring and maintaining an in-depth stock of material at all price ranges. They do this precisely so that should you decide that you need a mint Canada #101 for $60, you stand an excellent chance of finding one that you can afford that has been graded professionally and consistently by an expert who deals only in the stamps of his or her chosen field. The ability to collect at your own pace and add to your collection at your own convenience and by dealing with an expert is a service that many collectors find enhances their collecting experience. A good dealer is here to help you have the most rewarding collecting experience possible. For this reason they tend to stand behind everything they sell, so that if there is a future problem with a stamp they sold you, they will have a record of the sale and they will happily refund you or otherwise work with you to solve the problem. 

However, to do be able to deliver this very high level of customer service, a dealer must necessarily carry far more inventory then they expect to sell at any given time and consequently, must have a very large financial investment in the business. Indeed, they know full well that there is a percentage of their inventory that will never sell. The problem is, they have no way of telling which percentage that is, as it is next to impossible to predict what future collector demand will be. But what this does mean is that where they are offered material in large quantity, they cannot pay as much on a per stamp basis as they can for single items because they have to factor in the knowledge that some of those stamps are likely never going to sell, or at least not for a very long time. 

This brings me to my next point that not all collections are really collections to a dealer. To a dealer, a collection is a well organized assemblage of stamps and postal history that are individually salable, or is salable to a large range of customers as a complete lot. For example, a Canadian stamp album containing one of each stamp is a collection, since the dealer can either sell it as a complete album, can pick out some of the stamps needed for stock and sell the rest as a lot, or can break the entire album down for stock. If the quality is high and consistent throughout, then he or she most likely can pay more than 10-15% of catalogue for the collection, since it will contain much needed material that the dealer knows he or she can sell quickly. However, a large accumulation of 100 copies of each Canadian stamp from Scott number 34 to 300 is not a collection to a dealer. It is a wholesale accumulation, which will probably contain a lot of material that the dealer can never hope to sell and some material that they can sell easily. The problem is that for the dealer, it will take a lot of work to go through it to sort the wheat from the chaff and organize the stamps. Also, the dealer probably won't have many customers who want to buy the entire lot as received. All of these factors will affect what they can pay. This I believe, is often the scenario where someone goes to a dealer with $50,000 of catalogue value and reacts badly when the dealer offers them $2,500 for the lot. 

Many collectors fail to understand that when a dealer sells to them, they are receiving a service in addition to the stamps that they are paying for. The dealer cannot provide the service unless they can make a living doing it, and in order to make a living selling stamps at retail, a dealer's margins have to be very high to compensate for the very slow turnover in their stock. So why don't they just sell their stamps cheaper? Well because of the labour component. It takes time to retail stamps and if the price is low and the volume high, the dealer would have to hire many employees to handle the volume and the cost of doing that would likely make such a pursuit not worth his or her while. In addition when collectors sell to a dealer, they are also receiving a service from the dealer - that of a quasi finance company, like a factor of accounts receivable. They are able to liquidate their holding for cash on the spot and it becomes the dealer's problem as to how to turn that material over at a profit. So it is not possible for a dealer to offer collectors more than 10-15% of catalogue in most cases. It's not that they are being greedy, but rather the sellers are not understanding the differences between the wholesale and retail markets. 

Not All Good Deals Are What They Seem

I am a firm believer that ALL stamps have a value and a place. I am not one of those philatelists who thinks that any stamp should be destroyed for the good of the hobby. As stated in an earlier post, I am against the use of earlier stamps for "discount postage" because mint stamps are being delpeted and we don't know how many future collectors are being deprived of the chance to collect them. 

Having said that though, I am also a firm believer that you get what you pay for. Value and price are very heavily dependent on quality. If you visit my store and look for Canada #101 you will find the following stamps, at the following prices:

This one is very fine, with fresh original gum that has only been hinged once. It catalogues $300 in Unitrade and I have it priced for $180 USD. It is a nice, solid copy of this stamp. 

This stamp is the lower end of very fine, but is definitely better than fine. However, the gum on the back is not in its original state of freshness. I only know this because I am familiar with what the gum on these stamps is supposed to look like. A collector with only a passing familiarity with Canada, such as a general world collector or even a novice Canadian collector would likely not know that the gum is disturbed. I sell this one for $95 USD - just over half of the one above. 

This next stamp has fresh original gum as the first stamp above, but is just fine in terms of centering. It is a solid stamp for a budget conscious collector who wants sound, but not perfect stamps. It catalogues $100 in Unitrade. I priced it for $50 USD.

This last stamp at first glance looks fine just like the one above. However under a loupe, you can see a very small tear above the "E"of postage and a small tone spot under the left 10. It is therefore at the bottom end of very good in terms of grade. Unitrade no longer lists prices for VG, but I priced this for $30 USD, knowing full well that I will probably accept a lower offer from a collector that wants it. 

At first glance, the stamps don't look that much different, but as you look closer you can see the differences in quality and the subsequent range in price from $30-$180. I'm still not asking 100% of catalogue, and I am disclosing the condition upfront and grade consistently. 

Lets go back to the first stamp I showed you above. The one bought from Mr. Fellowcollector for $30. It looks pretty similar to the one I have priced at $50, with one key difference: it has been expertly re-gummed. Again, the only way I know this is because the gum looks nothing like it should for this issue, and I know that because I have handled hundreds of these stamps over the past 38 years. Mr. Fellowcollector probably doesn't know either, if he is just a general collector. On the other hand, he might know and has priced the stamp to what he feels is fair for a re-gummed stamp. What would I sell this stamp for? Well it is actually in my stock and I have it priced for $28. 

In this hypothetical example, a collector would have bought this stamp for $2 more than they could have paid if they bought it from me, except that they wouldn't necessarily know it was re-gummed, whereas I would tell them upfront that it was. So the so called "good deal" is really just an okay deal from a collector that will disappear into the sunset, never to be heard from again. 

This is an example involving a single stamp. But what about buying collections at auction for 25-30% of Scott? Aren't those a good deal?

Well, yes and no. The number of fakes, repaired stamps, re-perforated, re-gummed stamps that I have seen on e-bay for pre-1935 Canada is not insignificant. Some issues are worse than others, but by and large:

1. Many of the coil stamps from the Admiral Issue that I see offered are fakes made by either trimming the part perforate coil blocks, or re-perforating corner booklet singles with wide margins to resemble jumbo margined coils. You have to know the plate characteristics of the coils in many cases to tell the difference between the well executed fakes and the genuine stamps. 

2. Many high value 50c and $1 stamps up to and including the 1930 Mt. Edith Cavell  are expertly re-gummed, or have badly disturbed gum and you would never know if you were not familiar with the proper gum. 

3. A very large number of imperforate pence issues from Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been expertly repaired, and these repairs are very easy to miss if you don't know what to look for. 

4. A large number of so called mint or unused Large Queen stamps are either re-gummed or cleaned used stamps that have been re-gummed. Again, close inspection with a good 10x loupe of a UV lamp would reveal the true nature of the stamps.

5. A large number of Admiral issues with straight edges have been re-perforated to produce well centered stamps and they can fool you if you are not careful.

These are just a few of the problem areas that I see all the time and there are more. But my point is that if you buy a collection from an auction house, even if it is an auction located in Canada, there is a very high chance that it will contain some of these problem items that have been overlooked. This is not because the auction houses are being dishonest, but because they are processing such a large volume of material that they simply cannot check every stamp for these issues. So if you are buying based on catalogue and that value is inflated by the inclusion of these items, then you are really paying more than 25-30%. 

Another factor to consider is that auctions do not usually factor in condition when arriving at catalogue values on large lots and as we have seen through my above example, fine stamps are generally only worth half as much as very fine and very good, only half again. So if the collection contains a large proportion of stamps that are only fine or very good, chances are very high that the catalogue value may be inflated by as much as 100% or 200%. Thus if you are bidding more than 25% on such a collection, you may be paying the auction house more than I would charge you for the same material, and you are having to buy it all and pay the 10-15% buyer's premium that auctions charge on top of it. 

Now I have presented you with worse case scenarios that reflect well on me as a dealer. But just to be fair, I will say that there are many instances where buying a large lot at auction is a better deal than buying stamps individually from me. The best example I can think of is when you are just starting a specialized collection and you have no material. You want to get your hands dirty and don't much care what you buy - only that you can buy some quantity and get it cheap. Say you decide you want to collect Admirals in all their aspects - papers, shades, plates the whole shebang. In this case, it makes sense to go to the larger auction houses and spend several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars on some larger accumulations of Admirals and go though them and study them. You can likely do that for less money than you would pay me or any dealer for the individual stamps. I would be happy to even help you buy such a lot. 

However, once you have become familiar with them and have a good working knowledge and know exactly what you are missing, there will come a point where buying more large lots just does not make sense because you will be buying the same stuff over and over again. It is at this point that a "sharp shooter" approach over the "shotgun" approach will make sense to you. Even at my prices, you will come out ahead overall once you factor in the money you saved on the large lots you purchased originally. 

So there is my take on the value that we dealers bring to the table and why we behave the way we do. I believe that most dealers are driven by passion for what they do and a genuine desire to serve the hobby. But the reality is that we have to be able to make a modest living doing so and this is much less easy than most collectors realize. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Proof Material and Plate Multiples of the 1903-1911 King Edward VII Issue

This is my last post dealing with this fascinating first issue of the 20th century. However, the last two aspects that I am going to talk about today are some of the most challenging for even the most advanced collectors of this issue: the proofs, essays and plate multiples.

Proofs and Essays

This issue has one of the more extensive lists of proof material that I have seen on a BNA issue, and the BNA proofs website does an excellent job of listing and pricing them all. I am not going to re-produce all of their work here, but rather I will summarize it and give you the link to their page, where you can check out their listings for yourself:

As is the case for most proof material, there are only between 1 and 4 reported examples of nearly everything listed on the BNA proofs website and nearly all of the 56 separate items listed sell for upwards of $2,000 each. There are a few proofs that are listed for between $300-$500, but by and large, collecting the proofs of this issue will be a challenging and expensive task. 

The material listed on the BNA proofs website for this issue falls into four major categories:

1. De La Rue trade sample essays.
2. Essays of the issued design
3. Trial colour proofs and progressive proofs
4. Die proofs of the issued stamps

De La Rue Essays

It is interesting that De La Rue would have produced trade sample essays for this design, given that they were never awarded any contracts to print Canadian stamps. I know nothing about the circumstances of their production - whether the design originated with them, or whether they appropriated the design for their own use after the fact. 

The essays contain the same Downey portrait of Edward VII in a different frame from the issued stamp. The website lists five different essays, in various colours, one of which is on watermarked paper, and of which two are known of each. They state their value as being between $1,200 and $2,500 each. 

Essays of the Issued Design

This material comprises 22 items and is the largest section of the material listed on BNA proofs website for this issue. The essays generally resemble the issued stamps, but are printed in completely different colours and either have colourless numerals, where the numerals on the issued stamps were a solid colour, or the maple leaves above the numerals are not fully shaded. These essays can be further subdivided into seven groups:

  1. Large essays on glazed paper - 2 items valued at $2,500 each.
  2. Large die sunk essays on India paper - 2 items valued at $2,500 each.
  3. Large essays on wove paper - 8 items valued at between $2,500-$4,000 each
  4. Large essay on card - 2 items valued at $3,000 each.
  5. Large essay on India paper - 1 item valued at $3,000.
  6. Stamp sized essays on card backstamped Perkins Bacon & Co. - 5 items valued at $2,500-$4,500 each. 
  7. Plate proofs on wove paper - 2 items valued at $400 each

Again, the existence of the Perkins Bacon essays is curious given that Perkins Bacon was never awarded contracts to print any Canadian stamps, although they were often involved in the production of many issues of Newfoundland. 

Trial Colour Proofs of the Issued Stamps and Progressive Proofs

Next we have the 14 proofs of the stamps printed in trial colours, the colours being black and olive black, as well as two progressive proofs in carmine of the 2c and one of the 20c. The olive-black proofs are large trial colour proofs on card, whereas the black proofs are stamp sized proofs on card. The larger proofs are more common, with 4 known in each case, while the stamp sized proofs are reportedly unique. Despite this, the larger proofs are more expensive at $3,000 each, while the smaller ones are $2,000.

The 2c progressive proofs are both reportedly unique and can be identified by the incomplete shading of the leaves above the numerals. The smaller proof is valued at $300, while the larger one is valued at $3,000. Why this huge disparity in value for two items that are both unique is anybody's guess. The 20c progressive proof is also unique, is a large proof on India paper and is valued at $3,000.

Die Proofs of the Issued Stamps

These comprise the last 13 items listed on the BNA proofs website. All denominations are represented with between 1 and 3 different proof items each. They range in price between $1,800 and $9,000, with most items being in the $3,000 range. The dated large die proofs are the most expensive at $9,000 each. They are generally all printed in the issued colours with two notable exceptions:

  1. The large dated die proof of the 5c is printed in blue green instead of dark blue.
  2. The large dated die proof of the 10c is printed in dark purple instead of brown lilac.
Only the 5c value comes in a stamp sized proof on India paper. The other values are all either large dated die proofs sunken on card, or are large hardened die proofs on India paper. 

Plate Blocks and Multiples

This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of this issue, due to the sheer number of plates that were used to print the 1c and 2c values, the poor centering found on this issue and the fact that many of these large multiples like the ones shown above will not exist now because they will have been split up by collectors and dealers. 

The above image shows the top portion of a sheet of 7c olive bistre stamps from plate 2. If you look to the right of the number 2, you can see the number "90", and to the right of it there appear to be three sets of numbers, each of which has been obliterated. These are the print order numbers, which is just another way of saying the print runs. Each time a batch of stamps was printed, it was a different print order and had its own unique order. After an order had been run, the order number was struck from the plate, the plate was inspected for wear and worn impressions were re-worked, by re-applying the transfer roll to the plate. This of course is where we get misplaced entries and re-entries. What these numbers indicate is that plate 2 was used at least 4 times - it could have been more, and if it was more, we would see another block with the "90" struck out and a new number entered. 

The most extensive collection of these blocks ever to come on the market was sold by Ron Brigham last year. I will provide the link to the downloaded catalogue and will summarize below what was contained in that sale:

1c Green Plates

Sold in strips: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 14, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 38, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 60, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72.
Sold in blocks of 4: 28.
Sold in blocks of 6: 49.
Sold in blocks of 8: 12, 20.
Sold in larger blocks: 56, 72.

So 39 plates out of at least 72 were in his colection. Most of these are strips and most were only still intact because they were not well centered. 

2c Carmine Rose Plates

Sold in strips: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 17, 18, 22, 27, 37, 38, 39, 40, 49, 50, 53, 55, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 70, 75, 76, 77, 78, 84, 85, 86.
Sold in blocks of 6: 1, 29, 81.
Sold in blocks of 8: 2, 54.
Sold in larger blocks: 61, 85.

Again, 41 out of at least 86 different plates, so less than half of what was originally printed. 

5c Dark Blue Plates

Sold in strips: 2, 3, 4
Sold in blocks of 6: 1, 6
Sold in larger blocks: 5

So only 6 multiples here, although it appears that all plates may have been represented. However, all of these multiples were off centre to some extent. 

7c Olive Bistre Plates

Sold in larger blocks: 2 (the above shown)

I don't know how many plates there were of the 7c, but I imagine that there must have been more than two. In any event, Mr. Brigham did not have any multiples of plate 1, which was surprising to say the least. 

10c Brown Lilac Plates

Sold in strips: 1, 2
Sold in larger blocks: 2

20c Olive Green Plates

Sold in block of 8: plate 1 (unused - no gum)
Sold in block of 4: plate 1

50c Deep Purple Plates

Sold in a block of 8: plate 1

So there you have it: a summary of all the plate multiples that were in the Brigham collection. Judging from the low print quantities of the 20c and 50c values, it is unlikely that more than 1 plate was needed, so he probably had all the plates covered for the 10c, 20c and 50c values. However, there were significant holes in the sequences for the other values. What is striking also is how few large  blocks of 8 or greater there were: most were off-centre strips from the top of the plate. Mr. Brigham was the most prominent philatelist of the late 20th century for Canada and while he may have missed some of the items that exist out there, this list is a pretty good indicator of what likely exists for this issue and highlights the scarcity of the material. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Collecting the Postal Stationery and Postal History of the 1903-1911 King Edward VII Issue


The postal history of this issue, as with most issues provides many challenges for the dedicated philatelist, and can occupy as little or as much of your time as you wish to devote to it. One aspect to this issue that makes if different from the earlier Victorian issues is that it is the first period in Canadian philately to feature:

  • fancy postcards
  • postage due stamps for short-paid mail
There are many ways that you can approach collecting the postal history of this issue:

  • You can specialize in a type of postal history, such as just postal stationery, just covers of a particular rate, advertising covers only, hotel covers only, etc. 
  • You can specialize in the postal history of a particular value of the series, such as all uses of the 5c for example. 
  • You can specialize in short-paid mail from the period and so can look at mixed frankings with the first postage due issue, as well as shortpaid mail rated by hand and not franked with postage due stamps. 
  • You can specialize in the postal history of a specific domestic region or town, such as collecting everything to do with Cobourg, Ontario for instance. 
  • You can specialize in foreign destination mail like say, all the covers from this issue going to Jamaica, or the British West Indies. 
  • You can look at all non-cover uses of the stamps, such as cancelled cheques franked with the stamps used as revenues, bulk mailing receipts franked with the high values, acknowledgement of receipt forms franked with stamps, registration receipts franked with stamps. 
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking.

Postal Stationery

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All the postal stationery of this issue, except for the envelopes, featured a replica of the issued stamp design printed in various colours. The envelopes featured an oval embossed relief of the King, surrounded by a pattern of loops and the inscription. The issued formats included:

  • 1c green and 2c red envelopes that measured 152 mm x 88 mm.
  • 1c green post band 
  • 1c green wrapper measuring 152 mm x 330 mm
  • 1c green wrapper measuring 165 mm x 381 mm
  • 2c carmine wrapper
  • 3c slate violet wrapper
  • 1c on 2c carmine wrapper
  • 1c on 3c slate violet wrapper
  •  1c green postcard, as shown above
  • 1c rose postcard
  • 1c+1c black reply postcard
  • 2c blue UPU postcard

The Envelopes

The envelopes were produced, using up to 6 dies. Three dies were used for the 1c green envelopes, while 6 dies were used for the 2c envelopes. The distinguishing characteristics of the 1c dies are as follows:

  • Die 1 lettering is thin, and there is a long bar in the "G".
  • Die 2 lettering is thick. The top bar of the "E" in "One" is shorter than the bottom bar. Short bar in "G". 
  • Die 3 is as die 2, except that the top bar of the "E" is longer and the "E" in "Cent" is raised. 
The characteristics of the 2c dies are:

  • Die 1 lettering is thin. The bottom left point of the bust is between the "WO" of "Two". The bar of the G is long. The panel lines above "Cents" are extended, intersecting a loop. The border loops are even and join the frame. 
  • Die 2 lettering is thick. The bar of the G is short. The border loops are high, even and join the frame. "D" of "Canada" is low.
  • Die 3 lettering is thick. The "D" is normal and the border loops are flat. 
  • Die 4 border loops are uneven and seldom join the frame. The bottom tip of the bust points at the "O".
  • Die 5 border loops are as die 2 and the remaining characteristics are as die 4.
  • Die 6 is as die 5 except that the bar of the "G" is long with a vertical serif and the centre bar of the "E" is very thick.
In addition to the die types, it is possible to find the following varieties on envelopes:

  • Albino impressions of the stamps.
  • The stamp impression on the inside of the envelope rather than the outside.
  • The stamp impression in the wrong place, when it should be in the top right corner.
  • Double or multiple impressions of the stamps.
  • Complete extra stamp impression on the front of the envelope.
  • Offset impression of the stamp on the inside of the envelope. 
  • Double envelope folding variety. 
I do not know if all of these varieties exist on this issue, but I imagine that they all should exist, and can be found after examining a large number of envelopes. 

The wrappers exist in a wide variety of paper colours and a very rarely found intact and undamaged, especially when used. Such items are worth a considerable amount of money in clean, undamaged condition.

The postcards are often found with printed designs in the corners or on both sides of the cards, as businesses would buy them and then print what they wanted on them. These are often in such pristine condition and are often found uncancelled, but are in fact used.

1c items were intended for either the printed matter rates in the case of post bands, wrappers, and business postcards, the postcard rate in the case of most postcards, or the drop letter rate in the case of envelopes. The 2c items were intended for either the double weight printed matter rate in the case of the wrappers, the foreign postcard rate for the 2c blue postcard, or the local and U.S. letter rate in the case of the envelopes. Occasionally one finds these items uprated for other rates, by adding additional postage stamps to the item to make up the higher postage rate. This is yet another possible field in which you can focus your collecting. Such items are generally scarcer than the items used for their intended purpose.


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The possibilities are almost infinite with the covers of this issue. The most common covers as one would expect are the 1c and 2c drop letter and local letter covers. Generally, these are very common and not that special, but they can occasionally contain  artwork that make them very desirable and valuable:

  • Hotels during the period often had very elaborate stationery showing a picture of the hotel, the name and location. These are highly sought after by collectors who specialize in just these types of covers. 
  • Most businesses during the period would have their name and location printed in the top left corner of the envelope. These are called "corner card" covers. While most corner cards are pretty plain and not worth much more than $2-$3, they can occasionally be quite elaborate, scarce and worth quite a but more than $2-$3. 
  • Occasionally one comes across full colour advertising covers that have the advertisements occupying either the front of the cover, the back only, or both sides. These are now the most sought after of all the local covers and bring anywhere from $75 for a front or back ad that is not that spectacular, to $250-$300 for elaborate ads that occupy both sides of the envelope. Only a a decade or two ago, these could be plucked out of dealers' junk boxes for just a few $. 
  • Then of course, the covers can be made more desirable by the markings that are on them. First day covers would be very scarce and worth a considerable amount of money. Remember July 1, 1903 is the relevant date for all values but the 20c and 50c. The actual date of issue for the 50c is unknown, but presently the earliest recorded date is October 6, 1908, so any cover dated prior to that would be a real prize. The issue date of the 20c is September 27, 1904. I have not heard of a first day cover ever being found for this, but one may indeed exist. In addition to first day covers, certain town cancellations and railway post office (RPO) cancellations are scarce and desirable and can take an ordinary $2 cover up to $25-$50 in some cases. In order to know which ones are which, you would need to be come familiar with one of the many books that have been written on the post offices of a particulae province. 
The high values are rarely found on cover. The best known and most valuable cover recorded in this series is shown above. It was in Ron Brigham's collection and was a partial money packet sent to the Molson's Bank, and is franked with $2.05 in postage, which likely covered insurance on the money that was sent. Single usages of the 10c, 20c and 50c on cover are worth in the hundreds of dolars per cover. 

The 7c value is quite commonly found on local registered covers, as it was used to pay the 5c registration fee plus the 2c local rate. Such covers are usually worth $25-$50 depending on condition and where they were going. 

The 5c value is usually found on foreign covers to Europe and British Commonwealth countries. Single usages are not that rare and typically sell for $50-$75, again depending on condition and destination. The common destinations would be the UK, followed by the Western European Countries. Eastern Europe would be worth more, as would Commonwealth nations outside Europe. 


As I had said in my earlier overview post about this issue, this was the Golden Age of the postcard, with many postcards being of a very high artistic quality, such as the one shown above, which was printed in Germany. The scarcest cards are those that had no dividing line on the back, as the old rule was that you could only put your address on the back and no message whatsoever. Often people would get around this by writing on the front of the card. In 1907, the rules were relaxed, and written messages were permitted on the left side of the back of postcards, and so you see cards after this date being printed with a dividing line down the back. In addition to these paper cards, there were also cards embroidered in silk and cards made out of wood and leather. These are scarce, as they would have been very expensive to produce at that time. 

In collecting the postcards of this period one can focus on:

  • Particular themes, such as Thanksgiving, New Year, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, and so forth.
  • Scenic cards from specific places.
  • Particular mail routes, such as a specific railway.
The scenic cards are by far the most common, and very few are rare. The better cards will be those which depict landmarks that no longer exist, ghost towns, or places in existing towns that have changed so much as to be unrecognizable from what is shown on the card. The event cards are scarcer, but again are fairly common. The thing to look for here is extraordinarily colourful or detailed artwork such as that on the card shown above. 

That concludes my post about the postal history of this issue. My next post will be the last one dealing with this issue and will talk about the proof material and plate multiples of this issue. Then I will move on to posts about the beautiful 1908 Quebec Tercentenary Issue. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pitfalls in Collecting the 1903-1911 King Edward VII Issue

Today's post will address some of the problem areas that you will likely encounter as you collect this issue. The problems fall into three general areas:

1. Fakery designed to fool you into overpaying for cheap items as expensive ones.
2. Repairs or enhancements made for the same purpose.
3. Condition problems that may not be immediately apparent to someone with less experience.

A quick look at the Unitrade catalogue reveals that the relationship between condition and price is extremely steep for this issue - much more so than other issues, where the price differential between grades is 2:1, i.e. for a stamp valued at $100 for VF, F is generally $50, VG is $25 and so on. But with this issue, not only are the NH premiums 250%, the price differential between fine and very fine is as high as 5:1, and on most values it is 3:1, with a similar sharp drop when going from fine to very good.

So as we shall see, the main problems concern gum and centering, and problems that the novice may not notice, or alterations made to transform fine stamps into VF ones.

Problem #1 Faded Colour on the 50c Purple

Image result for Canada #95 used      Image result for Canada #95 used

The first problem concerns colour on the 50c top value of the set. The purple pigment in the ink is unstable and very susceptible to fading when exposed to light for prolonged periods. The true colour is either a deep purple or a deep bright purple. The two stamps shown above both come from the same seller in the US, who has priced them for more or less the same amounts of money. The stamp on the right is the true colour and is a VG used example, which would be F were it not for the heavy roller cancel. The stamp on the left is faded and as such is not even VG, but likely just G.

It would be easy to miss if you were not familiar with the colour and just thought that this was a pale version of the shade. Generally this is not a problem on mint stamps, since those are not usually exposed to light for long periods. However, it is very common with used copies of this stamp.

Problem #2 Disturbed or Sweated Gum Versus Re-Gummed Stamps

On many of the well centered 5c, 7c and 10c stamps, the stamps have been hinged so much that the stamps have small gum soaks caused by the gum seeping through the paper to the front. While this is a minor fault and does affect the price somewhat, one should be careful before jumping to the conclusion that the stamp has been re-gummed or sweated. The paper on this issue is very porous and absorbs gum very easily, so as more and more collectors hinged the stamps and if they moistened the hinges too much, the gum often soaked through to the perforations and sometimes in the centre of the stamp.

Here you can see an example of just such a stamp. Some very eager collector licked their hinge so much that a portion of the gum soaked through to the face and resulted in a small stain to the left of the King's face. While these stamps can of course be soaked to remove the gum, doing so will further reduce their value quite sharply. The demand for well centered stamps of this issue is such that there will still be someone willing to buy such a stamp, if at a reduced price from the catalogued VF price.

Generally, if you see lots of hinge marks or remnants in conjunction with small gum soaks and if the perforation tips do not have any gum where there should not be any, then you are not dealing with a re-gum or a sweated stamp, but just one that has been affected by the amount of hinging it has been subjected to.

Sweating and re-gumming are indeed a problem on this issue though, due to the substantial premiums for NH. Again in the past, when the NH premium stood at 100% only for VF, you did not usually see this too much on F or VG stamps, but now that it is 250%, people are beginning to tamper with F and VG stamps as well, either to sell them for higher prices or for practice to prepare them to make the same alterations to the more expensive VF stamps.

A sweated stamp from this issue will likely have gum soaks due to the porosity of the paper and will appear similar to what I have described above. The gum will look original, but will lack the heavy hinging that one would expect to see based on the appearance of the stamp. Again, such stamps have value, but I would say that a discount of between 25% and 40% would be appropriate, depending on how badly the sweating has affected the frontal appearance and how much gum was left on the stamp originally when the attempt was undertaken.

A re-gummed stamp will have gum that just looks completely different from the gums I have illustrated. The genuine gum on this issue is yellowish to yellowish cream and is either shiny or has a satin, "sponged on" appearance. Very yellow gum, or very light, colourless gums that bear no resemblance to the ones I illustrated in my earlier post on the topic of gum are likely re-gummed. You should be aware that while most re-gummed stamps are NH, not all are. It is possible to find examples of these that were re-gummed a long time ago and hinged in the meantime. So the presence of a hinge mark, does not, by itself guarantee that the gum is genuine.

The best way to tell if the stamp is regummed is to look at the perforation tips. All of these stamps were gummed before being perforated. So when the stamps were separated, there were little tiny microfibres of paper protruding from the perforation tips. You can see these easily if you look at the perforation tips under 10x magnification. When you look at them, you will not see any gum on these fibres on a stamp that has original gum. When a stamp is re-gummed, you will usually see gum in between the perforations or on the perforation tips. This will also happen with sweated stamps, but the difference is that the gum will match that of stamps with original gum, whereas it will not on the re-gummed stamps. Sometimes very expert re-gummers will "sand down" the perforation tips to remove the gum. However, doing so will thin them slightly, and this can usually be detected by immersing the stamp in watermark fluid. On original gum stamps, the paper will have the same colour in the fluid at all points. Thin areas will show up as dark spots.

Finally, there is really no substitute to judging gum than experience. After a while you will get a feel for such attributes as thickness, sheen, texture and colour, and will be able to tell without applying the above tests in many cases. A good suggestion is to try and acquire a lot of VG or G mint examples, and study the gum. In most cases, the gum will be fully original and will provide valuable insight into what to look for when you are ready to purchase the more expensive stamps.

Problem #3 Re-Perforated Stamps

The margins on some of these stamps are quite large, being over 2 mm in many cases. The problem is, the centering of those stamps on the whole is atrocious. This is the reason why the VF price is so high in relation to F and VG. Not surprisingly, fakers have in recent years had a huge incentive to re-perforate the stamps of this issue to convert F stamps into VF stamps. Many years ago, when the 1c and 2c stamps were inexpensive in VF condition (i.e. $20 back in 1990), there was very little incentive to tamper with the 1c and 2c stamps. However, all of the values of this set are now expensive in VF condition, so that one has to be on their guard 100% of the time.

How do you tell if a stamp has been re-perforated? There are several ways. First check the guage - these stamps are perf. 12 all around. Any stamp that is not perf 12 on any side is likely a re-perforated stamp. Another way is the size of the margins - any stamp with a margin of 0.5 mm or less on all sides is likely reperforated if it is well centered, since the margins could be this small on one side for a poorly centered stamp, but not usually this small on all sides. But the third and best way to tell is to take a ruler of your perforation gauge and line the edge up with a pair of opposing vertical or horizontal perforations. The perforation teeth should be directly across from one another, so that the angle of the line formed by the edge of your ruler or perf. gauge should be 0 degrees in the case where you are looking at vertical perforations and 90 degrees where you are looking at horizontal ones. If the angles are significantly off these measurements, then one or both sides is likely re-perforated.

Another clue is the appearance of the perforation teeth themselves. Under magnification, you should see tiny paper fibres on the ends of the perforations where the stamps were separated from one another. On re-perforated stamps, you will not usually see this - the perforation tips will be "clean" with no stray fibes. Also the holes will often be the wrong depth and will not be uniform.

Problem #4 Re-Attached Perforations - Usually in the Top Margin

Occasionally, one finds mint examples where a pulled perforation has been reattached.Often this occurs in the top margin and is hidden by moistening the gum at the top, letting it soak the re-attached perforation and letting it dry. It will just appear at first glance to be heavily hinged. Under magnification though, you will usually be able to see the join if you look carefully.

Problem #5 Faked Imperforates and Fake Booklet Singles

Before the booklet singles were listed separately, back in the 1980's, this was not an issue with the common 2c stamps. But now that the catalogues list the 2c booklet singles for $6-10 each, there is a huge incentive to fake them by trimming down wide margined used stamps on one or two sides.

There are a couple of precautions you can take here to ferret out the fakes:

1. Check the type. Genuine booklet singles are all type II. Type I stamps are likely fakes.

2. Look at the edges. Genuine booklet singles have 1 straight edge at either the top or bottom, or two straight edges at top and right or bottom and right. Generally in the case of the stamps with 2 straight edges, the margins are wide. Stamps with two straight edges that are cut very close to the design could well be fakes, and any stamp with a straight edge at left is fake.

Also, as the booklet panes were guillotined apart from the sheet, the edges are perfectly straight. Sometimes you can detect a fake simply by resting the edge perpendicular to a flat surface. If genuine, the edge will be flush with the flat surface, such as you perforation gauge. If it is not flush, that indicates an unsteady job with a pair of scissors and therefore a fake.

Imperforates have also been faked by trimming down wide margined singles. The margins on these stamps can sometimes be as wide as 5 mm, so just because a stamp has 2 mm margins on all sides, does not guarantee that it is a genuine imperforate. Type I stamps in used condition that appear imperforate are almost certainly fake, as the type I imperfs, were never issued to the public. However, the only way a single stamp can be guaranteed to be genuine is if it has a margin of at least 10 mm on one side, such as a sheet margin copy. Otherwise it is best to insist on collecting these in pairs.

Problem #6 Misidentified 7c Straw Shade Used

The shades of this issue do not generally attract any significant premium with one notable exception: the 7c straw shade in used condition. This was the last printing to be made of the 7c value before the 7c Admiral was issued in its place. For this reason it is actually the most common shade in mint condition, and is worth less than the other shades. But because it was short-lived, nice used examples are very scarce and worth approximately 6-8 times normal.

The genuine straw shade is shown on the left, while the more common olive bistre shade is shown on the right. The date of the cancel, 1903, confirms that it cannot be the straw shade, as the straw shade did not appear until 1911. If you look at the left image, you will see that this shade contains no olive whatsoever, containing only golden yellow. In contrast you can see a clear greenish tinge to the stamp on the right.

The genuine straw shade cannot contain any green or olive. It is best to collect used copies with dated cancellations if you can find them, with 1911 dates.

Problem #7 Faked 2c Type I Mint Stamps

While I have not yet encountered this last problem, I am aware of the possibility that it could arise, so I will address it here.

The type I 2c carmine-rose is valued at double the value for type II in VF condition, while in F condition the differential is three times. So there is an incentive to fake the characteristic break in the upper left inner frameline, by painting them in with white out. The best way to detect these is with a watermark tray and fluid, or under ultra-violet light, where the foreign substance will show up clearly. You could probably also see it with a good 10x magnifier as well.

The only other problem area I have not covered here is in the postal history field where high values are added to covers to create rare frankings. However, that is a problem that affects every issue, not just this one, so I haven't covered it in this post.

My next post will deal with collecting the postal history of this fascinating issue.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Imperforates, Experimental Coil Stamps and Booklets of the 1903-1911 King Edward VII Issue

In this post I wish to deal with three more aspects of the Edward VII that contain some very rarely seen material that will challenge a specialist of this issue for decades to come. One of those aspects is the experimental coil stamps. This was the first issue to feature such experimental material, with the first regularly issued coil stamps appearing in 1913 with the Admiral Issue.

It has been suggested in a 1953 BNAPS journal that it was the experimentation with the 2c coils that led ultimately to the production of the 2c imperforate stamps that were issued to the public. Most experienced collectors are already familiar with the fact that the 2c comes in an imperforate pair that is not particularly expensive and can be readily obtained in either mint or used condition. However, in the past several years, Unitrade has begun to list other versions of the 2c imperforate that were not issued to the public, and consequently are quite rare and expensive.

Finally, this is the second issue to feature a 25c booklet containing two panes of 6 of the 2c stamp and that sold for 25c. Like its Numeral Issue cousin, this booklet is very rare intact, and even a full booklet pane from the booklet will easily sell for over $1,000.

Experimental Coil Stamps


An article in the 1953 issue of BNA Topics, suggests that the experimentation in the production of coil stamps began in about 1910 and lasted until the Admiral coils were issued in 1913. The above two images show the first two such types of coils that were produced by the American Bank Note Company of Ottawa from surplus sheet stock held by the Quebec City post office. The coils were made by pasting sheets of stamps together with the paste-up appearing between every tenth stamp. These were produced for use in new vending machines that had just been ordered from England. Most of the strips were precancelled as shown on the 2c with the Ottawa roller cancel. Because the only way to tell these apart from regular sheet stamps is from the paste up between the stamps, it is quite possible to have a small strip of less than 10 roller cancelled or pre-cancelled stamps that is actually from these experimental trials and not know it. So it is important to check any vertical strips of either pre-cancelled or roller cancelled stamps very carefully, or consider submitting them to V.G. Greene Foundation for a certificate.

The 1c and 2c stamps are found with the following roller cancels and pre-cancels:

  • The 1c and 2c are found with Ottawa "1" roller cancels.
  • The 1c is found with Ottawa roller cancel. 
  • The 1c and 2c are found with Ottawa precancel.
  • The 2c is found with Ottawa "14" roller cancel.
These strips are generally very poorly centered, and Unitrade only lists them in VG condition, with a premium for fine. This illustrates why it is important not to be too overly fixated on superb condition if your goal is to cover a classic issue like this in all its aspects: because some of the material simply does not exist in such condition. 

The second group of coils were made privately by the makers of various vending machines with the permission of the Canadian Post Office. They were supplied with imperforate stock of Type II 2c stamps like the one shown above. There were three different types of separation that Unitrade lists:

  • Vertical imperforate strips that have a "V" shaped notch in between each stamp to facilitate separation. These also contained a 14.5 mm horizontal slit between the stamps. 
  • Horizontal imperforate strips with similar notches that also contained a 14.5 mm vertical slit between the stamps.
  • Horizontal strips that are imperforate horizontally, with similar notches that are also perf. 8.5. between the stamps, as shown above. 
There were also strips that contained V notches that are otherwise completely imperforate, as well as vertical strips that were perforated 12 horizontally. Neither of these are listed by Unitrade. The reason, I presume, is that they are too easily faked either by cutting notches in a strip of cheap Type II imperforate 2c stamps, or by trimming the perforations off a vertical strip of regular perf. 12 2c stamps. 

The first types without the actual perforations, but with just the roulettes were produced by the United States Automatic Vending Co. of New York City. The perforated versions were produced by Messrs. Heiman & Zorke for use in the U.S. Auto vending machines. 

The fact that these were all made with type II imperforates suggests very strongly that the Post Office printed the 2c imperforate type II stamps from plates 13 and 14 for use in these trials and only when the trials were over did they decide to sell them to the public. 

The 2c Imperforate Stamps

For the longest time, the standard Canadian stamp catalogues like the former Lyman's only listed the publicly available imperforate pairs of the 2c carmine-rose, which were type II. For that matter, they only listed type II sheet stamps as well. About 10 or 15 years ago, when Unitrade began to distinguish between the types I and II, they also began to list the type I imperforates, which were not issued to the public and are quite valuable. 400 of these were issued from plates 1 and 2 and none of them had any gum. In addition to this:

  • Imperforates from plate 43 were produced that were cancelled with a red line. These have gum. 
  • Imperforates were issued from plates 31 and 32 which were cancelled by a black line and also have gum.
  • The above two imperforates can also be found in gutter strips of four.
There are some implications to these facts: firstly, the types are not well known or understood outside of Canadian philatelic circles, as I regularly see 2c type I sheet stamps offered for sale by US sellers for the same prices as the much more common type II. So if you see an imperforate pair that is being sold without gum, check the type, as it could well be the rare type I imperf, which was not issued without gum. I am not completely sure as to whether the red lined and black lined imperforates are type I or type II, as I have never seen a pair before. However, I presume that they are likely type I as the type II imperforates were supposedly only printed from plates 13 and 14. If anyone knows differently, I would appreciate it if they can come forward and let me know. 

In addition to the above, four pairs are known of the type II sheet stamp which are imperforate horizontally. 

I have not seen any re-entries, misplaced entries of varieties of note on these imperforate pairs. There are some very minor shade variations, but most are just a deep carmine-rose. 

The Booklets

883,333 booklets like the one shown above were issued on July 1 1903. They contained 2 panes of 6 2c carmine-rose type II stamps separated by wax paper interleaves. They are exceedingly rare intact and even the one shown above, with its light soiling on the cover sold for several thousand dollars.

The panes that went into these booklets were printed in sheets of 28 panes of 6 that were laid out with one set of 14 panes inverted in relation to the other 14. This fact has given rise to one of the rarest, and most expensive items in modern Canadian philately: the imperforate tete-beche booklet pane strip shown above. It comes from the only surviving imperforate sheet which was given to the postmaster for approval. This one, which is the better of the two known strips sold for $35,000 in a Gary Lyon sale just a few years ago. So forming a complete collection of this issue in all its aspects is an extremely expensive endeavour despite the fact that the set contains relatively few stamps.

My next post will address some of the pitfalls associated with collecting this issue before getting into the postal history.