This page last updated: 10 November 2000


Collectors of postal markings are liberated from such things as CONDITION and other hang-ups of collectors who seek the finest example of a stamp. Postal marking collectors are concerned with the quality of the mark and barely notice the stamp's condition. Thus, postal marking collectors can exhibit with pride some of the rattiest looking stamps. Indeed, a stamp's bad condition can reap rewards for the postal marking collector because the seller will often be familiar with stamp condition as a pricing factor but be unfamiliar with a postal marking's rarity. I once bought a used and tattered Scott No. 38 for 25 from a dealer who thought I was crazy to spend even that much. It is my one example of Kaluaaha 238.02 and the only strike recorded on Scott No. 38. Two weeks later, a dealer offered me $500 for the stamp and when I turned that down, offered me $750 and then gave up trying. On the other end of the spectrum, a transaction for a postal marking among two knowledgeable participants can yield values way off the chart from the perspective of catalogue value. When a used $1.50 stamp sells for $2,500, there is more to the story than condition.

Some TERMS are seen often in relation to postal markings. Postal marking collectors judge quality in reference to clarity, strength and completeness of the strike (a strike is the impression of the mark). An SON and clearly readable strike of a scarce or rare mark commands the strongest price. What is SON? It means "socked-on-the-nose," a dead-on hit with the marking device so most or all of the mark is visible. Clearly readable means the ink strength makes the mark readable without the help of a magnifying glass and the strike is crisp and clean - not blurred by smudging or smearing. An "on cover" strike (one on the original envelope) is preferred by some and attracts more value if the full mark is clearly readable. Other terms encountered are "cto" (cancelled to order) and "favor." These terms mean the strike was added for a philatelic reason.

Catalogue value is helpful for PRICING common postal markings. Starting first with the common markings, the catalogue value for a used stamps necessarily assumes it bears some kind of a postal marking. Therefore, catalogue value and stamp condition should control the price for a stamp with a common postal marking. The one difference is that stamp collectors value a lightly canceled stamp more than a heavily marked stamp and postal marking collectors are the opposite. For a mark with a 9 or 10 rating, I would expect to pay nothing extra for the mark. For a mark with a rating of 7 or 8, I might pay a slight mark-up for a clearly readable SON, but stamp condition still is a large factor in price. For a 5 or 6 rated mark, the added price for a clearly readable SON increases and stamp condition decreases as a price factor. For a clearly readable SON of a 5 rated mark, one might expect to pay $30-$50 over catalogue unless the stamp is falling apart.

Moving to the scarce marks, the quality of the mark takes control of pricing and condition of the stamp becomes much less relevant. In this zone, marks are tough to find and even lightly struck marks become valuable. Among three or four strikes of the same mark on the same kind of stamp, the closest to SON and clearly readable will command the higher price but one is rarely presented with choices, particularly for 2 rated marks. For a clearly readable SON of a 4 rated mark, one should expect to pay in the neighborhood of $50-$75 above catalogue. When one drops to a 2 rated mark, the price could be as high as $150 above catalogue. As the strike quality drops, the price drops dramatically for scarce marks.

For the rarest marks, the questions often are how much is a buyer willing to pay and how much will it take to pry the piece away from its owner. Some marks are so rare, you are delighted if you have even a faint partial strike you can identify unquestionably. There is no convention such as "catalogue value x 100" or "catalogue value plus $200" to guide the postal markings collector among the rare marks. Here you are on your own and you can forget stamp condition, catalogue value and, to a less extent, even the condition of the strike.

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