Notes from the Past

Price and Condition Evaluation Methodology per Cabeen

Richard McP. Cabeen wrote an excellent stamp column published in the Sunday Chicago Tribune for more than thirty years.  He wrote and collaborated on a number of books including his own Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting.  In this volume he outlined a thoughtful evaluation technique to guide the pricing of U.S. stamps.  The concepts could be adapted equally well to the stamps of other countries.  The approach incorporated each of the elements of condition and his perception of market characteristics.

Cabeen's stamp price evaluation approach was based on three steps.  Step 1 was to evaluate to overall condition of the stamp with respect to impression, color, centering, and for unused stamps, gum, and for used stamps, cancellation to arrive at an initial condition evaluation.  Schedule A was used for this step.  Next he applied reductions for defects.  Schedule B was used for this step.  Finally, he used the resultant grade to relate to the expected retail price based on catalog value and the differing relationship of retail price to catalog price for stamps from different eras.  This step is shown in Schedule C.

Schedule A

(Unused Stamps Only)
Impression Color Centering Cancellation
(Used Stamps Only)
Full Original Gum (O.G.) Early, very fine Fresh, full Centered Sharp, legible 25
Slight hinge mark     Slight extra or less at bottom   23
Strong hinge mark Fine Fine Off, slight to one side Same, but obscures feature 20
Near full - or surface Good Good Off, slight in two directions Faint, slightly heavy or machine 15
Half O.G. or thin Ordinary Faded Touched one side Worse than last or pen cancellation 5
None or regummed Heavily overinked Badly faded Touched two sides Heavy smudge 0

To apply Schedule A each characteristic is evaluated separately and given a point score for each characteristic.  Of course, gum and cancellation results are mutually exclusive.  The resulting four factors can have a total of 100 points.  For example, an unused stamp with a slight hinge mark, a fine impression, fresh, full color, and with perforation touching one side would be evaluated as 73 (23+20+25+5).

Schedule B

Percentages to be deducted progressively from the rating obtained from Schedule A:

Scuffed, stained or soiled:  entire surface 75%
Scuffed, stained or soiled:  medium portion of surface 50%
Scuffed, stained or soiled:  small portion of surface 25%
Fold breaking paper fibers, or visible tear 75%
Fold, prominent but not breaking fibers 50%
Slight fold, hardly visible 25%
Design cut two sides by scissors or perforation holes 50%
Design cut on one side by scissors or perforation holes 30%
Straight edge or reperforation 25%
Corner perforation or two or three perforations nibbed 20%
One perforation nibbed 10%
Open pin- or worm-hole, or small visible tear 25%
Closed pinhole, closed small cut or tear 15%
Thin all over, as peeled or split 75%
Thin, not over half the surface 50%
Thin, as from hinging 25%
Thin, very slight 2 or 3 mm. 10%

Schedule C


Condition Rating Early U.S. Middle U.S. Recent U.S.
Superb 96-100 List, plus Full list 75-80% list
Very Fine 86-95 List, plus    
Fine  76-85 List value 75% list 50% list
Very Good 66-75 75% list 50% list 40% list
Good* 56-65 50% list 1/3 list 1/3 list
Fair* 46-55 50% list 1/3 list 1/3 list
Poor 36-45 1/3 list 1/4 list 1/4 list
Very poor 26-35 1/4 list 1/5 list 1/5 list
Bad 16-25 10% list 10% list 10% list
Very bad 6-15 5% list 5% list 5% list

*Although Cabeen distinguished between good and fair, he didn't distinguish between the pricing for these two grades.

When applying the preceding tables, one should note that this material was first published in 1957 and collector attitudes toward condition change.  Further, the relation of catalog prices to the market has also changed -- sometimes by intent and, then again, sometimes by neglect.  Your editor believes that the general relationships are still worthy of consideration.  The resulting trends are sounder than the specific results.

Posted August 13, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.