Valuing Stamps

Richard McP. Cabeen wrote a stamp column for the Chicago Sunday Tribune for more than 30 years.  He organized his knowledge in a most useful handbook, Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting, first published in 1957 and last updated by the Collectors' Club of Chicago in  1979.  He addressed the subject of condition early on with a 10 page section.  The section ends with a discussion of his proposed method for converting condition into value.

His proposal is mechanistic but does give a good deal of useful insight into the factors comprising condition and the relative significance of each.  It's a good mental discipline in any event.

He organized the process into three steps.  First, one evaluated the physical characteristics of impression, color, centering, and then gum for mint and cancellations for used stamps.  The result was a score between 0 and 100.  This score was then discounted by a variety of possible defects.  The end result was used to establish an overall score which adjusted catalog values to appropriate fair market prices.  It is outdated, was certainly never adopted, and doesn't fit today's internet bazaar very well.  It is, however, the most organized base I've ever seen for such a discussion.

He summarized his discussions in three tables as follows:

Condition

The first column applies only to mint stamps and the last column applies only to used stamps

Gum
Impression
Color
Centering
Cancellation
Points
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 features
20
Near full - or surface altered
Good
Good
Off, slight in two directions
Faint, slightly heavy or machine
15
Half O.G. or thin
Ordinary
Dull or slight fade
Off, more, two directions or touched top or bottom
Heavy, or slight smudge
10
Some O.G. or very thin
Underinked or dry or dirty plate
Faded
Touched one side
Worse than last or pen cancellation
1
None or Regummed
Heavily overinked
badly faded
Touched two sides
Heavy smudge
0


To determine the overall condition score each characteristic is evaluated and given the points he allowed.  Then the four characteristics are added to determine a total.  You might even interpolate between values for the degree to which a stamp reflects the characteristic.

The next step was to apply the following discounts progressively for defects.

Defects


Scuffed, stained, or soiled, entire surface
75%
    Same, medium portion
50%
    Same, small portion
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 or two or three perforations nibbed
20%
One perforation nibbed
10%
Open pin- or worm-hole, or small visible tear
25%
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 sq. mm
10%

Finally, the condition is converted to an adjective description based on the rating and then converted to a value based prices from Scott's Standard Catalogue and the United States Specialized Catalog.

Valuation

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
Fair
56-65
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

To my thinking, this is an excellent way of assessing the relative values of the various characteristics of a given stamp even if it is probably no longer reflects values accurately.  It also reminds one of what factors must be considered in evaluating a stamp.