Determining A Grade For Imperforate Used Stamps

For used stamps, the scale employed to evaluate them is similar, but the appearance of the cancellation must be considered, and the maximum number of points allocated to paper freshness and depth and freshness of colour is reduced to 5 points each in order to reflect the fact that (a) neither factor at its best can ever be as good on a used stamp as a mint stamp and (b) to enable a sufficient number of points to be allocated to the cancellation.

Thus the factors become:

1. Size of margins - 0-70 points:

  • 70 points - The margins are oversize on all four sides - usually showing portions of the adjoining stamp.
  • 65 points - The margins are full on one side and oversize on three sides. Full margins are defined to be approximately 1/2 of the average distance between impressions on the plate from which the stamp was printed. This varies widely by issue.
  • 60 points - The margins are full on two sides and oversized on two sides.
  • 56 points - The margins are full on three sides and oversized on one side.
  • 54 points - The margins are full on all sides.
  • 51 points - The margins are full on three (or two for triangular stamps) sides and close on one side.
  • 49 points - The margins are full on two sides and close on two sides.
  • 45 points - The margins are full on one side and close on three sides.
  • 44 points - The margins are clear on all four sides, although none of them are full.
  • 34 points - The stamp has margins on only 3 sides and none of these are full.
  • 24 points - The stamp has margins on only two sides and none of these are full.
  • 15 points - The stamp has no margins to speak of at all, but is not cut into the design on any one side by more than 1/2 mm.
  • 5 points - There are no margins, and the design is cut into on one or more sides by between 1/2 mm and 1 mm
  • 0 points - The design is cut into by more than 1 mm on any one side.

  2. Paper freshness - 0-5 points:

  • 5 points - The paper is bright and fresh, showing no signs of discolouration.
  • 4 points - The paper is fresh, but not bright.
  • 3 points - The paper is not visibly toned, although not particularly fresh.  
  • 2 points - The paper shows some very light overall toning.
  • 1 point - The paper has noticeable toning, although it is not deep.
  • 0 points - The paper is heavily toned or has visible staining. ,

3. Clarity and strength of printing impression - 0-5 points:

  • 5 points - The impression is razor-sharp, with all finer details of the design being clearly visible. The stamp appears almost like a proof.
  • 3 points - The impression is reasonably strong and detailed, but some of the shading lines may merge into one another, but no ink stripping will be visible.
  • 2 points - The impression is neither crisp nor weak, with some but not all of the finer details being visible. On lithographed or typographed (surface printed) stamps, there will be some patchiness (ink-stripping) visible.
  • 0 points - The impression is weak, heavily blurred or there may be extensive ink stripping

  4. Freshness and depth of colour - 0-5 points:

  •  5 points - Unusually deep and rich colour. Appears as fresh as the day the stamp was printed.
  • 4 points - Post office fresh colour that shows no oxidation or fading.
  • 3 points - Full and true colour that is not faded, but is not post office fresh, and does not appear aged.
  • 2 points - Colour is not faded, although it is not fresh, and appears slightly aged.
  • 1 point - Colour shows some very mild fading or other discolouration, or is otherwise uneven.
  • 0 points - Colour is noticeably faded, although not changed.

5. Absence of visual paper flaws - 0-5 points:

  • 5 points - No visible paper inclusions, no visible creases, no margin nicks, no visible thin spots, no visible tears or visible scuffs.
  • 4 points - May be a slightly noticeable paper inclusion but no other flaws.
  • 3 points - May be a small margin nick but no other flaws.
  • 2 points - May have a small inclusion and a small margin nick, or only a very small scuff.
  • 1 point - May have a small corner crease, but no other flaws.
  • 0 points - Has one or more visible closed tears, thin spots or large surface scuff.  

6. Appearance of the cancellation - 0-10 points:

  •  10 points - The cancellation is clearly legible, crisp and struck in such a way that the design is not obscured in any significant way. There is no bleeding of the cancellation ink into the paper of the stamp, no smudging and no discoloration of the stamp by the cancellation ink.
  • 8 points - The cancellation is clearly legible, but not completely crisp. Again, the design is not obscured in any significant way.
  • 5 points - The cancellation is legible, although it is not light. It does not detract from the appearance of the design, but it does not enhance it either in the way that the cancellations in the above two grades do.
  • 2 points - The cancellation is a manuscript cancellation, light cork or light smudge cancellation that does not significantly obscure the design or discolour the stamp. Or the cancellation is a date stamp or town cancellation that is of medium intensity but is not readable.
  • 0 points - The cancellation covers less than 25% of the design, is not clearly readable and can be considered heavy.

Note that heavy cancellations that cover more than 25% of the design detract from the eye appeal of the stamp and consequently reduce the grade, as explained at the bottom of the page. Thus the best grade that a stamp will receive if its cancellation receives a score of 0 will be 90, which is extremely fine. However, that would very seldom happen in practice, as other factors would usually reduce the grade further when a stamp is heavily cancelled.

It should be noted that the following serious faults reduce the grade of an item as follows:

  1. Missing piece. - 90 points.
  2. Colour heavily faded or altered. - 70 points.
  3. Tears that are more than 2 mm long. - 60 points.
  4. Heavy smudge cancellations that effectively obliterate more than half of the design. - 50 points.

Less serious faults reduce the grade of items as follows:

  1. Creases that break the paper - 30 points.
  2. Creases that do not break the paper, being light bends - 5 points each, or 10 points if a more than a bend, but not breaking the paper.
  3. Shallow thins - 30 points if larger than a pencil tip eraser and visible from the front; 20 points if larger than a pencil tip eraser and not visible from the front; 10 points if not larger than a pencil tip eraser, not visible from the front; 5 points if smaller than a pencil tip eraser, and only visible in watermark fluid, or when backlit.
  4. Closed tears: 30 points if 1-2 mm in length; 10 points if 0.5 mm - 1 mm long and 5 points if less than 0.5 mm long.
  5. Creased perforation teeth - 5 points per tooth.
  6. Heavy cancellation: 30 points if it covers 75% or more of design; 20 points if it covers 50-75% of the design; 10 points if it covers between 25% and 50% of the design.