Grading Illustrated With Examples


Example of stamp grading GEM-100
  • This stamp is flawless in all respects.
  • The centering is perfect and measures out as perfect when checked with a calibrated loupe (magnifying glass).


  • This stamp is also flawless in all respects.
  • The centering is as close to perfect as the eye can tell. Measurement with a calibrated loupe reveals that the right margin is ever so slightly narrower than the other three margins.


  • This stamp is also flawless in all respects.
  • The opposing margins are perfectly balanced, but the adjacent margins are not equal in width, with the top and bottom margins being slightly wider with the side margins.


  • This stamp is flawless in all respects.
  • The centering appears perfect at first glance, but upon close examination, it becomes apparent that the top margin is very slightly larger than the other three margins.


  • This stamp is nearly flawless. The perforation tooth at the lower right is shorter than the other perforation teeth, but is not a pulled perforation, so it reduces the grade by 2 points, from VF-84 to VF-82.
  • The centering appears perfect at first glance, but upon closer examination, you can see that the left margin is slightly wider than the other three margins.
  • The margins themselves are all wider than the standard width of the margins for this issue, as compared to the margins of the stamp above, which are standard width for this issue, and so the designation "J" for Jumbo is appended to the grade.


  • This stamp is flawless in all respects also.
  • Here you can see at first glance that the left margin is slightly larger than the right margin. However, the margins are all still really well balanced and clearly very fine.
  • This is the standard mid-range grade for VF.


  • This stamp is also flawless in all respects.
  • The centering looks reasonably balanced, though it is very clear that both the top and left margins are slightly larger than the other two. Just a fraction of a millimeter more to the lower right, and this stamp would just be fine, but it is just good enough to barely qualify as VF.
  • This is the lowest VF grade. It is what many collectors would also know as F-VF.


  • This stamp is also flawless.
  • The stamp is clearly off center, but there is still enough margin on the right side that the design is well clear of the perforations on all sides.


  • This stamp is flawless, with full perforations for these coarse gauge 11 perforations.
  • The stamp is clearly off centre and the design is close enough to the perforations that this barely qualifies as fine.


  • This stamp has a creamy tone to the paper, but this is the natural colour of the paper, so it is not reduced for the colour of the paper. All the perforations are intact and even. There are visible portions of a hinge remnant at the upper left which protrude into the space between the perforations. However this does not affect the grade of the stamp, but rather the evaluation of the gum.
  • The stamp is clearly off centre, and the perforations appear to cut the design at the bottom, but on close examination it can be seen that they actually touch the outer frameline.


  • This stamp is flawless in all respects.
  • The stamp is severely off centre, cutting the design on the right by a good 1/2 mm.

For the sake of simplicity, I have chosen stamps that have no faults at all, except for the one slightly shorter perforation on the VF-82-J stamp. I have done this to show what a fault free stamp with the grade level of centering looks like. Of course, what you will often find in practice, particularly on Queen Victoria issues is that the centering will be say VF-84, but a few shorter perforations, some very mild toning or less than sharp impression will reduce the grade slightly. However, the reduction will usually only be enough to move it into the next lowest grade (i.e. fine) if the grade you are starting with is a lower end grade, like VF-75.

Now, let's take a look at some less than stellar stamps:


  • This stamp is very poorly centered, but the perforations do not cut the design on any side, though they are very close.
  • The cancellation is a wavy line cancel, but is not heavy and does not really obscure the design in any significant way.
  • However the perforations are awful. There are at least 5 short perforations and the lower left corner has been pulled. So, I would give a score of 0 out of 10 for the perforations and deduct a further 10 points for the rounded corner. Some of you might deduct 20 points, which would make this a fair-35 rather than a G-45, but at this level, it is much less important than if you were looking at the difference between say GEM-100 and XF-94.
  • So, without the perforation problems the stamp would grade F-68 to F-70, depending on whether you give the cancel 8 out of 10, or 10 out of 10. But with the condition issues, it drops quite far down to it's true level.


  • On this stamp the centering is pretty good, being nicely balanced overall, but not perfect - a VF-75 level of centering.
  • The paper freshness and colour lack the freshness and intensity that would give these attributes perfect scores, so I would give them 4 out of 5 for both.
  • The cancellation is not heavy, but does not really enhance the stamp in any way. It is readable though. So I would give it an 8 out of 10.
  • There are two short perforations at the top, but the perforations have been scissor clipped along the left margin and the bottom margin. This is an automatic 30 point deduction, so I ignore the two short perforations and assess a zero out of ten for perforations, and deduct an additional 20 points.
  • All of these adjustments reduce the grade from VF-75 to G-46 - a presentable stamp, but really only good as a space filler.